Balancing Purpose, Presence, and Flow
The Year of the Ox begins on the new moon of Spring, which occurs on Friday, February 12th, 2021.
The year ahead promises a lot of change and a certain amount of ‘slogging through the mud’ of a post, or mid-pandemic world, economy, and reality.
I began writing this article for my students who are training to become Qi Gong teachers, but I feel that its perspective could be helpful for everyone who has a goal of any kind.
Imagine what the next year would look like if you committed 40 minutes per day (20 minutes, twice), or at least three hours per week to developing and exploring a new skill or quality of any/every relationship.
Take a deep breath and feel into that commitment (HOURS per week) to focused attention and a willingness to learn. From the inside out.
If you have a daily spiritual practice, are ‘regular practice curious’, or are focused on any other personal commitment; from fat-loss, fitness, relationship, education, professional development, or money, this article will hopefully give you some perspective on how to make the most of the Year of the Ox.
My favourite analogy for a committed practice or gaol is a marriage.
Why a Marriage?
Because any marriage comes with a unique list of challenges and opportunities.
A list that includes:
- Being there for your partner EVERY day
- Finding spontaneous ways to feel a special connection
- A sense of responsibility for the quality and direction of the relationship
- Predicting encounters that may change the way you understand yourself
- And the inner knowing that this was, is, and will always be the best choice and investment you could ever make – for life
The marriage analogy is also powerful because it speaks to the courage and vulnerability it takes to allow your partner to gradually mirror back to you your insecurities, blind spots, and past experiences that may still require time and healing.
Is this how you feel about your practice and/or commitment?
Most importantly, your lover is now your primary gateway to the experience of the divine, the experience or Non-Separation, the dissolving of ego, and the opportunity to experience the reunion of the universe with itself.
If your goal is more about your waistline or bank account than spiritual growth, your ‘partner’ is simply the mirror of what is actually working, or what personal changes and unconscious belief realizations it will actually take to see the changes you are looking for. Dissolving your ego, or dissolving your waistline both demand sacrifice and a committed path of learning and growth.
“This is challenging during the year of the Ox because, this year, especially, it is easy to confuse stubbornness and finding flow.”
What does all of that have to do with the Year of the Ox?
Purpose, passion, play, priorities, progress, pacing, and patience…,
And that is just the P’s.
If you are unfamiliar with the ancient Chinese Zodiac, the Twelve Animals, your birth year Animal Sign, then I encourage you to stop here and do a quick search – including how the year of the OX is likely to affect you specifically.
I love Chinese Astrology because it is mostly about your inner nature and unconscious instinctual drives. It is not often taken literally but meant to encourage reflection on how to navigate your inner life and relationships.
The Year of the OX
Chinese Astrology guides us to look at the strengths and challenges of being an ox. Traditionally people born in the year of the ox are strong, reliable, fair and conscientious, inspiring confidence in others. They are also calm, patient, methodical and can be trusted to be honest and follow through on their promises and commitments. Those are all personal characteristics that would help almost anyone live a more centred and ease-filled life.
What about those challenges? People born in the Year of the Ox are also known to be emotionally stoic while holding very passionate and personal beliefs and opinions. An Ox may feel strong in themselves or may feel that no one else is willing to help. They can embody the classic, “If you can’t trust others to help, do it yourself!’, to a self-destructive degree.
This can make people born in the year of the os, or all of us during the year of the ox, more likely to resent people who interfere with our growth or success – especially ourselves.
Resenting others and resenting ourselves is futile. It can happen to anyone if the cart you are pulling gets stuck.
The Year of the Ox invites us all to remember to balance Purpose, Presence, and Flow.
Imagine being an ox…
Almost every day, you will be harnessed to a plow or a cart and nudged (or whipped) to keep pulling.
You are well fed, given a warm place to rest, have friends (image a kids cartoon), and have come to realize that you are in the perfect situation to cultivate a conscious relationship with your ‘practice’ – and potentially the time to explore the nature of existence.
If you practice Qi Gong, Yoga, Meditation, eat consciously, have a fitness goal, or need to have the disciple to resolve a complex health challenge, you face a long-term commitment.
Remember all of those P-words?
Purpose, passion, play, priorities, process, progress, pacing, and patience…,
Most Spiritual practices have a purpose, guide you through an ancient process, and support your journey with a sense of tangible progress.
