Features and Occasionals

The Yin and Yang of Summer

By Valerie Litchfield

Feng shui for your body, house and mind.

On June 21 we enter the season of summer, the most yang or active time of the year. With the sun being at its northernmost point in relationship to Earth, it marks the longest day of sunlight, creating heightened growth and movement, in nature and our lives. At the same time, the summer solstice begins the yin cycle of darkness, or the shortening of days. This cycle peaks at the winter solstice, where once again yang is born.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), summer is associated with fire element, an element that is constantly in motion and changing, creating sources of light and heat. This element is associated with the direction of the South, the color red, the emotion of joy and our intuition. Fire energy keeps people youthful at any age, and is likened unto the full bloom of summer. It fuels creativity and inspiration—the spark of genius.

According to ancient Taoist teachings, the heart, which is believed to be the most active in the summer, is the ruler of the body, mind and spirit. Within the heart are four muscular chambered pumps that move about 3,000 gallons of blood a day to the lungs where it will be oxygenated. The blood then returns to the heart and is pumped out to the body.

The tongue indicates general heart health and wellbeing in the Chinese health system. A pink and moist tongue indicates heart health is optimal, while a pale pallor to the tongue indicates a deficiency of blood or anemia. If the tongue is a dark crimson color, it indicates stagnation of blood flow; a deep purple color may indicate serious heart problems.

When the fire element is weak it can invite anxiety, nervousness, fear and the inability to cope, giving way to the “fight or flight” response. Finding a state of relaxation through exercise, yoga or meditation will not only calm your mind, but it can stoke your inner fire and warm your body. In Taoist wisdom, the heart is the lifeblood of personhood and feelings. It operates best when it is free from stress.

Blood in Chinese medicine is very different from the western concept. It is viewed as a passive, or yin, substance that follows shen, a yang or dominant substance. Shen, a Chinese word meaning spirit, dwells in the heart and mind. Human consciousness indicates the presence of the shen and can be seen as it shines from a person’s eyes when they are truly awake. Shen provides the vitality of the body. Blood nourishes, maintains and moistens the body parts. In Chinese pathology, deficient blood may fail to nourish shen, creating muddled thinking, eyes lacking in luster, slow and forgetful behavior and insomnia. Shen can be strengthened through the practice of meditation, quieting the mind from thoughts and tuning into the heart through service to other people.

The small intestine is paired with the heart in the fire element. This 20-foot-long organ comprises the digestive tract between the stomach and the large intestine. Proper functioning of the small intestine is vital to our nourishment, because the only nutrients we can absorb are those that are assimilated through it.

Two brains

According to Taoist adepts, the human body is operated and controlled by two brains, one that resides in the head and one that resides in the abdomen. It was believed that feelings were generated and sensed in the abdominal area in the small intestine, not the cerebral brain. The small intestine became known as the abdominal brain, and was thought to be in charge of digesting emotions as well as food. Negative emotions such as anger are believed to contract the right side of the intestine near the liver, worry affects the upper left side near the stomach and sadness contracts both of the lateral sides. Anxiety is believed to affect the top at waist level, fear the lower abdominal area.

When the small intestine is healthy, we can easily recover from stress and tension but if the balance is lost, it can give rise to hypertension, cardiovascular disease and a weakening of the heart. The delicate balance of the small intestine can be affected by denying our true feelings.

True feelings are centered in the abdomen, not the brain. Modern people are taught to suppress their feelings with the logic of the cerebral brain, which can lead to confusion and frustration and create a conflict between the heart and the mind. Correct feelings, as seen in Taoism, are peaceful. Peace comes from healthy and balanced internal organs that can handle the emotional pressures of life. This is one of the great secrets of the Taoist health system.

Fire element is also the ruler of intuition. When we become aware of our true feelings, flashes of light or insight can come into our awareness. This experience is inner guidance coming from the heart. It can happen at any time. Recognizing and listening to this information can help us answer questions and resolve issues in our life.

Fire element foods & herbs

When the heat is up, it is time to cool down. A diet of luscious, organically grown fruits and vegetables are ideal for the summer months. Trade the concentrated, heating foods that primarily come from proteins and fats for foods that are expanded from the sunlight—vegetables, fruits, grains and seeds.

The flavor that nourishes fire element is bitter, a taste found especially in endive, escarole and watercress. Hot greens like mustard and radishes will also stimulate fire element. Coffee, tea and dark chocolate contain bitter flavors and can be nourishing and pleasing to the palate. The smell of cooking on an open flame is the smell of summer and has a similar quality to bitter. Roasting vegetables and meat on the grill can be an aromatic and satisfying summer experience.

Herbs that stimulate and strengthen fire element are cayenne pepper and ginger. Use small amounts of both as condiments to provide quick energy and act as blood cleansers, to eliminate impurities and increase body heat and circulation. Specific herbs for the small intestines are comfrey and licorice root, fennel and anise seeds. Comfrey root can soothe the intestinal lining, while fennel or anise tea can reduce gas and indigestion. Licorice root helps soothe the digestive tract and is safe for children.

South: Illumination

South is the direction associated with the element of fire in feng shui. The South is characterized as the illuminator of our lives. Fire offers the potential energy of success in public life and, when activated correctly, it ignites fame, recognition and shining moments as well as achievements. If you feel that your life or career is lacking in excitement, check the southern side of your home or office. Make changes that will ignite your passion and assist you in the getting the recognition you desire by placing diplomas or acknowledgments here. If you desire more friendship and love in your life, start by clearing out the blockages found in the south-facing side of your home.The addition of art and poetry by famous people, classical music or pointed objects will inspire your own life and point the way.

Valerie Litchfield is a longtime feng shui practitioner with LifeAlign Classical Compass Feng Shui. She lives in Salt Lake City.

This article was originally published on May 30, 2017.