This month, around June 20th to June 23rd our natural world experiences a cyclic energetic shift: the Sumner Solstice , a time to celebrate the joy, warmth and laughter of summer. I suggest you take a moment to feel the sun and you will experience the Yang, expansive energy of our brightest star. Allow yourself to connect with the guiding star within you: your Heart and you will find the Sun alive right at the center of your chest! Summer is a period of luxurious growth, expansion, lightness, outward activity and creativity.
The I Ching (Book of changes) teaches us that “the Heavenly energy descends and the Earthly energy rises. When these energies merge there is intercourse between Heaven and Earth. As a result plants mature and animals, flowers and fruit appear abundantly”. For us women, it represents ovulation, fertility and the full moon.
Attuning our energy with the energy of the season
Summer brings an abundant variety of foods and our diets should reflect this. Farmer markets are great places to find the vegetables and fruits that Mother Earth is birthing for the season.
On the hottest days, we need to practice mindfulness in terms of types and quantity of foods that we choose to consume. Paul Pitchford in his wonderful book “Healing with whole Foods” suggests that we “create a cool atmosphere (picnics, patio meals) and serve more cooling fresh foods such as salads, sprouts (especially mung, soy and alfalfa), fruit, cucumber, tofu and flower and leaf herbal teas such as mint, chrysanthemum and chamomile”. Common fruits which cool summer heat are apples, watermelon, lemons and limes. Mung bean soup or tea is another specific remedy. As usual, pay attention to food sensitivities and sugar balance, especially when it comes to grains and fruist.
You may also want to add some spices to your food. I know this sounds strange, especially during summertime! Yet, think about the ways in which we can mirror nature. At first, the effect of hot-flavored spices is to increase warmth, but ultimately they bring heat out to the surface of your body to be dispersed. With heat on the surface, one’s body mirrors the summer climate and therefore will be less affected by it. However and like with everything else in life, we always need to exercise balance; if too many dispersing foods are taken, then weakness and loss of Yang (through lots of sweat!) will result, and the ability to stay warm and vital in the cooler season is lost.
Some of the spices recommended for the season are: fresh (not dried) ginger, cayenne red pepper, horseradish and black pepper. Foods that are best to avoid during this season are those that cause sluggishness and make us feel heavy. Such foods include meats, excess of nuts, seeds and grains.
Remember to drink plenty of water. You may also want to add some electrolytes to your water bottle so that we make sure that you keep your body well hydrated and your energy levels stable.
The Fire of the Heart
According to Chinese Medicine, this season corresponds to Fire which is the element of the Heart. Elemental Fire has the capacity to bring warmth to our bodies and Light to our minds. We all know that when out balance, Fire’s expansive and unpredictable nature can also burn an entire forest!
Emotionally speaking, the warmth of Fire creates a safe environment for our Hearts to open to sincere communication and thrive in the intimacy of our connection with self and others. On the other hand, raging Fire born out of chronic fear, anger and or unchecked desires of the mind, may hurt a serene, accepting and warm Heart.
E-motions may be understood as Energy in Motion. Understanding the pathways that these energies trace in our physical and more ethereal planes is key to maintain Heart health. Below is a list of “tools” that I find helpful and inspiring to root my energy in the Heart rather than in the Head!
Tips for a healthy summer
~ To be in harmony with the atmosphere of summer you may want to rise early in the morning.
~ Face the rising sun: if for some reason you cannot see the sun just face East and connect with its rising energy.
~Take a mindful breath: feel how your chest and abdomen expand as you breathe in and slightly contract as you breathe out. You don’t need to force the air in or out, just breath normally and above all, joyfully.
~Feel your feet: Bring your awareness to the ball of of your feet and feel “roots” growing out of that area. In Chinese medicine we call that area “Bubbling Spring”. Feel the Earth supporting you whether you are standing on actual soil, in the car, inside your apartment or in the street. Take a few moments to appreciate the miracle of your breath and the solid, nurturing motherly energy of the Earth.
If you have a chance, stand barefoot on the grass (provided it is not too chilly or too wet). You can also do this simple exercise of “feeling your feet” before starting the car or as you are waiting for the bus.
~Invite the Sun in: now that you are “rooted” on Earth, invite the Sun to visit the shrine of your Heart by breathing in through your nose and breathing out through your mouth. Feel the healing energy of this bright star flooding your lungs with millions of vibrating particles and activating your body as it runs through your veins, your organs, your bones, your flesh…Allow for the Heavenly energy of the Sun to bring inspiration and strength to your Body, Mind and Spirit.
If you would like to recite an invocation as you face the sun, you may want to explore this “Harmonization with the Sun” prayer by Spiritual Teacher Hua-Ching Ni. It is short and very inspiring.
~Brush your skin! Yes! create your own inexpensive spa at home. Skin brushing will enhance circulation and stimulate a healthy immune system. You will only need a loofah and enjoy these revitalizing and simple skin-dry-brushing tips.
~ Enjoy some outdoors life! Early morning and late afternoon Sun can be quite enjoyable! Swimming, cycling, walking are simple but powerful ways to get our summer CHI healthy and moving! Remember to take electrolytes with you since dehydration is one of the main causes for ER visits!
I find sitting and walking meditation to be very helpful tools to focus my awareness towards those things that nourish my Heart versus those that deplete my energy.
The Best of Tips: follow your intuition. Our ancestors will speak through our genes and will let us know what is the most appropriate way to live a joyful and healthy Summer!!!
For a joyful and balanced Heart!
Yamin Chehin, L.Ac, D.OM.
Paul Pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods.Asian Traditions and Modern nutrition. Third edition.
Dr Maoshing Ni: The Yellow Emperor’s classic of Chinese Medicine. A new translation of the Neijing Suwen.