11 Dec Summer and the Fire Element
Season – summer
Colour – red
Sound – laughter
Emotion – joy
Odour – scorched
Taste – bitter
Yin organs – heart / heart protector
Yang organs – small intestine / triple heater
Spirit – the Shen
Rules – the blood and circulatory system
Sensory organ – the tongue
Themes – connection, union, creativity, expression, joy in the heart
Summer is governed by the energy of fire and thus in charge of the process of ripening and maturation. Summer is abundant with sunshine, fruit and flowers. Yang is at its fullest expression: just as the leaves have come out on the trees, the qi is at the periphery of our bodies.
It is for this reason that the stomach tends to be colder in the summer; care should be taken to avoid cold or frozen foods such as ice cream. In fact, it is advisable to have warm foods and fluids to protect the stomach qi and to take warming tonics throughout the summer months.
It is also important to conserve the kidney yin at this time of the year. Summer heat will deplete the bodily fluids through sweat so care should be taken not to overheat. On very hot days, it is better to stay in the shade to avoid getting sunburnt and to prevent sunstroke. It is also good to stay out of the hot wind to prevent fevers and flu.
The Heart governs the blood and the blood vessels. It is important to get some cardio-vascular exercise during the summer months, though it is wise not to overdo it, lest it puts the heart under strain. It is important to regulate your breath and to put your heart at ease.
The Heart is the Emperor and rules all the other organs and therefore in charge of every process in the body. The Heart houses the Shen or Spirit which is rooted and housed in the blood. Shen is said to govern sleep, consciousness and memory. Shen disturbance eg shock or over-excitement results in poor memory and sleep.
Its paired organ is the small intestine which “separates the pure from the impure”. On a physical level, the small intestine derives the usable nutrients from food to distribute via the blood and sends the rest to be excreted as waste. On a psychological level, it discerns who we let – and do not let – near our heart.
The fire element also includes the pericardium or outer membrane of the heart. It is the heart protector, guarding the throne room of the Emperor or Empress. On a psychological level, we need a strong heart protector in order to protect us from the inevitable slings and arrows of life. A poor heart protector often results in feelings of abandonment, sadness and other emotional problems.
Its paired “organ” is the triple heater which is not an organ in the physical sense but rather an irrigation system throughout the three burners: the upper burner (lungs) “like a mist”, the middle burner (stomach) “like a muddy pool” and the lower burner (intestines) “like a drainage ditch”. The triple heater regulates fire and water in the body including our body temperature.
Summer is the time people tend to be at their happiest, when the sun is shining and the body relaxed. It is a time to be joyful, to connect with others, to have fun and enthusiasm for life. When our Fire is in balance, we are able to give as well as receive.
When our Fire is low, we lack the ability to truly share joy or have compassion for others. A poor fire may result in anxiety, shyness, feeling easily hurt or fearing rejection. We may become emotionally cold or overly dependent on others. At the other extreme, our Fire may continue to burn like a never-ending summer: always laughing, joking or talking and never able to quieten the Heart.
The Fire element is also about our connection to ourselves and to Spirit; to be able to find that still point through meditation much like that very fleeting moment when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. The Heart is said to open into the tongue: a balanced Fire allows us to express our true selves and what is in our hearts.
“The beating of your heart is the rhythm of your soul.”
Tips for Summer:
- Eat foods which have ripened in the sun eg summer fruit and carry a lot of heat: cinnamon, olives, olive oil, ginger, sunflower seeds, sunflower seed oil, cereals, tomatoes, pepper and chilli etc.
- Avoid the intake of greasy dishes and fatty animal food.
- Limit bitter food, eat pungent food to preserve the lung qi, avoid cold food.
- Drink warming teas to protect the stomach qi such as cinnamon, cardamom or ginger.
- Take tonics to preserve the Heart blood and Yin eg Tian Wan Bu Xin Dan (Heavenly Emperor’s Tea to Calm the Heart).
- Take cardio vascular exercise – but don’t overdo it.
- Spend time outdoors and get some sun without getting sunburnt.
- Take care not to overheat, exhausting the yin.
- Spend time relaxing and engaging in joyous activity.
- Spend time with loved ones.
© Christine Cunningham