2019 is the year of the Brown (Earth) Pig in the Chinese Zodiac. Understanding the characteristics and portents for your Chinese Zodiac symbol is one way of understanding your relationship to the mystery of life.
Year of the Brown Pig
We are still in the midst of an Earth element cycle, so just as 2018 was the year of the Brown (Earth) Dog, 2019's Pig is associated with the Earth element. In and of itself, the Pig is a Water sign, which means that the Earth energy will interact with the Water energy typical of a Pig to produce something unique in 2019 for people born in a Pig year (1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007). What it means for people born in years associated with any of the other 11 Chinese Zodiac animals will be different.
What Does the Chinese Zodiac Mean?
There are plenty of websites offering varying predictions for 2019 based on the Chinese zodiac. But rather than focusing on how the Pig informs the year ahead, this post examines the human need to use frameworks like the zodiac to make sense of the experience of life. And in particular, the way we embody (or don't) our relationship with the mystery—the Source, the Sacred, God, or whatever we name that which is larger than us.
Relating to the Mystery
This week, Pachamama Alliance was fortunate to receive a visit from our friend and renowned shaman, Ya'acov Darling Khan. We gathered in the conference room to hear more about the work he's doing in the UK and all over the world to get people in touch with the medicine residing in their physical bodies.
Ya'acov is a shaman recognized by the Sami, Achuar and Sápara indigenous people, and while this doesn't make him any less human than the rest of us, he does occupy a chair in a way that reflects the work he's done refining the relationship between his mind and body. Leaning back slightly, he keeps every vertebra of his spine in contact with the chair as he reminds us gently of the miracle of life. Somehow it's easy to forget that we are inhabiting a planet that's just the right distance away from the sun to enable the flourishing of a staggering variety of life, and that we are speeding through time and space accompanied by an unknowable quantity of other universes.
Having set the stage with the proper perspective, Ya'acov explained that how we relate to the immense and the ineffable is one of the 5 Dimensions of Relationship, which are:
- Imaginal World
Relationship with Self
The fundamental relationship in life is with the self. It's through the self that we filter our experience of life. It's a simple idea, but again, a useful reminder.
Ya'acov took a moment to inventory his body, which revealed a feeling of glowing warmth in one shoulder and "tingling and aliveness" in his knees, recalling how seldom we take the time to connect with the somatic, or bodily, aspect of existence. In lives oriented around the Eagle mind, we easily become disembodied and tend to emphasize thinking over feeling. By contrast, condor intelligence is remembering more than thinking, aware of how our personal and cultural past is filtering our current perception.
"I've seen again and again how my unconscious reactions to my own history have obscured the simplicity of the matter and had me seeking out more and more fantastical experiences to prove that spirit is for real." - Ya'acov Darling Khan, from his book Jaguar in the Body, Butterfly in the Mind
What Ya'acov is referencing above often shows up as "trust your instincts" or "go with your gut." This is an oversimplification of the idea that we, as people of the Earth, have access to an unwavering universal wisdom. Rationalizations and feelings of "should" get in the way of hearing the voice of the Self. Over time, we lose touch with how to access that fundamental connection, and seek experiences outside our daily routine to jar ourselves into an awakening.
Relationships to Others and Community
Ya'acov reminded us that if our minds are at war with our bodies the rest of the dimensions of relationship will be affected. Often, this war is subtle and shows up as not acknowledging how an experience is presenting in the body. For example, in an argument, you might tell someone they're "being annoying" when what's truer is that the way they're acting is causing you to feel your shoulders creep up toward your ears and your jaw tighten. Or that when someone is "being mean" you feel this as a desire to turn away and round your shoulders.
Not to say that every argument will become a discussion of physical sensation, but taking a moment to feel goes hand in hand with clear expression of ideas. Like nonviolent communication tactics, speaking from a deep listening to your body is akin to a spiritual practice centered on compassion.
It can feel unnatural to frame your experience in terms of feelings in your body. But in doing so, it's possible to open up new dimensions in your relationship to Others and Community (the groups you identify with belonging to). Ya'acov makes an annual trip to Israel to do this work with Jewish "settlers" in the West Bank and Palestinians, encouraging people of vastly different communities to return to their embodied Selves to remember the commonality of the human experience. In this way, tapping into the foundational relationship with the Self isn't far from tapping into the Source to find peace.
Relationship with the Imaginal World and the Source
The distinction between these two relationships can be tricky to understand, but Ya'acov explained that if the Source is the sea of mystery, then the Imaginal World is the ship. The Imaginal World is the conduit we use to connect with that which is larger than ourselves; it's the space occupied by shamans and dreams.
"Though there are as many forms within shamanism as there are landscapes in within nature, each invites us to access the intelligence of life itself and learn how to live in balance and harmony with the environment."
Rather than engaging in "war of paradigms" one can think of a belief system as form of shamanism", which is essentially a way of divining how to be in the world.
So, getting back to the Year of the Pig: the Chinese zodiac holds that living in a year of the sign of one's birth (like Roosters living through 2017's year of the Fire Rooster) is the one most rife with danger and unluckiness. Understanding life through this lens is a manifestation of relationship with the Imaginal World.
Relating with the Source, though it sounds lofty, is rooted in the relationship with the Self. The Earth is our Mother, and we are both making it of its making. The way we know this is not through intellect but intuition, sensation, and feeling. And it all starts with a tingly, alive sensation in your knees...
"Ever since I was a child, I'd been looking for ways to understand and make use of the experience of life I was having." - Ya'acov Darling Khan
Ya'acov and his partner, Susannah, own and manage the School of Movement Medicine.
To learn more about Ya'acov's work as a shaman, login to smile.amazon.com, establish Pachamama Alliance as the beneficiary of a percentage of your purchases on Amazon.com, and order his best-selling book Jaguar in the Body, Butterfly in the Mind - The Real-Life Initiation of an Everyday Shaman. He has another book coming in Spring 2019, titled Shaman - Opening the Door Between the Worlds