Strength in Softness: Heart Medicine

 

Beloved survivors of an endlessly complicated world, how are your hearts feeling? 

It is all about heart medicine right now as we travel deeper into summer. From a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) perspective, the special gift of summer (in the Northern hemisphere) is the energy of fire, which allows us to open our hearts to both give and receive warmth. 

Often during this fire element time we wake up early, go to bed late, and long to soak up as many of those daylight hours as possible. Brimming, bursting, blooming during this most yang of yang time of year, we are a field of sunflowers with our seed faces loyally following the path of our daytime star. 

But this summer is different. Our wide open hearts that crave freedom, activity, and play are strangely confined. Physical distancing is keeping us more lonely and stuck, with climatic moments of frustration and fatigue. Existential stress keeps some part of us on guard, wondering what will come next. At times even fun may feel tiring, our flower heads wilted in the midday sun. 

How are we actively recuperating right now, remembering to pour the libation of rest into our centers? Here are some suggestions on how to engage with this fire element time with purpose and presence:

  1. Choose at least one activity per day that reminds your nervous system that everything is okay in this present moment. Don’t just wait for this feeling to float your way because most likely it won’t (especially given all of the messages we are getting from the media right now).

2. Take afternoon naps in a darkened room. Even lying horizontal for 10 minutes counts. This is one of my favorite activities in the depth of summer because the dark-quiet strengthens the yin and settles the yang. 

3. Go to water, the opposite element of fire. Creek, river, pond, lake, ocean, bath, it doesn’t matter. Water has a deeply nutritive, stabilizing impact on us now.

4. Use the medicine of rose. Rose is THE flower to soothe the heart. The plant spirit of rose reminds us of the mandate of our life’s essence. It teaches us strength in softness. Easing a cracked, hardened, or abandoned heart, rose can be used in so many ways:

  • High quality rose oil diluted with a neutral carrier oil can be rubbed into the chest between the spaces of the rib cage. It can be applied to the wrist creases at the start of your day. It can be rubbed into your hair after a cool shower. 
  • Use rose oil in a diffuser anytime of day or spray your body or linens with rose water.
  • Ingest it through rose infused honey, candied rose, or rose soup, a Nordic culinary tradition. It is very high in vitamin C!

5. Use writing as a vehicle of heart support. Here are two writing prompts for this time:

  • Where in your life are you inflamed right now, physically or otherwise?

With a sense of duality, the word inflamed could mean “to set on fire with passion” but it could also mean redness, swelling, warmth. Too much of something.

  • Where is my source? 

Sitting in stillness, making time for self-reflection, search for your source. What does this mean to you?

 

All around you nature calls for a savoring of this summer beauty. Inquiries hum from the meadows, asking you to stop pushing yourself towards a sense of endless productiveness. Swaying grasses vibrate with authentic summer joy. 

May you remember that you are part of the heart of nature.

May you remember to open and breathe through your heart in ways that feel safe to you at this time. 

May you remember your heart as the divine dreamer who sees beyond the constraints of our current time.

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