Predictions for 2020 – The Year of White Metal Rat

“The first animal that arrived was the talkative rat!”

Do you smell a rat?  If not, you’re probably not paying attention, because the Metal Rat (aka the Iron Mouse!) Year has arrived!

The first day of the Yang Metal Rat Year is January 25, 2020 with the Chinese New Year occurring on February 4. This is the first day of the Tiger month and the beginning of spring in the Chinese calendar.

The White Metal Rat is a very different animal from the Yin Earth Pig we grew to know and love. Quick, alert, and clever, the Rat’s characteristic qualities are evident in the Chinese folktale in which he uses his shrewdness to conquer Ox and become the first animal in the zodiac.  You see, Rat told Ox about a contest to select the 12 animals of the Taoist zodiac only because he wanted to hitch a ride on Ox’s back.  Ambitious Ox trudged and struggled on (as Ox tends to do) carrying Rat on his back over difficult terrain.  When confronted with turbulent rivers, Ox swam over them being careful of the precarious position of his tiny passenger. Once on shore, Rat quickly hopped off and was declared number one in the animal sequence for accomplishing such a magnificent feat.  In the Buddhist version, the first animal to arrive at the dying Buddha’s bedside would become the first animal of the zodiac.  In a similar scenario, Rat jumped off Ox’s back as he neared Buddha’s bedside, becoming number one.

Rat became the initiator of the 12-year cycle used in Chinese cosmology. In charge of the first hour of every day (11 PM – 1 AM), Rat has his feet in 2 days and can be both Yin and Yang.  Rat is Water and this year the Rat has the flavor of Yang Metal. This is a very different energetic vibration than what we had with 2019’s Yin Earth Pig with Earth over Water, a “controlling” cycle.  2020’s elemental nature is Metal over Water, a “creative” cycle.

Yang Metal is very strong and is symbolized by a large weapon, strong wind, or a ship.  It is the image of a warrior wielding a big sword, fighting for fairness and justice. It is steadfast and brave but if not guided by a moral compass, can be heartless and tyrannical. Rats are extremely intelligent and quick-witted with a very creative strategic sense. They are resourceful, nimble, and alert and have astounding memories. On the downside, their Yin Water energy can make them gloomy and scheming. Add it all up and what we have this year is Mighty Mouse – a fully armed Rat!

In ancient China, people believed that it takes many years to master swordsmanship and that mastery is spiritual as well as physical. In this Yang Metal year, those who have come through hardship and difficulty and exhibit integrity and character will do well. Manners and courtesy will come back in style as well as the military values of honor, courage, duty, service, loyalty, civility, discipline and integrity.   All are associated with Yang Metal. Needless to say, lazy, undisciplined people who don’t practice what they preach will have a hard time.

A nocturnal creature, Rat is heavily influenced by the cold and dark Water element. Related to the Kidney energy, wisdom and sexuality are also important in a Rat year. Meditation and contemplation will help us extend kindness to others, allowing us to achieve the best possible outcomes in Rat’s year. In China, it’s known as the “Flower of Romance” so it’s likely to be a hot and sexy time and you won’t be able to keep up with all the sex scandals in the news.

Yang Metal emboldens passionate people everywhere who are willing to fight for their beliefs and ideology. We will witness more impassioned protests, angry demonstrations, and riots over issues of social injustice and inequality. This year lacks Earth and Fire and there is no Earth supporting this bravery.  Significant bluffing in politics and deal-making will be prevalent and only when we move into the Metal seasons (September 2020 – January 2021), will these actions have teeth.

With this imbalance, there will be more pessimism and fear, the negative emotion associated with Water. Since Metal gives birth to Water in the cycle of the five elements, the excessive amount of Water this year can cause many problems. Mental health will be on the front burner. Water and Metal are cold and wet and are dark as opposed to light. The lack of Fire means a lack of warmth and illumination. The lack of Earth means we will lack a grounded, reality principle. Weakness in the stomach/spleen system (Earth element organ) causes worry that can lead to digestive problems, issues with the pancreas (diabetes), and immune system. Lack of Fire causes issues with the heart, blood circulation, and overall vitality.

Flooding and windstorms are likely since the Yang Metal Rat is like a tempest in a teacup – a big wind stirring up the water.  1960 was the last Yang Metal Rat year.  There were major earthquakes with one in Chile that triggered a tsunami killing 1600 people and leaving 2 million people homeless. This was a pivotal year in the U.S. when John F. Kennedy was elected President and sit-ins became common in the U.S. propelling the civil rights movement into the forefront of social concerns.   17 African countries declared their independence. International tensions were nerve-wracking with the Soviet Air Defense system shooting down an American spy plane.

In general, the lack of Fire (Water’s money) will not be conducive to a growth economy. But looking at the cycle of 5 elements, Fire industries (energy, power generating, restaurants, and entertainment) can expect some prosperity because Fire controls Metal, and Metal is Fire’s money. Since Earth controls Water, and Water is Earth’s money, real estate, land development, mining, insurance, computer software, and technology might be stable. Metal industries will be active (automobiles, engineering, banking, and machinery), but do not generate money this year, because Metal creates Water. Wood and Water industries (shipping, transportation, and communication, fashion, media, books, and environment) will not do well this year since Earth and Fire are absent.

The Rat is a “Nobleman” year for those born on the day or year of Yin Earth or Yin Wood or if you were born in years ending in 5 and 9, such as 1955, 1959, 1965, 1969, 1975, 1979, etc. This vibration is very fortunate, attracting energy that offers rescue and support. The “Nobleman” star often brings a solution to obstacles and dangers, helping to make the year feel more comfortable and smooth. If 2020 is your Nobleman year,  go for your heart’s desire!

