Summer is here!! The summer solstice last Thursday marked the longest day of the year, and has been commonly referred to as the ‘beginning’ of summer. But did you know that summer has already been happening?? Right under our noses, for the past month and a half. Allow me to explain…
It all goes back to the Taoist complements of Yin and Yang. Remember that symbol on everyone’s choker back in the 90’s? That symbol, know as the Tai Ji, represents the relationship between the Yin forces of nature (dark, cool, night, feminine, earth energy) and Yang forces of nature (hot, bright, masculine, daytime, heavenly energy). According to this framework, Yin cannot exist without Yang and vice versa; they always complement and transform into one another. For example, you wouldn’t know what cold felt like unless you knew what heat felt like. So cold cannot exist without heat. Within each force, there also exists some amount of the opposite force as well, represented by the small dots. For example, even the darkest and longest night will eventually turn into day, so the Yang potential for daytime is always within the Yin aspect of night.
Yin and Yang exist and flow within everything in nature, and you can see this clearly in our changing seasons. While Winter is the most Yin time of the year (dark and cold, with our energy focused inward), Summer is the most Yang time of year (hot and bright, with our energy expanding!). What is the most Yang day of the year (hint: the brightest)?? The summer solstice! In traditional cultures, the summer solstice marks the PEAK of summer, the brightest day in the most Yang season, the height, or middle of the season. We can also feel this energetically. For the past month and a half, we have been shedding layers, feeling more active, busting out the short shorts, and transitioning into the energetics of summer without realizing it.
The shifting of seasons has touched the lives of humans across the globe throughout time. For thousands of years people across all cultures have been engaging in traditional practices to align themselves with the energy of weather and changing aspects of the sun. So how should we properly live in harmony with the energetics of summer? In one word…PLAY! In Chinese Medicine, our bodily organs function and relate to one another and our environments in the same flow that the rest of nature has. Our Heart is the organ associated with the movement of summer (and the FIRE element), and the heart relates to the emotion of JOY! Swimming, dancing, getting up for early yoga classes, hiking in the mountains, laughing, singing, frolicking with your dog in the park, socializing, surfing…this is exactly what you should be doing this season.
According the Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen (The Yellow Emperor’s Classical Text on Basic Questions), a 2,000 year old foundational text from the roots of Chinese Medicine, it is said of summer:
Go to rest late at night and rise early.
Never get enough of the sun.
Let the mind have no anger.
Stimulate beauty and have your elegance perfected.
Since the summer is the most Yang season, we need to make sure we don’t have an overabundance of Yang energy in the body, which can lead to excess heat. Therefore, cooling foods are called for. These include fruits such as melons and berries, raw vegetables like cucumber and salad greens, cooling beverages such as water and coconut water, and herbs that are cooling such as mint. You can also spice it up! Although the spicy flavor seems counterintuitive in the summer, it actually induces a slight sweat to cool your body. So add hot sauce to those fish tacos, and jalapeno to your margs!
Harness the vibrant Yang energy of this summer season, so you will have good health throughout the dark days of winter. Be at ease in your emotions and playful with your relationships. Allow ideas to flow freely without getting too cerebral, and allow time for creativity. In Chinese Medicine, caring for one’s emotions is as important as caring for one’s physical body; imbalance in any area can cause disease.
Take it easy, soak up the sun (and that Vitamin D), and stay cool. Even the ancient Chinese say so!