Welcome Summer! Friday, 21st June, welcomed the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year – guiding us with a path of light, warmth and radiance. Few people understood the effects of the natural rhythms of the seasons on our health and wellbeing better than the ancient Chinese philosophers and the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory of the Five Elements.
The Ancients believed in a five season year, associating each season with one of five elements; Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and early summer being associated with Fire. According to TCM, all parts of the universe, from nature, planets, seasons to the human body, could be described in terms of these elements and the inevitable, interchanging and constant flow of interactions between them.
Despite the arrival of Summer, longer and warmer days, some of us may be feeling low in energy or like our inner fires, our creative juice, inspiration, libido and self-love are lacklustre and in need of some re-kindling. After all, seasonal transitions can be challenging, and our bodies haven’t yet had a chance to rebuild the energy used during the cold, dark and wet winter and spring months.
Thankfully, there are many simple self-care practices that can help us to align with the seasonal energies and tap into thousands of years of experiential knowledge, to help nourish and balance our Fire element as we bring the Summer into our lives.
First, delving deeper into the Fire Element…
The Fire Element is strongly connected to relationships with others. Touch, which is vibrationally aligned with the Fire Element is the primary and for many the most instinctive sense of the human being – whether that is a more formal handshake, quick kisses on the cheek, to a hug or a more tender, passionate embrace. It is no coincidence that all the Fire meridians (Heart, Heart Protector, Small Intestine, Triple Heater) run along the hands and arms – providing a physical medium for sensing the world and communicating the feelings of the heart.
“The Heart is like the minister of the monarch who excels through insight and understanding…It is the root of life and causes versatility of spiritual faculties. Within Yang, the principle of light and life, the Heart acts as the Great Yang which permeates the climate of Summer.” (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine)
Each Five Element in TCM has an associated spirit – the spirit of the Fire Element is the Shen. The Shen is the heavenly light of awareness and consciousness residing in each one of us. When the heart is healthy (physically, emotionally and spiritually), it provides a place for the Shen to rest. But when the heart is in poor health, disturbed, unsettled, unhappy – the shen is unable to be at home or at peace – it is said to be ‘unhoused’. The shen is not directly visible, but it is reflected in a person’s eyes as a sparkle, a connectedness – an inner radiance that shines brightly when at peace. The Shen can be disturbed by many factors – to name just a few – poor sleep, night terrors, anxiety, panic, depression and feelings of rejection, heartbreak.
A healthy, balanced Heart Shen enables the capacity in us all to form and maintain healthy relationships and boundaries. We are calm, settled, not easily distracted. We sleep peacefully. And with a healthy Shen, our inner radiance shines brightly from our eyes. And, we give and receive love with ease – in a way, we live a life of love.
The question is now, what can we do to welcome the Fire Element deep into our hearts this summer? There are some simple, natural daily practices we can do to help re-balance our bodies, mind and spirit – I will list a few that I hope you have fun with! If you have any suggestions yourself, do get in touch or leave me a comment below!
Daily summer self-care practices…
Wear clothing with an element of red, the colour associated with the Fire element – or colours that express the vibrance and warmth of the summer sun.
Movement & Meditation:
Relaxation practices like Yoga, meditation, Qigong or Tai Chi can be of great benefit. Of the four organs attributed to Fire element, the heart is the most important. Chest-opening yoga postures such as Cobra, Tree and Anahata pose are great for bringing light and nourishment to the heart space. According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, Fire element presides over the bodymind as its “Divine Ruler.” To connect with the energy centres of the Fire element, close your eyes and place one hand on your heart and one hand on your hara just below the navel. Take a few slow, deep breaths. This is a simple, powerful self-healing exercise, which will bring comfort and cultivate self-compassion at any time. With any heart-focused practice, listen to your body and it will tell you!