Rat is good at scurrying around for resources and cleverly storing them for the future. Shrewd Rat wants to cover all his bases. Frugality is the name of his game. There is no Earth to slow things down now, making people feel like they are truly in a rat race. We will have the tendency to dart about promoting ourselves (as well as our schemes), but it will be prudent for us to move away from our compulsive self-centered survival needs and cultivate a more sympathetic nature.

The Yang Metal Rat year can give us the courage to ask difficult questions, to step up and occupy our true authentic selves.  The Iron Mouse has gathered energy and is ready to battle for what’s right. Our job is to patiently wait to arrive at our destination and be prepared for what’s coming up. Try not to let yourself be absorbed by the strong winds surrounding you. Enjoy the sunshine whenever possible and cooperate with the rodent by training and educating yourself and 2020 will be a breeze.  Respect this small, powerful creature and you will have learned to survive anything.

Predictions by Animal Sign are here


Predictions for 2019 – The Year of the Yin Earth Pig

“The twelfth animal that arrived was the meticulous and resigned Pig.”

The first day of the Yin Earth Pig Year is February 4, 2019 with the Chinese Lunar New Year occurring on the New Moon in Aquarius on February 5. When the Earth Pig takes over from the Earth Dog, she will complete what the Dog began, though with a completely different style!

Although both animals are passionate souls, the Pig is more content with personal satisfaction and less concerned with the social order. As the last animal in the Chinese zodiac, the Pig represents resignation to the human condition. Sometimes passive with a “live and let live” attitude, naiveté can be a problem. With a reputation for sensuality and self-indulgence, Pigs are well loved and respected because they are comfortable living in the realm of the body and perfectly at home with their animal natures.  In fact, their instincts are at the root of their intelligence (as well as their stupidity!).  This will be a year to indulge, have fun with your fellow creatures, and enjoy “the good life”.  There will be plenty of opportunities for good food, extravagant parties and vacations, and creature comforts.  The challenge will be to keep pleasure in perspective.

Unlike the territorial animals that set the tone in 2017 and 2018 (Rooster and Dog), the Earth Pig gets along pretty well with other members of the barnyard. Since Pig values harmony over competition, kindness will be more evident in personal interactions and power and status will have less importance than solid personal connections. Perhaps we will experience more real-time conversations and discussions where people engage in exchanges of ideas and viewpoints instead of simply barking at each other through the lens of social media.

Last year was the Yang Earth Dog; this year we are in a “Yin Earth” vibration.  While last year, the Earth image was mountain (Yang), this Yin Earth year is more about the valleys – flatland, farmland, lowlands. From the mountains to the valleys is a major drop in altitude. Watch for the unexpected! Those who were strong and powerful in 2018 could encounter some major frustration on the way down. If they don’t have plans for unexpected fiascos,  they might experience the effects of a landslide in the 2019 Earth Pig year.

Pig (along with Rat and Ox) is part of the Water family and contains Yang Water and Yang Wood. Yang Wood is a tall tree. Yang Water is the river or running water. So this year’s Earth Pig combines Earth, Water, and Wood elements.  Earth controls Water, and Wood controls Earth in the theory of the 5 Elements.  We are in for some internal tension – inner conflict, resignation, and frustration coming from feeling like we are in a stalemate.

Conflict will tend to stay underground. The nature of Yin Earth is like a garden giving a more gentle, philosophical, humanitarian and peaceful vibration. People may choose to be more considerate and less stubborn, able to compromise and accommodate others but watch out! Underneath the surface, there is insecurity. The Yin Earth element sits on top of Water and apparent peace and harmony can be just that — apparent! The atmosphere will be fragile with undercurrents of secret hostility as people give in to the Pig’s tendency toward quiet resignation.

Since there is no support or creative energy coming from Fire this year, the Yin Earth Pig may bring earth disasters. Watch for sunken ground  — earthquakes, landslides, building collapses affected by underground water, mining disasters, or avalanches. The powerful Water of the Pig could also bring water disasters such as flooding, heavy rain, and snowstorms.  The last Yin Earth Pig in 1959 saw a 7.9 magnitude earthquake in East Kamchatka, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Yellowstone National Park, a 7.2 earthquake off Taiwan and a 7.3 scale earthquake in New Zealand. Water-related disasters included a flood in Taiwan that killed 2000 people and Typhoon Vera in Japan killing 5098 people. Similar water and earth disasters happened also the Yin Earth Pig Year of 1899 including a great blizzard in North America and a cyclone in Australia.

Lack of Fire will also have an effect on the economy. Money will be important so make sure you feed your piggy bank well. The Dog Year was the “grave” of Fire and now 2019’s Yin Earth Pig terminates the Fire completely, bringing in the Water.  Lack of Fire means lack of optimism and the negative emotion associated with Water is fear.  We are not in an “up” cycle.

Since Water nourishes Wood, Wood industries will do well – fashion, media, publishing, education, reforestation, environmental engineering. Earth controls Water, so the Pig provides money for Earth industries like real estate, mining, insurance, and computer software. Even though the general tone of the year is not optimistic, Fire industries are active and productive since Fire produces Earth — energy, finance, entertainment.  Water industries like shipping, transport, and communication will not do well due to the lack of Fire which is considered money to Water.  Metal industries like banking, machinery, and the automotive sector will also have a hard time but will be active due to the Water energy.

In the body, the Earth Pig relates to  both the Kidney and Spleen energy. Imbalanced energy in these organ systems can activate fear and worry. The Kidney energy is one of the determinants of aging in Chinese medicine. There will be more interest in health, longevity, and the healing power of sex. Emotional eating can be a problem with social concern about obesity and diabetes. And since Fire is low, the heart can also suffer. Stress management through meditation, gentle restorative yoga, and Tai Chi can help you stay on a healthy path.

Since the Pig completes the Chinese animal lineup, 2019 will be a year of completion when you can expect to finish up old projects, achieve some of your goals, and even say ciao to those who should be already on the way out the door.

