Summer commences on the year’s longest day, June 21, the summer solstice. The lengthened hours of sunlight offer us the chance to participate in the abundance that surrounds us and tends to our creative energies. The element of Fire is associated with summer in Cleveland TCM or Traditional Chinese Medicine, and it helps illuminate and give light to our external world and inner self.

The heat of summer helps us to celebrate life and its bounty to the hilt. It is the season when vegetables and flowers are in abundance and when maturation and growth occurs. The weather allows us to enjoy walking with friends, barbecues and parties, recreational sports and shared outings; we’re able to tend to these relationships and nurture our inner Fire.

Summer is the best time for people to replenish the energy they consumed during the winter and spring since summer is the time when the power of Fire is most intensely felt. As the activities in summer can eat up your meditative and relaxation time, it’s important you find a balance between being and action, between when to tend to your garden or participate in social events.

This is what the Nei Jing text, (Internal Medicine Classic of the Yellow Emperor), which is the foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine, has to say about the season of summer.

There are an abundance of rain and sunshine in the three months of summer. The energy of earth ascends while the energy of heaven descends. Interaction between earth and heaven happens when these energies combine. Because of these fruits, flowers, plants and animals appear abundantly.

At this season, you may retire a bit later, while still waking up early. To prevent qi from stagnating and the pores from closing, stay physically active and avoid anger. Do not overindulge in sex although summer is the time when you can indulge in it a bit more than in other seasons. With regard to one’s emotions, you should not hold any grudges or ill will, and you must be easygoing and happy in order for your energy to flow smoothly.

These exhortations were as true now as they were first written four thousand years ago.

In TCM, the element of Fire is the spark from which all of life is derived. Fire is affiliated with the emotion of joy, which symbolizes an overabundant enthusiasm for life when in balance. However, a deficiency of Fire can result in apathy and a lack of joy and too much of it can lead to restlessness and hyperexcitability. Laughter is the sound associated with Fire. Red is its color, and Hot is its climate.

Imbalances related to the element of Fire are as follows:

  • Restless sleep, insomnia, and sleep disturbances
  • Explosive energy, agitated, or restlessness
  • Hot skin eruptions, hives, or rashes
  • Irregular heartbeat, palpitations
  • Inappropriate laughter
  • Lack of or too much perspiration
  • Phobias, irrational fears, and anxiety

The muscular hollow, small organ known as the heart is, in Western medicine, deemed to be the hub of the circulatory system. Its main function is to be a pump that regulates the movement of blood throughout the body.

The role of the heart in Traditional Chinese Medicine also extends to the spiritual and emotional aspects of a person. According to the Nei Jing, the Heart can be likened to an emperor who is responsible for preserving internal harmony and peace. “The heart represents the consciousness of a person and is the all-powerful ruler that controls all the organs. It’s responsible for spiritual transformation, wisdom, and intelligence.”

In TCM, Each of the elements has their own yin and yang organ connected to it. The Heart (a Yin organ but related to Fire), however, is the overall ruler and is aided by three Fire organ ministers: the Triple Heater, the Small Intestine, and the Pericardium.

The Triple Heater

According to the system of classification of TCM, the Triple Heater is the only organ that has no structural counterpart and is solely functional. However, even if the Triple Healer has no physical structure to speak of, its mechanisms are vital to our well-being and health: the function of the Triple Heater is to cool and heat our whole body system.

The Small Intestine

This is the Yang organ paired to the Heart. The small intestine in Western medicine is the organ responsible for digestion, processing, and waste disposal. In TCM, the Small Intestine is believed “to segregate the impure from the pure.” It eliminates efficiently the waste and segregates physically the pure nutrients from our drink and food. In a manner of speaking, the Small Intestine is believed to segregate the “nutritional” aspects of our everyday interactions with others and remove from our consciousness the “indigestible” aspects, which enables us to be discriminating in our relationships.

The Heart Protector or the Pericardium

The pericardium in Western medicine is the thin layer that envelops and protects the heart. However, Chinese medicine experts think that this narrow definition omits the pericardium’s true essence.  In the Nei Jing, the pericardium is “the court jester whose responsibility is to bring joy and laughter to the emperor.” In addition to protecting and moistening the heart, the pericardium is also considered as the gate to the heart that serves as an entry point to positive energies, while preventing the entry of pathogens and negative energies into the inner sanctum of the heart.

Here is a table that summarizes the fundamental correspondences related to the Fire element in TCM.

The Fire Element: Chart of Correspondences

Season Yin Organ Yang Organ Direction Flavor Vocal Quality Emotion
Summer Heart Small Intestine South Bitter Laughing Joy

Since summer is a period for playing and relaxing, you need to take some time of each day to “de-stress.” Use a few minutes to perform a technique called “calming the breath.”

  1. Breathe out deeply, close your mouth and use your nose to breathe in for five seconds. As you inhale, try to visualize that the cleanest and purest is what is entering your body and lungs.
  • For 20 seconds try to hold your breath, while visualizing that your cells using this time to eliminate toxins and wastes via your bloodstream.
  • For 10 seconds breathe out while imagining the toxins and waste materials leaving your body.
  • Indulge your senses. Expose yourself to the fragrances, sounds, and colors of summer.
  • Step outside barefooted and walk on the grass. Feel the texture greeting your feet.
  • Walk into your garden and carefully listen to the sounds of children playing, birds signing, and crickets chirping.
  • Eat fresh veggies and fruits and delight in their distinct flavors.
  • Breathe in the smell of summer and flowers, and take time to relish their scent.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise makes for a healthy heart and maintains the health of the circulatory system. Perform a good cardiovascular exercise and try to perspire. This will help eliminate the toxins from your body. Perform an appropriate workout based on your level of fitness. Start by walking slow everyday if you’re out of shape. Try to perspire a bit by walking fast enough. Don’t overexert yourself. The summer is the time when your heart is vulnerable, so slowly build your exercise routine.
  1. Drink adequate amounts of fresh pure water. The sun evaporates moisture off your pores. Therefore, it is imperative that you stay rehydrated. Drink 8 oz. glasses of water eight to ten times a day.
  1. Eat slowly and consume foods that are cooling. Eat the fruits and veggies that are in season. Bitter is the flavor connected to Fire, so therefore to add Swiss chard, kale, spinach, escarole, endive and other bitter greens in your diet.
  1. Trust your heart. The heart governs intelligence and understanding, but not of the cerebral kind. We’re attached to a deeper aspect of our being when we know something in our heart. Give yourself the time to listen to your inner voice and strive to participate in this profound knowing.