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From Feb. 8, 2016, the New Moon in Aquarius, until Jan 27, 2017, the next New Moon in Aquarius, we are all monkeys. Not only because that is what Darwin concluded a while back, but because in the Chinese zodiac, every twelve years we are under the influence of the primates. But every 60 years (5 cycles of 12) we are in the domain of the Red Fire Monkey, and as the name suggests, we can expect more action and adventures stories than romantic comedy tales.

You can go back to the dates listed below, these are the last time we climbed trees and ate bananas. If you are born in these periods, well, you are a monkey for real. But you can also go back and see what happened in these years, so you can better understand what is expected in the next twelve lunar months:

  • Jan. 22, 2004 - Feb. 8, 2005
  • Feb. 4, 1992 - Jan. 22, 1993
  • Feb. 16, 1980 - Jan. 4, 1981
  • Jan. 30, 1968 - Feb. 16, 1969
  • Feb. 12, 1956 - Jan. 30, 1957

Why Should I Care?
Even if you don't follow or believe in Chinese astrology, close to 2 billion people do (Chinese Astrology is followed in many other places besides China). In addition, if you believe in the "like attracts like" paradigm, or in the "power of thought," or in "collective visualization," then you should know that almost one third of humanity will project to the cosmos an image of a red monkey. They will conduct risky business according to the monkey philosophy, invest in the market in an explosive, impetuous way, acting just as a monkey would. In other words, even if there was nothing monkey about the next year, there sure will be since so many people expect it. That being said, I find a great deal of truth and wisdom in the Chinese Zodiac but was always surprised how come the Panda never made it into the wheel...

Who is the Monkey?
One of the four Chinese classical literature is a manuscript written (most likely) in the 16th century by Wu Ch'eng-en. The book is called "Monkey: A Journey to the West." It is a tale that takes place in the 7th-8th century when Buddhism traveled to China and blended with Daoism and Confucianism. The story has all of these three philosophies combined effortlessly with no conflict. I wish someone in the West could write a book that combines Judaism, Christianity and Islam with such harmony. The story is very influenced by another famous monkey, Hanuman, who is one of the three main character in the epic tale of Ramayana.

The story begins with the birth of the monkey out of a stone that was fertilized and fashioned by the wind (just like Hanuman's father was the wind god). Wind = air = intelligence, magic and hyperactivity. Stone = Earth, practical, physical. The first act the Stone Money did, as he emerged out of the rock was to bow to the five direction and gaze at the sky with his piercing eyes that sent a golden beam all the way to heaven. The Jade Emperor, heaven's ruler, sent his investigators of paranormal activities to see where these beams of light come from. They reported back that it is nothing but a silly monkey with some raw natural magic - nothing to worry about, just another monkey protégé that will probably lose his exceptionality in puberty. Mistake! It just goes to show that even the mighty emperor cannot fully see the future, which means there is "free-will," not all is fate. Now, that is an important message coming from a society that valued fate far more than free will.

In the year of the monkey, free-will and choice is exercised to the fullest. If you want to be a good monkey, then on Feb 8 "bow down," an allegory to commit time, money and energy into five aspects of your life you want to work on in the year of the monkey. For example: bowing to a better diet, bowing to being more present in the relationship, bowing down to my creativity etc. Whatever you want to say about the outrageously rebellious troublemaking monkey, he did start his life in humility and also will end it that way.

Soon after, Stone Monkey became king of the monkeys and instructed everyone to call him "Handsome Monkey," since he didn't appreciate being named after a stone. So much for humility. After a while, monkey had a terrible thought: "What if I die and reincarnate into a miserable person in a godforsaken land?" So he embarked on a journey to gain immortality. He found a great Daoist master who eventually taught him how to be defy death, ride clouds (after all he was a son of the wind), shape-shift, as well as become a powerful sorcerer and martial artists.

My favorite sentence in the book is from one of the lessons Monkey received from his master, a message we should all take into our hearts:

Nothing in this world is difficult, but thinking makes it seems so. Where there is true will, there is always a way.

This year a great deal of magic, and synchronicities will take place in your life. It is a great year to start martial arts, yoga, dance or any activity involving movement.

Monkey gains immortality and of course a new immortal name - "Aware of Emptiness" - but it is not enough, he needs more. So he tricks the dragon to give him powerful weapon and with it he goes to heaven. He causes so much trouble at the Emperor's court that eventually he is pronounced persona non grata and is expelled. But since no one can kill an immortal, he has the last laugh. Monkey goes on upsetting gods and goddesses, immortals, and demigods and even steals the rare and special peach elixir that is more like ayahuasca than wine, and he gets so intoxicated that he is finally apprehended.

