As our days here in the Pacific Northwest grow progressively longer and warmer, the heat and energy of Summer will be reaching its apex which allows the fruits and buds of Spring to mature for the harvest in Autumn. There is a beautiful snapshot in time between the rapid growth of Spring and the winding down of Autumn that is embodied by Summer. This is when the world seems to take a pause. Nature’s energy expands, flourishes and blossoms in the Summer. Summer is the time of year when the Fire Element takes center stage and many of my acupuncture treatments focus on balancing this element. In this blog post, we’ll be going over the virtues of the Fire Element and go over some tips to stay in balance in Summertime.
THE FIRE ELEMENT
The Fire Element is fundamental to the human interaction of connection, transformation and love. Somewhere in the timeline of human development, between single-celled organism to Shakespeare’s sonnets to the lovesick ballads of Celine Dion, we have been learning how to connect and communicate. In fact, having a strong community to rely on has been essential to our survival. For generations and across cultures, that connection has been around fires as humans have been gathering around campfires and hearths to share stories and create community.
The community hearth is my favorite visualization of Fire when I think of the manifestation of its healthy balance. This is because the fire of a hearth burns with a comfortable warmth. It is neither allowed to burn too hot or run cold. It is attended to with intention and people are naturally drawn to its warmth. A hearth fire needs both fuel and oxygen to sustain it. If cared for in this manner, it can be maintained with no upper limit. Having a balanced fire within the human spirit is equally important. One must have warmth within in order to have that warmth extend out beyond yourself.
Fire is the element of transformation. Of the Five Elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water), it has the capacity to transform the others. Fire will burn wood, char the earth, melt metal, and vaporize water. Because of its capacity for transformation, it is impossible to speak of the Fire Element in Five Element Theory without also speaking of relationships. Relationships are electric and pure potential energy. Like Fire, relationships have the power to be the breeding ground of deep learning and transformation or it has the potential to consume.
We can see how it is important to have a balance of fire in nature. Forest fires after a year of drought is devastating. But equally devastating is if the forest is not allowed to burn in its natural cycles. A healthy balance of fire is needed for transformation. For example, let’s take a look at the life cycle of a Jack Pine which is a tree species found in eastern and central US and Canada. They reproduce via pine cones that are glued shut with a thick resin. When a fire sweeps through a Jack Pine forest, it allows the hardened resin to melt and the seeds that have been lying dormant for years are given a chance to release and grow. The fire will also clear the forest floor of the buildup of debris that makes it difficult for young seedlings to take root. In nature, fire demonstrates that destruction is necessary for the sake of creation. While there is sadness when a relationship comes to an end, death is never as it seems. Through fire, destruction can be channeled into growth.
Each Element governs an aspect of the emotional and intuitive aspect of human nature. The emotion associated with Summer/Fire is Joy and Love. While love and joy are typically regarded as “positive” emotions, any emotion can be manifested in a healthy and unhealthy way.
As a farmer (@littlewonderfarms), I have come to appreciate this portion of the growing season in the garden because it is the brief respite during which I can sit back and allow the warmth of the long daytime hours to do most of the work. The sweat-inducing labor of tilling and planting in springtime is over, the seedlings are all in the ground. All that the garden requires is a little water and weeding and I can relax and watch the ripening of the tomatoes and blueberries. The bees buzz amongst the summer blooms, drunk and heavy with nectar. Just as a healthy plant produces flowers, a healthy person produces a healthy Fire. In this way, it is easy to see the association of the emotion of Joy and the Fire Element/Summer Season as it is seen in Five Element Theory. It is important to note here that Fire, when in balance has a sense of joyful peace and serenity.
When out of balance, Joy/Love can be thought of as a thermometer that is broken. This can be expressed as coming off as being cold and having difficulty giving and receiving love/warmth. This can also be expressed as having too strong of an attachment that boundaries become blurred and codependent ties form. It can also show up as mania or depression. Too much passion for an idea, a concept or a person can lead to obsession which is not healthy. In the same way, too little passion can lead to someone who appears unmotivated, uncaring or depressed.
FIRE ELEMENT IN BALANCE:
ability to give and receive love
skilled communication and conflict resolution
satisfaction with intimacy and relationships
PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE FIRE ELEMENT
Attempts to control self or others
Difficulties with boundaries
Endocrine disorders (thyroid, sex hormones, adrenals)
inability to be vulnerable or trust
Excessive or deficient sexual energy
Excessive or deficient perspiration
IGNITE YOUR PASSION WITH THE FIRE ELEMENT
PRIORITIZE FUN: You’re going to love the most important prescription of Summertime because it is simply to HAVE FUN!! But I get it, we’re all so busy adult-ing that we reprioritize our inner child. Let that kid go wild in the summer! Even if you have to do the very grown-up thing and schedule it into your life like I do.
TAKE THE TIME THE LISTEN: Contrary to what we are led to believe, communication is not about how we say it. I’ve learned that a huge component of communication is cultivating the skill of listening. If you find yourself in challenging relationships, that seem like they would benefit from some mindful communication techniques, check out the book “The Art of Listening” by Michael P. Nichols.
FOLLOW YOUR CURIOSITY: I just listened to this beautiful interview with Elizabeth Gilbert on the podcast: On Being. I have always felt like the advice of “follow your passion” was short-sighted. Passion to me, has always felt fleeting, too much like obsession, too much like a fire that burns bright but runs out of fuel eventually. I love instead, the idea of following your curiosity. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “…curiosity is our friend that teaches us how to become ourselves. And it's a very gentle friend, and a very forgiving friend, and a very constant one. Passion is not so constant, not so gentle, not so forgiving, and sometimes not so available. And so when we live in a world that has come to fetishize passion above all…And I think if you don't happen to have a passion that's very clear, or if you have lost your passion, or if you're in a change of life where your passions are shifting or you're not certain, and somebody says, “Well, it's easy to solve your life, just follow your passion.” I do think that they have harmed you because it just makes people feel more excluded, and more exiled, and sometimes like a failure.” So Dear Ones, go out there and follow your curiosity!
EAT FOR SUMMERTIME
FRESH FRUITS AND VEGGIES: A good rule of thumb is to eat what is in season. While I generally tell patients that cooked food is better for your digestion, this is the one time of year that I allow the exception. The heat of summer is nicely balanced with fresh greens, tomatoes and fruit.
SMOOTHIES: a word of caution with overindulgence with smoothies. If you have a digestive system that is prone to diarrhea or undigested food in your stools, it is best to steer clear of the cold smoothies. If you have a strong digestion, add in ginger or turmeric to help aid digestion.
BITTER GREENS: The taste that regulates fire is bitterness. Instead of having a salad with romaine lettuce, try replacing with bitter greens like arugula, kale, mustard or spinach.
CURIOUS ABOUT HOW TO STAY BALANCED WITH THE SEASONS?
LET’S CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION
Is it time to schedule your seasonal wellness balancing “check-in”? Give us a call at Acubalance (604)678-8600