Your Taoist Summer Self-Care Guide

During the summer months (June 21 to mid-August.), nature is at its most expansive, abundant manifestation. The sun is high, food is plentiful, and all plant life is full of vital force. 

During summer, we can sleep less, go to bed later, and rise early to greet the day. It’s important, especially in these months, to remember to drink plenty of water because we tend to sweat more, heat evaporating water from our bodies much more rapidly than at any other time of year. If you find yourself feeling lethargic, foggy, or fatigued on a hot day, you are probably dehydrated.

The Taoist Five Element Theory teaches us that the element of summer is Fire, and in eastern medicine the energy of fire is connected to the heart and small intestine. Fire’s associated color is red, its flavor bitter, and its direction south. The Fire element is associated with the 7th Chakra and is ruled by the planet Mars. It is the most Yang of the five elements, containing a direct connection to Spirit and enlightenment. The hours of the day when the Heart is most active are between 11am and 1pm, with the small intestine being from 1-3pm.

The Shen (or Spirit) lives in the Heart and is the channel for all spiritual transformation. It represents the heartmind and encompasses clear awareness, vital energy, and presence. Sparkling eyes and a bright spirit are signs of healthy Shen which connect to magic, intuition, joy, love, compassion, and inspiration. Shen governs sleep and memory, so if the Shen is disturbed there may be sleep disruptions, insomnia, and strange dreams or nightmares, making the eyes dull and veiled. Shen disturbances can also manifest as energy that is both charismatic and fiery, but unstable and unreliable, like a candle that burns bright but sputters out quickly. Physical symptoms may include heart palpitations, restless or hyperactive energy, and a lack of concentration or loss of memory.

In Chinese medicine the Shen is connected to Theos, or the divine manifestation in our humanity. Detoxing from digital noise can give mental hyperactivity a much needed rest.

Like Fire, Shen is easily roused. Calming activities such as adopting a mindfulness practice, chanting, praying, walking in nature, belly breathing, or sound healing can help restore Shen. 

The food we eat has a tremendous impact on balancing our mood, energy, and physical bodies. The particular foods and herbs listed below, when used in moderation, can both calm (cool down) and nourish (increase) Fire, depending on what’s needed. (That said, any kind of hot pepper, cayenne, or chili is stimulating and should be used wisely and not to excess.)

Foods that most enhance the Fire element are:

Grains —

Corn, maize, popcorn, amaranth, quinoa, and oats.

Vegetables — 

Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, chives, endive, okra, scallions, sweet and hot peppers, arugula, radicchio, sweet corn, mushrooms, cucumbers, and okra.

Beans and Pulses —

Red lentils and chickpeas.

Fruits —

Apricot, guava, strawberries, persimmons, peaches, cherries, raspberries, plums, kumquats, and tomatoes. 

Fish —

Shrimp, lobster, and crab.

Herb and Spices — 

Chilis, cayenne, curry, dill, cilantro, tarragon, and sweet and holy basil. (All spices in general are considered to be Fire enhancing.)

Miscellany —

Dark chocolate and cacao.. 

Beverages —

Coffee, wine, beer, green tea, and carbonated drinks.

Chinese Tonic Foods — 

Spirit poria mushroom, ginseng, jujube date, reishi, Tibetan rhodiola, schisandra fruit, lotus seed, and chrysanthemum flower. 

In a time when global reactivity has escalated to quicksilver frequency, healing and opening our hearts has become ever more crucial. Nourishing the Shen can have a profound impact on our vitality, our spirit, and our presence in the world. 

Jen Hoy is a holistic nutritionist, shamanic practitioner, and integrative counselor. Deeply committed to helping others by weaving cutting-edge nutrition with ancient healing traditions and transformational mentoring, she is the architect of a powerful paradigm for healing. 

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