Believe it or not, pigs are smarter than 3 year-old kids or dogs! They have complex communication skills with more than 20 different grunts and squeaks. Newborn piglets can listen to their mother’s voice as she sings to them while they feed. Pigs form complex social units and learn from each other in the same ways that primates do. And they are actually very clean animals – rolling in the mud is their way of cooling off. So next time you think “Pig” = Insult, think again!

Insightful, intuitive, grounded and practical, Earth Pigs are adorable, lovable, warmhearted beings. They know how to enjoy life so learn from them and take some social time-out this year to solidify your connections. Pursue joy, love, and pleasure. Go ahead…be a Pig about it!

Predictions by Animal Sign are here

Predictions for 2018 – The Year of the Earth Dog

The first day of the Earth Dog Year is February 4 with the Chinese Lunar New Year occurring on the solar eclipsed New Moon in Aquarius on February 16, 2018. We welcome the sociable Brown Earth Dog into our lives as he takes the reins from 2017’s boss, the Red Rooster. They couldn’t be more different.

An old Chinese proverb says, “If a strange dog follows you home, your house will be blessed with prosperity.” Considered man’s best friend, Dogs are found everywhere we are, helping us be more human. Whether functioning as rescue workers in disastrous situations, guardians of property, farm workers, hunters, guides for the blind, or as just faithful pets and companions, Dog energy is an important part of our human landscape.

Dogs honor commitments and are direct and frank, emotional and spontaneous. They have no time for the superficial and frivolous. In the Earth Dog year, being helpful, caring for children, showing love and loyalty, and fighting for justice, integrity, and ethical behavior is the name of the game. And of course, it’s time for the underdog! Be alert for more than the usual number of ideological crusaders motivated by outrage and self-righteousness. And if a Dog has a bone to pick with you, watch your friendly Dog turn into a ferocious beast.

Dog is considered to be Earth and the year’s element is also Yang Earth. Big and in your face, 2018 carries very strong Earth energy. You might call it a massive mountain! Many will feel a huge obstacle blocking their progress and will need to find a way around or through it, exerting extra effort to reach their destination. Challenging to say the least, try not to live from a reactive place. Wisdom and strategy are necessary to find the best way to handle obstacles of all kinds.

The Yang Earth Dog brings to mind Hexagram 52 in the I Ching – Mountain over Mountain (“Keeping Still”). The positive quality of this massive mountain of earth energy is meditation, stability, and spiritual studies. The I Ching counsels that through meditation, one reduces the influence of what is inferior and increases the possibility of receiving assistance from the invisible plane. The negative manifestation of this image is inertia; slowness to change, laziness, and a conservative approach that blocks progress.

We have just completed two Fire years – Monkey & Rooster. Everything heated up. Excitement and passionate idealism were prevalent. But now the Fire has burned up, gone out and become Earth. All of that passion, excitement, and impulsive action has died down, transformed into Earth. The economic optimism evident in the previous two Fire years will disappear. Some experts say that Earth is the “grave of Fire”.

This has many implications from health to finances. Pay attention to your heart and blood circulation since they relate to hidden Fire and can affect your Earth element organs (spleen, stomach & pancreas) especially if you have a weakness there. The sensory opening of the Earth organ system is the mouth. In addition, Earth represents cells, muscles, and the nutrition necessary to maintain life. The negative emotions associated with the Earth element are things like too much thinking (worry, anxiety, free-floating stress), boundary issues, and inability to think clearly.

With so much Earth energy this year, emotional eating will be an issue with diabetes, weight-loss, toxicity from the environment, the food supply, and eating a healthy diet being major concerns. Be aware that excess Earth is also related to disorder on the cellular level manifesting in cancer. Think boundary issues on the micro level.

Don’t be a lazy dog! It’s time to prioritize stress management. Get off your haunches and move! Take advantage of this Earth time to create a stronger connection with the earth by spending more time in nature and cultivating your root. Hiking, Tai Chi and Qigong practice are all perfect! Nourish your Spleen system by feeding your Heart and Liver and paying closer attention to your diet. Take advantage of the Liver energy rising in the spring, to do a Liver detox so that the Wood element can better control the Earth tendency toward internal cellular disorder.

Previous Earth Dog years (1958 and 1898) teach us about how this energy might manifest politically and environmentally. Big events happened in Asia. In 1898, Qing Dynasty China was ruled by the Empress Dowager and continued declining with aggressive invasion by Russia and other western countries. The reform movement began there in 1898 but lasted only 100 days. The Dog year, being the “grave of Fire” can also mean that stubborn conservative elements resist progress and change. The Vietnam War escalated in 1958 and a great famine began in China that year, not ending until 1961. An estimated nearly 30 million died through a combination of a series of natural disasters and poor planning. America experienced a recession in 1958 with unemployment growing, NASA was created, and the microchip was developed paving the way for the development of computers.

Dangers relating to mountains (avalanches) and movement of the earth (landslides and earthquakes) are possible. On July 9, 1958, a 7.9 earthquake triggered a mega tsunami in Lituya Bay in the Gulf of Alaska. The most significant and largest known mega tsunami in modern times caused a massive 90 ton rock fall that created a sudden displacement of water that washed out trees to a maximum elevation of 1710 feet.

Worried about your investments? Industries performing well in the year of the Earth Dog will be primarily related to the Wood element since in the 5 Element Theory, Wood keeps Earth in check and Earth is a symbol of money to Wood. Fashion, media, paper, books, education, publishing, and anything having to do with the environment will have some success. Fire industries are next since they produce Earth – energy, finance, and entertainment. Since there is excess Earth, those industries will have to be competitive to get ahead (real estate, farming, mining). Metal (banking, machines, cars) and Water industries (transport, communication, & shipping) are not supported.

