A famous quote from Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu provides the link between mankind and nature. Beautifully appropriate for welcoming in the summer, the season of growth during the Summer Solstice.
“Heaven, Earth and I are living together and all things and I form an inseparable unity.” ~Chuang Tzu
The longest day of the year, June 21st, marks summer solstice- the beginning of summer.
We might notice changes like our mood and our energy, lifting with the transformation of the seasons. Summer is a time of turning outward and expanding, enjoying the light and the season of profound growth.
Chinese medicine considers summer a season of Yang, governed by the heart, fire and light. Our heart houses our spirit, or Shen. Shen encompasses our Western concept of spirit but is more expansive and includes some cognitive functions as well, such as mental clarity, memory and sleep. A disordered Shen can mean feeling agitated and restless, or lacking in joy and enthusiasm, while a balanced Shen feels like your heart is open, receptive and joyful.
Rediscovering Our Alignment with the Natural World
Whereas most of us recognize how the seasons affect us (ask anyone who lived through this last never-ending winter), it’s easy to lose touch with the natural order of things. Or even know what that is! We no longer rise with the sun and sleep when it sets. The lights go on and we work late or peer at our screens, absorbed with watching the 24-hour news cycle- ignoring nature’s rhythm, and as part of nature, our own pace and tempo as well. Eventually, we are no longer in tune with nature’s gentle rhythm and yet wonder why we feel so generally disconnected.
Returning to nature is one way to find peace and reconnection- try a walk on the beach or sipping tea on the porch while watching the world go by. Other gentle suggestions include looking at the stars at night or having a picnic by a stream.
Balancing Summer Heat
As temperatures start to soar, focus on hydration by including foods with a cooling Yin nature (watermelon, lemons, cucumber, lettuce and leafy greens). They help balance summer’s heat. Overconsumption of alcohol, coffee, hot, spicy and greasy foods will create heat in the body and should be ingested less.
During summer, the season of the heart, take care of your spirit by incorporating a practice that centers the heart and also calms the mind. Limiting media intake, along with a regular dose of nature and meditation, for me, are the keys to balancing a lifestyle that encourages the heart to be open, friendly and joyful.