Happy New Year! Chinese New Year is February 8th this year, the beginning of the year of the fire, or red, monkey. As acupuncturists, how can we prepare for the patients we’ll be seeing this year, simply by knowing the meaning of a Fire Monkey year?
The Chinese Zodiac - more than just symbols? By looking at the energy of the upcoming year, we can actually define a road map to how people will be affected that year. Each year represents a different animal, and most people seem to know the animal of their birth year. (If not, please see the chart above for the past 60 years). People often assume that if it’s the same animal as their birth year, that it’s automatically a good year for them. That may, or may not be true. The easiest way to understand this is to analyze the energy of the year.
The energy of every year is different, and affects all of us, since it represents the energies of heaven and earth. When we treat patients, we tend to focus on humanity, or the patient’s Qi. But heaven and earth are much bigger and stronger than humanity, and affect all of us. The heaven and earth Qi of the year affect the weather, the zang fu organs, people’s imbalances, and everything around us. By understanding the clinical implications of the year’s energies, we can prepare beforehand to more effectively prevent and treat issues caused by the Qi of the year.
Let’s dissect how to understand the year. Each year has three components: yin or yang, the five element energy of heaven, and the five element energy of earth. 2016 is a fire monkey year. It’s a yang year, the energy from heaven is yang fire, thus, fire, or the color red, representing fire. The monkey represents the earth energy, and is the yang metal animal. So we have heaven energy of yang fire, and earth energy of yang metal. That gives us quite a bit of information.
Yin Yang Aspect
First, it’s a yang year. 2015 was a yin year. (Each year alternates between yin and yang.) And, it was an earth sheep or goat (same difference in Chinese) to boot, so it was more calm and damp, because of the yin and the earth. 2016 is set to be the opposite. Yang years are more yang in nature: hotter, faster and more active. And, when we add the nature of the monkey, we can add some chaos and bouncing around from branch to branch, since that’s the nature of a monkey. So we can expect people, situations, emotions, and health conditions to do the same, and possibly bounce around in unexpected directions.
5 Element Energy of Heaven – Yang Fire
Next, we can consider the heaven energy, which is yang fire. The nature of fire is, of course, hot, so we can expect hot weather, since the weather comes from the heaven energy. Patients suffering from fire, or too much heat in the body, are potentially more susceptible to having problems worsen this year. Conditions may change fast, or turn to heat fast because of the yang fire.
The fire organs can be affected as well, so there may be more issues with heart problems, particularly related to heat and fire. Joy is the emotion of the heart, so it should be a happy, playful year. Add in some yang fire and chaos from the monkey, and people with tendencies toward mania may be a bit more manic this year. People will be passionate about things, but it could change quickly and bounce to something else, or it could go too far, especially in hot weather. As well, we’ll probably see more people with insomnia this year, presenting with busy dreams and nightmares, especially in summer, and in patients already suffering from insomnia.
5 Element Energy of Earth – Yang Metal
The monkey earth energy represents yang metal. The nature of metal is dryness (it’s drier in autumn). Add that to what we already know, and we’ve got yang, heat and dryness. That’s a good summary of the year.
Metal represents the Lungs and Large Intestine, so we can expect issues with heat and dryness in the Lungs and Large Intestine. Whereas 2015 caused problems with dampness, like colds with lots of mucus, diarrhea, and damp in the Spleen and Stomach, 2016 will create more problems with lingering dry cough and constipation, especially in autumn. That’s good news for people who tend to dampness and cold, as this year will dry them out a bit and warm them up, and help them feel better.
What does this mean for patients overall?
When we combine everything we know so far, we can expect to see problems relating to heat, fire, dryness, blood deficiency and yin deficiency. There will also be more issues with skin diseases, since the skin is part of the Lung system. They’ll present more like psoriasis, with dry, red, hot and/or blood deficient conditions, rather than oozing, damp conditions. If there is dampness, it will be more red and hot and heat toxins, due to the yang fire energy.
Why blood deficiency? Because in the five element cycle, fire drains wood, and metal restrains wood. Even though fire represents the Heart and blood, the wood element is damaged by both the fire and metal, so deficient Livers and Gallbladders will have a harder time this year. Thus, in addition to insomnia with nightmares, patients with Liver blood deficiency may have difficulty falling asleep, too. Conversely, patients with excessive Liv/GB may feel calmer and more relaxed this year, since the Qi of the year helps weaken the excess.
Weak Kidneys are also susceptible this year, since fire weakens water. People who are Kidney yin deficient may need more support this year. But metal supports water, so the wood element suffers more than the water element.
Earth is fairly neutral this year, since fire supports it, and metal drains it. One strengthens and one weakens, so the effects should be fairly neutral.
Finally, we look at the relationship between the heaven and earth energies of yang fire and yang metal. Fire melts metal. This weakens the metal some, but also weakens the fire, since it takes energy for the fire to melt the metal. Therefore, both fire and metal are slightly weaker than they would otherwise be, so this helps to moderate the strong effects of the yang year.
This is a very simplified analysis of the year that anyone can learn to do. There can be many more layers of complexity, but this is the starting point. By considering the five element correspondences and relationships between the elements, we can see the effects of the energy of each year on weather, emotions, organs, senses, etc. By taking some time to think about it, we can consider our patients who may be more susceptible to certain imbalances each year, and take precautions to keep them balanced. We can advise our patients about diet, lifestyle and herbal remedies to prevent issues caused by the energy of the year. We can also adjust our treatments accordingly. For example, in a damp year, cloying herbs will have a stronger effect.
Conversely, in a hot and dry year like 2016, we need to be cautious about herbs that are warming and drying. We may need to decrease the dosages of those herbs slightly, and increase herbs to moderate those effects, especially in hot and/or dry weather.
By observing the weather conditions where you live, you can learn to analyze and apply the information about the Qi of the year to your life and your practice.
Bio: Wendy S. Goldman, L.Ac. has been in private practice in San Diego for over 15 years. She is a 14th generation Master of Emei Qigong, and senior student and disciple of the head of Emei Qigong, Grandmaster Fu Wei Zhong. Wendy regularly teaches Qigong and lectures on topics of Qigong and Oriental Medicine, as well as speaking at conferences. She can be reached at [email protected]