We’re near the peak. On this part of the planet, we’re coming closer to the sun. We’re feeling its rays more directly than we will again till next June comes around.
All this extra light, warmth and daytime has huge affects on our body, mind and spirit. And, like every season it’s a mixed bag. There’s no such thing as a blessing that’s not mixed, I often say.
Summer sun can warm – and it can burn. Extra daytime can prompt more play; it can also leave us ‘spread too thin.’ The warmth of Summer opens our hearts and sparks our imagination. It also reveals heartache and heartbreak. For the sake of healing, perhaps.
Ancient Asian healing traditions recognized Summer as prime time for healing the heart. Old texts described the heart as the ‘Supreme Controller.’ Like the emperor of a kingdom, in charge of control and communication at the highest level.
When there’s peace in the kingdom, the emperor’s job is easy. And vice versa: When the emperor is peaceful, the kingdom thrives.
So it goes with the heart. When ours is easy, we experience peace and joy. We sleep well and may not need as much of it. Our communications are clear, with our selves and others. We experience the delight of being in the present, of knowing we’re in just the right place at just the right time. We embrace our particular role in whatever drama unfolds around us. In modern circles we might call this the serenity of acceptance. The Ancients called it being aligned with our destiny.
Nothing is a steady state, of course. And Summer is the unsteadiest season of all. Enormous Changes at the Last Moment are more norm than exception. Things happen quickly. Like peonies on the South side of my house that went from buds to blossoms one sunny day. Or the flat of plants that died for want of water that same day. Surprises can snap us out of – or into – states of peace and surrender. In a heartbeat.
Brief bits, one breath at a time, may be all our heart can handle of intense feelings that show up when it opens. Our heart, after all, is the part of us that we say ‘feels.’ Joy and sadness. Love and vulnerability. Our physical heart nestles in a cage of rib bones between cushiony lungs for protection. (Stay tuned for more about the lungs come Autumn.) In the Summer, we may notice the spaces between our ribs more as our tender hearts expand and reach out. Sort of like flowers opening to the sun.
Ironically, our vulnerability is what draws us out of ourselves and into partnership with others. We reach out to friend, lover, family, critters and whatever we call Divine. We long to share our sadness. And we uncover joy as we do so.
Injuries of shock and trauma can shut down whole chambers of our heart and block this capacity – for a while. At some point it gets too painful trying to do life all on our own. We’re simply not equipped to survive without sharing our soft spots with others. There was a stage in my life when I viewed this as a serious design flaw, by the way. Now, I think, ‘That’s not the catch, that’s the fun.’
I love that phrase. Heard it said by a gutsy young thief in the movie “Marathon Man.” Dustin Hoffman had just warned him the break-in he was hiring him for ‘might be dangerous.’ He was trying to break into his own home, by the way. The risk was from bad guys after jewels he didn’t have. What a great mythic image of unlocking our heart! The keys we carry won’t do it. We need help to get in. It feels so risky. And, ‘That’s not the catch, that’s the fun!’
We flirt with risk come Summer, for sure. Like it or not, we find ourselves more Out There. More revealed to ourselves and each other. Less costuming conceals us – and I don’t just mean physical clothing. Extra warmth requires shedding layers of all sorts. Our guards drop and we’re touched by intimate glimpses of ourselves and each other. The spirit of Summer lets us ‘lighten up’ to play with these bits in ways that didn’t occur to us before.
Summer’s sparks of love and laughter are like a gentler form of those paddles they use in an emergency room when a heart’s impulses flatline. The more sadness and longing we hold in our hearts, the more we need gentle jolts from someone whose life currents we can share. Just for an instant. That’s all we need. Too much sparking makes wildfires. Burnout. Sound familiar?
Time to catch our breath and relax between sparks is crucial. Not only is this more enjoyable, it actually allows our heart to catch its very own rhythm. Non-stop multi-tasking prevents this, by the way. With no pause between tasks, we don’t wind down from our state of excitement. We get more and more ‘wound up’ as tension builds up with no release. We can get stuck in a constant state of Red Alert (aka high anxiety and/or blood pressure.)
Summer is a great time to learn – through play – about how we spark up AND cool down. Have fun! Enjoy the sparks. And stop to smell the roses along the way.
Practical tips/toys for enjoying Summer:
1) Seek out people and animals you trust can be tender with your ‘soft spots,’ and enjoy their company.
2) Practice being open to surprises. Don’t hold too closely to plans and schedules. Some Summer gifts are beyond our imagination before the moment they appear.
3) Try bringing your awareness to the center of your chest to check in about possibilities you’re not sure you want to embrace. The heart can often cut to the chase when the mind is wandering. Watch your breath as you imagine whatever possibility you’re contemplating. If you’re breathing fully and easily, you know you can take whatever it is one breath at time.
4) Remember water cools fire. Diving in is not always an option but a cool cloth to pulse points on wrists, forehead, neck or ankles can release heat when it’s too much. And full hydration is essential. If you get dehydrated, sip water with a splash of fruit juice to help it penetrate your cell walls. Big gulps of plain water land like a cloudburst on parched land – it mostly runs off. (Like the joke about the skeleton who walks into a bar and orders a beer and a mop!)
5) Stand and face the sun when it’s low enough you don’t have to crane your neck and not too hot. Close your eyes and wait till the color red shows up under your eyelids. Take a few (one to three) long breaths. Imagine you’re inhaling the color coming into your eyes. As you exhale, imagine it gently flowing down through your body, touching every cell. Don’t overdo it! As my Dad used to say, ‘A little bit goes a long way.’ So true for all things Summer!
Cynthia Zanti Jabs, L.Ac. has practiced acupuncture and Qi Gong for two decades. In addition to practicing at Ruscombe, she also teaches at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, introducing medical students to acupuncture.