If ever there were a year to match an animal, the year of the Rat, was it! Last year we said that Rats were alert and able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. We all dug deep to do just that, and while we got off to a strong start – beginning with responding to a blossoming pandemic – it was, in a word, unrelenting.
With the new year, and the Rat’s tail disappearing over the horizon, we see how much work there is to do now and what we need to fix. It’s good work though, the kind of work that creates fertile ground for positive growth.
Welcome to the year of the Ox!
Twelve animals make up the Zodiac, each with their own transcendent powers and eternal flaws. We observe these 12 characters together, spanning 60-year cycles creating the entirety of the universe, each playing their part in the greater whole. No one animal is any more valuable than another. In this new year, the Ox will teach us to see the greatness within us and our role within the greatness. Facing inequality, injustice and uncertainty will be our challenge in 2021 as we work to create a better world. The Ox illustrates that without each other, we are incomplete.
The Ox is the second animal in the Zodiac cycle (remember the story of the opportunistic Rat that rode the Ox to the palace?). In the wake of the more frenetic Yang year that just passed, the Ox will help guide this one in a more Yin, grounded direction that we are all ready for.
Sure, when we think of the Ox, we think work. But when we swap the word “work” for “cultivate,” we begin to tap into the strength and diligence that, like the Ox, we all possess. It is the wellspring of meaningful change. And while nothing happens overnight, the patient Ox, more than last year’s Rat, sees the big picture unfolding before it. “Slow and steady” is the Ox’s mantra.
Oxen aren’t great with sudden changes, and we will welcome the steadiness the Ox brings. We will put behind us the instability of healthcare, the environment, education, and relationships that make this otherwise serene creature feel skittish and vulnerable. The Ox does have high expectations of themself, and we will all be asked to step up this year. No distracting drama now – just a time for us all to do our part. Though they feel responsible for the community, the Ox isn’t the most social animal nor the most outstanding communicator. They’re placid in their solitary work, but they are not pushovers. To instigate conflict or get them riled is a losing proposition.
The Ox is a creature associated with the Earth element, and quite literally grounded. The element for this particular Year of the Ox is Metal, which will help us clarify where we direct that energy. We will move forward with more planning & boundaries and less leaping from one thing to another.
So, how do we get in touch with our inner Ox and get back to cultivating the land that will grow good things for us? Here are my three tips for the coming year:
1. Plan and Play the Long Game
Identify what you want to grow, choose a pathway there, and get to it! The fruits of your efforts may not be immediately apparent. The Ox teaches us that whether it’s work, activism, or personal growth, when we trust the process, we loosen our hooks on the immediate moment. This allows us to connect with the bigger personal and collective vision that we are a part of. It’s like being in school again! One day at a time, learning, creating, nourishing a landscape where living things thrive. This is an excellent time to get into something that won’t give you immediate satisfaction except that you are doing it for a greater goal. The plan to get there is strengthened by the Metal element’s resolve and will help keep you from becoming paralyzed or distracted.
Pro-tip: When doing the work of making the world a better place, don’t let your ego get in the way, undermining your own value or overstating your importance. The Ox knows that it’s part of a team, working toward a greater good.
2. Get Moving, But Don’t Forget to Rest
The fit Ox thrives with challenges and can keep going long after others have packed it in. All that strength and energy needs an outlet. However, as vital as the Ox’s work is, they also need to rest. With the blurred lines in work-life balance the pandemic has brought, it’s easy to be a workaholic. Creating time to relax is important. Even if your energy is focused on the pressing matters of justice, pace yourself and don’t burn out.
From a health perspective, the slow, methodical Ox worries less about acute injuries and more about long-term health issues that take time to cultivate. We need to learn how to protect ourselves from hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and other chronic conditions by balancing stillness and activity, Yin and Yang.
3. Reclaim Your Routine
Because of COVID-19, many of the things we used to have either changed or disappeared. In the absence of these touchstones, some of our identity and sense of purpose may feel cast adrift. It’s a year later, and there is still a virus and quarantine. The Ox would have used that time to create routine and ritual; with the new year, we can bring them back to our lives. Even if it seems contrived at first, developing self-care practices, volunteering, and getting old friendships back on track can re-create connections we have lost. The stillness of the Ox’s nature creates the space for insight into those connections within and between us.
What better time than this moment to see the potential for transformation and growth – and what animal better than the Ox, the very embodiment of “you reap what you sow.” In the coming year, as the adventure of the Zodiac continues to unfold, we’ll all have an opportunity to be expansive and inclusive and put any contraction or exhaustion of the last year in the rearview mirror.