Whereas last year’s Yin Fire Rooster contained the protective “Nobleman Star”, 2018’s Earth Dog has no angels coming to the rescue when there is danger. In the Chinese calendric system, the Earth Dog is known as “Fai Kong”, an exceptionally tough, strong character that doesn’t surrender. Expect compromise to be difficult. As much as the Earth Dog wants peace and harmony, it might not be too easy to achieve.

Despite all of the obstacles, the Earth Dog is one of the best times to cultivate spiritual understanding and a more ethical, just society. On a personal level, loyal and honest to a fault, Earth Dog energy is very attractive and charismatic and whether mutt or pedigree, very responsive. Give this lovable beast your love and devotion, feed it well and you will have a friend for life. And if romance comes your way in 2018, you will be a lucky Dog indeed! Just remember that the Dog, though tamed, is a carnivorous animal whose characteristic voice is a loud bark.

Predictions by Animal Sign are here



Staying Healthy with Taoism – 3 Essential Practices

Anti-aging is a big buzzword these days.  Everyone wants to know the secret of youth. What can I buy, ingest, or do to stay young and healthy?

As a 39-year practitioner of Taoist health and spiritual practices, I am here to tell you that Taoism is the way to go!

Taoist teachings are the root of Chinese Medicine, Feng Shui, Martial Arts, and Astrology. These disciplines are all concerned with Chi (or Qi) – life force energy – its flow, harmony, and balance.

This ancient tradition also developed the practices known as Qigong or Daoyin that emphasize the cultivation of good health with the intention of living a long, productive life. One accomplishes this by finding internal balance and merging with nature, exchanging energy with the universe in a dynamic process, living in the flow between heaven and earth.

When I committed to my Tai Chi practice 39 years ago, I was a professional photographer with a lot of minor health problems related to my profession that threatened to become serious.

Only 27, I was a bit of a mess. My shoulders had crept up to my ears; I had energy congestion between my eyes that came from peering at the world through a camera; and imbalances and compression in my spine from carrying equipment and heavy camera bags. Not to mention stress and anxiety.

Someone mentioned Tai Chi to me and I decided to give it a shot.  After a few classes, I felt an immediate connection with this amazing movement art that is Taoism in motion.

My growing commitment to practicing the Taoist philosophy through the disciplines of Tai Chi and Qigong improved my life enormously, enhanced my health and happiness, and became the context for many of my subsequent life decisions.

In my experience, these practices have proven to be incredibly valuable and perfect for our busy lifestyles.

Although there are many things I could share with you from this vast and varied tradition, here are 3 simple practices rooted in Taoism that I recommend doing on a daily basis to maintain your health and keep you young and energetic:

1. Meditate – Develop a relationship with yourself through meditation. In Tao practice, we begin with The Inner Smile.  Send love, joy, happiness, and intention for healing to your inner organs.  Know their location and make a connection with them.  See your inner organs as a team or family that needs to work harmoniously together in order to support you. Cultivate their happiness and chi.

2. Self-Massage – Stimulate chi flow in your organs by learning Chi Self-Massage.  Start with your sense organs.  They are the doorways to your inner organs and problems there often indicate internal issues. If nothing else, rub your ears every day and massage around your navel center, easing away congestion and stagnant energy and making space for your chi to flow.

3. Gather Universal Chi Through Your Energy Gates – the 2 palm centers, 2 centers in the soles of the feet, mid-eyebrow, and crown center, bringing energy into your body from heaven and earth for nourishment and healing.  Take time to move consciously and if at all possible, do this outdoors and breathe deeply. It’s very easy to use our energy.  Not as easy to conserve it and cultivate it.  Think of yourself as a battery that needs charging and connect every day to the universal forces for nourishment the same way you charge your cellphone.

Remember that Tao practices do not provide a magic pill that changes things all at once. Rather, they are about refining and cultivating your energy for the long-term. Try it and watch the magic happen! For more information about classes, workshops, and private sessions, visit me at

Predictions for 2017 – The Year of the Yin Fire Bird

e99b84e9b8a1e58da0e6989fe6a087e5bf97-77190153The Yin Fire Rooster (known to philosophical types as the “Red Phoenix” or “Fire Bird”) confidently crows his welcome into our lives on February 3, 2017, overtaking the anarchistic, trickster Red Fire Monkey who with gleeful mischief has bombarded us with more surprises than we could imagine during 2016 (Chinese New Year is actually celebrated on the New Moon in Aquarius – January 27, 2017).

We are in the middle of a 3-year Metal period (Monkey, Rooster, & Dog). Both 2016 and 2017 carry strong Fire element energies. In traditional thinking about the relationship between the elements, Fire controls Metal. Consequently, many of the problems of the Monkey year will continue in 2017 with just as many opportunities to come up with solutions. Fire and Metal types will feel this acutely. But there are differences.

Fire of course, heats things up and makes people happier and optimistic. Passion, excitement, impulsive action, creativity, and enthusiasm will be evident everywhere. As opposed to last year’s Yang Fire Monkey though, this Fire Bird is Yin, more like a flickering, unstable candle flame than a full-out blaze. Hence, we can be subject to states of creativity and emotional sentimentality and sensitivity that flare up and subside, unlike the quick temper of Yang Fire. This energy is more tense and nervous. Tempers can accumulate and explode, making serious situations potentially more dangerous.

The Rooster is Yin Metal, related to gold, precious gems and jewelry, implying wealth and luxury. This Fire Bird drives us to preen our feathers, flex our muscles and strut our stuff whether we’re in the barnyard, the schoolyard, or the courtyard. To Rooster, appearance is of the utmost importance. Personal grooming and our wardrobes will definitely demand more of our attention. Wanting to make a good impression extends itself into the workplace, not to mention the love and romance arena. Those who find validation in either place (and the lucky ones who find it in both!) are promised long-lasting happiness. This could be a great year for the arts, entertainment, and fashion.

