In many meditation practices, “monkey mind”—that restlessness, scattered, can’t-shut-off-your-thoughts feeling—is something you strive to avoid.
So it could sound scary that when the Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year—a day that in Asian cultures is more important than January 1 for letting go of the old and ushering in the new) begins on Monday, it will be the Year of the Monkey.
Birth year plays an important role in Chinese astrology, and each year (on a 12-year cycle) is associated with an animal sign. As with Western star signs, each animal sign is believed to have certain character traits. Monkeys—which include such luminaries as Leonardo da Vinci and Harry Houdini, and more recently anyone born in 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, or 2004—are said to be ambitious, persistent, confident, and quick-witted. Think of them as the erratic geniuses of the cycle.
But the ruling sign of the present moment—that would be Mr. Monkey—affects everyone. So, how is 2016 going to affect you?
Well, “we do a lot to cultivate a grounded element in our busy and sometimes frenetic lives. We meditate and find quiet times, but the Monkey—for all its good—can make that really difficult,” warns Noah Rubinstein, clinic director of the YinOva Center, acupuncturist, and former teacher of Chinese medicine.
Should you be buckling up for a turbulent year of high-energy multitasking and frenzy that takes you out of the stillness you’ve been striving for? Are you headed toward the Eastern equivalent of Mercury going retrograde? Rubinstein says no—as long as you don’t rest on your mindfulness laurels. As he puts it, “The adventures of the coming year should be tempered with steps to preserve balance.” Gotcha.
Here’s what Rubinstein says you can expect for the Year of the Monkey:
1. Accept that this year will be a bit unpredictable.
Here’s where Chinese medicine gets complicated: Each animal sign is associated with one of the Five Elements (Air, Fire, Water, Wood and Metal), and each year is governed by one of them—on a five-year rotation, meaning they don’t line up. The Monkey is associated with Metal, and this year will be a Fire year. “Fire puts Metal and its very identity to the test,” says Rubinstein. “And so it will be for us, as even the Monkey’s character will be challenged and on a bit of a rollercoaster.”
2. Let loose and get wild.
Make no mistake, this year is going to have a lot of highs, in part because Monkeys are serious party animals. “They play games, they’re curious, creative, and agile—they’re great multitaskers,” Rubinstein notes. If that doesn’t sound like you, for the next 12 months try shedding your Wednesday Addams persona. “A light heart is the name of the game, so make sure there is lots of laughter and heartfelt communication.”
3. But bring awareness to everything you do (yes, even partying).
Monkeys are also very symbolic of life’s duality, and the other side to them is that they can bring instability to work, home, relationships, health, even your bank account. That mindfulness you’ve been honing will be key. “We risk undermining ourselves if we spend too much energy swinging around from one thing to another,” Rubinstein says. So bring an awareness to what you’re doing—even if it’s downing tequila shots at your best friend’s bachelorette party. (Not that we ever…)
4. Move outside your comfort zone.
“This is going to be a year when we cultivate our ability to adapt to change without losing our heads,” says Rubinstein. Embrace unexpected challenges and be okay with those moments you’re pushed outside your comfort zone (rather than fighting it). After all, it’s what the Monkey does best: “They aren’t easily daunted—they love challenges like taking classes or learning new crafts.” Yoga teacher training, anyone? And yes, bumps along the way are to be expected; but this is the year that you can definitely roll with it. “Don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t work at first; there is always another approach,” he notes.
5. Keep that ego in check.
Rubinstein warns that there will be some “Monkey drama” in this fast-paced, sometimes random year. “Don’t let your ability to keep your head in the storm over-inflate your confidence,” he adds. Confidence is good… until it’s not. There’s a reason it’s called monkey business, after all. —Ann Abel
Need some help staying grounded? This expert shows you how to start meditating—and keep with it.