Strength of an Ox
Kung Hei Fat Choi! Happy Chinese New Year!
I recently read a story to my son about how the Chinese calendar came to be. As the story goes, the Jade Emperor decided that there needed to be a way to measure time in years, so he told the animals to compete in a race. There were 13 animals competing in the race that would stretch out across a stream. Heading into the lead was the ox who kindly carried the rat and the cat on its back to help them as they didn’t think they could swim across. The other ten animals followed one by one. And while the Ox was technically the first to make it across, the rat pushed the cat off the ox’s back and jumped onto the bank to win the race.
Here’s my take. Last year was the year of the Rat. As we know it was not a great year. This year, the year of the Ox, is about helping each other swim through difficult waters. And as the story goes, we get through it.
In Chinese culture, the ox is a valued animal, one that represents a respect for hard work and honesty. It represents consistency, community, a respect for the cycle of nature. These are values that are desperately needed today and perhaps more accurately, they are values that need to be, well, valued. It's not just the turn of the Chinese calendar that signifies a change in sentiment and energy. As we said goodbye to 2020, we welcomed in the Age of Aquarius, an astrological shift that happens once every 2,150 years and this year it is highlighted as a shift towards "humanitarian pursuits of valuing each person’s individuality, holding and taking care of each other as a unit, and also disrupting the system." So maybe this year East & West are aligned.
Whether you believe in astrology, folklore, legends, or traditions, one thing they all have in common is an understanding and respect for nature and the flow of life. Even the wrong turns taken by humanity teach us about ourselves after all, it is within our nature to continue to push boundaries. And sometimes we need to go to the extreme, hit rock bottom even, before we can finally feel the need to change our ways. We all know that change is uncomfortable. Yet the answers we seek, the life we want, the magical transformations lie within that discomfort. The more we lean into it, unravel what that pain is trying to teach us, the more space we are creating for the next stage of our existence, one that lies beneath all the masks we wear, the fears we hide behind, the obligations we feel we need to respect. It's as I learn in yoga every class--to breathe into the discomfort and release the fear of taking my body where it could go. Maybe that's what last year and the years leading up to it was all about. The slow but gradual shedding of a life that just doesn't fit, that just doesn't work anymore.
Are we at the extreme? Have we hit rock bottom? I don't know. What I do know is that my husband and I have been working on that change. Truly recognising that a change in priorities, a change in how we live our lives focusing on what truly matters is what is needed. It's why we choose to live where we live and why we choose to do what we do. It hasn't been easy. There have been many sleepless nights but if I was to be honest with myself, the struggle wasn't really about the fear of walking along this unknown path, rather the real fear of going back to the kind of life we used live. The fear of the cost of pursuing a new way of living for us, a fear of failing at what we really want and what felt really right and having to return to the life we thought we could leave behind. There are times when my family and I feel like an anomaly amongst our former circles (less so since the pandemic tbh). But when my son says he wants to be just like his daddy when he grows up I know we are on the right track.
It takes courage to strike out on one's own and go against what has been the proven grain. It's a risk. But I also believe if we are moving towards living in alignment with our truest & highest nature then it's more of a risk to ignore it. Maybe what we really need is the strength of the ox to help us realise and act on it.