In the story of the zodiac, the dragon is expected to arrive first, marking his assumed advantage over the other animals. When he arrives fifth, the emperor questions his timing. The dragon explains that he chose to stop to help some people in a village, causing him to be delayed. The dragon is deeply rooted in Chinese culture, symbolizing power, honor, and success. Popular expressions such as one which wishes for children to “become dragons” highlight the deep regard shown to the dragon and his characteristics. Though the dragon is often revered for his power, it is the grace he shows in this story that distinguishes him.
It is easy to use this story as an analogy for life, a race is held and all of us use what we have to make it to the finish line first. Yet, moments like the one in which the dragon stops to help reveal the limitations in that analysis. Many of us, through culture and our relationships, have been given the message that life is a race, that there are goals to be achieved in every year, that it is easy to fall behind our peers and important not to.
The dragon shows us our power is in our choosing, how we can step out of the race and attend to what we decide is important. To me, this is about not giving our power away, or letting our gifts be used in ways that we do not agree with. People thought the dragon would come in first, and perhaps he could have, but he chose not to.
2024 is the year of the Wood Dragon, 甲辰. Wood is associated with drive, a desire for growth, and the resolve to see it through. It is a yang element that requires yin’s flexibility to enjoy its gifts of strength and expansion. Like a tree rooting deep into the earth, wood grows up and outward, drawing earth’s energy closer to heaven, and connecting these two planes. The growth of a tree’s farthest branches reflect the same growth of its deepest roots; a reminder that in order to expand and extend we must also nourish our foundation. The connection forged between heaven and earth shows us how growth can be a bridge. If we try to speed our pace, branch out in ways we cannot support internally, we become unstable. Suddenly wind or storm is a risk.
The year of the Wood Dragon is as much about the inner world as it is about the one that surrounds us. The dragon is a natural leader, charismatic and intelligent, and wood is an innovator, possessing great vision and drive. In order to enjoy the gifts of this animal and element, we must be prepared, grounded in our values and clear in our vision. In this next year, we are given an opportunity to choose between winning the race or stopping to help, amongst thousands of other possibilities that exist if we can see them.
As we prepare to enter this new year, we can support ourselves to ensure we greet it with strength and grace. One way to do this is to dream. Though winter is associated with hibernation, the wood element represents spring, awakening and birth.
When we envision what we want for ourselves, how we want to exist in community and in the world, we begin to bring these beliefs into reality, transmuting them from something ethereal into something earthly and tangible. We give ourselves a chance to prepare for these futures, and grow readiness to act in the ways we desire when faced with choices that challenge us. Like plants who greet the sun, we can take morning walks, training our vision to appreciate wonders we might have missed, the quiet movement of an insect, the magnificence of a bird’s nest. Acknowledging some of the vast beauty we are surrounded by reminds us that it is important to dream, as much exists that yet remains unseen. It can be breathtaking to recognize beauty that seemed hidden, as we too are filled with gifts we have not yet accessed or shared with others.
In 2024, may you reveal your gifts to yourself and others, and like the dragon, may your choices honor your true power.
Happy New Year from the Five Lights Center.
About The Author:
Casper Valentine is a Shiatsu practitioner based in Tucson, Arizona. After graduating from college with a degree in psychology, personal development led him to desire education in bodywork. He attended massage school and after trying out several forms post-graduation, he found his way to the Five Lights Center of Shiatsu and began to study Shiatsu. In Shiatsu, Casper has found a form that both grounds and inspires him. Additionally, he is trained as an acudetox specialist through NADA. He enjoys practicing Aikido and QiGong, crocheting and making rugs.
As the Student Liaison for the Five Lights Center, he is excited to support both new and continuing students as they learn Shiatsu. If you have any questions about our courses, you are always welcome to reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.