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....
This is a most intriguing union. Heart, Fire, Sun, Shen Spirit, as we've talked about (see previous summer/heart blogs in archives), really represent our highest spirit self in Chinese medicine, and our strongest spirit connection with universal spirit/divinity. Earth, of course, is our most tangible embodiment of matter. Our earth self is rooted to this soil, intimately interconnected with the web of nature; physical, embodied, material. Even though some of the qualities connected with Spleen and Earth are to do with mind and emotion, the ways we relate with these qualities are evocative of physical bodily matters. (Such as rumination-- literally “chewing it over”, and sympathy--“feeling with”). The Spleen/Stomach/Earth element also rules digestion, in Chinese Medicine, another place where emotion and body often intersect. In fact, in much earlier Chinese medicine, the Heart was actually thought to be part of the Stomach system.
Emotionally, the Heart is associated with Joy, and the Spleen with something like rumination (including contemplation, overthinking, and worry) or sympathy (including caring, giving, and overgiving), as mentioned above. The Heart when deficient manifests as anxiety, vulnerability, mental ungroundedness. When in excess we see mania, ungrounded joy. The intersection of Heart and Spleen could look like vulnerability and worry, but on the other end of the continuum this intersection can translate as joy and caring, as lovingkindness.
The union of Heart and Earth, spirit and matter-- isn't this where we are most essentially human? Navigating the joys and anguish of the spirit world while remaining present and inextricably connected with the body?
An interesting doorway to this conversation between Heart and Earth is the world of plant spirit medicine. This is an acknowledgement of plants as our spirit helpers and allies. On the one hand, we have the millennia of ancient and recent discoveries about the various healing properties of so many wonderful plants, on both physical and mental/emotional/spiritual levels. This knowledge is an amazing foundation and of the utmost importance. I also, at the moment, want to talk about another avenue of exploring the world of plant spirit. This route, as described by Eliot Cowan and many other dear teachers, is the one in which we connect with a plant from our very own heart/ spirit, and communicate with it ourselves.
For example: Going into the woods, the wilderness, the swamp, your backyard, the botanical gardens, etc. Perhaps you meditate first, or enact some other sacred ceremony for the work. You wander, and let yourself be drawn to a particular plant that calls you. Or maybe you just sit, and a plant appears in your mind. You sit, or maybe you move, with this plant, just feeling its essence. You explore color, texture, shape, smell, perhaps taste. You listen, and feel. Perhaps you write, or draw. You let your mind relax and open to receive the communication of the plant. What healing does this plant offer you in the moment? What personality, what possibility? Does it speak of present, past, or future, of your own spirit/body or a loved one? Maybe the words are not clear, and just a feeling comes through. Or, perhaps a spice or an herb just speaks with you as you are cooking with it. One way to connect our heart and earth spirits.
Of course, there are many! Cultivating Joy (the emotion of the Heart) with any expression of our lives as Earthlings, such as gardening, spending time in the wilderness (and wilds of the human heart!), drumming, dancing, fires outside. Many qigong practices harmonize Heart and Earth. One easy practice is to feel your open, joyful heart, and visualize your heart smiling radiantly to all of your other organs and the other organs smiling back.
Walking in the hills today, the sun shining and the sky blue, little wild chamomile flowers poked their heads up from the ground like little suns. With their delightful apple-like fragrance (in Spanish they are called manzanilla), and quality of calming the spirit and helping with digestion, what a sweet harbinger of the very early summer. And roses too.... Roses move Liver qi in Chinese medicine. Liver is connected with Spring (Wood element), and it's spirit aspect, the Hun, is another example of our unique human position "between heaven and earth", thought to be our "ethereal soul" (more on this in blog archives). Roses are also emblematic of the Heart and unconditional Love, so they are a delicious bridge between Spring and Summer. Also, to take it even a little further, roses represent the divine feminine, another possible representation of physical embodiment of spirit.
All of these musings just as a very humble offering to open the doorway to Heart spirit time, as we are present with our feet planted in the earth; discovering the abundance of Joy on Earth and living our lives as Earth beings with Heart.
With a deep heart of gratitude to all of your beautiful hearts, Shoshana