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Year of the Rat 2020

The Year Of The Rat: What It Means In Terms Of Chinese Zodiacs

The Chinese calendar has begun once again, the New Year landing on the 25th of January. However, it actually is celebrated for much longer than one day, dissimilar to our own New Year’s Day which is normally filled with drooping eyelids and comfort food as we recover from midnight celebrations of dancing, hosting, staying up with board games or so on. Chinese New Year can be separated into three stages, the first being the eight days of “little year” (this year from 17th-24th of January) where preparations begin and excitement mounts. Then on the 25th, New Year’s begins and heralds the 11-day spring festival ending on February 4th. Rounding the festivities up is the beautiful lantern festival which is prepared for over four days and is held on February 8th.

This year is the Year of the Rat with the elemental sign of metal. Rat is the first sign in the list of Chinese Zodiacs and the extrapolated meanings of which is just as fascinating as the other eleven repeating animals. This year, the Year of the Rat lasts an unusual thirteen months spanning until 11th February 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The story of how the Chinese Zodiac and their places came into existence is quite popular in modern Chinese culture. In one version, it tells the story of the Jade Emperor (the ruler of Heaven, Earth and Hell) who held a race for the most important animals which would determine their place in the order of the Zodiac. The Cat, asked the Rat to wake him up in time for the race but the Rat, rather slyly or forgetfully (according to different tales) did not. He started the race without him and consequentially the Cat never woke up to compete, hence why the Cat does not feature in the Zodiac. The Rat ran the race and came across a river, which he could not cross, when the next animal arrived, the kind Ox, he asked for safe passage on his back for which the Ox generously obliged. When they reached the other side of the river however, the Rat quickly jumped off and ran forward to cross the finish line first.

Symbolical meanings for the rat vary from source to source. It is generally agreed that the rat can be associated with earthy elements and with Yang, the light and positive side of the Yin Yang. Rats are also deemed to be clever, witty, quick thinking, resourceful optimistic and likable, though sometimes lacking in courage. They are most compatible with those born in the years of the Ox, Dragon and Monkey. Lucky colors are blue, gold and green and their lucky numbers are 2 and 3. Lucky directions are west, northwest and southwest and they are said to be best-suited to careers as lawyers, politicians, musicians, writers, managers, entrepreneurs and more. However, some sources argue that Rats are not well suited to managerial or entrepreneurial roles due to a lack of courage and instead more suited for creative jobs. Some sources say that rats are good with money, others contest that. So, as with many horoscope-like theories it is an imprecise science.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For us all though, the Year of the Rat is said to be one of “new beginnings and renewal.” Indeed, the rat is often aligned with mornings and beginnings. As 2020 also affiliates with the earthly symbol of metal, the year of the metal rat is said to be a prosperous, strong and lucky year for all and a good year to evolve, show determination and reap the successes of your goals, aspirations and projects. It will be particularly good for business ventures. Unfortunately for Rats, apparently the year of one’s Zodiac sign is said to be the most unfortunate. Although the year may present hardships, 2020 in general is said to be successful it should still be a prosperous year.

In an article from CNN, So Man-Fung says: “Chinese astrology and feng shui aren’t about changing your fate and predicting what exactly will happen… It’s about finding that law and flow of the universe. When you know how to calculate it, you can predict the trends for everything. If you’re enjoying a lucky streak, knowing that may give you the confidence and courage needed to start your own business.”

So, if you believe in, or enjoy Zodiac readings, be sure to read up on your sign and see what the year has in store for you. However, avoid harmful and self-fulfilling prophesying, it is not a meant to be a precise overview of the future but a helpful guideline to help you recognize, prosper from and navigate through all that your year has to offer, the good and the bad, the Yin and the Yang.

Buddha

Oldest Art Known To Man Discovered In Indonesia

The oldest artwork ever created by humans has been discovered in Indonesia. The cave art found can be dated back 44,000 years, and it’s definitely not your average cave painting. The figures depicted in the painting seem to be half human, half animal and are known as therianthropes. Therianthropes typically are illustrated with human bodies and animal heads, and are often used in mythology. In this particular painting, the therianthropes are hunting pigs and buffaloes using spears and ropes; a rather normal cave painting scene, minus the animal heads. The story was originally published in the online science journal known as Nature. In the journal’s report, scientists believe that the figures in the painting could potentially give us an insight into the original foundation of human spirituality, given the fact that the characters in the painting have animal heads. 

“To me, the most fascinating aspect of our research is that humanity’s oldest cave art is at least 44,000 years old and it already has all the key components relating to modern cognition, [like] hand stencils, figurative art, storytelling, therianthropes and religious thinking. So it must have a much older origin, possibly in Africa or soon after we left Africa,” said Maxime Aubert, study author

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Sulawesi, Indonesia is the specific city in which the cave painting was discovered. The city is known for its vast amount of limestone caves. According to Aubert, there are at least 240 known cave art sites in Sulawesi, but considering it’s the 11th largest island in the world, and has barely been explored for cave art specifically, who’s to say what else is left to be discovered. It’s likely that there’s even more insight into what life was like 40,000+ years ago hidden amongst the limestone. 

