During the summer months, nature is at its most expansive, abundant manifestation. The sun is at its highest, food is plentiful, and all plant life is full of vital life force. Taoist five element theory teaches us that the element of summer is fire, the associated color is red, the flavor is bitter, its direction is south, and the energy of fire is connected to the heart and small intestine. The Fire Element is ruled by the planet Mars, and is the most Yang of the 5 elements. It is associated with the 7th (or Crown) Chakra, with its connection to Spirit, the lotus blossom of 1000 petals, and enlightenment. The hours of the day when the Heart is most active are between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; small intestine is 1 to 3 p.m.
The Shen –or Spirit- lives in the heart, and is the channel for all spiritual transformation. It is one of what the Chinese refer to as the Three Treasures (the other two being Qi and Jing). It represents the heartmind, and encompasses our clear awareness, vital energy and our presence. Clear, sparkling eyes and a bright spirit are signs of healthy Shen. The Shen also connects to magic, intuition, joy, love, compassion and inspiration.
Shen governs sleep and memory. If the Shen is disturbed, there may be sleep disruptions, strange dreams or nightmares, and insomnia. The eyes may be dull or veiled. Shen disturbances can also manifest as energy that is both charismatic and fiery, but unstable and unreliable, like a candle that burns bright but sputters out quickly. Physical symptoms may include heart palpitations, restless or hyperactive energy, and lack of concentration or loss of memory.
The Shen, like fire, is easily roused. Calming activities such as mindfulness practice, chanting, praying, walking in nature, belly breathing or sound healing help restore our Shen. Interestingly, meditating on a small candle set in a red holder (as we see in many churches) can be very calming to the heart.
During the summer, while the light is long and high, we can sleep less, going to bed later and rising earlier to greet the day. (This is the opposite of winter, when we should go to sleep earlier and rise later). We need to drink plenty of water: we sweat more, and the heat evaporates water from our bodies more rapidly than at any other time of year. If you find yourself feeling lethargic, foggy and fatigued on a hot day, you are probably dehydrated.
Foods that enhance the fire element:
Grains: Corn, maize, popcorn, amaranth, quinoa, oats
Vegetables: Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, chives, endive, okra, scallions, sweet and hot peppers, arugula, radicchio, sweet corn, mushrooms, cucumbers, okra
Beans and Pulses: red lentils, chickpeas
Fruits: apricot, guava, melon, strawberry, persimmon, peaches, cherries raspberries, plums, kumquats, watermelon and tomatoes
Fish: shrimp, lobster, and crab
Herbs, Spices and Miscellany: chilis, cayenne, curry, dill, cilantro, tarragon, sweet and holy basil, and spices in general are considered fire foods. Dark chocolate and cacao are also fire foods. Bach Rescue Remedy is good to use when shock has occurred. Blue green algae, magnesium, the B vitamins and l-tryptophan are all useful as well.
Beverages: coffee, wine, beer, green tea, and carbonated drinks
Chinese Tonic Foods: spirit poria mushroom, ginseng, jujube date, reishi, Tibetan rhodiola, schizandra fruit, lotus seed, and chrysanthemum flower