On this tour of the Five Elements, we now find ourselves in the summer season, which corresponds to the fire element. From the time of the Winter Solstice, the yang energy returns and builds up to the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice. Perhaps you have observed this crescendo of the yang energy, and noticed that you have had more energy to be active. Although this rising energy peaks at the solstice, it can be felt for the duration of summer, until the subtle decrease of late summer.
By observing fire in nature, we know it is dynamic, and always flicking upwards—it can be manic like a wildfire, welcoming and playful like a crackling campfire, or intimate like a softly burning ember or candlelight. The season represents the gifts of the fire element—literally warmth and light. In energetic terms, the fire element promotes love, play, joy, connection, passion, vulnerability, intimacy, partnership, discernment and compassion. The vibration of fire resonates with the color red, the bitter taste, the sound of laughter, the Heart and Pericardium (more yin), the Small Intestine and Triple Energizer (more yang).
The Heart is the VIP, the Pericardium is his/her bodyguard, and the Small Intestine is the bouncer outside the club, checking the guest list. We’ll revisit the Triple Energizer a little later…
From a Chinese medical perspective, the Heart is the Emperor or Empress of the body, presiding over all other organs and orchestrating their activities. It is the Supreme Controller, granting each human being sovereignty—the freedom and responsibility to direct one’s own life. In addition, it houses the shen (spirit), which can be observed in a person’s eyes. The expression “the eyes are the window to the soul” is no joke. ;)
The Small Intestine’s job is to sort the pure from the impure—in the body it keeps nutrients for nourishment and sends waste to the large intestine and bladder to be discarded. Energetically, the Small Intestine plays a crucial role in discernment and sorting our lives as well, by processing our experiences. Once it has determined that a person is not deceptive or an outright threat, it processes subsequent interactions to understand how to categorize the relationship, and assess its suitability based on personal standards. The Pericardium plays the role of protecting the heart by advising how and when to let oneself be vulnerable. Vulnerability, after all, is not always a bad thing—ideally it creates the conditions for intimacy and trust.
The Triple Energizer does not correlate directly to an organ as we understand them in Western medicine. However, it plays an important part in the regulation of hormones and circulation of fluids in the body. Energetically, it is the “social hostess,” making sure everyone at the party has something to drink, adjusting the lighting and temperature for optimal comfort, and granting introductions to party-goers who are likely to enjoy each other’s company.
Fire has the potential to bring people together, and it has the potential to be destructive. A person with a balanced fire element is capable of making and maintaining meaningful connections, expressing oneself from the heart, finding joy, being playful, and extending compassion to others. A fire imbalance may show up as bitterness, confusion, shyness, being overly controlling, or inappropriate relationships. Physically, there could be heart palpitations, speech impairment, poor absorption of nutrients during digestion, anxiety, depression or mania.
Without the upward thrust of spring, the fullness and joy of summer would not follow. Summer can be a time of maturation, of leveling up—the possibilities and hope of the previous season push the envelope of our becoming. In this new season there is so much energy available for all kinds of activity that we really must rise to the occasion, making the most of each day.
Below is an excerpt from the Su Wen about the summer season, translated by Paul U. Unschuld and Hermann Tessenow, in collaboration with Zheng Jinsheng:
“The three months of summer, they denote opulence and blossoming.
The qi of heaven and earth interact
and the myriad beings bloom and bear fruit.
Go to rest late at night and rise early. Never get enough of the sun. Let the mind have no anger. Stimulate beauty and have your elegance perfected.
Cause the qi to flow away,
as if that what you loved were located outside.
This is correspondence with the qi of summer
and it is the Way to nourish growth. Opposing it harms the heart. In autumn this causes jie and malaria,
and there is little to support gathering.” (p. 46-47)
In other words, this is a time of carefree fun and embodying your most expansive state—ideally peaking for the few weeks before and after the Summer Solstice. This expansive state can be reached through physical activity, connection and meditation. Meditation is especially important for a healthy heart. Specifically, the practice of emptying the heart of attachments helps it to remain a clear conduit for life’s experiences.
I invite you to practice the following meditation:
Imagine all the loving kindness and compassion you can muster in a bubble surrounding your body. Notice and describe it to yourself—is it pink? green? fluffy? sparkling? Once the picture is clear in your mind, allow the bubble to expand so that it begins to envelop your closest loved ones (who’s in your vicinity—your partner, children, pets, roommate?) then allow it to grow even bigger to include your neighbors, your town/city, state, country, continent, world… and so on.
There is no limit to your love, compassion and acceptance except by choice. So choose love. Recognize yourself in others, and others within yourself. We are all connected, all make mistakes, all need love, and all have a spark of fire within us.
Go forth with your heart as light as a flower, and let each petal unfold in its divine time. And let there be as many petals as there are life lessons. Let us all witness ourselves in full bloom, not in a rush, gently blowing open in the wind, peeking out, unfolding, peeking out, unfolding… and enjoy a sigh of relief when flower turns to fruit… but that’s a story for Late Summer, y’all.
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