This January, we welcome in the Chinese Year of the Yin Fire Rooster.
If you found the Year of the Fire Monkey (2016) especially taxing, you’re not alone! You can expect 2017 to be a little calmer and less shocking than 2016, but the Yin Fire Rooster is still a key player in the antagonistic cycle that began last year. While both 2016 and 2017 are ruled by fire, the Rooster’s more passive yin attributes are, potentially, less jarring than the Monkey’s dynamic, erratic, and spontaneous yang energetics.
Lillian Bridges, renowned Daoist expert in Chinese face diagnosis and Five Element Feng Shui, has put forth a number of predictions for the upcoming year. On a global scale, Lillian says to expect fire-related turmoil–for example, major protests and skirmishes between powerful nations–but also an increased appreciation of yin qualities in people and hierarchies. This means that it will be easier for women to assume leadership positions, and for peaceful dissenters to defend stability in aggressive, high-anxiety situations. It is a year for falsehoods to be exposed, and for the Rooster’s fire to shine a light on important truths.
On a personal level, she suggests that 2017 will be an excellent year to focus on health and wellbeing:
Nerves have been frayed in the Monkey year, so it is important to support the nervous system by meditating, practicing deep breathing and increasing Essential Fatty Acids in your diet. Otherwise, nerve problems and nerve pain are likely and you will see an increase in neurological glitches, including an increase in: epileptic seizures, migraine headaches, mitral valve problems and irritable bowel flare-ups. Eating for health is very important this year and herbal medicine will work better and become more popular. It is advised that people eat lighter. Many people will be suffering from tiredness, as this will be the second year that the Water Element will be deficient. […] It is very important to sleep and rest more this year. This is actually a good year for getting well and rejuvenating if people act consciously to improve their habits.
Look Inward this Winter
Practitioners of Chinese medicine view winter as an ideal time to rest more, meditate, and center self-care routines around health and nourishment. February is the perfect time to look inward and straighten out your health and self-growth priorities for the rest of the year. Adequate sleep and daily rest are key to staying well, not only to thrive in the cold months, but to orient yourself towards healing in the year to come.
Mindfulness is also important at this time of year. Introspection and intentionality in your actions can help you avoid self-destructive responses to last year’s stresses. For many people, the Year of the Rooster will bring about a tendency toward perfectionism. It is tempting to become hypervigilant in our daily lives; most of us want to feel in control in a seemingly unstable world. But this mindset will not bring you the long-term stability the Rooster is trying to forge out of chaos.
To help you make lasting changes in a considered and stable way, I highly recommend this mindfulness course at the University of Pennsylvania, and this one at Thomas Jefferson University. For over two years, I have offered free, ongoing meditation sittings every Monday at 6:30pm to graduates of these courses and those with similar experience.
Eat for Health
Since this is a year of transformation, it’s worth looking at the eating habits we’ve developed and considering how they may be improved. Seeing nutrition from a Chinese medicine perspective has helped so many of my patients dispense with harmful habits around–and attitudes towards–the food they eat.
Pay attention to your cravings, as these may tell you things about your health you wouldn’t otherwise notice. Observe what and how you tend to eat when you feel certain emotions, and try to figure out why, instead of simply willing yourself to overcome unhealthy habits. Appreciate nature’s healing power with your meals by eating seasonally and learning about how certain foods can help or harm specific organ networks.
For example, winter is associated with the kidneys and our essential yuan qi, which needs extra attention throughout the season. As Lillian wrote, it is beneficial to eat light but warming foods, with plenty of essential fats and easily digestible nutrients. Plan meals that focus around fresh greens, especially endive, watercress, sprouts, and leafy vegetables you might otherwise throw out (like carrot tops and cauliflower leaves). Bone broth is highly beneficial for the kidneys, too. This easy-to-make stock is packed with vitamins and minerals, and the gelatin in it can help soothe and repair inflammation that has been ignited by the Rooster’s fiery tendencies. Have it on its own, or with boiled winter vegetables like squash, kale, and turnips.
Forge Sustainable Habits
Yin Fire Rooster encourages us to change and get rid of the things in our lives that aren’t working. At the same time, its feminine, introspective yin energy urges us to do so thoughtfully, after productive contemplation. How often have you attempted to make healthy resolutions, only to be disappointed by your progress months, weeks, or even days later?
One major factor in this kind of thinking is our persistent unwillingness to invest time, effort, and thought into our health before symptoms get so bad that they are unbearable. Our culture encourages us to see quick change as not only possible, but desirable: “Out with the old, in with the new.” Anyone who has failed to achieve their New Year’s resolutions knows that this mindset is not a path to lasting transformation. The social imperative to embrace active change obscures how important it is to discover why unhealthy habits develop in the first place. With introspection, we often find that these habits were beneficial at a particular juncture in our lives, but are damaging to our health today.
The impact of gradual changes, tailored to the individual, cannot be overstated. It’s a sad fact of life that not everyone will be able to live pain-free, or lose the exact amount of weight they want to. But, by making healthier choices every day and carefully considering what our bodies need moment-to-moment, we can become more knowledgeable about the subtle obstructions that are preventing us from living as fully as we possibly can in our unique circumstances. This type of self-consideration is lasting because it is the essence of self-care. It is a wellness orientation that nurtures self-love and acceptance.
Undoubtedly, there are challenges ahead for all of us in this Year of the Rooster. Changes will happen quickly and, often, in a seemingly destructive way. But the yang of the Rooster’s fire, coupled with its yin nature, will usher in light, warmth, compassion, and optimism to illuminate rather than scorch. By looking inward with open eyes and mind, we can embrace creativity to enhance our personal and global wellbeing every day of this year.