By Ana Cortés, Sacred Fire Tepoztlán (Mexico)

On March 3, 2018, Grandfather Fire granted an audience to the Tepoztlán, Mexico Sacred Fire community to welcome in the Tibetan New Year. This event, borne of deep ties between members of the Sacred Fire community and the local Shambhala Buddhist community, has been offered for the last 16 years. 

According to the Tibetan and Chinese calendars, each year is associated with a combination of one of five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) and one of twelve animals. 2018 brings forward the combined energy of Earth and Dog.

The preparation for our community’s Tibetan New Year audience with Grandfather Fire is always precious to me. All who attend bring chocolate, copal and tobacco that we place into three large bundles. After the central fire has been consecrated, these bundles are passed around to each person  and we take a moment to consciously add our intention for the coming year. Then we go outside of the Tuki (our ceremonial fire house), where there is a secondary fire which has been lit and consecrated by a Firekeeper.  The bundles containing our collective offerings are placed on this fire, which gets huge while “eating” them. As I look around, it seems to me others feel amazed and hypnotized, as do I. Finally, we all settle back inside the Tuki.  We warm up the space energetically with our stories, music, and laughter to invite Grandfather’s arrival.  And so it was this year also. As those in the audience began to ask their questions in search of guidance, Grandfather wove in teachings about the year of the Earth Dog.

You are going to enjoy this year…,” I heard Grandfather say, and then He added: “…but you need to understand the difference between the year of the Fire Bird and the Earth Dog year.”

As Grandfather continued, those of us gathered for this very special audience learned that the difference in energy between last year and this year would be dramatic. To help explain this, Grandfather used the metaphor of being on a river. He told us that at different times the characteristics of a river change, and that those navigating the river would have to move their boat accordingly. This requires awareness, without which – should one try to continue to operate the boat as before – the pilot would lose the advantage of being able to flow with the river in that new section. As with rivers, the energy of different years can change. Sometimes from one year to the next, there can be similar characteristics, but in changing from the Fire Bird year to the Earth Dog Year, we were counseled to expect dramatic differences.

Remembering The Fire Bird Year: Awareness Experiences

Grandfather reminded us that in the Fire Bird year many situations rose up that required digging into what had not been looked into before, or that had been previously hidden. Challenges and situations tended to be very dramatic, which helped to generate an awareness in us of the hidden, of something we may not have wanted to face in our lives. As a result, by the end of year, anybody who worked with really opening to what was being exposed would have a collection of experiences and a new awareness. For some people, not all the areas that needed to be brought to awareness were seen, and that, Grandfather continued, would now need to be left for another time, because the coming year is dramatically different and does not favor further Photo credit: Stefan Glazer, United Statesdigging for awareness. As we move to this new portion of the river of life, we can accept what we saw and learned last year, and recognize that there may have been more to see but also that the window of opportunity to see more is now closed. Grandfather refined this by saying that when we live our lives productively, we can always see new things that we have previously been unaware of, but it would not be as significant as what was brought to light last year.

Instead, the Earth Dog year is about taking the new awareness and creating a productive change that goes beyond simply becoming aware.

The Earth Dog Year: Choosing Nourishment

Because the energy of the dog is very similar to that of the earth, this year was said to be, in some ways, like a double earth year. We were told that the nature and the presence of earth are very important to understand and that earth is about nurturing, stability and being grounded.

Grandfather advised us that when we stay open to the presence of Earth, we would be guided as to what to consume. He stressed that listening to the voice of the Earth will be better than experimenting, which is something that the Earth Dog doesn’t favor. According to the Chinese and Tibetan wisdom experience, the Earth Dog year has to do with the mouth, the throat and the stomach. As we tune in with our bodies, for instance, we might notice, “Yes, my stomach desires to bring that in”, and “No, I am not hungry for that other food.” And as with food, we may reflect on our experiences: “This experience produces nourishment, that one looks like indigestion.” In this way, we were invited to take last year’s experiences and new awarenesses and to now integrate these, to make them part of our bodies, health, and lives.

