flaming heart with the sound waveAccording to the Chinese calendar — the summer season officially began the first week of May.  Thus, a month and a half prior to the official day of summer many Eastern traditions begin to pay heed to the changing season.  Continuing with our seasonal attunement series — we focus on one aspect of what it means to remain balanced and in health during the most yang of all seasons — Summer.

Five Element Theory — The FIRE Element

As discussed in a previous blog — the ancient Chinese recognized the connections among the energetic influences they called the Five Elements (or 5 Phases — Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water), and understood the specific energetics that predominate in any given phase of the cycle of seasons. The energetic element associated with the hottest, most yang season of Summer is Fire.

Summer is the season where the yang energies that began to sprout in the Spring grow into their maximum expression and potential.  In nature we witness the spring buds bloom into flowers that then make their pollen available to bring forth more life.  The days are longer and nights shortest.

According to Chinese medicine the energetic organ which most resonates with the fire phase is the Heart. When we speak about “energetic organs” it is important to understand that the Organs from a Chinese medicine perspective are functionally defined entities and not equivalent to the anatomical organ of the same name.  While they encompass the anatomical function of the organ as properly understood from a Western perspective, they also, perhaps more importantly, encompass a wide range of metaphysical and spiritual understandings that give us the tools to better understand the wide spectrum of the mind-body connection in ways that only recently have we been able to articulate from a Western perspective.

The Heart — Connection to Divine Brilliance

Nowhere is this more clearly evident than when we meditate on the function of the Heart from an Eastern perspective.  The calligraphy for the Heart is the picture of an empty vessel.  It is understood that this vessel must remain clear to maintain the brilliance and clarity of the Heart.  Thus the inner work that we as humans are charged with is to keep this vessel “clear” in order to be able to connect with the divine brilliance around us.

The Heart and Our Psychological Integrity

In addition, while the function of the Heart in traditional Chinese medicine parallels its Western anatomic function of pumping blood throughout the body to maintain life, it is also intimately involved with mental and emotional processes.  The clear vessel of the Heart is said to house the “shen” – a term that has been invariably defined as “spirit” or “mind.”   Thus, considered the residence of the Shen, the Heart is considered the elemental organ most responsible for our psychological integrity.

From a preventative medical perspective, properly nourished and balanced, the Heart maintains our innate wisdom, contentment, and emotional balance. (For a previous blog about the connection between heart disease and depression click here.)

Nourishing the Heart
Thus the Heart is better understood as a clear vessel that carries our spirit and our connection with life around us.   During a season where Nature exposes its explosive brilliance we are expected and reminded to connect with it and humanity as much we can to Nourish the Heart.

Those with a healthy Fire element
1) Engage with people naturally and joyfully;
2) Connect with life and are inspired by the Yang nature around them;
3) Connect with oneself  by clearing the mind to nourish the Heart.
Those with an unhealthy Fire element tend to struggle with spiritual connection.  Depression, anxiety and all sorts of emotional unrest is often recognized as a failure to maintain meaningful connection to Spirit in its various forms.


Accordingly, in order to strengthen the Heart, Summer is the perfect season to:

1) Try something new that brings joy and connection;
2) Engage more with the outdoors  to connect with nature — Whether it is engaging in outdoor sports (Get out of that gym!!!) or simply spending more time in nature;
3) Diversify your social connections and engage meaningfully with people;
4) Make healthy food choices by being mindful of and enjoying everything that is in season and less of what can be stored.  (Save that for the winter);
5) Start or deepen a regular meditation practice of some sort to calm the mind and be the clear vessel needed to “connect” with yourself, others, and the divine brilliance around you.

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