Humboldt Acupuncture

Welcome the Metal Ox 2021! By Jeffrey Haloff, LAc.


A new beginning, at last, as we welcome the strong and determined, loyal and ethical Ox, with a somewhat joyful optimism. The new moon of February 12, 2021 brings the Lunar New Year of the Ox. The thoughtful and diligent Ox is the perfect animal to guide and help us from the perhaps less-than-ideal place we have found ourselves in post-Year of the Rat. And how was your Year of the Rat?! I certainly didn’t have Global Pandemic on my bingo card. We have survived, we’re still here, so let’s breathe a sigh of relief as we hitch our wagons to the mighty and dependable Ox and move forward.

As we know, the Chinese zodiac has 12 animals, combined with 5 elements, to give us the 60 year cycle. The Rat is the first animal of the 12, because he begged a ride on the back of the Ox. (“Oh Mighty Ox, my legs are so short and I am so tired, could you please give me lift on your strong back”, said Rat.) Then sneaky Rat jumped down and scurried to get to the Buddha first, winning the race. Ox is the second animal in the cycle, because the compassionate Ox helped the Rat. This is Chinese year 4718 (and the Buddha lived about 2500 years ago- perhaps it was a race to the Jade Emperor), so let’s gain some perspective from this ancient system of information.

Last year (let’s process it some more, shall we), was the Yang Metal Rat. The Rat is classified as a Water animal. Water in its moving form relates to social connections and communication, and Water in its deep, dark and still form relates to fear. Yang Metal can be related to weaponry, and we certainly saw the rapid movement of information via social media, much of it weaponized, placing blame and instilling fear, as we were sequestered cautiously in our homes. The Rat is the smallest of the 12 animals, yet a group of rats, if left unchecked, can do big things as they provide for the survival of their family. In an agrarian society, the accomplishment of a group of Rats is not always seen as positive. And the novel virus, also very small, left unchecked has been successful at self-replication and survival. Rat has the reputation of being associated with plagues.

Now, onward with the highly respected and much loved Ox! The Chinese system of astrology develops from their ancient agrarian culture, one of the oldest agrarian cultures on the planet. This is year 4718, so we know it was at least about 5000 years ago they made the transition from hunter/gatherer to agricultural. The Ox facilitated that transition as their strength and dependability was harnessed. Truly, the Ox is of great service, diligently toiling to help us grow food, we drink the milk of cows, and we eat the flesh of cows, which gives us high protein nutrition. The Ox is a compassionate creature, a precious asset, and we are grateful for it’s service to humanity.

We study the attributes of the Ox, which also tend to be the attributes of someone born in the Year of the Ox, in order to be in harmony with the energetic relationships of the time, so that we can thrive. The element associated with the Ox is Earth. (The Five-Element system of energetic relationships is worthy of study: Metal>Water>Wood>Fire>Earth, etc.) Earth is generous, the source of our food, providing our nourishment and giving us life. Earth is also receptive, receiving the Qi, or energy, of the Sun. Earth is trustworthy and reliable. This year is a Yin Metal Ox. Yin is soft and receptive, so this may be thought of as a female Ox. Yin Metal is softer and more malleable, unlike the Yang Metal sword. Yin Metal is more like a vessel to hold nourishing food, utensils with which to eat, jewelry, and musical instruments like a bell or wind-chimes. Yin Metal can also be thought of as a plow, breaking up the Earth to prepare for planting of seeds. In the Five-Element Theory, Earth produces Metal, a harmonious relationship, suggesting the goals of the Earth-oriented hardworking Ox may eventually be manifest with qualities of Metal, which include money! Other attributes of Metal are focus, form and structure, and righteousness. Perhaps the softness of the Yin Metal will moderate the extreme righteousness we have recently seen, as the ethical Ox plods along, turning over the soil, mixing in fertilizer, in order to provide for humanity.

Ox likes order, and tradition. Astrological relationships, as well as Chinese medicine, have evolved by studying the cycles of nature. The clever Ox plans the farm and garden layout, studies growing cycles, knowing what and when to plant, and works efficiently toward a goal. The information Ox uses to succeed is trusted tradition and custom. Hard-working Ox is ethical and conservative. Not pseudo-conservative, beholden to greed, but pragmatic with respect to cultivating enough food for everyone. Prosperity is acquired through hard work and diligent focus. Ox is strong and confident. With Ox as our inspiration, we emulate their strength and focus to achieve goals.

Ox is what we need at this time: sticking to the program and plodding along with strength and confidence can move us through this crisis. An orderly mass-vaccination plan of action, adherence to proven science about the benefit of mask-wearing, plus continued caution and respect, can bring us to something like “herd immunity.” The Ox plans a strategy, works tenaciously with faith in their ability, and reaps the benefit in the autumn. We’ve got a way to go, but we’ll get there.

