“To offer our hearts in faith means recognizing that our hearts are worth something, that we ourselves, in our deepest and truest nature, are of value.”
― Sharon Salzberg, Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience
In Chinese Medicine, the phase of summer is associated with the heart and the fire element. Our heart allows us to experience joy, intimacy, and connection.
The ability to connect with others and create appropriate intimacy is one of the most important aspects of a healthy life. If someone’s fire element is out of balance, they may become lonely, isolated, or depressed due to a lack of connection. The other side of this, which can be equally unbalanced, is the person who is constantly out and about, making dozens of friends and engaging in promiscuous behavior. This can lead to burn-out, as well as depression and loneliness due to an inability to authentically connect.
One of the foundational aspects of my life and practice has been lovingkindness meditation, or metta, a form of meditation that is based on offering unconditional love to oneself, one’s loved ones, and even the more difficult relationships in one’s life. When I learned lovingkindness it changed my outlook on life in a pretty radical way. In addition, it completely changed my ability to love and honor myself, my family and friends, and the world at large.
We offer lovingkindness to others only when we have developed true lovingkindness for ourselves. I think this is especially relevant in the summer months when we are more naturally inclined towards spending our energy on connections with others. It is important to have a core sense of kindness for oneself, otherwise relationships, especially romantic ones, can be fraught with difficulty.
Summer is not a natural time for a lot of introspection. It is the most active “yang” season of all, and so it’s healthy to be out in the world, making connections, nurturing existing relationships, and expressing ourselves.
However, if you feel like you are out of synch with the natural party that is going on all around you, it might be good to examine how you are connecting, and whether your fire element may be out of balance. Signs include anxiety, heart palpitations, mental cloudiness and restlessness, depression, extreme highs and lows of mood or energy, loneliness and burnout. If any of these are issues for you, it might be a good idea to look into how kind and loving you are being toward yourself.*
Often when we really look at this, we discover some deeply held beliefs about our self-worth that are contributing to us being pretty nasty to ourselves. Once we notice these patterns, we begin to slowly open to kindness and non-judgment for ourselves. When we have established the groundwork of loving ourselves, we can begin the process of truly connecting with others. This is really hard, and so we must be patient with ourselves, and always kind!
If you are interested in learning more about lovingkindness meditation, you can listen to a 45 minute instruction by Sharon Salzberg, here: There is also a great written instruction for lovingkindess on Jack Kornfield's website, here, and the seminal book on this topic is called “LovingKindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness” by Sharon Salzberg—available on Amazon or at your local bookstore.
*Getting acupuncture regularly can also help balance and restore these types of imbalances!