Talking about the energy of the dog, Grandfather mentioned the following qualities:

  • Very straightforward
  • Not complicated
  • About loyalty
  • About honesty and integrity
  • About a strong sense of justice
  • About fairness and respect for all.
  • About social movement
  • About paying attention to others in the group
  • About working together like a team
  • Understands that power and individual benefit come from focus on the group

We learned that this is a very good year and energy for community and for common causes. The awareness that was brought forth last year is not to be just for personal benefit, but rather about how to take difficult lessons and now bring these forward for the benefit of others. In this, the dog is a very practical builder. We were again reminded that while we could have brought more to light last year, this year is about producing fruition. We get to move away from the “craziness” of last year and build upon and solidify what was learned – not just for ourselves but also for others.

This is “a good year for social justice causes,” which requires keeping steady and firm, and letting go of the tendency to do new things. We are to focus less on generating “new avenues of prosperity” but to make real the “practical approaches to life.”

Grandfather advised us that dogs are not designed to function as individuals but find their strength in being social. The dog that remains alone is worried and obsessed with its individual thoughts and is a neurotic dog because it doesn’t move and work with the community or the pack. It holds very little power for change and effectiveness when it is alone. Similarly, as humans, when we lose touch with the earth, we feel ungrounded and can then become obsessed with worry. So, it helps when we too look to the common good.

In this Year of the Earth Dog, we are invited to take our new realizations and put them in practice “for the collectivity.” For instance, as we look for employment or expand the work we are doing, we should pay special attention to the mutual benefit that can be brought to the collectivity.

In sharing our experiences of the last year, if we find others who have had similar experiences, and perhaps also those who have found a possible solution, there can be a movement to try this solution out as a group.

When Grandfather was asked about the potential obstacles this year might hold, he pointed out the strong emphasis on the individual that is held by modern culture. He continued by reminding us that human beings know in their hearts that a real contribution has to do with others. To feel alive, with purpose and meaning, has to do with moving out of ourselves and being of benefit to others. Most importantly: when all do well, the individual does well. If we feel we are doing well and ignore others, we cannot feel well. When we are lazy and out to get just what we can for ourselves, it is as though we have “given away something of (our) soul and (have) become less human.” Grandfather pointed to what happens when people in positions of power are very strong individuals with very strong ideas, and who ignore any benefit to others: in their quest for personal power, these people have been harmful and have driven societies into poverty.

The Importance of Earned Wisdom

Photo credit: Gerda Bögner (Austria)One of the most compelling lessons of the evening came when Grandfather taught us about the importance of “earned wisdom.” He began by pointing out that during the Fire Bird year, when people faced difficulties and learned from them, they ended up with “earned wisdom.” He explained that true wisdom is not “a collection of interesting-sounding ideas in which no one has practical experience,” as people think. He referred to that as “unearned wisdom” or “wisdom that is not earned through hard experience.” Grandfather counseled us to notice how, when someone speaks from earned wisdom, one can see the experience of the lived reality in his or her eyes. This is different from sharing wisdom that has not been earned, which is heard as just nice sounding information. To have earned wisdom means that someone actually changes the way she or he moves, rather than simply holding an idea. And so, when one talks to a true teacher or elder and looks into that person’s eyes, one knows that this individual is speaking truths.

This year, then, there is a great opportunity to enable us and our communities to bring the earned wisdom from last year to benefit others. As an example, a person might say, paying attention to his or her stomach: “Ah! This feels beneficent,”rather than: “Oh! That sounds beneficial.” And that, He stated, is the difference between an hors-d’oeuvre and a main dish. We can begin to cook now, with less focus on creativity and more on the benefits of what has been learned, and less on money than on common benefit and good.

One more bit of Grandfather advice: we were told that dog is not like the clever rooster (bird), who is also “a little trickster.” On the contrary, I heard him say: “The dog is simple, honest and practical. So take what you learned and now build something with it, and you will begin to get ready for next year.