Reviewing my Year of the Earth Dog
The last 12 months was an incredible year for personal change and growth, but not in the way I or anyone would have expected. Before completing and publishing my annual thoughts on the approaching new lunar year (according to Taoist alchemical astrology), I present an insight into the year that has been, as a precursor and point of difference for what’s coming next.
It’s probably a little late now, but you may find it of benefit to read an article I wrote 12 months ago on what to expect in the Year of the Earth Dog. I didn’t realise at the time how deeply I would drop into the energy of this potent symbol. If you haven’t read it, the upshot of it was that we would be challenged into solitude to find a deep personal integrity.
And challenged I was.
I had already made the decision to close my clinical practice and take a break from the hustle of running a small enterprise. At the time I still had plans to continue the ‘business’ side of things, and was continuing with the idea of having much of my educational workshops available online. It became apparent very quickly that I had lost the desire to do even this, and closed down the idea of it altogether, pulling the plug on the new website and pulling back completely.
This also meant I stopped all marketing and promotion activities, and led to me ceasing all activity on social media. For months, my only window on the outside world was through my rideshare customers. Within weeks, I found myself fully withdrawn from the social sphere, having only time for working and my family/home life.
It was then that I realised how close I got to burn-out. For the first few months I recognised that I was extremely fatigued and drained of energy, and was in fact in recovery mode. Allowing myself to be in this space was the most healing and nourishing for me, all the while facing challenges daily, which called me into my integrity: who am I? What is my true nature? What do I value?
For a few months I felt surrounded by darkness. It was as if I could see clearly the darkness, but no way out of it. This was the abyss of the ravine, as signified by the early hexagram, 坎 KǍN. Life was flowing through this ravine, and the only way to survive it was to surrender to it, not to fight it, trusting that soon I would be washed ashore downstream, and from there I could find a path out of the depths of the ravine and out into the open where I had a wider view of my surroundings.
When you're racing in the rapids
There's only one way, that's to ride.
And sure enough, I found myself in a different landscape: the wide open spaces of Central Australia. Our road trip into the ‘red centre’ and our stay within the Heart of My Country, Uluru, opened me up again to the wonders of the world, and my reflections upon return to the city helped ground me again with a sense of hope. This break from normal routine was what I needed to find inspiration again, and it was from all of these adventures that the Metametheus mythology was born — an idea about how humans think and feel in an integrated way, and a way forwards to stand for what is best in humanity.
I began writing again, and returned to publish my material on Steem, a blockchain built for the purposes of rewarding creators and curators in a social media landscape. There I found an audience eager to read my work and critique ideas with respect, and a thirst for dialectic — something that I had not experienced on other platforms. I re-discovered that which drove me towards health and healing, and found a completely different avenue for my passion, skills, and experience. The old constraints had been removed and I felt as if I had a renewed sense of purpose.
Can you understand, you can really understand
When the darkness comes you still shine,
Open up your eyes and make the day shine sunshine now
Open up your dreams and and make the way shine sunshine now
There was another challenge that I needed to face: stagnation! It is all well and good to surrender to the flow of life and allow oneself to be carried where-ever one may. However, paradoxically, this can lead to an internal sense of stagnation and hopelessness, in the sense of a lack of internal motivation. Creativity is killed by such stagnation, and that threat came soon enough. Stagnation can also come as the reaction against being carried by the waters of the ravine; for the double ‘earth’ element nature of the year can lead to a lot of standstill, and this is the real danger that one faces.
Thankfully, inspiration came fully which woke my senses and creativity to their full potential on the Winter Solstice, when I got the idea to embark on a 64-week personal exploration of the 易經 I Ching, the ancient Chinese Book of Changes. For the last 27 weeks (I’ve missed two weeks), I have translated and contemplated the ancient text daily, reading the many commentaries spanning over 2000 years, and contemplating the ideas in the field of my own day-to-day experiences of life.
So far, it has kept me on my toes. Mostly the advice is to pause before taking action, but never to completely sink into inaction. In this way, I have teetered between complete stagnation of ‘earth’, and being completely thrown around by the churning waters of KǍN.
This week I have been translating the 27th hexagram, 頤 YÍ: “nourishment”. It concerns itself with the wisdom of understanding the nature of what one uses to nourish themself, and in turn how one nourishes the world around them.
Today, as I write this, I have been contemplating the 3rd Yao, the text for this line reads:
拂頤。貞凶， Fú yí. Zhēn xiōng,
十年勿用。 Shí nián wù yòng.
無攸利。 Wú yōu lì.
Rejecting nourishment. Perseverance is ominous.I Ching, hexagram 27, the Commentary on the Image, 3rd Yao (my translation)
[For] ten years [there is] no action.
[There is] no direction which is favourable.
The text is asking us to examine closely our choices at what we eat, who we hang out with, was activities we engage in, and the books, music, and media we input into our minds. Are we engaged in practices that are not suitable or appropriate to us? Are we surrounded by toxic personalities? As long as the ‘junk food’ continues to be eaten, then no good will come of it.
I saw this plenty as a practitioner, both on the physical level with diet and exercise (inappropriate diet and exercise that hindered more than helped improve physical health), as well as what social and emotional contexts people remained in (bad relationships at home, work, or with family).
I have met plenty of people who have participated in spiritual practices and been harmed by them, be they in cults or simply by not examining critically the benefits and consequences of such rituals, and holding out for the promise of what it was told them it would bring.
The same thing happens with exposure to media, with minds being poisoned and malnourished by poor content and ‘fake news’. Unfortunately, social media spaces are rife with people with uninformed opinions and uneducated misinformation is ever Truth, set in stone and not subject to change. Those of us who write or speak on different topics are required to have the humility to accept that we may come across new information or learning which changes our understanding of things. We just can never know what we don’t know.
Gotta stay awake, gotta try and shake off this creeping malaise,
If I don't stand my own ground, how can I find my way out of this maze?
— Pink Floyd
Everything is potentially nourishment for us — physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually. What we choose to put into our being will be transformed internally, and then outputted to nourish the external world. The hexagram 頤 YÍ teaches us of this ecology: inner world nourishing the outer world, and vice versa.
My reflection on the Year of the Earth Dog is that the solitude was like going on a diet. Only after I eliminated what was not nourishing me did I realise how fat and bloated I was becoming on a daily diet of ‘junk’. I needed a cycle of time alone in the mountains like the wolf to detoxify my life. I became present to my own integrity. And this is where I stand today.
In a few weeks, we will be moving into the new lunar year, with a new flavour and energy infusing it; although the effects of this are already forming and have been for several weeks. As I write this, I am sitting in contemplation of what the symbols of the upcoming Year of the Earth Pig may mean, and reach out my awareness to understand how to manoeuvre effortlessly through her ebbs and flows.
I invite you to stay tuned for that article over the next several days.
The dog days are over,
The dog days are done.
— Florence & The Machine