A dedicated timekeeper who thrives by clockwork, precision, and order, the Rooster’s territory is circumscribed. As the only ruler of the roost, he often creates alarm with his wake-up calls, especially concerning our livelihoods. This is a year when money will not come to us without effort. Keep a schedule at work, make wise investments and cultivate your savings instead of fantasizing about get-rich-quick schemes and other speculative ventures.

In Chinese medicine, Metal energy is related to the lungs, large intestine, and skin; Fire rules the heart and the small intestine. Spiritually, the heart is our Commander-in-Chief. It’s all about the blood vessels and capillaries, inflammation, our capacity to savor and enjoy, as well as our speech (Fire rules the tongue). Words, thoughts, and the feelings behind them have power.This is a year where it is of utmost importance to speak truthfully, straight from your heart.

The combination of Fire and Metal can cause flu, potential breathing problems, skin and digestive problems, internal and external inflammation, and heart palpitations. Be aware that imbalance in these organ systems can manifest in difficult negative emotions. Associated with the Lungs are depression, grief, and sadness. Giddiness, impatience, hatred, and cruelty reside in the heart. If we cultivate our courage and healthy self-esteem as well as loving compassion, respect and patience, our health will definitely benefit.

In particular, Yin Metal is connected to fog or stagnant air that is retained and not exhaled. This year, breathing and the lungs’ function of exchanging qi with the universe can become compromised due to atmospheric pollution (literal and emotional!). This is a year when getting into clean, fresh air is extremely important. Practice Qigong in the woods, in the mountains, by the sea, or a fresh lake or river. Do pranayama regularly to clear your air passages. Clear your aura with meditation and mantra.

Make conscious efforts to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels down by cultivating more awareness about what you eat as well as your stress levels. Nourish your Heart and Lungs by feeding your Liver and Spleen. Use cooling supplements like turmeric, aloe vera juice, and medicinal mushrooms (see an excellent brand here), and eat a low-fat, anti-inflammatory diet.

As symbolic of jewelry, Yin Metal is charming and beautiful on the outside, but internally, it has a very cold and hard metal quality. Yin Metal is like a dagger, not a sword. It attacks Yin Wood that is related to small bones in the body. Particularly for Rabbits (who are Yin Wood), it is also necessary to beware of accidents causing injury to back bones, limbs, fingers, and toes.

Lots of interesting developments happened in the most recent Yin Fire Rooster years, 1957 and 1897. The Vietnam War escalated in 1957 with serious insurgencies by the Viet Cong against Ngo Dinh Diem’s government. In 1897, Qing Dynasty China was ruled by the Empress Dowager and was declining with aggressive invasion by Russia and other western countries. In this Yin Fire Rooster year, keep an eye on the relationships between China, Russia, and the U.S. There were remarkable scientific milestones. In 1957, the first satellite (Sputnik 1) was launched by the Soviet Union in October. In 1897, the word “computer” first appeared and aspirin was invented.

There were more than the usual numbers of explosions and fire disasters in 1957 – a coalmine gas explosion in Virginia, a 42,000 pound hydrogen bomb accidentally fell from a bomber near Albuquerque, a nuclear disaster occurred at the Mayak nuclear reprocessing plant in Russia, and a fire happened at the Windscale nuclear reactor in England.

Industries that will perform well in the year of the Fire Rooster will be those related to Fire and Water elements. In the 5 Element theory, Metal is money for Fire as well as the mother of Water. Fire industries are energy, the stock market, finance, and entertainment. Water industries are transport, shipping, and communication. Earth produces Metal so real estate, construction, and mining will be active. Metal industries like banking, engineering, computers, and cars will be active but too much competition will not create much money. Wood industries like textiles, paper, and environmental technology are active because Wood creates Fire but the money for Wood industry is Earth and unfortunately, it is absent. Consequently, Wood industries (particularly traditional publishing) will not do so well either.

The Yin Fire Rooster is also a rare year as it contains both “Nobleman” and “Academic Stars”. Every baby born from 2/3/17 to 2/16/18 will automatically possess these good stars. Nobleman will give a person life support from others, and Academic Star is a symbol of intelligence and a strong appetite for knowledge and study.  They appear together only twice in the 60 year cycle – Yin Fire Rooster year and Yin Water Rabbit year (2023).

Despite all of the conflicts between Metal and Fire, The Yin Fire Rooster is a symbol of optimism and innovation, particularly during the spring and summer months of 2017 when Fire becomes more prominent. There is sure to be conflict and disharmony in global relationships but people are confident and creative in bringing solutions to the obstacles that arise.

Natural and environmental disasters will give people an opportunity to step up and transform themselves into more caring, human beings. On our best days, we will rise to the occasion and see that we are all living in the same “barnyard”- Planet Earth and (among the cosmically enlightened) our beautiful galaxy.

If you feel the restrictions of your own personal chicken coop, cultivate a cheerful attitude and disposition. Strengthen your resolve to be the best human being you can be and you will transform the somewhat mundane Rooster into a beautiful Fire Bird.


Predictions by Animal Sign are here

Predictions for 2016 – Year of the Yang Fire Monkey

The first day of the Yang Fire Monkey year is February 4, 2016. But Chinese New Year is actually celebrated on the New Moon in Aquarius – February 8, 2016.

monkeySmart, shrewd, and ready for fun, this year’s Fire Monkey can’t be more different from last year’s Yin Wood Sheep. Anything can happen. The Trickster archetype is now in charge and Monkey business rules. If you don’t have a sense of humor about yourself or occasionally veer toward the naughty, you’re going to be very uncomfortable with all the crazy things going on.

