Summer & the Fire Element for Passion, Abundance & Living Whole Heartedly
We have arrived. Summer is here and as we move from the lightness of spring to the brighter stronger qualities of this time there is so much goodness to tap into and bask in. This season correlates with outward extroverted energy - movement, action, play, expansion, light, abundance, bringing ideas to fruition and experiencing life whole heartedly.
In Chinese Medicine summer is ruled by the FIRE element and during this time of year our own internal fire moves more to our extremities to express energy - even more reason to be aware of not overexerting ourselves during the silly season. It is a time of maximum activity, the greatest time of yang which encourages moving outwards and expansion in our lives. The fire element signifies inspiration, expression and passion.
Summer is the season of abundant energy. As the most yang time of year (winter is the most yin) we are blessed by being closest to the sun, the greatest source of yang energy there is. With long sunshiney days this season is all about growth, creativity, expansion and being active. During this season our body naturally experiences strong metabolic shifts. Being the most yang season and yang correlating to metabolism, life fore, our internal fire and drive, it is just as in nature. You may have noticed plants and grass grows much faster during this season (and in Spring). From ancient texts it is still honoured to "cultivate" our yang energy in the yang seasons of Spring and Summer, while "protecting" our yin energy in the cooler months of Autumn and Winter.
The organs related to summer are the *heart* and *small intestine*. The heart is the emperor that rules over the whole kingdom (our body) while the small intestine is responsible for the separation of pure and turbid - basically the things that serve us and those which don’t and making sure they then become waste to be excreted out of the body.
A famous Classical Chinese Text shares ‘The Heart is the Emperor, the Supreme Controller. The Heart is the fire at the centre of our being, from which spirit radiates.’ ~ NeiJing SuWen
When we read the pulse during a consultation in Chinese Medicine we are speaking with the emperor who is telling us what is happening in the whole kingdom (the body). As the heart pumps blood it rules the pulse and uses this as its system to communicate information of the 3 sections (San Jiao / Triple Burner) hence why 3 fingers are used to read the pulse - the upper, middle and lower sections of the torso that each house different organs.
Within the human body, the fire element rules the heart, mind and spirit so nurturing these important components of ourselves during these 3 months is powerful. Move with the energy of the fire phase to open and follow your heart and listen to what your heart is telling you. Having a deeper heartfelt chat with yourself is strongly empowering at this time of year, so feel and sense it all. Moving inwards and welcoming whatever you find and loving yourself and your heart for exactly what it is right now, and embracing the insecurities, vulnerabilities, the strengths and the passion that burn within you.
The heart pumps oxygenated blood throughout our body. Its power lies in circulating the warm blood that nourishes us and keeps a strong connection between all areas of our self. With its blood pumping action it propels our lifeforce or qi (chee) to every corner of our body. Our qi is the energetic information needed for transformation, growth and life itself. The heart is the centre from which we move, the home to our emotions. This is the place that makes us feel alive, from which we have our deepest life experiences.
In Chinese Medicine our spirit or consciousness is known as Shen. Considered one of the 3 treasures (jing = essence, Shen = spirit, Qi = lifeforce), it enables us to connect to all things, and serves as our home, our place of belonging and the centre of love. When our Shen is awake and in balance we are glowing, shining brightly and feeling in flow and in harmony. The heart meridian (the energetic pathway of the organ) opens out into the tongue which highlights the opportunity for true and clear speech. The throat, mouth and tongue reside between the head and the heart, which is the merging of our thinking and feeling and how we share that with the world. The powers of fire and its flames need to be contained but also allowed to burn brightly. Too much and it transforms too strongly, too little and the flame goes out. Just as in nature fire is beautifully captivating, magical or fiercely reckless. When in balance our internal fire can allow us to feel joy, warmth and passion or when imbalanced we may feel coldness, loneliness, exhaustion and a lack of joy.
Mental function and activity is strongly related to the heart. Memory, our emotional health, our consciousness and the way we think and process information is all attributed to the heart organ. The summer season calls for nourishment and restoring of our mind and spirit and to contemplate our unique potential while we enjoy the longer days and balmy nights. Through its strong relationship with the mind and spirit, when the heart is happy, healthy and balanced our mind is at ease and we can sleep restfully. It is said our mind moves into the heart space during sleep. Just as in life, when our bedroom is calm, clean and cool we rest easier and deeper. A calm and peaceful heart encourages a deep refreshing sleep. When imbalanced the fire element may present us with feelings of depression or lacking joy, anxiety, agitation, insomnia or restless sleep or disturbed dreaming, nervousness, heartburn or feeling easily sweaty or clammy.
To nurture the fire element we can use the balancing element of water to gently cool and contain our fire and Shen. Water offers cooling and nourishing qualities to prevent our fire raging out of control and to help calm and ground our Shen and mind. Tools like meditation, being in the ocean or fresh water, focused breathing and "presence" are soothing opposites of the constant movement of the nature of fire and its flickering flames. In Chinese Medicine there is no separation between our head and our heart. Our mind and heart are strongly connected. As the mind naturally uses logic our heart brings the softness of caring and compassion.
