There is so much transformation going on during this epoch time on earth, it is beyond words. The gift of qigong is that it gives us tools to embrace the flow of change by aligning our energy with nature. When we are in harmony with nature, we are in harmony with our true nature which brings vitality, love and wisdom. A simple way to do this is to choose qigong practices that correspond to the four seasons.
During summer in the Northern Hemisphere, yang energy is rising to its peak expression which is on the Solstice, June 21. As I begin summer qigong practices, I realize there has not been a more critical time for humanity to expand our capacity to love and be loved. This expansive energetic support is one of the many blessings of summer qi. I say, bring it on!
The Energy of Summer—Expansion
The Chinese character for the word summer, xia 夏, is an image of a man standing under the scorching sun. Summer is the Great Yang (Tai Yang 太陽) when the days are longest, and the nights are shortest. The consistent heat of summer ripens the fruits of our hearts, creating the sweetest and juiciest energy of the year—joy and love.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, summer is the peak of nature's expansion, so it is the best time for us to express the most yang aspect of ourselves. It's the time to live life to the fullest, nourish our spirit and dare to go places we have not gone before. Summer's sunshine invites us to go outside and to be more active through movement and play. While in winter we should sleep more to nourish yin, in Summer we can get away with less sleep but still remembering to always tend to the needs of our individual state of health. Dynamic relaxation, joyful flow and laughing qigong are beautiful characteristics of summer practices.
Energetically, summer is also a powerful time for transforming energy. The element of summer is fire. In our body, fire connects to the heart fire that resonates the human force of unconditional love and acceptance. Therefore, many qigong practices for summer come from spiritual qigong traditions that focus on internal alchemy; the process of transforming and refining our vibration to its highest potential.
Your Summer Qigong Practice
Physically, summer qigong practices focus on the organs of the fire element. The heart and small intestine cultivated through qigong are all beneficial to regulate the physical aspects of the heart.
The heart is a major pump that ensures a constant circulation of oxygen rich blood to all parts of the body. The average heart beats 100,000 times per day and pumps about 7,200 liters (1,900 gallons) of blood! Every cell must relax and contract in a precise rhythm for the heart to keep us alive. One tiny hiccup can disrupt the electrical signals causing a heart attack or stroke. The relaxation, rhythmic movements, and patience cultivated through qigong are all beneficial to regular the physical aspects of the heart.
Although the element of the heart is fire, too much fire or heat disturbs the heart. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, when heat collects in one area of the body this is called "fire poison," otherwise known as inflammation. Summer, being the hottest time of the year, has its own two pathogens called summer heat and summer damp heat. The symptoms of summer heat are dizziness, confusion, lack of sweating after profuse sweating, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle cramps, and fainting. Summer damp heat symptoms include nausea or vomiting, poor appetite, stuffy chest, heavy or fatigued limbs, and diarrhea. In extremely hot summer weather, it is important to dress lightly, drink lots of fluids and take care not to physically overexert yourself. Practice qigong early in the morning or later in the evening.
Emotionally, your practice will focus on the emotions of summer—transforming impatience or hatred into acceptance and compassion.
The heart is the emperor of our emotions. In Chinese language, the heart is such an important aspect of our consciousness that is has its own mind called the heart mind (xin nian). The heart mind perceives situations based on feelings and emotions. This is in contrast to the conscious mind, yi nian, that perceives based on rational logic. Regulating the xin nian to be coherent with the yi nian is fundamental to our evolution and spiritual growth.
The heart is affected by all emotions. As we learn in The Six Healing Sounds practice, the five primary emotions are anger, hatred, worry, grief, and fear. Hatred is the most destructive emotion for the heart. Hatred and impatience create heat and a violent movement that causes energy to rise and leak out. Qigong flows that balance the heart transform hatred and impatience into love and joy.
When negative emotions are transformed into positive virtues, the heart becomes a cauldron of spiritual alchemy. As the positive virtues combine in the heart center they are further refined into the ultimate spiritual energy, compassion. Compassion is a vibration that exudes a quality of magnetism: it touches others and is reflected to the person expressing the emotion.
Energetically, summer supports your ability to transform and transmute your vibration.
The heart is the residence of the spirit (神) and its spiritual goal is eternal happiness through meaningful and intimate connection with the world. I feel that the quarantine situation of COVID-19 has reminded us of the simple joy in connection with others and is opening up many hearts that had become numb over the last decade. This disruption in the previous program is also creating a powerful shift in the collective that is taking place through the heart center.
Surrounding the physical heart at the center of the chest is a reservoir of qi, called the Middle Dantian or heart center. A Dantian is an area in the body where qi gathers, is refined, transformed, and stored. The energy generated here is the vibration of love and compassion. When the Middle Dantian is weak or stagnant we feel irritated, unfulfilled, rejected, hypersensitive, shy, disturbed, lonely and miserable. When the Middle Dantian fire is strong and radiant we feel loving, compassionate, awake, patient, understanding and are open to love and be loved. Compassion means "with passion." The compassion frequency fuels us to experience life in every possible reality, to accept all beings and circumstances with pure love and awareness.
The Middle Dantian is the gateway between the physical realm and spiritual realm and the process of refining energy through the Middle Dantian is called internal alchemy (Nei Dan). Alchemy is to transform one frequency of energy into another frequency. According to the Dao, we are refining our energy to return back to its original frequency that vibrates with the original source of unity consciousness.
This is an original article by Marisa Cranfill. Her videos Six Healing Sounds and Qigong for Stress Relief, and 5-part series, YoQi Qigong Flow for Happy Organs, will be available fall 2020 published by YMAA Publication Center.