This artwork in particular was initially discovered back in 2017; Aubert and his team were exploring another cave, when one of his associates noticed there was another cave hidden farther above a cliff that was nearby. Upon further exploration, the 44,000 year old art was discovered, and it was covered in what researchers call “cave popcorn.” This term is for the layers of mineral growth that are often found on top of ancient cave paintings such as this one. These layers are very important for scientists when it comes to determine how old the artwork is. Scientists are able to measure the radioactive decay of specific elements within the mineral layers and based off how decayed they are is what determines the age of the drawings. 

What’s so astounding about this paintings discovery in particular doesn’t even fully have to do with how old it is, but instead the content of it. Aubert discussed how before this, the oldest cave paintings were thought to be in Europe, and those pieces depicted many abstract symbols and were likely created 40,000 years ago. Fast forward another five thousand years and the cave art became slightly more sophisticated, depicting animal and human shaped figures. However, it wasn’t until about 20,000 years ago where the first cave paintings depicting scenes that share a clear story with therianthropes appeared; until now. 

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“[It] suggests that there was no gradual evolution of Paleolithic art from simple to complex around 35,000 years ago — at least not in Southeast Asia. The hunters represented in the ancient rock art panel are simple figures with human-like bodies, but they have been depicted with heads or other body parts like those from birds, reptiles and other faunal species endemic to Sulawesi,” said Adhi Agus Oktaviana, study co-author.

The study is so groundbreaking because it’s giving scientists the earliest known evidence of human beings conceiving concepts that are beyond the natural world. Spirituality, religion, mythology, narrative fiction, gods/spirits, etc. these are all concepts that, up until this point, scientists believed humans didn’t have the capacity to understand until about 20,000 years ago. Now, that’s all being thrown out the window, and the study suggests that this discovery could mean that human conceived spirituality could go beyond being just 44,000 years old; with all of the areas still yet to be explored. 

Research has also indicated that human beings first arrived in Southeast Asia almost 70,000 years ago, meaning there could be artwork even older and more complex than this one! However, scientists must move quickly, as art as old as this is quite fragile and continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate. 

“The early rock art of Sulawesi may contribute invaluable insight into the rise of human spirituality and the spread of artistic beliefs and practices that shaped our modern minds. It would be a tragedy if these exceptionally old artworks should disappear in our own lifetime,” Oktaviana said.

Meditation

How Open Monitoring Meditation Can Help You Recognize Mistakes

Meditation has long been a practice associated not with science, but with spirituality and mysticism. However, the field of psychology has over the past several years taken a closer look at the effects of meditation on the human mind, and scientists’ findings have shown that a regular meditation practice can have positive effects on mental health, even in people who otherwise have no mental health difficulties. Meditation practices need not have a supernatural or spiritual component, as when they are a purely secular exercise they maintain their beneficial effects on mental health and subjective wellbeing. That being said, there are a number of different techniques for meditation, and different practices incur different psychological effects. While the most popular meditative practice is called mindfulness, which has benefits in focus, attention and memory, the lesser-known practice of open monitoring meditation can help train the brain to recognize mistakes, according to a study recently conducted at Michigan State University and published in Brain Sciences.

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According to the study, open monitoring meditation is a practice that consists of focusing attention on feelings, thoughts, and sensations as they arise in the space of one’s awareness. A form of mindfulness, open monitoring meditation differs from other types of meditation by encouraging practitioners to place their focus on whatever phenomena arises in the mind, rather than focusing on a fixed object or sensation such as the breath. As such, open monitoring meditation leads to different neurological activity, as revealed by the research conducted at Michigan State University. According to the researchers, the neurological activity caused by open monitoring meditation involves regions of the brain associated with error detection, suggesting the potential for this practice to improve people’s ability to spot their mistakes. 

One of the benefits of open monitoring meditation is that it can be practiced while doing other things, such as driving, as the practice simply asks you to devote your full attention to whatever is going on at the moment.

The participants in the study were people who were not regular meditators, having little to no experience in the practice, who were asked to participate in a 20-minute guided open monitoring meditation session while their brain activity was monitored via EEG. The study involved 212 participants, and builds on previous research finding a connection between mindfulness and error detection, and aimed to discover the link between these elements. The largest study of its kind as-of-yet, it analyzed activity in different reasons in the brain during meditation and had participants complete a computerized test of distraction. 

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While the researchers did not find that meditating improved participants’ scores in the distraction test, they did find that activity in the brain changed during the test for people who had meditated before taking it compared to people who had not. As EEGs are capable of detecting signals in the brain within milliseconds of their occuring, the researchers were able to detect brain activity in connection with mistakes made during the distraction test. They found that these signals were stronger in people who had meditated, suggesting that the meditation practice had a positive effect on participants’ ability to recognize mistakes. The researchers stress that further research is needed to understand how these neurological effects can manifest in one’s performance in tasks involving focus and decision-making.

One of the benefits of open monitoring meditation is that it can be practiced while doing other things, such as driving, as the practice simply asks you to devote your full attention to whatever is going on at the moment. As such, you don’t need to sit on a cushion or maintain a certain posture for extended periods of time, but instead can easily incorporate open monitoring meditation into your ordinary daily life. If you’re interested in getting involved with open monitoring meditation, which is also thought to incur benefits in creativity and overall subjective sense of wellbeing, a good place to start is by following along with guided meditation exercises on Youtube or elsewhere on the internet, such as in the video linked here.