We have entered the year of the Red Fire Monkey with an invitation to release the old and manifest a new reality in alignment with the calling of our heart and soul, and with the continuously expanding edge of our own greatness. The monkey is the 9th animal in the Chinese zodiac and represents intelligence, creativity, and a lightness of being that arises from a mind free of inhibition, guilt, and the weight of the past.
Numerologically, 2016 is also significant as a “9-year,” holding the vibration of completion, and heralding the conclusion of a cycle that began in 2008. This is THE time to release anything that’s outdated and not in alignment with your expanding Self. Combined with the medicine of Red Fire Monkey, the energetics of alchemy and transformation are full speed ahead. What in your life feels like a small coat that you’re still trying to wear?
Like Siddhartha sitting under the Bodhi tree, you will be tested with distraction of “demons” (old stories, wounds, fears, world affairs, etc.) and must stay anchored in your Knowing while navigating towards your destiny with agility, ingenuity, fortitude, vision, and a healthy dose of creativity and play.
In the great Hindu epic, The Ramayana, we meet a monkey god named Hanuman. In support of Prince Rama, Hanuman embarks on rescue mission to retrieve Sita, Rama’s beloved who has been kidnapped by the demon king Ravana. The revered Hanuman and his entourage travel South to the far reaches of India and fail to find her. A dark night of the soul ensues in which Hanuman and the others retreat into a cave and begin to contemplate their own suicide, fearing the ramifications of returning in failure. Hanuman himself is frozen in despair, and in attempt to encourage him, a bear-like character named Jambavantha begins to tell Hanuman stories of his birth and childhood. While many versions of the story describe this as a session of extolling Hanuman’s virtues to remind him of his magnificence, it has also been interpreted as a time when Hanuman reflects on the wounds of his past. After a process of integrating his shadow, Hanuman is able to rise up and make the courageous leap across the ocean to Lanka. To find your true inner strength and knowing, you must be willing to face and release the shadows of your past so you can finally move forward, unencumbered by their weight.
As is often the case, rising to greatness doesn’t stop with one courageous step – it is a process unfolding in which we learn to navigate challenge with increasing grace and efficiency. Mid-leap, Hanuman faces three demons: Mainaka, Surasa, and Sinhaka.
Mainaka is a golden mountain that rises from the sea to provide Hanuman a place to rest. While Mainaka is often depicted as a benevolent helper, she also symbolizes the temptation of complacency, security, and comfort – a place many choose to reside instead of following their hearts to the full glory of their potential. In the year of the Fire Monkey, we take this teaching as an opportunity to recognize the “demons” of the familiar. What relationships, work, activities, or beliefs might feel safe, but are potentially holding you back from pursuing the destiny and calling of your heart?
The second demon Hanuman faces is Surasa, a fierce serpent with razor sharp teeth who obstructs his path and commands that he can only pass by entering her mouth. Drawing upon his powers of shapeshifting, Hanuman challenges her to swallow him whole as he expands to giant proportions. As she expands her jaw, Hanuman quickly shrinks himself to the size of a thumb and darts through her teeth and out her ear. With ingenuity, courage, and a dose of play, Hanuman honors her command while saving his own life. As challenges arise this year, engage your sense of creativity to skillfully maneuver and trust your inborn knowledge and instinct to do so.
Perspective is critical this year, and while it’s easy to get stuck behind an obstacle, recognize your ability to shift perspective and move forward. It’s also worth noting that when we have traversed the depths of our darkness – our doubt, our pain, our brokenness – we are able to meet any challenge that arises with the battle cry of BRING IT ON. We become fearless and emboldened by the power of our lived experience, the resiliency of our heart, and the knowing that what we serve is beyond life or death.
The final demon Hanuman encounters is Sinhaka, who seizes the shadow of her prey as a means of dragging them into her mouth. Upon feeling trembling in his being and his power starting to dissipate, Hanuman realizes the demon has hold of his shadow. He turns and dives straight towards it, tearing through its mouth and killing the demon that took the lives of many by hooking their shadow.
As you rise into your own greatness, you must be willing to turn and face the fears, doubts, or old stories (of victimhood, lack, etc.) that might be trailing and draining your lifeforce. They must be met head on and integrated into the wholeness of your Being. In integrating your own shadow, you help transmute that of the collective and pave the way for global transformation.
In modern legend, another monkey tale offers a similar lesson – the story of the Hundredth Monkey. On a Japanese island in 1952, scientists observed a young monkey engage in a new behavior of washing the sand off a sweet potato before consuming it. Increasingly, other monkeys began rinsing their potatoes, and in 1958, as if overnight, the whole population was doing so. Most interestingly, tribes of monkeys on OTHER islands began rinsing their potatoes around the same time. Seemingly, a critical mass had been reached and the entire species now engaged in the same behavior.
In the year of the Red Fire Monkey, it’s imperative to lead by example and not get pulled into the dramas or doubts of others. Simply wash your potatoes and let the ripples of your actions spread far and wide.
We are at the precipice of great change. Do not get distracted. Let your heart lead the way and LEAP! You have done the work and cultivated your capacity to meet any obstacles that present, and it is time to dream big and create your new reality. You hold the power and creative potential of all that is. It’s time to engage it, for the benefit of all.