We experience Fire, one of the elemental powers, most fully in the season of summer, the time when young energy that arose in the spring expands to its maximum potential. We, who are part of Nature just as surely as all that surrounds us, can enhance our own health by understanding the special functions of the hottest of all the seasons. Through this awareness we can help balance our own Fire energy.
When Nature’s energy flourishes and blossoms in the summer, it is time to enjoy the fruit from the seeds we have planted and the visions and plans we have made. If a tree doesn’t flower and bear fruit, there can be no harvest; for us, similarly, if we do not allow ourselves to flower during this season, we will deprive ourselves of a late summer harvest to carry us through the year. Autumn, the season of letting go, will be all the more difficult for us if we haven’t experienced the fruition of our hopes and plans.
Summer's special gift - the energy of Fire - allows us to give and receive warmth. By giving and sharing, we build our own Fire, open our own flower, and bring more of the summer sun to the world.
When Fire is deficient
According to Chinese traditional medicine, the Fire element manifests in our body through the heart, small intestine, pericardium, and the function known as the triple heater,which regulates internal body temperature. Imagine a few of the myriad symptoms that can arise if our inner Fire is deficient: chills and numbness of the extremities, impaired circulation of the blood and bodily fluids, and menstrual, urinary, and sexual dysfunction. The lungs can lose their ability to expand and contract fully and easily, resulting in poor oxygenation of the blood, coughing, and nasal congestion. We may experience sluggish digestion, abdominal pain, and watery diarrhea because the digestive organs lack the heat needed to process and assimilate nourishment.
When Fire is excessive
At the other extreme, excessive heat can result in painful inflammation of the joints, hypersexuality, chronic infections, dryness of the lung, inflamed throat and sinus, burning diarrhea and urination. Excess heat can also dry out the stool and cause constipation. Affecting the heart, an excess of Fire can cause anxiety and sleep disturbance.
Fire affects the amount of fluid in the body: Too much heat dries up our internal reservoirs and waterways, and at the other extreme too little heat can result in an excess of fluid. Menstruation, sexual secretions, lubrication at joints, digestion, and metabolism, to name a few, reflect and depend upon the balance of our Fire element.
Fire at the spirit level
On a deeper level, the Fire element expresses itself as joy and manifests within us as love, laughter, and enthusiasm. During summer, the season of maximum expansion, we can become aware of ourselves at our fullest. Drawing on the expansive warmth of Fire we can reach out and relate to the world like a flower opening.
The ancient Chinese recognized the connection among the energetic powers they called Five Elements, and they understood which specific power manifests most strongly in each phase of the cycle of seasons. The special capacity of spring, for example, is the power of birth, as seen in the emergence of new life - the beginning of the growth cycle. Summer holds the power of maturity: In summer, the buds of spring mature into full flowers and now are able to share their pollen to make more flowers. With us, it is the same: Only in the fullness of maturity do we have the inner abundance and self-sufficiency to truly share with others.
Before maturity we are dependent on others. In the springtime of our lives, we depend on our parents and peers for our survival and a sense of identity. Then as our powers blossom, we move to the next phase of the cycle. As Oscar Ichazo points out in his profound book, Between Metaphysics and Protoanalysis, "Maturity, of course, arrives in our lives when we become self-sufficient, when our identity becomes determined exclusively by ourselves." Within such fullness of maturity we can share love unconditionally. It follows that the well-being of our relationships is very much a function of the health of our Fire: When Fire is balanced within us, we are able to give as well as receive warmth and delight in the company of others.
When our Fire is low and we experience no inner "blooming," we feel the lack of something to share - joy or compassion, for example. Though we might crave these qualities, our relationships may be fraught with anxiety and fear of rejection. We may be sexually frigid and inhibited, shy, or emotionally cold and easily hurt, or even overly dependent on our partner. Without the knowledge of who we are in the strength of our flowering, we can neither enter into relationships fully nor express our true selves. Instead, we plan and calculate our moves defensively, then present an image of ourselves that isn't truthful, which only perpetuates the fear of eventually being "found out."
At the other extreme, a Fire imbalance can manifest as being stuck in overexpansion like a never-ending summer: too hot, too much, the perpetual clown, always laughing, always joking, always talking, always "on," never allowing a decrease.
How is your Fire?
Just as a healthy plant naturally produces flowers, a healthy person produces a healthy Fire. When our Fire is healthy, it responds appropriately to meet the tasks at hand. Like a thermostat, it knows when and with whom it can be warm and open, and when and with whom it needs to be more protective.
How is your Fire? Is there joy and laughter in your life? Are friendships important to you? Did you grow up in a warm family? Was it cold? Hot and cold? Hardhearted? Brokenhearted? How are love and sex related for you?
Know that in summer the energy of Fire supports you in enriching your enjoyment of life, your relationships, getting closer, opening outward, being receptive to others. Your flowering may not be as bright or as big as you want, but remember that every flower is different and unique, necessary and perfect for where it is. There will be another summer; in the meanwhile we will have many chances to open, to extend compassion, to forgive. While we all need love, the sick need it most - not only the physically ill, but those who are suffering in mind and spirit.
We've looked at the sadness and emptiness of a Fire imbalance, but any of the Five Elements in distress will produce its own brand of suffering. All of us can respond with love: By giving and sharing we build our own Fire, open our own flower, and bring more of the summer sun to the world.
How Acupuncture helps balance our Fire
Classical acupuncture utilizes hundreds of points along the energy pathways of the body to create harmony and balance and generate what is lacking in body, mind, and spirit. Virtually every point has its own unique and profound power, appropriate to a patient at the proper time. I illustrate the following points in the context of the Fire element to which they belong. The point names suggest the special treatment potential in each:
Heart 1, "Utmost Source"
Our flowering as individuals is possible only because we are part of Nature: we are sustained continually by the same immeasurable energy that supports all of creation. If unaware of this essential truth, we can feel isolated and spiritually cut off, uninspired, fearful, empty, and disconnected from life. When the acupuncture point "Utmost Source" is used at the right time, it can reestablish our connection to the Divine and can awaken us to the security provided by the current of love that permeates existence.
Small Intestine 16, "Heavenly Window"
The small intestine in Chinese medicine is termed the sorter of the pure from the impure. Physically, this organ separates nutrients from the waste in the food we eat. Similarly, the enormous amount of mental and emotional input we absorb daily undergoes an "ordeal by fire" that separates what is useful from what is not. Sometimes mental pollution overwhelms us faster than we can process it, and we begin to view the world as negative and hopeless, a despair that then may affect the body. When the "Heavenly Window" is opened, light can enter and dispel that toxicity. We can begin to find within ourselves the clear space to expand into the joy present in every season - but especially so in the summer.
Ways to tend your inner Fire
- Have fun on a regular basis, even if you have to work at it at first. Make it a priority - schedule your fun, if that's what it takes. Don't compromise. Consider fun as important to your well-being as work or anything else you do.
- Give of yourself to others. Take the time to listen. Take the risk of dipping into your own heart and finding what you have to give to others unconditionally - then just do it.
- Live your passion, whether it be the church choir, rollerblading, preserving the environment, or writing poetry. If you don't know what your special passion is, be willing to admit that you don't. Meanwhile, stay amused and don't stop looking. When you find that great interest, dive into it wholeheartedly and enjoy!
- Get physical. Get into your body and out of your head. Love, exercise, dance, run, play. Get your circulation going.
Copyright 1997 by Neil Gumenick