Every year we commiserate about how long and cold the winter is and how we can’t wait for summer and then it is here and in a blink of the eye its gone again and we are left in a bewildered heap of sun-kissed skin, sandy towels, and calloused, flip-flopped feet. Because this season can be fleeting, we must slow down and take the time to enjoy ALL of the aspects that keep summer in our minds and hearts, throughout the year!
In Chinese Medicine, summer is related to the element of Fire. It points to the direction of the South and said to rule the Heart which corresponds to the colour red. Every organ has its own emotion that it is related to and the ones associated to the Heart are joy and sadness. The Heart is also said to rule the expression of all of the other emotions; how much to be expressed or whether any emotion is shown at all.
Emotions play a leading role in how we enjoy the moments of our lives and become integrated into all manner of our day to day chores, activities, relationships, habits, and our health. When we put emotion into a task we could say that we are putting our Heart into it. We have all likely worked through something at one point with a lot of Heart, and then also done that same thing again absent-mindedly. Which time did you experience the most satisfaction or joy? That is Heart speaking through you. Whatever you are doing, choose to be present, engaged, and thoughtful and you will be rewarded handsomely.
To honour the season and at the same time slow down, I am a very big fan of meditation. Bringing an element of summer into your practice is as easy as facing south and when possible, sit in meditation outside! This is the most comfortable time of year to bring the outdoors into your practice – sit on your balcony, in your back yard or a park, or set up near an open window! My favorite way to meditate in the summer is by moving my body in a walking meditation. I try to do this all year, but the summer is extra magical and all of my senses are heightened so it becomes a much deeper and meaningful experience. As you begin your meditation, take a few long, deep breaths and check in with a quick body scan, then start walking! I try not to think too much about where I am going but really notice all the activity of the bees and birds, the flowers and trees, if I am by the water I watch it flow and curl around rocks and outcrops. A ten minute walking meditation will fill your Heart with love and appreciation.
Every morning before my meditation I will smudge myself (and my dog), and also at the clinic before I start treatments for the day. It is beneficial as a way to bring ritual, clear energies, and set the tone for day. There are specific herbs that are especially powerful at this time of year. For example, some First Nations tribes recognize cedar as the plant related to summer and use this in ceremony. St. John’s Wort (Guan Ye Lian Qiao in TCM) is often associated with midsummer and solstice celebrations primarily due to it being traditionally harvested on June 24th, St. John’s Day. What is interesting about this plant is that it expresses red oil which can also be associated with summer, and this oil is especially well known for its healing properties for bleeding and wounds! Add any flower to your bundle of herbs for your smudge that you are most drawn to at this time, there are no wrong choices.
Because summer and Heart are related to the colour red, it is said that choosing foods that are red are particularly pleasing and nourishing. Strawberries, tomatoes, rhubarb, cherries, beets, radishes, watermelon, and apples are top choices and in season!
Tea is a delightful way to enjoy the tastes of summer and stay hydrated. This simple Heart healthy tea recipe is one that I particularly love at this time of year. It is a wonderful beverage to calm and clear the mind and cool and nourish the body. The ingredients are hibiscus, rose (petals or buds), and chrysanthemum, but you could add any flowers to suit your taste ~ in 4 cups of water, let sit two tablespoons of each herb (I usually use a bit more hibiscus for a deeper red colour) for about 4 hours, strain, and sweeten with honey. To make the tea go further, reduce the water and soak the herbs again. You can even set this concoction outside and let the sun warm it and help in the steeping process.
As we flow from spring into summer, I am grateful for this beautiful transition and am seeing it with more open eyes than I have in the past many years. I am experiencing this seasonal shift with a much more open mind and Heart; as the flowers are blooming, so too is my connection to them, to nature, and to the cycles of the beautiful Mother Earth. Slow down. Breathe deeply. Connect. Enjoy.