Year of the Tiger

Energetic Shifts for the New Year

Throughout Asian cultures, February—not January—is the month that kicks off the new year. Western significant dates are based on a solar calendar, while Eastern cultural celebrations are lunar-based, and the Chinese system of astrology uses both. This time of year is traditionally celebrated as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival by cultures throughout Asia to mark the beginning of spring.

Miraval Berkshires Chinese Metaphysics Expert Beth Grace sat down with me to explain what this means in terms of the energetic new year, according to Chinese astrology. An energy shift happens every year on or about February 4, and this year it brings us into the year of the water tiger.

From Ox to Tiger

As we leave 2021 and its year of the metal ox behind, many people have come to Beth asking, “If we are in 2022, why did January still feel like a throat-punch?”  

Beth explains that January’s energy was challenging because it was a metal ox month in a metal ox year, which is what we call Fu Yin (same-same), or a doubling up of energy that brings challenges as well as an intensification of the vibe.

2021 wanted to make itself heard right up until its ox-stubborn end.

The hexagram for the metal ox pillar is called Darkening of the Light. “It carried with it,” says Beth, “a feeling of lost hope, like we were in the dark.” 

Sound familiar, anyone? I don’t think I’m alone in feeling relieved to have that energy in the rearview mirror.

Darkness Before the Dawn

If you’re new to this system of astrology like I am, you might be wondering what a hexagram is. I-Ching, the ancient Chinese divination system that influences this astrological structure, symbolizes life’s stages with 64 of these six-row combinations of yin and yang lines.

January’s hexagram illustrated the darkness before the dawn, but fear not, Miraval Family. The I Ching (aka the Book of Changes) also tells us that when things reach an extreme, they must shift to their opposite. Like the winter solstice, when days reach their darkest, the light is closest to its homecoming. 

“January might have felt dark and bleak, but the tiger zodiac sign is the birth of fire and heralds the return of the light,” Beth reminds us. “This next year will be a swift-moving one, and we will be more grounded and centered and able to navigate these tides if we have tools and resources to manage the waves of emotions in the coming year.”

We go from the double metal ox of January to February’s water tiger pillar in a water tiger year. Another Fu Yin. More of the same-same?

“Not quite,” says Beth. “The intensity will be the same, but the energy is different.” Starting the year with another double reminds us to be doubly alert and present.

The water tiger, Ren Yin, is a special, scholarly pillar. It’s cerebral, creative, artistic, and one of the ten spiritual pillars.

Balance on an Unstable Board

In Chinese astrology, when we try to understand the year ahead, we don’t just look at the pillar of the year; we make a birth chart for the year as if it is a person. And the personality of this upcoming year might not win any popularity contests. Beth uses words like “merciless, aggressive, and unbalanced.” This chart describes a very intense person. A person with low productivity, scarcity of supplies, and difficulty making things work.

Friends, we might be entering 2022 on a wobbly floor, but sometimes the unstable board gives us the best workout and strengthens our sense of balance.

The way we view the chart is metaphorical and pictorial. “If we are to paint a picture of this particular chart,” notes Beth, “it would be a big mountain, a very powerful river with lots of woods and trees and forest. But because of this Fu Yin situation, it looks more like we are a little guy in a kayak who just came over a waterfall that washed out all the trees.” 

This upcoming year might feel a little bit like treading a balance beam that’s bobbing in a surging sea. So, pick up your Pilates practice and reinforce your core. A strong center will serve you well.

A Watery Year

In western astrology, this is the year of Pisces, a sign ruled by watery planets. Whether you are looking at western or Chinese astrology, 2022 is a very powerful water year. And the water is not a placid lake. It’s the uncontrollable ocean with its most fierce, foamy waves. We can only surf or float our boats on it, but we can’t harness or rein it in.

Water also saturates us in emotions, and cultivating our spiritual practice is the perfect antidote (spirituality is a fire element). Those emotions can feel like gentle currents or raging tsunamis. Beth reminds us that the year ahead is soaked with emotional stuff because the water element is so forceful. Brace yourself for a cresting swell of feelings as the year begins.

We have spent so much time steeped in survival mode since 2020—a state that tends to set emotion aside. As the acute or immediate crisis starts to submerge, passions surge. Though our challenges are far from over, we do get little respites. And that’s when we might feel a little flooded.

The Return of Fire

Amidst all this water, in struts the tiger, the birth of fire. With its sizzling spark, we might even feel like we can pull out of the storm and dry off after our long slog of feeling water-logged.

What do we mean by the birth of fire? “Each element of energy has its own life cycle,” explains Beth. “Each has a zodiac sign and corresponding animal for where it’s born, grows to full power, then recedes until it dies and is reborn.”

After wading through so many aquatic months, we can finally turn our faces to the heat, light, and warmth of the sun. We had zero fire in 2019, 2020, or 2021, and it’s about time for it to reappear.

Tiger is where fire begins. It is also where hope returns.

What we’re really celebrating this month is a rebirth, Li Chun, the coming of spring, and fire’s return. This is a water tiger, though, so it’s a slow burn, one that requires patience and measured breath. It’s still unbalanced and volatile. Don’t expect a big fiery blaze in such a fluid year.

But it’s also a year of abundant wood, which symbolizes growth and expansion. It can appear as a solid stack of kindling or a sturdy, leakproof vessel. You might find yourself needing both before the year is out.

As much as we want a quick fix, remember that the work of recovery and renewal is slow and steady.

Tips for Wading into the Year of the Water Tiger:

Drop Anchors in Oceans

When you’re in a boat that might get swept out to sea, you need a grounding anchor. Begin or bolster a daily practice—yoga, meditation, art—whatever gives you stability in stormy times. Our tethers will help us thrive in all this challenging, oceanic energy.

Get Creative

When water seeps in at this rate, things grow and expand—this is a great time for innovation and creative expression. Give yourself space to explore these inventive elements in your life. When everyone else is pulling back, you can charge ahead and charge large. “The water trigram,” cautions Beth, “might be full of fear and darkness, but we can float above the fear to find opportunities.”

Awaken your Wanderlust

The tiger is a travel animal. Even if we can’t take those bucket list trips or grand adventures, we can rediscover our local roads, travel in our imaginations, and tap into our inner day-trippers. Sign up for that day spa, download foreign films, or start cooking exotic cuisine.

Beware of Short Fuses & Charlatans

We benefit greatly from going within, but the travel-star tiger yearns to roam. This year asks us to be something between a recluse and a rockstar. We can interact with people while understanding that they might be touchier than usual. Look out for snarls and snaps stirring under the surface. Unbalanced energy gives us extremes. Even in such a spiritual year, beware of trendy leaders, disingenuous gurus, or grifters glowing with excess glitter. Authenticity shines with natural light.

Build a Better Boat

The water tiger is a scholarly pillar; it is knowledge, and knowledge keeps us from freaking out when reality strikes. It’s a good year to read, study, and listen to everything, even the viewpoints we find foolish. When we face reality and accept it without judgment, we can never be blindsided. The waves will come, but we see them a mile away. The breakers still sting with their salty surf, but if we acknowledge them for what they are, we can respond appropriately, build a better boat, and recover.

Perhaps, this year we can loosen up our stubborn ox stances and move like a tiger moves. We can tread softly but patiently prepare to change pace and charge ahead when the time is right.

Take a breath and wring out the excess water weighing down your sails.

Take a beat, simmer slowly.

When you’re ready to pounce onto the path ahead, you might find yourself springing from a solid dock, swiftly propelled by a fierce and focused flame.


*Source material provided by Miraval Berkshires Chinese Metaphysics Expert Beth Grace.

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