Eventually, the Buddha comes to the rescue. He offers Monkey a wager - If Monkey, who has now changed his name to "Great Sage Equal to Heaven," can leap out of the Buddha's palm to the end of the world and return, he will become the new emperor of heaven. Monkey agrees and jumps to the end of the world where he sees five pillars. He tags his name with a spray can and of course, marks the middle pillar by urinating on it. When he jumps back, he sees the Buddha laughing. The Buddha, master of form and emptiness, is everywhere thus monkey never left his palm. The five pillars he saw were the Buddha's five fingers. When monkey started arguing, the Buddha showed him his middle finger which Monkey tagged and peed on. Monkey recognized his "art" and smell and surrendered. The Buddha turned his hand upside down, and his fingers transformed into a mountain chain under which the monkey was jailed for half a millennia. The mountain was sealed by the password: Om Mani Padme Hum, the mantra of the Buddha of Compassion.

In this year, you might find yourself trapped stuck, a bit lost. But remember, the seal of your suffering is nothing more than the mantra of the Buddha of Compassion: Om Mani Padme Hum translated to "the Jewel is in the Lotus." It means that your imperfections are what makes you perfect. That when you embrace your challenges instead of running away from them, they become your allies.

There was a great deal of unrest in China and Avalokiteśvara, also known as the Buddha of Compassion (Guanyin), decided that the people of China need precious sutras from India, the land in the west, in order to rehabilitate themselves from evil thoughts and deeds. She chose a loyal monk, Tripikata, for the job, but since he was kind of a spiritual nerd, she knew she needs to assign a powerful and brace bodyguard. After all, the wild-west if filled with demons and monsters of all shapes and kinds. Suddenly she thought about Monkey. She liberated him from the mountain and placed a kind of a golden helmet on his head. The moment Monkey even thinks of a magic spell, the helmet squeezes around his skull. Monkey did a great job protecting the monk with his two buddies, a fat pig a water buffalo. After he succeeded in his mission, he asked the Buddha of Compassion to take off his helmet, "Don't your trust me by now?" The Buddha laughed and asked, "Do you trust yourself?" She pointed at Monkey's head, and when the Monkey reached up he realized he does not have the helmet. In fact it was never there. Remember the Buddha's Heart Sutra: "Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form." At that moment, Monkey attained enlightenment and was now called (hopefully for the last time) "The Buddha of Victory through Strife."

What Can We Learn from Monkey
The title of the monkey book, "Journey to the West," reinstates the important lesson of the monkey. West is associated with Western Civilization where the qualities of the renegade, Wild West cowboy, individualist, rebel without a cause, boldly going to where no one has gone before, are admired. Free-will and choice are the pillars of the West. By contrast, in China and the East, family, hierarchy, obedience, responsibility, fate, family, community and country are reinforced. This year is the year of self-development through free-will and individuality. It does not mean self-centeredness or selfishness, but rather emphasizing the original and unique. This year you need to tap into your magic and let go of conformity.

Nine and Monkey
The year 2016 in numerology is 9 (2016= 2+0+1+6=9). Nine is associated with revelation, magic, transformation and death. The ninth sphere in Kabbalah is called "Foundation" and is the sphere of reception, as well as intimacy, sexuality and transformation. The sphere does have a great deal of similarities with the shape-shifting, magic thinking Monkey. In addition, in Chinese astrology, the monkey belongs to the ninth of the Twelve Terrestrial Branches, which symbolizes intense reckless creativity and irresponsible curiosity. In other words, fun. When I looked into the evolution of shape of the digit 9, I found another synchronicity that ties monkey with number 9. Half-way through the number's development it looked like the @ symbol:

In Greek as well as Bulgarian (and I believe many more languages) the @ signs is named "monkey." Another funny coincidence happened when I purchased the book I mentioned earlier "Journey to the West." Take a look at the price I was charged for the title: $9.99. So yes, Monkey brings magic, and this year will be a roller-coaster. Next email - coming soon - we will look at the more practical aspects of this year. I first wanted you to familiarize yourself with the myth and concepts of 2016.

Below is a link to a song I composed about a monkey inspired by a poem from Rumi:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sqPmHAhthk

Have a great year!
gahl

The Wall

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