Chinese medicine is born out of the Taoist belief that the human body is a microcosm of the natural world, evolving and changing with the weather and seasons; to live counter to this belief is to live out of harmony with the natural world. According to Chinese medicine this causes dis-ease in our bodies, minds and spirits.
Since we are entering the season of Sumer let’s look at how fire manifests in the natural world and within our bodies when they are in or out of balance.
Summer conjures up memories of lazy days, camping, cookouts, cooling off with a trip to the ocean and summer-time love.
Fire is the element associated with the season of summer. Fire is Yang energy at its peak just before it begins to transform back into Yin. Summer is the year at its most mature. The sun is at its highest point in the sky providing the ultimate warmth and light of the year. June 21, the Summer Solstice, marks the longest day of the year and on June 22, the days begin to shorten and the year begins to move towards late summer, fall and winter; transforming back into yin.
In the summer we feel the warmth of the summer sun. Fire within us provides the warmth of human relationships. A person with a healthy Fire seeks the warmth of human relationships and gives warmth in return. Someone who’s Fire needs rekindling or has gone out, may feel cold physically and emotionally or perhaps cold sexually.
Fire provides us with the enthusiasm that inspires us to take action. When out of balance this might manifest as beginning many projects yet finishing none of them or lacking all motivation to get anything done. Fire gives us the ability to speak and act on our heart’s desire. Someone with a Fire in need of tending may experience stuttering, or be tongue-tied. The ability for our bodies to circulate life-giving blood throughout our bodies is another way that Fire in balance shows up in our internal environment. When out of balance one may experience varicose veins, hemorrhoids, hot flashes and cold hands and feet.
Much like a fire out of control or the heat of the summer sun that has dried up the earth, Fire out of balance in our bodies can manifest as hot painful joints, feeling parched and thirsty in body, mind, and spirit. Palpitations, restlessness, insomnia and addictions are all symptoms of Fire out of balance.
Four organ systems are associated with the Fire Element. The Heart, The Small Intestine, the Pericardium/Heart Protector and The Triple Energizer. The Heart holds the position of Supreme Controller of our Body/Mind/Spirit. A great analogy is to look at the body as a Kingdom and the Heart is the Ruler. The Ruler/Heart’s function is to maintain peace and harmony within the kingdom. Imagine the chaos in the Kingdom if the Monarch became ill or is victim to some trauma. The same rings true with our body/mind/spirit. With this internal disruption of peace and harmony one may experience states of anxiety, panic, insomnia, sadness and/or extreme joy. Yes, even too much joy can be injurious to the Heart.
The Small Intestine is the Minister to the Monarch. It listens to the orders of the Ruler and then reports it to the Kingdom. The Small Intestine sorts the pure from the impure. It decides who/what gets to see the Monarch. The Small Intestine is about choices; whether choosing friends and lovers, activities that serve us over activities that are dangerous, to the foods we choose to put into our bodies. The Small Intestine sorts what is useful from what is not. It sends the “pure” substances to the Heart and the “impure” to the Large Intestine to be eliminated from the body. A Small Intestine in trouble may show up as addictions, choosing friends and activities that are not in our best interests, lack of concentration, or hearing problems (the inability to listen to our Heart’s Desire),. Neck pain, shoulder pain and pain and distention of the lower abdomen are all associated with Small Intestine in need of tending .
Where the Small Intestine translates the message of the Heart out to the body/mind/spirit, the Pericardium/Heart Protector makes daily decisions about what is safe and unsafe to the Heart. It is much like a gate that should open and close appropriately. This shows up most in the realm of relationships. A person who's Heart Protector has been rusted shut from the hit it’s taken can become bitter and unable to give and receive the warmth of loving relationships, the person may be cold physically and sexually. The Heart Protector allows us to be vulnerable and strong at the same time. On the other hand a person whose Heart Protector is swung wide open may fall in and out of love easily, going from one relationship to the next, be sexually promiscuous; they hunger for connection and perhaps control .
The job of the Triple Energizer is circulation. There isn’t a physical organ named the Triple Energizer, it’s more of an energetic organ. The Triple Energizer is in charge of regulating and circulating the warmth of the fluids in our body, it is in charge of homeostasis. Much like a party hostess, the Triple Energizer’s job is to keep the energy of the body flowing smoothly. Someone with a good Triple Energizer has the ability to be social and bright and easy to talk to, they can hold a deep conversation as easily as keeping things light and superficial. Someone whose Triple Energizer is out of balance may have difficulty speaking from their heart, may have emotional extremes and run hot and cold both emotionally and physically. They may have difficulty adjusting to extreme temperatures; they tend to be light and flighty, flitting darting from one activity to another.
Fire is a complex element, it rises and falls easily, and it can be all consuming, its flames can scorch and burn, It can be warm and comforting, passionate, and loving, or it can be cold and lacking affect. Fire loves fun! It’s that element within us that seeks connection, warmth, love, partnership, Joy, laughter. Much like Fire’s tendency to spread out and jump from here to there, this article has done the same. I found myself spreading in many directions and with some reigning/raining in I managed to get it down to these 3 pages!
This summer host a cookout, invite a few friends, and balance your Fire and enjoy the ripening of your Yang.
The song DANCING IN THE STREETS by Martha and the Vandels comes to mind: “Summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the street…. This is an invitation across the nation a chance or folks to meet. “ So enough of this Fire in and out of balance stuff! Go out and have some fun!!!!
Kathy Twombly, M.Ac., Dipl. Ac., Licensed Acupuncturist