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Summer Solstice & The Facts of Life

Instructions for living a life.  

Pay attention.  Be astonished.

Tell about it.

~~ Mary Oliver

Greetings to all my precious people!!

The Summer Solstice officially arrived on Thursday June 20 at 4:50 pm EDT, with a reminder to celebrate the nourishing light of the Sun that sparks within each of us.  I had the privilege of walking along the Connecticut shoreline as the first glimpses of sunlight streamed into the sky.  Most of my early morning was spent in quiet reflection, listening to the birds sing as the waves gently arrived on the sandy beach.  My rescue dog Amber exhibited Solstice exuberance, leaping, frolicking, and rolling in the clover-filled grass.  The yang energy of movement and heart-centered joy filled the day.  How did you celebrate the “longest day of the year”? 

For centuries, people have recognized and honored the annual phases of the Sun by building monuments like Stonehenge, located in Wiltshire, United Kingdom.  When the Sun’s first light breaks through the darkness on the morning of the Summer solstice day, it hits Stonehenge directly in the center, lighting up each pillar like a magical horseshoe. 

Many ancient monuments and temples also align with the four phases of the Sun showing the importance of these times for civilizations across the globe. Newgrange – Ireland, Chichén Itzá – Mexico, Machu Picchu – Peru, Chaco Canyon – New Mexico, The Jantar Mantar – India, and The Karnak Temple – Egypt are some examples of significant structures honoring the Sun and its movements across the heavens.  

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the Summer Solstice marks a period of peak yang energy, representing warmth, growth, and vitality. It is a time to nourish the heart, calm the mind, and most importantly, have fun!

This Summer Solstice brings a theme of seeking clarity, balance, support, and inspiration about the path forward. It is a time to take action, expressing your deepest heartfelt desires, so that you may embrace life’s abundance.

Traditional Chinese Medicine associates Yang energy to warmth, light and expansion, and it is during the Summer months of increased temperature and extended daylight hours that the expansion of consciousness and states of being are supported and manifested.  The additional sunlight hours encourage us to nurture the creative vibrations that not only course through the human body but are mirrored in the natural world of growth.  

Summer is the season to celebrate the natural cycles of bounty, expansion, growth and maturation – look at those gardens bursting with colorful flowers and nutritious vegetables!  Feel the warmth of the Sun, connecting to your own internal energetics of fire and inspiration.  Enjoy the opportunity to spend time with loved ones, nurturing the heart-centered relationships that correspond to the Fire element in Chinese Medicine.

Key Concepts in TCM Related to the Summer Solstice:

  1. Yang Energy: The summer solstice is the height of yang energy. Yang is one of the two fundamental forces in TCM (yin being the other). Yang is associated with heat, activity, brightness, and outward movement. After the Solstice, yang energy begins to decline as the days start to shorten.
  2. Balance of Yin and Yang: While yang is at its peak during the summer solstice, TCM emphasizes the importance of balancing this with yin energy to maintain health. Yin is cooling, calming, and associated with rest and inward movement. Excessive yang can lead to heat-related conditions such as irritability, insomnia, and inflammation.
  3. Seasonal Health Practices:
    • Diet: TCM recommends eating light, cooling foods to balance the external heat and yang energy. Foods like watermelon, cucumber, mint, and green tea are considered beneficial. Avoiding heavy, greasy, and spicy foods can help prevent internal heat accumulation.
    • Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is crucial to support the body’s cooling processes and maintain fluid balance.
    • Activity: Gentle activities like tai chi and qigong are encouraged to harmonize the body’s energy without generating excessive heat. Outdoor activities are beneficial but should be balanced with rest, especially during the hottest parts of the day.
  4. Herbal Medicine: Certain herbs are used to clear heat and support the body’s yin energy. Examples include chrysanthemum, mint, and honeysuckle.
  5. Acupuncture and Moxibustion: These therapies can help balance the body’s energy. Acupuncture points may be selected to clear heat and nourish yin, while moxibustion might be used more sparingly during this time to avoid adding more heat to the body.
  6. Emotional and Mental Well-being: The heightened yang energy can affect emotional states. Practices such as meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises can help maintain emotional balance and reduce stress.

Specific TCM Recommendations for the Summer Solstice:

  • Wake Early: Aligning with the natural cycle of the sun, TCM suggests waking up early to take advantage of the abundant yang energy in the morning.
  • Rest in the Afternoon: During the hottest part of the day, taking a short rest or nap can help the body recharge and prevent heat exhaustion.
  • Evening Relaxation: As the day transitions to night and yang energy declines, winding down with calming activities can support the balance of yin and yang.

Summer is all about expansion. It’s a time for growth, creativity, and outward activity, as well as a time to be joyful, easygoing, and free of grudges. These months mark the pinnacle and maturity of all that was planted and sprouting before, as well as the season of free flow between the inner self and the outside world.  Allow yourself to move freely, breathe deeply, and encourage your energies to flow with ease and joy during the Summer months.  Remember that seasonal attunements with acupuncture can also help support your balance and immune system … so consider making an appointment to nourish your Fire during July and August!!

Over and above the Solstice, beyond the moments of transition from Spring to Summer, as we move from the “longest day” to the “darkest night” we are all on a Path heading in one direction:  walking each other home, as Ram Dass gently reminds us.  Let us commit to standing in wonder, to seeking out moments of quietude – simply just to be – during our busy days.  Let us be kind to our Selves, let us take hope in the future, let us be reminded that LOVE is needed, and necessary.   Let us do our best work by sharing LOVE and exhibiting LOVE in our day-to-day lives.  Do take a moment to read the following poem, and click below to listen to Pádraig read his own words.  

Written by Pádraig Ó Tuama

That you were born
and you will die.

That you will sometimes love enough
and sometimes not.

That you will lie
if only to yourself.

That you will get tired.

That you will learn most from the situations
you did not choose.

That there will be some things that move you
more than you can say.

That you will live
that you must be loved.

That you will avoid questions most urgently in need of
your attention.

That you began as the fusion of a sperm and an egg
of two people who once were strangers
and may well still be.

That life isn’t fair.
That life is sometimes good
and sometimes even better than good.

That life is often not so good.

That life is real
and if you can survive it, well,
survive it well
with love
and art
and meaning given
where meaning’s scarce.

That you will learn to live with regret.
That you will learn to live with respect.

That the structures that constrict you
may not be permanently constricting.

That you will probably be okay.

That you must accept change
before you die
but you will die anyway.

So you might as well live
and you might as well love.
You might as well love.
You might as well love.

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