Summertime relates to the Fire Element in Chinese medicine. Fire pertains to the heart and the small intestine, the color red, the bitter flavor and the sparkle in your eyes.
In his book "Five Elements, Six Conditions" Gilles Marin refers to Fire as "...bright and hot, obvious and consistent, substantial and loud, explosive and burning. It is the phase of blossom and attainment, with its brightness and radiance overpowering."
Sounds a lot like the sun to me. And if the old saying "As above, so below" is true, that would mean this is the time of year for us to shine just like the sun. Fire is associated with the emotion of Joy, so ideally our movement through life is joyful, we're blossoming daily and seeing the attainment of some of our visions and goals. Wood, which is the element associated with Spring, and which comes before Fire in the cycle, is the push toward our goals, the striving. Fire is the actualization, the beautiful flowering and joyful expression of what we've been striving for. It's a resting point where we can sit back and enjoy our creations.
It appears to be a cultural tendency in America to get stuck in Wood (this pathology is called Liver Qi Stagnation), which means life experience is mostly about striving and we never quite make it to that point where we're shining like the sun- present and joyful, knowing that simply being is enough. Instead of reaching a point of satisfaction in our 'work', whatever it may be, we stay stuck in the push toward improving, climbing and reaching higher. Always trying to attain that next goal without ever relaxing.
Guilty as charged?
This pattern of Liver Qi Stagnation is also referred to as stress, and we all know stress adversely affects the heart. When the Liver Qi is not moving properly, it will not feed into the heart, and a Fire imbalance can ensue. One way that we as acupuncturists might identify a Fire imbalance is if someone is always in a hurry, always rushing from one thing to the next. If you think about heat (i.e. fire) it speeds things up. Just consider what happens to water molecules when heat is applied. They speed up and the water starts boiling. This is often the case with anxiety. Any fire imbalance will result in a lack of joy.
Other ways a fire imbalance could show up is as high blood pressure, insomnia, headaches, menstrual irregularities, impaired circulation, skin eruptions, inflammatory bowel diseases, urinary tract infections (yep), sores in your mouth and hot flashes.
The key to a healthy Fire element starts with taking time to be present and to actually cultivate joy. When you find yourself in moments of utter joy, take a moment to feel it in your heart and allow the feeling to grow. The more you do this, the healthier your heart will be.
If you're feeling like the summer heat has got you boiling, eat the white part of the rind of a watermelon, make yourself a soup from mung beans and load up on the bitter greens like dandelion and radicchio.
Of course there are many other ways to improve your Fire element such as doing art, which has been my summertime activity (Okay- obsession. I created the flowers above by painting with watercolors and then digitally editing with Pixlr), and on the top of the list- Acupuncture.
I hope you find your soul shining in a calm, creative and radiant way this summer and all year long!