The natural, living, ’vital‘ power of oils have the capacity to relax, cool and calm our bodies, minds and spirits during the radiance of Summer; oils that influence and support us when we are feeling under stress, or have feelings of anxiety, nervousness, agitation and exhaustion. Fire Element oils that can benefit our bodymind and work beautifully to nourish the Heart meridians and help you embrace the Summer; Rose, Lavender, Jasmine, Melissa, Ylang Ylang, Neroli and Palmarosa (please note these a just a few suggestions, there are many more!)
Here are some ideas on how you could use the Fire oils in daily life:
- Blend your favourite combination into a massage blend to help cool and calm, use a 1-2% dilution in a good quality vegetable oil such as sweet almond (aromas are an inherently personal choice – this is an excuse to put your sense of smell into practice!) Contact me if you need more advice!
- Use a diffuser to cheer up your home, your little cosy space that you practice in – a wonderfully gentle yet effective way to absorb the magic of oils. Meditate or read quietly in this space while the oils are diffusing.Using a specially created Fire roll-on perfume, ‘Joy’, the emotion associated with the radiance of the Fire Element, on specific Acupuncture points (more details on Acupuncture points below!)
- Create a body spray to help connect with the Heart and rhythm of Summer. You can create this with a combination of hydrosols such as Rose and Lavender.
- Come and experience an Aromatherapy Massage this summer!
- Why not come along to one of my Aromatic self-care workshops?!
Acupoints & bodywork…
Here are 3 Fire Element Acupoints you can use on yourself or share with your loved ones:
- Heart Protector 6: Inner Frontier Gate/Neiguan:
Many might recognise this point as the go-to for nausea, including sea-sickness and any motion sickness, vomiting, morning sickness in pregnancy and nausea experienced during chemotherapy. In fact – it is one of the most important acupoints – its gift; to bring calm steadiness to the bodymind. It steadies the heart, the circulation, the stomach and the emotions. As the name implies, Inner Frontier Gate integrates the inner and the outer. It regulates the connection between the outer world, enabling communication between the two. Where there has been pain, shock, betrayal, this wonderful point has the capacity to heal old wounds – for example, someone who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or has experienced physical or sexual abuse. When you find your heart, mind or stomach out of sink – this is your go-to point. How to find the point: This point can be found on the front of the forearm between the ulna and radius bones, approximately 3 fingers width above the inner crease.
- Heart Protector 8: Palace of Weariness/Laogong: This Heart point lies near the middle of the palm and if you hold your palms facing towards each other, you will probably feel a warm tingling – you are activating healing Qi. When you hold this point on yourself or a loved one – it can activate and open the emotional heart. If there are moments in your life when you feel no joy in life, or maybe numb, low in spirits and weary of life – this point can restore your vitality, vigour and love for life. At the other extreme – this nurturing point can calm an overactive Heart and quiet a restless mind. How to find the point:This point can be found in the palm of the hand, in the hollowing area between the second and third metacarpals. If you make a fist, the point is where the tip of the middle finger touches the palm.
- Conception Vessel 17: Within The Breast/Shanzhong: A beautiful point – where the Shen (the spirit of the Heart) resides – a meeting point with the Heart chakra, the heart centre and the space in our bodies where we most experience our true heart feelings. It is here where we feel the coddled warm and glowing feelings when we fall in love, but also where we feel intense pain when our heart is broken. Although this point won’t guarantee you’ll find the love of your life – it can help you to open the gate of communication of feelings for the giving and receiving of love. This point can be found in the centre of the sternum in a shallow hollow. On men it lies between the nipples. It is at the level of the fourth intercostal space which can be found by counting down four rib spaces from the underside of the clavicle. Another way to experience this point that might be very familiar for some, is to form a prayer position, resting your hands on the midline of your chest – breathing warmth into your Heart space, ahhhh.
Connecting with friends and family…
As the sun reaches its full potential – this is the time to reach out and spend time with loved ones, why not host a barbecue or go camping and gather round a fire with your loved ones. The warmth and connection you feel is Fire element in action, and there’s nothing like gazing into the glowing embers to stoke the flames of your soul. May your inner fire burn bright and radiate love to the world!