The pairing organ of the heart is the small intestine. Its main function from the eastern perspective is that of distinguishing and sorting between what is needed and what no longer serves. Its plays this important role for both the functions of digesting and extracting from food what is useful for the other organs to utilise and also for the information we are absorbing through our senses. Emotions, society hustle, noise, everything we see, read, hear and feel needs to be sorted by the body. A big issue today is the easy access to information. Although this can be empowering in many ways, too much information causes unrest and overwhelm. We still need to sort through everything we are taking in. This is a good understanding to be conscious of what you take in. This small intestine function is an important to ensure we stay balanced and uncluttered.
The fire element is the only element of the 5 (water, wood, fire, earth, metal) which has a second pairing – although they are not organs these have strong supportive roles for the main organs, the heart and small intestine. And all 4 of these meridians (or channels) run on the front and back of our arms. The pericardium, the heart protector, does just that. It has the ability to absorb shock, keep the heart fire contained and protect our innermost centre from the outside world. The 4th part of the fire element is the Triple Burner or San Jiao. In no other form of medicine in the world is this concept understood or considered and I truly believe it is what continues to strengthen the potency and traditions of Chinese Medicine for us today. San Jiao translates to 3 sections which is how the torso is divided into operating systems. If you've seen me in clinic there's a pretty good chance I've entertained you with a diagram of this. The torso is separated into upper the middle and the lower sections. By ensuring all 3 levels are working optimally, and importantly communicating well with one another, it ensures harmony and a high quality of life. This 3 way system also controls fluid metabolism, manages circulation of blood, qi and nutrients and the elimination of wastes. It ensures clear communication between all the body systems and distribution of information and resources for immunity, hormones, digestion and the nervous system to operate well.
Nuturing your Fire element during Summer with tips for making the most of this season for passion, abundance and living whole heartedly.
Enjoy the sun
Get outside and embrace nature and all she has to offer
Self care can include full body self massages (abhyanga from Indian traditions). Closely acknowledge each little corner of you as you move from your feet to your face.
Incorporate some gentle breathing exercises into your morning with hands on your heart or in prayer position pressing into your breast bone
Keep your fluids up – ensure you’re having good quality filtered water (I have this one, reduced price with code Nourished)
Avoid drying and heating fluids like coffee and black teas
Indigestion can easily occur during summer time as we as Westerners can tend to indulge in cold food and drinks. Regardless of how hot it is outside our body needs warm foods to not disrupt the important pivoting mechanism that is digestion. See the food section below.
What brings you passion ?
Explore yourself – solo or with your partner.
use movements that open your chest area, yoga heart openers and any poses involving the arms are perfect to allow a free flow of qi and blood throughout the fire elements 4 channels
Do things that bring you joy
Gently embrace anything that resides in your heart, whether it be good or bad, happy or sad.
Be open to allowing the differentiation between what is serving you and what is not, then move accordingly, lovingly releasing and moving into the spaciousness of a new way of being.
Follow and open your heart – listen to your heart and be truthful with yourself
love yourself whole heartedly like no one else can
what brings you calm ? what brings you peace ?
what feels like ‘summer’ to you ?? do that
Gently tap or bring awareness to your 3rd eye. This is a powerful acupuncture point known as ‘Yin Tang’ or Hall of Impression. It is used to calm the mind, encourage focus, boost mood, calm the nervous system, improve sleep and balance emotions. A hall is a passageway or entrance while impression is considered the potent effect on the emotions, intellect and our conscience. Yin Tang can be understood as the entrance to the mind.
Tune into old patterns of behaviour, especially ways of thinking and ask for the power of your small intestine to help you sort it accordingly
As always, journaling is a potent tool to use to connect deeper to yourself and reflect on the year that was. Celebrate the highs and the nurture the lows. Learning is part of the experience.
What lights you up ?
What does your true self desire ?
How can you deepen your connection to yourself and to source ?
How to you ignite your own fire, stoke it and keep it burning brightly while being safely contained ?
Wake early and rise with the sun
Enjoy the balmy nights
Rest or slow down during the middle of the day. Watch other traditions that take siestas as it is the peak sun time.
A simple sequence of yoga Sun Salutation is beautiful to start your day and ‘salutes the sun’ our greatest source of fire
Increase your filtered water intake – be sure to sip regularly throughout your day and avoid gulping or drinking big amounts at a time
Add pungent foods to your plate : fresh herbs and gentle spices
Avoid dairy, greasy or heavy foods
Incorporate more fresh foods and flavours
Avoid cold foods as always, this means you can lightly wilt some foods or combine warm and cooler foods together to balance them. Having cold foods often creates bloating, changes stools (can often lead to loose stools this time of year) and creates stagnation in the stomach (a glomus) which feels like stuckness and fullness under the chest and sternum.
Eat moderately and avoid eating too much – go by the 80% rule – when you feel 80% full you’re finished. Often the stomach tells us too late that we are actually full, at 80% there’s usually still food coming into the digestive system which hasn’t been accounted for.
Store food well and out of sunlight as the hotter weather breaks down food faster
Enjoy good quality cacao or dark chocolate but in moderation. Bitter is the flavour of the heart and cacao (especially ceremonial grade) is a potent way to deepen our connection to self. I have written a separate blog on this - cacao is very strong so please be gentle and respectful with it and yourself.