But the effects from the Year of Metal Rat continue to reverberate. Metal is associated with the organs of respiration- the lungs. The corona virus can severely affect the lungs with a perniciousness we classify as Damp/Cold. Certainly we should continue to warm ourselves with ginger, and boost our immune system with Vit. D, astragalus, licorice and healthy food. The representative emotion of Yin Metal is grief. The weight of grief can be heavy, as we mourn the great loss of 500,000 lives, countless businesses, jobs. We mourn the loss of relationships with those of with differing opinions, of all our plans, and our community. We contemplate the death and change incurred during the Metal Rat year, the fragility of life as we know it, and, we sigh……the sound of lungs expressing grief.

And inhale a fresh breath, as we also count our blessings- we are still here, and we can be inspired by the focus and discipline of the Ox……… inspiration, to breathe, focused breathing, releasing the past to move forward, toward a common goal.

But the ethical Ox has a very good memory, and as we move toward our common social, economic and health goals, it is likely that we will see a quest for justice regarding those who have maligned the structure of our democracy. Ox is stubborn and can bear a grudge. Metal represents form and structure, and with the Ox’s respect for traditions and customs that benefit the majority, such as democracy, we shall see a slow and steady movement toward justice. Ox is patient and focused.

How to function most efficiently and effectively this year?
-The strong, hard-working Ox needs ample quality sleep. The Hour of the Ox is 1-3AM, time of deepest sleep.
-Eat well, continuing to boost your immune system, and keep in mind that the powerful Ox is a vegetarian.
-The Ox works out of doors, so if you happen to work at a computer, be sure to get physical exercise in nature, breathing deeply to benefit the lungs.
-Stick with traditions that have served you well in the past, ones that you can count on with confidence. Even nostalgia that brings joy may be beneficial.
-Practice self-reflection, as the Yin Metal quality of the year is like a mirror.
-Enjoy music, as the Yin Metal resonance is not unlike Tubular Bells, and as we learned in isolation, music can be our salvation.
-Communicate clearly, acknowledging the perspective of the person with which you are communicating.
-Practice charitable compassion, as people are in serious need this year.
-Have a dependable routine and stick to it, as humans can thrive with the structure of a reliable schedule.
-Use your breath to ground your awareness into the reliable foundation of the Earth.

Of course, your personal relationship with Ox, depending on the year, month, day and time that you were born may factor into your experience. Those born in Tiger years may be frustrated by the Ox slowly plodding in straight lines, but it is wise to wait until next year, Year of the Tiger, to express your freedom to move on your unpredictable path. Monkey, too, may not like the regimentation, and Sheep may be sad over the loss of perceived freedom, having to hide your beautiful face behind a mask, and the need for hard work. Horse likes to run free, but can be harnessed to do strong work. Rooster will thrive with organized order, and we know Rat and Ox are good friends.

The Rat year had us addicted to garbage we digested on the internet. Faster and faster, it assailed us, yet the year seemed to last forever. (Time flies when you are having fun, and the inverse was proven last year, as it was no fun, and it took what seemed like forever.) But the rhythms of nature are dependable, and the Earth-loving Ox has taken over. Detach from internet addictions and apply the antidote: a walk in the forest. Work outside. Breathe fresh air. Practice and support renewable energy and protect the health of our Earth, honoring the sanctity of life. Honor traditions of the Elders. Grow a garden. The Ox sees the long view.

Use the Yin Metal mirror to reflect on righteous stubborn opinions that may be based on unfounded fear. Some people may not want to get with the program that can get our culture functioning, and they shall continue running their habituated negative argumentative loop. Embody the ethical confidence of the mighty Ox, diligently and patiently, and we can all self-reflect on our strong opinions. We are now in the timely realm of the honest, hard-working Ox, so, greedy, short-term get-rich-quick schemes are not likely to succeed this year. It is unbridled greed that has got us into this COVID crisis, for, as we know, the now-deposed “strong man” didn’t want to upset the money markets by declaring an emergency to battle the virus. Now, with 500,000 dead, we slog ahead.

We slog together. Patient is the wise Ox, for she knows the plan is good, and benefits will come at harvest time this autumn. Get ready to hitch up the Yin Metal Ox, trumpets and trombones, as the festive and melodious brass bands shall parade powerfully come autumn. Diligently practice, as the time will come when we are dancing in the streets. More cowbell! Remember, after the global flu pandemic in 1918 came the Roaring 20’s, a time of free exuberant expression of culture. Stay focused, avoid distraction, but don’t get stuck in a rut. Follow the path of enthusiasm. Nourish yourself! The herd will gather to celebrate the fruits of our conscientious labors. Stay in touch. Communicate clearly. Remember, Lao Tzu rides an Ox. Now, get back to work!

Jeffrey Haloff LAc.
For questions as to how Acupuncture may benefit you, call 707-268-8007.