Today, June 21st is the summer solstice. Frank and I started this day of light with a personal observation of quiet meditation, lit candles, flowers and incense. This evening we are creating a meal of foods that enhance and synchronize the body’s energy (microcosmic) with the seasonal energy(macrocosmic). Following is an article I wrote a few years back and tomorrow, we’ll send our solstice dinner recipes and some pictures.
The cyclic energy transformation that occurs throughout the year influences both our inner and outer environments. In the Taoist healing system these transformations are known as the Five Elements or Five Phases (Wu Xing). These phases or processes are fundamental to the natural cycles of existence. Presently we are experiencing the energy of summer and all the energetic correspondences of this phase. So what are these correspondences and how do they influence us?
Summer corresponds to the Fire element or phase. Symbolically fire energy is warming, expansive, illuminating and yang (active) in nature. Trees and plants become lush as they expand to fullness and the environment is abuzz with insect and bird activity. There is also more sunlight in Summer, making the days longer and warmer for outdoor activities, thus allowing us to express our own internal yang energy.
In our internal environment the fire energy is expressed through the heart organ system. The heart performs the physical functions of circulating and pumping blood out to the extremities and the brain, which stimulates and nourishes our physical being and thinking processes. If heart energy is balanced then we feel contented, joyful (joy is the emotion related to heart energy) and mentally clear. If there is a weakness in the heart organ system, we may experience symptoms such as palpitations, stroke, anxiety, fuzzy thinking, despair or a lifeless feeling. If the hearts energy is excessive, there could be symptoms of insomnia, schizophrenia, inappropriate giggling, heart attack, hyperactivity or manic expression. The heart energy is most active in the summer, which means that an imbalance, if it exists, will be exacerbated at this time.
To address imbalances of any type in the body, it’s important to note that in the taoist healing system, emphasis is given first to one’s internal environment and then treatment protocols are modified according to the external environment. For example, if one’s body has signs of excess heat or excess heart yang, then the treatment protocol might include, cooling herbs to nourish the heart and calm the spirit, meditation or some form of quiet sitting and a diet that emphasizes cooling foods to clear heat and/or sour foods to astringe scattered energy. In winter the same emphasis on cooling foods would apply except that the diet would be modified to include some neutral to slightly warming foods and herbs etc.
Our bodies, just like our universe are in a constant state of change, so developing our awareness of these changes enables us to choose foods and activities that would balance our personal energy. Generally speaking, more cooling foods can be eaten in the summer. This includes most fruits, but especially pears, bananas, strawberries, citrus and melon. Vegetables which include sprouts, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbages, celery, corn, cucumber, radishes, tomatoes etc. Cooling grains such as millet, barley, wheat, white basmanti rice and other foods such as mung beans, cilantro, pumpkin seeds and chicken eggs. Most meats, poultry and fish are considered warming.
The bitter flavor corresponds to the heart phase and can be used to balance heart energy. The hearts energy moves outward and upward and the bitter flavor moves energy down. Bitter also clears heat and has a drying nature which is appropriate in a damp environment such as south Florida. Bitter foods include: asparagus, celery, bitter melon, dandelion greens, kale, amaranth and quinoa. Also, raw foods are more cooling than cooked, but they are also more difficult to digest, therefore, I don’t recommend eating just raw foods; but I do think it is extremely valuable to include fresh vegetable juices in you diet, especially in the summer.
Balance your activities with rest, balance your diet according to your own individual needs and balance the work you do by including things you consider to be fun such as artwork, gardening, music etc. In addition, be mindful of the seasonal changes and how they affect you. Remember, the magic principle is always balance and achieving balance will guide you towards a joyful existence.