A bald eagle silently glides across my frozen pond on this cloudy and cold day. Not another creature stirs and the bright green tongues of grass, irises, and paperwhites barely peek out of the thin drape of snow. There is not even a whisper of wind. The quiet is palpable and so is the anticipation of Spring and the renewal that comes with it. Winter is a time of contraction, going within, assessing the prior year’s events, and making plans for the future. Normally, one might say that it has been a long Winter, but truly it has been a long year. Everyone is hungry for this Spring and for the possibility of change.
The Chinese New Year begins on midnight on the day of the second (or third) new moon following the winter solstice. This year it is February 12th. The hexagram associated with the first month and the approach of Spring is 泰 Tài. As with the case with many Chinese words, tài is polysemous. Originally, it meant “more than” or “most” indicating a condition of more than great. Various translators render Tài as safety, security, peacefulness, and some suggest progression and advancement. I prefer “tranquility”.
This hexagram is composed of two parts. We usually think that Heaven is above, and Earth is below—this is the natural state of affairs. But with Tài, the upper trigram is Kun /Earth and the lower one is Qian /Heaven. In this hexagram, Heaven has descended, and Earth has risen, moving together harmoniously, in the natural way of things. In the Spring, Heaven brings the Yang energy into the Earth, awakening within the Yin of the Earth, the potential of life’s renewal and the reaching up of life towards Heaven. Thus, out of a period of darkness, fear, and inactivity, the promise of advancing renewal brings forth hope, forward movement, and prosperity. It is indeed an auspicious time. Patience is called for since it is not yet here but gather the Tranquility within and without. Prepare for Spring!
The Judgement Tranquility. The small departs, the great approaches. Good fortune. Prosperous, harmonious, and smooth.
The Dao shows us in the interplay of Yin and Yang that every situation contains within it the seed of reversal. On one hand, “the small” refers to the leadership of inferior persons. The I Ching often comments on affairs of governance. The leaders of a country have a direct effect on the populace and the condition of the land. When virtue must be discussed, then virtue has disappeared. Happy indeed is the day when small, inferior leaders depart.
On the other hand, we have also been subject to the very small, quite microscopic! Through mitigation, vaccination, and the development of a sense of community responsibility, one senses that this, too, will soon depart.
This Spring, the great approaches. Superior people begin to right the ship of state. Healing and a return to “normalcy” seems possible, soon. Losses are recovered, excesses are settled. You can restart your business, but you will need help from the community and Heaven. It is a good time to initiate change. What seems far away – will become nearer, what seems useless - will bring benefit. The prediction is propitious: “prosperous, harmonious, and smooth.” The heaviness will be lifted. There is a sigh of relief and hope. The heart soars. Spirit is still alive.
The Image Heaven and earth unite: the image of Tranquility and Peace. Thus, people divide the uniform flow of time into seasons and infinite space into the points of the compass, thereby completing the course of Heaven and Earth. People expand and regulate the gifts of heaven and earth, and thus aid the people and the community.
This is a time for the union of Heaven and Earth and of all people. Not only are there seasons in which one must be in accord, there are 64 hexagrams in The Book of Changes that provide perspective on the vagaries in the complexity of life. Heaven unites with Earth and people should advance the productiveness of this union by adjusting to the right time, the right place, and the right actions. This will result in helping and the lifting up of all beings.
Just as a slope gives way to a plain, there is no plain not followed by a slope. There is no going not followed by a return. Life, death, life. This is the circle of life. One who remains persevering in danger is without blame. Do not complain about this truth; enjoy the good fortune you still possess.
Everything on earth is subject to change. Prosperity is followed by decline: this is the eternal law on earth. It is not accidental that the inverse hexagram that follows Tài is Pǐ (否) Stagnation. Evil can indeed be held in check but not permanently abolished. It always returns. This conviction might induce melancholy, but it should not; it ought only to keep us from falling into illusion when good fortune comes to us. If we continue to be mindful of the danger, we remain persevering and make no mistakes. As long as a person's inner nature remains stronger and richer than anything offered by external fortune, as long as one remains inwardly superior to fate, fortune will not desert. True prosperity is sustained by a tranquil mind observing and accepting the changes that unfold. Enjoy the repose offered by this transient period of peace. You already know it will not last. Yet, is not the Approach of Spring joyous?
Happy New Year! Xīn nián kuài lè (新年快樂)
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| Bio: Skye Sturgeon, DAOM, L.Ac.
Skye is the Quality Assurance Manager and Special Consultant for Mayway, USA. Skye was the former Chair of Acupuncture & East Asian Medicine and core faculty member at Bastyr University, core faculty member and Faculty Council Chair at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and President and Senior Professor of the Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine College, Berkeley. Before making Chinese medicine his career choice, Skye held various positions in the Natural Foods Industry for 12 years and prior to that was a clinical biochemist and toxicologist.