Some traditions also say, with a behind the hand whisper, “Why bother trying so hard, you are simply the universe – universe-ing a universe.
Be patient, be present, be playful, and simply celebrate the passion of your aliveness.
Whether you experience your journey as water flowing down a mountain, or a seeker climbing a mountain, every day you are moving in a direction, and every day you can choose where your attention goes.
All forms of life have goals or priorities. Plants live every day reaching towards the radiant beauty of the sun while reaching deeply into the unknowable mystery of the Earth.
Every single day of their existence…
If you were an ox, reaching and pulling would be the same. If you were an ox, would your attention be on how nice it will be to be in a warm barn, or would it be on taking the next step, feeling into the soil, shifting your weight, enjoying the dance of efficiency and momentum?
Would you feel impatience if your harness broke and needed repair, or rest deeply into stillness until it is time to return to flow and, with Tai Chi like grace, gently reaching into the next step?
As a practitioner of any of the ancient arts, as modern people hoping to improve your health, and as life reaching towards efficiency and flow, and as potential teachers to guide others on such paths, we have a few other life-lessons and marriage advice to learn from our quiet and powerful friend, the ox.
That old question about Quantity or Quality…
If you were an ox, would you feel stubborn or curious in a determined way?
Some people imagine an ox to be just a stupid animal who does not know any better. I think that oxen are very wise – possibly even a good teacher.
When you focus on the outcome, the final goal, you are likely thinking of quantity. You may imagine saying things like:
“I just opened my third eye!”
“I just lost 20 pounds!”
“I have finally mastered _______!”
‘I finally finished my manuscript!”
When you focus on quality, you may find yourself experiencing things like:
“I felt empathically connected to every person I met today!’
“I chose not to follow the compulsion to be distracted and did not look at a screen all day!”
“The feeling of sunlight on my skin and the smell of the forest was sublime and have filled my soul with wonder and the embrace of universal belonging!”
Both are important to the ox, but quality – choosing where your attention goes is another doorway to success and to a life of appreciation and gratitude.
This is the simple wisdom of the Year of the Ox.
Pace yourself. Find stillness in motion. Appreciate the season, the day, and this moment.
Be courageous and strong, while being curious and calm.
There are many new shiny things, strange new sounds, and potentially self pulling plows and carts in the world, but they exist over there, or some other then – they are mostly distractions from simply placing one hoof in front of the other, finding rhythm and flow, and secretly smiling your wise ox smile at finding a life that is mostly about dancing in nature, between the sky and the land.
Such beauty and humility…
Back to that marriage.
If you are married (in some way), how do Quantity and Quality help you reach into the relationship with your attention?
How do stubbornness and distraction affect your daily experience of connection?
How often do you bask in the radiance and mystery of your lover?
How sensitive are you to your and their inner seasons and unpredictable weather?
This year, you have the Universe behind you, through ‘Spirit of the Wise Ox’, to becoming solution-oriented in every aspect of your relationship.
A Special Message for Those Who Teach
If you are (or want to be) a teacher, coach, thought-leader, or guide, the Year of the Ox offers you a unique and beautiful challenge.
As an ox, you are unlikely to want or need to be the center of attention. This not about shyness or insecurity. It is about truth and efficiency.
During the year of the ox, we are all invited to focus on sharing our experience through example – by simply focusing on leaning in the direction that moves your ‘cart’ and your heart forward.
I once had a very famous teacher who began each class by saying, ‘I am just learning, I cannot teach you, but I am happy to share my practice with you.”
The Chinese Zodiac is about collaborating with the rhythms of life.
What if, by aligning yourself with your ‘inner ox’, you could move forward while motivating your students to focus on the experience and the dance of practice, instead of focusing on any outcome at all. Your inner ox will be great at planning a course of a class. Make a plan. Relax about the plan, focus on the cart, focus on the rhythm and dance.
Almost by accident, you will get where you always wanted to go.
Just shift your weight, find stillness, take a step and reach into flow…
Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! 新年快乐!
Happy Chinese New Year!
200 Hour Qi Gong Teacher Training Program
Beginning Spring 2021
This course is for those who want to study the Foundations of Qi Gong and are considering becoming Professional Qi Gong instructors.
If you are looking to train for a new career, studying Qi Gong is a process of entering deep states of meditation and instinctual readiness, emotional acceptance, and spiritual reunion. Skills we all need in modern life.