"We all became unbalanced last year," Rubinstein says, noting that many people are banking on this year being better. "I can hear the exhaustion in their voices—they're wiped out and over it," he says. And while this year is going to offer us a break from that high level of depleting chaos, it's not necessarily bringing us a relaxing and restorative trip to Bermuda, either (sorry). "The ox is about to say, 'Get to work'," says Rubinstein. "Because that's what oxen do—they're work animals."
"This is a year to get clear on what you want to create, because the ox works on things that take time." — Noah Rubinstein, DACM
The ox, he says, is diligent and reliable, which is what you're going to need to be, too. "If ever there was an animal that embodies [the idea that] you reap what you sow, it's the ox," says Rubinstein. "This is a year to get clear on what you want to create, because the ox works on things that take time." While last year's rat was reactive, the ox is proactive, he adds, so it's time to ditch the former approach for the latter. And fortunately, because this year's element is metal (each year in the Chinese calendar is assigned an element as well as an animal), you'll have clarity around what it is you need to go after, too.
If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Many of us put our bigger goals and dreams more or less on hold in 2020, and while we're stay a ways off from experiencing restored normalcy, things may slowly start stirring back into action this year. So, it's a good time to reawaken those paused-upon goals and dreams and start to plot next steps. After all, we can now at least see the hint of a more predictable, planning-friendly future.
- Noah Rubinstein DACM, LAc, Noah Rubinstein DACM, LAc is a doctor of Chinese medicine who practices at the Yinova Center in New York CIty.
And while work may be the last thing you feel like doubling down on right now (seriously, don't we all deserve an all-expenses-paid vacation after this mess?!?), Rubinstein says it's helpful to reframe this work as cultivation: You are planting seeds and tending to them so that they'll grow into the things you want for your life. "We have goals that won't unfold overnight, whether they're about our physical health, our mental health, our spiritual and emotional health, our communities, our families, our friends, our planet," says Rubinstein. "Meaningful goals take time, and the ox is part of a larger plan." This means, unfortunately, that we're not going to get much immediate satisfaction this year, he adds.
That said, the ox also embodies patience. And while asking us to practice patience after over a year spent waiting out a pandemic is a bit, well, in a word, ugh, Rubinstein notes that the ox is fulfilled by the work it does each day in service of the long-term results of that work. So while you'll be thinking about your desired destinations this year in order to know which direction to head, it'll also be important to be present in the daily journey in order to ultimately get there. "Getting back to the world that we want is a bit of a process," he says. "Things that are dependable, cultivated, and have enduring value take time."
In addition to patience, the ox also likes routine, says Rubinstein, so part of rebuilding will be returning to old habits when and if it's safe and possible to do so. And while I personally thought that the arrival of vaccines would usher in an era of frenzied hedonism, Rubinstein says, according to the Year of the Ox, this isn't necessarily the cards. Yes, he admits, we will probably have more fun and diversity in experience than we during the Year of the Rat, but wilding out isn't really what 2021 is about, either. "When we talk about the ox, what we're looking at is a reflection on deeper aspects of the world around us," he says.
Ultimately, what we went through in 2020's Year of the Rat changed us. The Year of the Ox is going to help us reimagine and rebuild our lives—and the world—based on our newfound perspectives. So while 2021 might not be the indulgent year you may have been hoping for, it is positioned to allow us some much-needed stillness to get not just back on track, but on a better train altogether.
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