But it doesn’t stop there. Perhaps because monkeys so uncannily reflect our human world, from Hanuman to the Monkey King they occupy a special place in Eastern mythology. Many of the stories glory in portraying Monkey as an impulsive, foolish, vain troublemaker. As in most traditional “Hero” tales, after getting his comeuppance through various trials and tribulations, a transformation occurs and eventually, Monkey redeems himself. So the Monkey archetype in these traditions symbolizes repentance, devotion, courage to hold on to a vision, and the promise of liberation.

Baby Monkey

                       Wudang Mountain, China ©Sharon Smith 2011

And then there’s the “monkey mind” – spiritual lingo for the ADHD that seems to be endemic these days. As clever as Monkey is, he has one main difficulty – taming the restless mind. A short attention span, jumping from branch to branch, grabbing whatever fruit is appealing, and making judgments based on appearances will prove to be delusional fulfillments at best. On the other hand, things can turn on a dime so we have to be willing to let go of our ego attachments and change course if something’s not working.

2016 is the first year of three consecutive Metal animals (the others are Rooster and Dog). In traditional thinking about the relationship between the elements, Fire controls Metal and the flavor of the year is Fire. Metal symbolizes a destructive weapon like a sword. So this year, the damaging aspect of the Metal element is kept in check somewhat by Fire.

Fire of course, heats things up. Passion, excitement, impulsive action, creativity, and enthusiasm will be evident everywhere. But Metal also represents the West direction and connects with the weakening sun (the Monkey rules from 3-5 PM). So even though Fire increases Monkey’s tendency toward hotheaded Yang behavior, it’s not so strong since the sun is setting.

Conflicts created by the relationship between Fire and Metal can be resolved since the heat dissipates as the sun goes down. On the positive side, a sword symbolizes cutting through illusion to find the truth, a noble Monkey endeavor! In the Year of the Fire Monkey it’s good to keep in mind that even though easily excited, people are openhearted, sincere, and if given a chance, calm down quickly.

Nonetheless, it will be difficult to escape conflict and disharmony in international relations. Conflicts will flare up rapidly and then subside. The last Yang Fire Monkey year was 1956 when there was a crisis with the Suez Canal that led to the bombing of Egypt by the U.K. and France. Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula in October 1956 and there were also rebellions against the Soviet Union’s control in Hungary and Poland that were both brutally suppressed by Soviet forces. Although 2016 may not be a peaceful year, people will bring the Monkey’s optimism creativity, and innovation to solve global problems.

Fire rules the Heart and the Small Intestine in Chinese medicine. It’s all about the blood vessels and capillaries, inflammation, our capacity to savor and enjoy, and our speech (Fire rules the tongue). Spiritually, it’s our Commander-in-Chief. Metal represents the Lung and Large Intestine and relates to the nose and breathing mechanisms as well as the skin.

The combination of Fire and Metal can cause flu, potential breathing problems, heart palpitations, internal and external inflammation, skin and digestive problems. Be aware that the negative emotions associated with these organ systems are depression, grief, sadness (Lungs); and giddiness, impatience, hatred, and cruelty (Heart). Words, thoughts, and the feelings behind them have power. Speak truthfully, straight from your heart. If we cultivate our courage and healthy self-esteem as well as loving compassion, respect and patience, our health will definitely benefit.

Make conscious efforts to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels down by cultivating more awareness about what you eat and your stress levels. Nourish your Heart and Lungs by feeding your Liver and Spleen. Get into the fresh air as much as possible. Practice Tai Chi, Qigong, Meditation, and Yoga to stay grounded. Use cooling supplements like turmeric, aloe vera juice, and medicinal mushrooms (see an excellent brand here), and eat a low-fat, anti-inflammatory diet.

Conventionally, Metal has to do with coins (money). Industries that will perform well in the year of the Monkey will be those related to Fire and Water elements. In the 5 Element theory, Metal is money for Fire as well as the mother of Water. Fire industries are energy, the stock market, finance, and entertainment. Water industries are transport, shipping, and communication. Earth industries (real estate, construction, mining) will be active and productive (Fire creates Earth) but the money element for Earth is Water which is not in and of itself, strong this year and definitely not obvious. Wood industries (particularly traditional publishing) will not do so well either.

The Monkey is a “Nobleman” (protective angel who comes to help us & smooth our way) for those born in years of Yin Wood or Yin Earth. This means any birth year ending in 5 or 9 (1955, 1959, 1965, 1969, 1975, 1979, 1985, 1989, and 1995, 1999, etc.). Tigers will have trouble but Monkey’s best friends (Dragon, Snake, and Rat) will shine.

Can you hang on for the wild ride? If so, you’ll come out without a scratch. On the other hand, those who can’t handle the stress might come undone! Thrive by taking a page out of the Monkey’s playbook. Be playful. Be creative. Be strategic. Be willing to travel to further your interests. Call on Hanuman and the Monkey King for assistance. Most of all, cultivate your sense of humor.

Predictions by Animal Sign are here


Old Flames – Venus Retrograde in Virgo/Leo

Bonfire V

On July 25, the planet Venus went retrograde at 0 degrees of demure VIrgo. It resumes direct motion at 14 degrees of fiery Leo on September 6. The effects of this period can last until October 9 when Venus finally passes the point at which she retrograded.

While most of us have now at least heard of the planet Mercury going retrograde and have some familiarity with its effects, Venus is a celestial body of another sort. It retrogrades once every 18 months. And when it does, the planet of love and pleasure, of financial opportunity and indulgence, of beauty and appearances,  and of relationships and the cooperation it requires to maintain them, retreats into her private lair in order to  revisit and re-evaluate.  Retrograde means that from our earth-centric viewpoint, the apparent motion of the planet is backward.  Actually we are moving faster and it just appears that the retrograde planet is in reverse.  Like being in the subway and watching the train on another track seem to move backwards as you pass by.

