In Chinese Five Elements theory, summer belongs to the element of Fire. Fire loves connection: spiritual connection, social connection and self connection; and these are all nurtured through nourishment, experience and celebration.
Fire energy governs the heart: our place of radiance, joy and harmony with the world around us. The heart yearns for love, beauty, ritual, meditation and gratitude. These are all essential fuels for our fire energy if it is to burn steadily and to circulate heat and energy to the rest of our mind, body and soul.
Honouring Fire energy takes the upward and outward growth of Wood energy in order to blossom – either as actual blossoms opening on a tree, or as fire. By late summer (which Chinese medicine views as a separate season and is governed by Earth energy) we are ready to nurture, nourish and reap the benefits of the harvest – the blossoms will have given way to fruits and the fire ashes will be enriching the soil. So take care to revel in supporting Fire energy over the summer and connect!
- Take frequent breaks to meditate or to use my visualisation exercise
- Sprint once in a while – keep it intense and brief
- Lay off sugar as it acts as kindling for our Fire energy – a brief flare and then the fire goes out without leaving any residual heat
- Some people find an increase in insomnia during the summer months. Try my sleep tips if this is a challenge for you
- Sing! Sing whenever you can. The Chinese consider the tongue to be connected to the heart, and joy to be the natural state of the heart. Singing allows us to connect to our core and benefit the Heart’s energy
The flavour relating to Fire energy is bitter. This is not a taste that we are particularly used to in Western cultures except for in coffee, dark chocolate and (occasionally) in bitter leafy greens. It is important to give a little support but not to overwhelm Fire energy with an excess of bitter; you may like to try taking digestive bitters before a meal or to think about sourcing the very best coffee and dark chocolate you can find to consume in small amounts.
Chinese medicine considers that Summer meals should be joyful occasions. Candles, music, summer posies, a little wine and great company are said to nurture Heart energy. If you don’t already, you may like to consider giving thanks before a meal too; just a short time to feel gratitude and connection with your surroundings is all it takes.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that red foods are said to nourish the heart, and indeed seasonal fare such as tomatoes, peppers and strawberries really do enhance many dishes at this time of year. I do caution that these foods can cause excess “heat” in susceptible people though – particularly if they are prone to histamine or inflammatory conditions. If this is the case you will want to limit these all year round until these conditions have been resolved. For more seasonal inspiration you may like to try my summer vegetable recipes
Other Summer Lifestyle Suggestions
Of all the times of the year these are the months to really get to grips with balancing work, rest and play.
Work: the summer can be a high intensity work time with projects coming to fruition and Fire energy really pushing progress. Establishing clear boundaries around work will ensure that you do not burn too brightly and, as a result, burn out.
Rest: while you will require less sleep during the summer months try to replace those hours with time spent meditating, in prayer or in contemplation. Maybe you can go outside barefoot early in the morning and listen to the dawn chorus, take a siesta after lunch or paddle in the sea at the end of a long hot day.
Play: Any social activities that centre around food and/or singing in the summer are ideal. Shared picnics, music festivals, candlelit dinners taken outside, campfires – all of these are practices that nourish Heart energy. Team sports, sprinting and swimming all make the most of Fire energy – just take care to rehydrate afterwards.