Midsummer: season of the Heart, Fire, Joy, Laughter…. How do we experience joy? In Chinese Medicine, joy is the emotion connected to the Heart, and isn’t this where we tend to feel joy, in our heart? I often notice that I experience joy most easily when I am present in the present moment, letting go of past and future. This breath, this laugh, this flower blooming now, this yellow butterfly flying ahead of me on my path, this hummingbird sipping nectar for just a fleeting moment, this fire and this sun burning brightly, everpresent yet shining light and warmth experienced now. Becoming present in the body, imagining heart smiling radiance at all our organs and cells, and all the organs and cells beaming joy back to our heart.
We’ve just begun the moon cycle of Chinese new year, the beginning of Spring! In many traditions, the equinox is the mid-point of spring, and the beginning is marked by this time between the winter solstice and spring equinox; a time when the trees begin to blossom and the sap begins to run. Life on earth stirs from winter sleep, much like life quickening in the womb.
This time of year has long felt like a time of intriguing and exhilarating paradox for me. A time of abundance and harvest, all the colors and tastes of food in season, delicious nourishments, a festival of flavors.... And at the same time, from this place of abundance and joy, we are entering into the season of letting go, the exhalation. We are returning to our most essential connection with life, returning to our breath and body, our embodied spirit. For more ideas and information on the season of Fall and its element of Metal (Lung and Large Intestine), please take a look at this blog. And also this one, on keeping healthy this time of year....
Such an interesting time of year, this piece of the cycle. August 1 is the halfway point between Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox. In the Chinese calendar, some mark the beginning of August as the beginning of Autumn (Lung time) while others feel it is the season of Late Summer (Spleen/Earth time), between Summer and Autumn, which feels right to me. Late Summer is associated with damp climate; autumn with dry (although some raininess too). Here we have some of both now, as the hills turn golden brown, yet the fog brings some damp.
Amazingly, just as Spring is felt to be truly deepening and taking hold, we are already on the threshold of Summer. As a reminder: in the Chinese calendar system (which seems to generally overlap quite nicely with the Bay Area seasonal patterns), the solstices and equinoxes are the midpoints of each season, and the crossquarters points (halfway in between solstice and equinox) are the beginnings. This makes May 1 the beginning of Summer, season of the Heart and the element of Fire (please see archived blogs for more on these subjects!). The ends and beginnings of each season are also known as "Earth Time", when the element of Earth (more on this in the blog archives also) joins the element of the current season. And so, as we enter into this union of Heart and Earth, here are some of my thoughts to share....
Yes! The blossoms are abundantly flourishing, the wind is blowing, the trees are getting new green leaves-- it is Spring! At least, on the Chinese calendar (equinox will be the midpoint), and it does seem appropriate for our climate as well. We've passed a cross-quarters point, halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox, and it’s a powerful time for beginnings, a quickening that heralds movement, vision beginning to manifest.
As the days shorten and darken, and we descend into winter, the time of Kidneys, element of Water, it is a time for deep nourishment and strengthening of that which is most basic, essential, the foundation of our innermost selves. A time for returning to the womb of the dark nothingness, the fertile earth, in order to call forth our own unique spark of light, the miracle of life and light returning in cycle. Kidneys are associated both with Water, Winter, and the color Black, as well as with with our essential Life Gate Fire. Holding this paradox, they are the foundation for our entire body.
This time of year is widely recognized to be a time when folks are more vulnerable to getting sick. According to traditional Chinese medicine, this is a time of year when the gates of the body are thought to be more open. It is also the end of the Lung season, and Lungs are very intimately related with immunity in Chinese medicine, as they rule our defensive qi, our skin, our pores, our nose, throat, and of course our breath. It is the beginning of Kidney season, the foundational strength of our body. Here are my general reminders for keeping healthy at this time of year.
Yes, we’ve been sinking into Fall, time of Metal. Metal is the element of the Lungs and Large Intestine in Chinese Medicine. The direction related to the Metal element is West; the color is White; the animal is a white Tiger; the climate is Dry. The emotion is Grief; the sound is sobbing. The smell is fishy or rank; the taste is pungent or spicy. Lung relates to the skin, to body hair, to the nose, to pores opening and closing. Lungs of course also relate to breath, especially exhalation, to immunity and the body’s defensive qi, and to qi in the body in general (the Lungs are said to govern the body’s qi). Common ailments of the Lungs include frequent colds, coughing, wheezing, hoarse voice, asthma, shortness of breath, allergies, dry skin, phlegm (the Lungs are the container of phlegm). Large Intestine, as one might imagine, relates to digestion and elimination, and also relates to the body’s immunity. Common ailments include constipation or diarrhea, intestinal grumbling, and sometimes sinus and other lung-related issues. Because these organs partner, congestion in one often affects congestion in the other.
Earth. Fire (summer element) giving birth to Earth, the element of this season of late summer, which began a few weeks ago. Think of the ashes of the fire transforming into rich fertile soil, growing our nourishment with loving abundance. Earth is the center of the five elements in Chinese Medicine, relating to the organs of Spleen and Stomach in the body. Late summer is the center of the seasons on the Chinese calendar (which begins in spring), but Earth times also center us throughout the year; during the first and last week of each season, Earth element is present along with the energy of the element of that season.
A few more words about the heart as we come to the last part of the heart season of summer. Many of us are experiencing the realms of the heart more strongly at this time, whether through dreams, emotions, or more physical manifestions such as night sweats, mouth sores, insomnia, and others. Here are a few words to remind us about the heart time and heart spirit, or shen: joy, insight, inspiration, play, sweet and bitter, fire, blood, sweat, connection to universal spirit, sparks of the divine, highest self.
May is here, and this time of year welcomes the very beginnings of summer in Chinese medicine as well as various other traditions. The weather here is certainly feeling very summery lately too (at least at the time of this writing)! This time of year is dedicated to festivals of joy, fertility, love, and spiritual dedication in many cultures.
As we talked about in the last blog, the organ connected with Spring is the Liver in Chinese Medicine (see Early Spring Blog for more info). As we journeyed through the spring festivals of Passover and Easter this year, I thought about the connection between the themes of these festivals and the Liver. Both festivals celebrate transformation, liberation, a radical departure from what has been (oppression, entrapment) into what ismiraculously becoming (freedom, renewal, resurrection).
Spring is here! Blossoms, bulbs and buds. This time of year is thought of in many traditions as a time of earth's "quickening" -- that time in pregnancy when one first begins to feel the life within moving. This is the time when the sap is beginning to run in the trees, when things that were dormant begin to show new green leaves, buds, flowers. In the Chinese calendar (which is lunisolar), Spring usually begins in the early part of February, with Spring Equinox representing the mid-season rather than the beginning.
Many people have asked me about this name for the clinic. The truth is, it came to me while I was sleeping and then it stuck around. Manzanitas are beautiful trees and shrubs native to the California coastal ranges and foothills. I have grown up loving their amazing radiant reddish wood that is in a constant state of evolution and transition, their incredibly graceful twisty turny dancing branches, laughing leaves and their scented white and pink blossoms.
Manzanita is open. Manzanita Wellness Clinic opened in November with a lovely open house. Thanks to everyone who attended for all of the support and enthusiasm for the clinic!