Welcome to my health and wellness blog! Given the season we are passing through, as well as the appropriately named website this blog is hosted on, I thought I would start out by giving a brief introduction to the seasonal energetics of heart medicine.
Oh how the summer heat basks us in its glorious light for those few great months every year! During the spring, people slowly emerge from their hibernating mood and their lives begin to bustle with fiery activity once again — such is the promise of the summer months. In many traditional medicine practices, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s understood that the summer is the time of the heart. Our “summer romance” with light, beauty, activity and connecting with others brings us a renewed hope for the future. It is a time of levity, joy, fun, and perhaps even the development of new and promising relationships. In accordance with the cycles of nature, it is also a time of gathering energy to generate abundance in the season of harvest which comes later. It’s when plants begin to fruit and all animals are active in absorbing the active yangqi (or fire energy) of that time of year.
In terms of bodily balance, many people experience a sense of hyperactivity during the summer months, as though there is an urgency to go out and get everything done right now. It’s a sense that there’s not enough time in the day and that rest is hard to come by. According to the principles of yin and yang, when the yang is highest, yin struggles to be preserved. In the presence of all that fire, many feel exhausted. It might manifest as feeling too hot all the time, having a mind that is excessively busy and a nervous system that is constantly on the alert; it might also look like trying to fit 48 hours into 24, or subconsciously trying to gather, gather, gather without taking adequate time for rest, peace and reflection. For those with high blood pressure, summer can present a time of health challenges to the cardiovascular system. It’s important during this time to consume cooling, moistening foods, to take time out in the shade, and to not get carried away with so much activity that we lose ourselves in the commotion. One of the other actions of all this fire energy is that personal challenges or difficult emotional experiences may appear magnified and exaggerated, leading some to take drastic action before taking time away in solitude and serenity to examine things more closely.
The summer season’s fiery nature represents a time when we must take pause for grounding and refreshment, whether it’s literally just having a delicious cooling salad and watermelon to eat, or if it’s literally inviting the philosophy of stillness into the forefront. Don’t get me wrong, all of this activity is supposed to be happening and it’s just what summer does to our health and consciousness; and in turn, all of this yang energy is used to build our yin stores for the coming months of dormancy in the winter. The key is to allow the yang energy to take hold in our lives without it completely consuming what stores we already have, which looks like burning the candle at both ends. Some people become so excited by the summer that they are non-stop, and once autumn arrives they fall into a much lower energy state. By tempering the yang with the yin, this health conflict can be avoided and a sense of equanimity can follow us into the light of sun.
In addition to inviting the yin nature into our lifestyles during this heated time, there are well-practiced acupuncture and herbal applications available to calm down the body. The heart all responds well to the flavour of bitter, which can be found in foods like collard greens, carrot and beat tops, dandelion, and swiss chard. Of all the organs in the body, the heart is the most sensitive to heat, and as we look at the esoteric function of the heart governing the spirit (神shen), there can be what are called vexations to consciousness during this time. Many people experience heat stroke delirium or a sense that their clear thinking is impaired by the heat of summer, and that even as the sun sets there is a lingering heat in their bodies that doesn’t quite seem to dissipate. Any herb or food that has a bitter edge to its flavour will encourage the body to clear heat which in turn calms the spirit of the heart. Some great examples are chamomile, garden sage, peppermint, cucumbers, and melons (especially watermelon). If food sources don’t seem to clear the intense heat, then acupuncture can help, usually within a single treatment.