February 22, 2017

This Tibetan New Year, Welcome the Passion of the Firebird.

The lunar New Year will bring a much-needed boost of fiery passion to our lives.

Shambhala Day is the celebration of the lunar New Year, which falls on February 27, 2017 and with it, we will welcome the Year of the Firebird.

In the Shambhala tradition, Shambhala Day is a festive affair and is often celebrated with a several-day extravaganza. It is also known as Losarlo meaning “year, age” and sar meaning “new, fresh.”

Since my early 20s, I have been studying the practices and teachings of the Shambhala Path, a tradition rooted in ancient Tibetan Buddhism and mindfulness. The lunar New Year is something we always revere. It is a unique opportunity to reflect and release the past year and to conjure up our aspirations for what happens next.

The Year of the Firebird will be especially exciting. By its nature, the energy of the firebird holds the intense power for continual recreation. It is the symbolic representation of awakening, similar to the Phoenix.

The Tibetan calendar is lunar-solar, meaning it is calculated in correlation with astronomical phenomena, with the new year always beginning and ending on a new moon. This is a similar system to the Chinese, Hindus and ancient Babylonians.

Tibetans use energies and qualities when they are assigning categories of distinction to their years. They combine 12 animal signs (mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, bird, dog and pig) with the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) to create a 60-year cycle.

As Shambhalans, we are not known to be particularly astrologically inclined. However, traditional Tibetan societies were steeped in mysticism and renowned for their almost psychic ability to understand the way celestial occurrences affect us.

So, this Shambhala Day, let’s remain mindful to the possibility that we are ringing in a time renowned for its ability quicken our pulse. According to legend, the firebird is a feisty sign.

In Buddhism, we see the firebird as a tenacious animal, determined and built for hard work, but also impulsive and hotheaded in her demeanor.

Similar to most passionate individuals, they adore the fine art of connecting. We open ourselves to a time of greater community involvement and socialization as we welcome this year. In the Shambhala tradition, we see community building as sacred. Our community is called a sangha, and we lean heavily on it to support us in our pursuit of wholesome lives.

This year, we gravitate toward each other in a constructive way. We can create something grander together than we could on our own.

This year combines discipline and vigilance with tenderness and courage. As we work toward our peak capacity in the coming months, we will also be reminded to leave time for play and banter.

Fire is destructive, but while burning it also creates. This year emits warmth to balance out any aggression that moving forward may evoke.

This year, we can melt confidently into the mantle of our ambition, knowing that we will be supported by a network of loving hands.

Leading up to Losar, we are encouraged to consider what purpose we would like to bring forward to the next stage of our lives. Since the firebird stokes our flame of ambition, this task should be easy.

Before we focus too much on the time ahead, one Shambhala tradition is to first cleanse the negative habits from the old year. We do this through specific chants. This practice is called Mamo Chants and is meant to rectify our negative karma. In my experience, our leftover anger rises to the surface so it can be released.

This practice is not just of benefit to Buddhists. It is a simple way for all of us to let go of the things that no longer serve us because the firebird’s arrival requests our full attention while pursuing the path toward our highest selves.

I created this purifying chant that anyone can do, no matter our culture or spiritual background:

I release what no longer serves me well.

With each exhalation, I let go of the past.

I choose to bring forward with me only things that create more peace.

In most Shambhala Centers, the New Year is announced by the lighting of Ihasang, a smoke offering to empower ourselves for what is to come.

After our cleansing chant, we can light incense or a candle to welcome a fresh start.

May we all enjoy an auspiciously, firebird-driven new year and a cheerful Shambhala Day.


Author: Sarah Norrad

Image: Deviantart/BirdGVee 

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock


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Rickie Avrutin Mar 1, 2017 9:59pm

Dear Sarah and ElephantJournal readers, I just read the above article, which I enjoyed and from which I learned. I found it interesting to learn that the Shambhala Path's New Year celebration parallels in important ways, Jewish New Year principles and practice. We, too, by the way, observe a lunar calendar, though that is far less significant to me than the parallel teachings and customs of self-reflection, mindfulness, renewal, gratitude, compassion, acknowledgment of our harmful actions, casting them out and mindfully, purposely channeling our energies toward good actions in the coming year, etc. It is no wonder that disproportionately high numbers of folks born into but usually not deeply knowledgeable about Judaism become buddhists. The great Dalai Llama is himself aware of this. With respect and affection, we who identify as Jews refer to them Bu-Jews. I wish all who read this good health and a fulfilling, loving, creative, and meaningful year to come and always. Rickie Avrutin, Los Angeles, California

Sarah Norrad Feb 27, 2017 8:37pm

A Happy Shambhala Day back to you, Linda! May we welcome the passion and drive of this fiery bird! Garuda, here we come.

Linda Lewis Feb 27, 2017 7:12pm

Cheerful Shambhala Day of the Female Fire ...Garuda, Waylon! Just don't electrocute yourself w/ your lap top in the hot tub! xoxoxoxo

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Sarah Norrad

Sarah Norrad was born a wild woman in the rural and rugged forests of the Nimpkish Valley, on Vancouver Island, BC. This is a place where the mountains, forests and rivers speak louder than the people. A transformational coach, certified yoga instructor, mindfulness and lay counsellor, and authoress, Sarah muses at the world through a lens steeped in mindfulness, adventure, and tenderness. Currently, she exploits the cracks in her own heart to write as a columnist at elephant journal, her busy brain to create content for others through her business and her keen spirit to sit as coach and counsellor, teaching powerful tools for success in all aspect of our lives, especially personal power. Please track down her offerings and her mindful self on elephant journal, her writer’s page or her personal Facebook, her website, Cowbird, Twitter and Instagram.