Rats, Risks and Rewards

Metal Statue of Ganesha and Mushika

Symbolism is the spice of life. But just as we did not invent spices, we did not invent symbolism. It is a universal age-old gift from Mother Nature to the human imagination. It gives even more flavor to the human experience and it makes everything easier to digest and possibly absorb.

According to Chinese Symbolism we are heading into the year of the Metal Rat which marks the beginning of a new 12-year cycle. No one knows for sure why or how the zodiac animals were arranged in that particular order.

According to a legend, an emperor had decided that the sequence would be determined based on when each animal arrived to his celebration at the palace. Allegedly, the Rat convinced the trusting Ox to give him a ride on his back. The Ox happily did so, excited that he could be of service. However, just before making it to the gate at the palace, the ambitious Rat got off the Ox’s back arriving to the celebration early enough to be nominated first.

The Metal Rat (one of five types of Rat following the five elements of the Chinese medicine) represents creativity, synchronicity, and speed, along with strength, determination and conviction in your values.

The above interpretation reminds us of the most popular Vedic archetype of Ganesha and his rat, Mushika. Ganesha’s elephant head symbolizes the strength and determination that a wise person should possess. An elephant trunk has the power to uproot a tree and the finesse to pick up a needle.

Ganesha is often either seated on Mushika or with Mushika nearby. Mushika symbolizes our ambitious senses. His teeth keep growing and he has to stay creative, finding new things to gnaw on to keep them within limits. Similarly, our senses, are never fully satisfied, we constantly crave new experiences, new adventures, whether physically, or emotionally. When left uncontrolled, our senses can lead to addictions. But when honored, or fed wisely, they dramatically enhance our human experience.

The wise person staying true to their values, feeds their senses accordingly, to keep them healthy and alert.

Ganesha keeps a tray of sweets close by to feed Mushika. Mushika knows that he will be fed so he does not make crazy demands thus allowing Ganesha to find peace and quietness, enjoy life, help people, and even possibly one day, successfully meditate.

Enough with the abstract symbolism for now. Back to Earth. Al Alvarez, the distinguished poet, journalist, and critic talked about “Feeding the Rat” in his homonymous book. “Feeding the Rat” is based on Al Alvarez’s extraordinary friendship with his longtime climbing partner, Mo Anthoine.

Al Alvarez - Feeding The Rat

Mo Anthoine was a British Mountaineer and legendary climber who climbed extensively in the Himalayas, in the 70’s and 80’s. He found his greatest joy in adventures that tested the limits of human endurance. That passion for “feeding the rat” made him the unsung hero of dozens of great epics in the mountains.

Mo Anthoine used the expression “feeding the rat” to describe his need “to get out, to test himself, to flush out the system, and, above all, to have some fun.” According to him

“The rat is you, really. It’s the other you, and it’s being fed by the you that you think you are. And they are often very different people. But when they come close to each other, that’s smashing, that is. Then the rat’s had a good meal and you come away feeling terrific. It’s a fairly rare thing, but you have to keep feeding the brute, just for your own peace of mind.”

So if you have read this far, and you are actually reading this paragraph, congratulations!! We would love to hear how you will feed your rat this year!

And if you liked this, please hit the like button, share, and subscribe if you haven’t already. 🙂

Until next time much, much love from both of us! Na’maste kala! Which in Greek means: May we all be well! – Tim and Vie

The Paleo Ayurveda & Spartan Yoga Podcast. 20ish-min Episodes. Seasonal. On Thursday’s.

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