“Following the rains of winter and spring which prepare the earth, the brilliant sunshine of summer allows nature to flourish” – Dr. Elson M. Haas
When I think of summer, I think of afternoons spent in the garden, late-night bonfires, and dips in cool river water after too much glorious sunshine. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), each season corresponds to an element and an organ. Naturally, the season of summer corresponds to the element of fire and to the heart organ. The sun itself is considered yang in nature; it exudes energy, induces movement and, of course, brings the heat. Since summertime can often be a time of extremes, with heatwaves and long days packed with activities, it is the season that gifts us with the opportunity to balance the yin and the yang. Because the heart organ is associated with the summer season in TCM, a simple and effective way to balance the yang of summer is to nourish the heart.
As summer is a yang season, it is ideal to seek out foods that nourish yin and help us to stay cool and light. It’s easy to imagine the relief of biting into a fresh piece of cool watermelon on a hot summer’s day. Other cooling foods include fresh fruits and vegetables along with whole grains such as millet and brown rice. Quite simply, in order to balance our fire element, we ought to enjoy the fresh fruits and vegetables that nature is so conveniently offering to us throughout the summer season.
At summer barbecues, consider piling up on salads with lots of fruit, vegetables and fresh herbs with a smaller portion of meat. Visit your local farmers’ market to stock up on fresh, in season produce.
DO LESS, BE MORE
Since we naturally tend to be more yang throughout the summer months, it can be easy to forget our yin nature. However, intuition, also known as yintution, is an attribute of the fire element and corresponds to the organ of the heart. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart allows us to see clearly, to better understand situations and to act more compassionately. While it is suggested that meditation is a helpful way to cultivate each of these, any practice that allows you to become steady, present and emotionally aware will nourish your heart yin throughout the summer months. Go for a nature walk and get your bare toes in the grass, sand, and water. Try Qigong, start a meditation practice or engage in ANY activity that allows you to slow down and turn your focus inward.
The long-awaited sunshine gives nature the opportunity to bloom the buds it so intently nourished all spring. We, too, are nature. As we sit around the campfires this summer, may we remember that wood (spring, new patterns) grows fire (summer, action). Each season elegantly fuels the next, reminding us that if we live in tune with nature, we can live a well-balanced, healthful life.
All information referenced from Staying Healthy with the Seasons by Dr. Elson M. Haas, M.D.