"Make your heart like a lake with a calm, still surface and great depths of kindness" - Lao Tzu
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is much emphasis on staying healthy through expressing nature. There are 5 phases or seasons to the year. Summer is the fire stage and influences now are of the Heart and the Spirit. It is a time of heat and outward movement as all the plants are past "budding stage" and into "bearded stage". It inspires passion and expression within us. This is the best time of year to deal with any lingering pathogens in the body as they are closer to the surface. Often people get fits of "summer-heat illness" like common colds with sore throats, fevers, digestive weakness, and insomnia. Usually the illnesses don't last long and are easy to treat. The blood and Qi (or energy) moves quickly in the body, making it the best time to get treatments for stubborn and chronic illnesses as well.
As with every season, we must change our diet to stay healthy. Follow these eating guidelines to balance Fire:
- Eat lightly (limit greasy foods) and increase fresh vegetables and fruits. Careful to not over consume cold or raw in excess. Especially if you have a weak digestive system.
- Hydrate adequately. We are often perspiring during the summer, even if just lightly. Eating more moisture rich foods (cucumber, melons, fruits that grow in your climate) will help combat dehydration.
- Cook foods very quickly by lightly steaming or sautéing at a high heat for a short time.
- Choose red-coloured and bitter-flavoured foods to benefit Fire. Examples are red bell pepper, tomato, beet, chiles, watermelon, persimmon, raspberries, romaine lettuce, and bitter melon.
THE HEART AND RESTFUL SLEEP
Every summer I hear patients complain of insomnia. The heart is considered where the mind resides. It is in charge of consciousness, thinking, sleep, and Shen, which translates as "Spirit" or "Perception". The heart needs to be calm and settled in order for sleep to be possible. When out of balance, insomnia may result. It is important to get adequate rest during the summer months so the mind stays healthy. A quick rest or nap at midday can help your night time insomnia.
- Eat adequate protein and healthy fat at dinnertime.
- Before bed have a snack of a large teaspoon of almond butter or tahini. Or drink a cup of herbal tea with a teaspoon of coconut oil.
- Add foods that are rich in magnesium and calcium to calm the nervous system. Good sources are dark greens (kale, chard, spinach), flax seed, pumpkin seed, tahini, lentils, brown rice, avocado, banana, figs, full-fat milk, Greek yogurt, and kidney beans.
- Consider getting acupuncture as it works on the nervous system and greatly calms Shen and Heart disturbances.
THE HEART AND DEPRESSION
Imbalances of the fire/heart/mind system are scattered, confused, speech problems, poor circulation, memory loss, excess or no laughter, weak spirit, and insomnia.
Those with a healthy heart system are genuinely friendly and humble, not out of convention but because they actually feel small in comparison to the wonders they perceive with their open hearts and aware minds. Clarity is an attribute of harmonious heart-mind. As well flowing easily through life.
Depression and anxiety are usually lessened during the summer as the heart centre has more energy. If you find yourself often depressed or anxious, now is a good time to heal as the heart is more open to care.
Expression through the voice and joyful activities benefits the heart centre. Singing, prayer, and chanting. Even talking to a counsellor or a friend is advisable now. Moving the body and exercising circulates the blood in the heart and helps to nourish it as well.
Make your heart sing! Express yourself!