If you are a native of either of the Venus-ruled signs, Taurus or Libra, you are especially affected. The rest of us don’t get off so easy either because we all have those signs ruling some house in our horoscope — not to mention the direct effect of transiting Venus herself moving backwards in our lives in Leo. The first week of August, the Sun, Mercury, Venus & Jupiter are all in Leo.  On August 7, Mercury exits Leo and a few days later, Mars comes in. That’s a heavy emphasis on self-expression and self-involvement.  Everyone is looking to have peak experiences in love and romance and Venus especially is looking to either be on a pedestal or find someone exceptional to gaze at adoringly.

So for the next 6 weeks or so, you can expect all things Venusian to have the quality of a re-run. This  6-week period in your love and social life is not particularly good for moving ahead in a new personal direction, using eggplant henna on your hair, impulse shopping, or commencing a new romance. In fact, you might find that any love interest that shows up is either an old flame or seems like a familiar recurrent dream.  Even if it’s not the same person, there is a quality that’s somehow very deja vu.

So as much fun as it might be to re-visit your feelings about a particular person or jump into a new love affair, be forewarned. When Venus changes direction on 9/6,  it will suddenly seem like you’ve been wearing a pair of glasses with the wrong prescription.  What could you possibly have been thinking? Alas, it’s true. That prince you wanted so much to give a second chance to?  He really was a frog.

©Photograph by Sharon Smith
All rights reserved

Predictions for 2015 – Year of the Yin Wood Sheep/Ram

The first day of the Yin Wood Sheep year is February 3, 2015. But Chinese New Year is actually celebrated on the New Moon – February 19, 2015.

Sheep, County Kerry, Ireland, 1996

Sheep, County Meath, Ireland, 1996 ©Sharon Smith

Last year’s raucous Yang Wood Horse has given way to a more peaceful Yin Wood Sheep. This is not the sturdy, stubborn tree trunk we encountered in 2014. It’s more like bamboo or the branches of a willow tree – able to relax, compromise, and move in the wind. Yin Wood is connected to flowers, grass, leafy plants and vegetables, sprouts, low bushes and scrub that need sunshine, nutritious earth and water to grow. It represents a compromising attitude, making it easier to reach solutions and find agreement between conflicting interests.

Sheep are herbivores and eat grass. Their strong herd instinct can be overridden if they have intense curiosity about greener pastures and are brave enough to wander off. They tend to have mild demeanors and are quite friendly. Like their human vegan counterparts, they profess to like community, are focused on the common good, and will fight for it if they are called to do so.

Don’t be fooled by Sheep’s ability to tolerate difficult conditions and a paucity of food. Sheep are tough.. Their docility is deceptive and they have very strong survival instincts. You’re under illusions if you think you can cross a sheep! Play your game? Not an option. You can count on them to go their own way when push comes to shove. Take the lead of the gentle but strong Sheep this year and move away from power struggles, cultivate inner peace, and develop your spirituality and creativity.

Year of the Ram

©Sharon Smith Aswan, Egypt 2014

Yin Wood is the Seed, the source of creativity and inspiration. But dehydrating Fire is present this year, and there’s no Water to nourish the plants. Our kidneys could be weakened, affecting our immune systems. Protect your bones with supplements, exercise, and qigong bone breathing and tapping. This dryness, interestingly, is reflected in a connection to the desert in Sheep years. The last 2 Gulf wars in the deserts of the Middle East began in 1991 and 2003, both Sheep years. It is not surprising that we are seeing more potential world problems as ISIL stakes its claim in the Middle East.

Wood represents Liver Chi in Chinese medicine and relates not only to the liver but also the gall bladder, eyes, tendons and ligaments, joints, and nerves. Particularly connected with the neck, spinal cord, and the back, Yin Wood can cause injury to susceptible Sheep. Anger, frustration, and resentment are the negative emotions associated with this organ complex and the virtues of kindness, generosity, and forgiveness are present when Wood is balanced.

Chinese medicine often refers to the Liver as the “General” because its main function is to direct the inner body processes and coordinate them into a functioning whole. In the Taoist meditation tradition, the Liver is referred to as the “second in command” after the Heart. Nourish your Wood energy by taking care of your kidneys (Water element). Drink lots of water and healthy green juices, watch your diet, eliminate fatty foods, eat more greens, and cleanse your liver with daily doses of citrus, particularly lemon juice.

Sheep Year’s Yin Wood combines with Earth. According to the creation and controlling cycle governing the relationships between elements, Wood controls Earth. Even though this is a fighting relationship often creating open conflict, don’t forget that the peace-loving Sheep is in control. It’s likely that disagreements may be more easily resolved with compromise and concessions. Aligning yourself with Yin Wood energy means taking on the qualities of a flower that can easily adjust its direction as the winds blow.

To understand the energy of the Sheep Year, it’s useful to know that the Hour of the Sheep is from 1-3 PM. At this point in the day, the ground has absorbed lots of heat so the peaceful Sheep also contains some Fire. We call this “Yin Fire”. As the last Fire sibling of Snake & Horse (the 2016 Year of the Monkey begins the Metal cycle), 2015 is a turning point year.

Sheep’s month is July. This is the time when your tree (Wood) begins to bear fruit. If you have been hard at work growing something under the sunny Fire energy of the last 2 years, this is the year when you will see the fruits of your labors. Metaphoric mangos, coconuts, and money are falling from the trees! Enjoy!

In addition to Yin Fire and Yin Wood, Sheep contains Yin Earth in the Chinese philosophy of the 5 Elements. The Earth energy is strong as the month of July is supported by summer Fire (Fire creates Earth). In Chinese medicine, Earth element involves the spleen, stomach and pancreas, related to cells and muscles. Such strong Earth might also upset the balance in those organs. Diabetes will be in the news as well as pancreatic cancer. Be aware that the negative emotions associated with this organ system are worry, anxiety, and stress. Watch carbohydrate intake and make stress management as natural as brushing your teeth.

During the Earth months of July, October and January, (months of Goat, Dog and Ox), Earth is exacerbated. This might prove difficult for people with these animals present in their Chinese astrology chart. These are also the months when there is greater possibility of earthquakes, landslides, avalanches, building collapses, etc.

Fire-driven optimism will affect economic growth and Fire businesses – energy, air travel, sports, exercise & health, fashion, beauty, advertising, the media, entertainment of all kinds, and restaurants will continue to do well in this last year of the Fire cycle. Prosperity will also come to Wood & Metal industries – textiles, recycling, scrap metal, paper, publishing, hi tech, banking, and engineering. Earth industries will not do so well (construction, real estate, agriculture).

The Sheep is a “Nobleman” (protective angel who comes to help us & smooth our way) for those born in years of Yang Wood, Yang Metal, or Yang Earth. This means any birth year ending in 0, 4, or 8 (1950, 1960, etc., 1954, 1964, etc., 1958, 68, etc.).

As a farm animal, Sheep doesn’t do much but look for a tasty blade of grass, laze around in the heat of the day, and have her fleece trimmed occasionally. So you can see, a Sheep has no real worries. The Ox is the animal that actually does the farm work and consequently, Ox doesn’t much like Sheep. This is a strong clash between two earth energies. If you’re an Ox or have Ox in your 4 Pillars chart, this is a difficult year for you. President Obama, take note!

Child with Sheep, the Sacred Valley, Peru

Child with Sheep, Sacred Valley, Peru, 2006 ©Sharon Smith


This is a year to come down from our high horses and smell the roses. When faced with conflict, think of what’s best for all beings involved, especially the earth. We will all be better for it.


Predictions by Animal Sign are here

Who is Kuan Yin?

Kuan Yin postacardQuan Yin (sometimes spelled Kuan Yin, Kwan Yin or Guan Yin) is the Bodhisattva of compassion, revered by Buddhists as the Goddess of Mercy and by the Taoists as an Immortal,  one who is spiritually accomplished, a transcendent being, not tied to the material world. A Bodhisattva is an “enlightenment being” pledged to universal liberation and happiness.

Her name is short for Guan Shi Yin. “Guan” means to observe, watch, or monitor; “Shi” means the world; “Yin” in this context means sounds, specifically sounds of those who suffer. Thus, Guan Yin is a compassionate being who is the “Hearer of the Cries of the Suffering World”.

Epithets for Quan Yin include The Joyful One, The Pure One, The Light-giver, The Radiant One, Difficult to Conquer, Face to Face with Emptiness, The Far-Going One, The Immovable One, Becoming the Good, and Cloud of the Dharma.

She is considered a gate to the paradise world or “Pure Land”, a clean, bright place full of delight — an oasis, island, mountain, garden or jeweled city that is the source of great rivers and the waters of life. This world is outside of linear time and space and mechanical cause and effect. Souls reborn here are wrapped in a lotus that unfolds to show the truth of their eternal nature and the reality of compassion and joy.

The Pure Land holds Fullness of Being – a flowing abundance of food, life, communication, creativity, space, beauty, intelligence, freedom and spontaneity, along with release from greed, lust, ignorance and compulsion. When aligned with the Body of Light, we exist there, freed from the paradigm of opposites, easily integrating sensuality and spirituality.

The Pure Land is the great enclosure that keeps us safe as we cross what the Buddhists call the Sea of Suffering. We experience the Pure Land from the Hsin (sometimes spelled xin), the Chinese word signifying heart-mind, the uncorrupted, unconditioned thought, spirit and energy of the heart that relates to the “spirit” or divine, sacred capacity of human beings to connect with and manifest the Tao.

Many of us are unable to awaken to this spirit on our own and the figure of the Savior or Redeemer who acts as a bridge or boat that sails the waters between ordinary existence (referred to as the Tomb World) and the Pure Lands is one of humanity’s most powerful archetypes in every religious and mythical tradition.

This is how Quan Yin functions — as a symbolic bridge to the world of the spirit, an experience of the spirit of paradise. She helps us understand ourselves in a new way and redirects our consciousness, freeing us to live compassionately by pointing at the insightful wisdom that reality is actually a symbolic, not a literal experience.

The Chinese word for this is Hsiang. It means “symbolizing”. Hsiang means making images that have the power to connect the visible world of our daily existence to the invisible world of the spirit. We hsiang things by imagining, creating, imitating, acting and acting out, playing, writing, or divining. Qigong and Tai Chi are physical expressions of “Hsiang” (for information about Kuan Yin Standing Qigong, click here).

When we pose a question that expresses a real “cry from the heart”, Quan Yin is there for us. She expresses her compassion through practices, divination, dreams, and visions that affirm the bond between the human realm and the world of what is considered divine. From this connection, flows the experience we call “paradise” or a direct “acquaintance” with the source of reality.

By connecting with Quan Yin in this manner, we acquire what the Taoists called Te This word can be translated as power and virtue, potency, or “Actualizing-Tao”. An ancient word, Te is associated with Tao, as in the Tao-te ching. Te is the power or virtue that allows something to fully exist, a realizing power that can be accumulated, nurtured and acquired by people and objects. In the human world it is the charisma or inner power that makes a ‘great person’ great. Powerful te generates a powerful person; exalted te produces a sage. If we are full of te, we are numinous because we hold the power to realize the way or tao in ourselves. By accumulating and refining te, we both contribute to and partake of paradise.

© Sharon Smith

All rights reserved.

Source Material – The Kuan Yin Oracle, the Voice of the Goddess of Compassion by Stephen Karcher