Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer and the Fire Element

Introduction

The season associated with the Element Fire is Summer.  It is the time of year when Yang reaches it’s peak.  Growth slows down and plants flower and crops ripen.  Nature soaks up heat and energy form the sun in preparation for a good harvest.  The qi of Heaven and Earth intertwine.


Heaven thus bears witness to the gift of life that it communicates to the 10,000 beings, especially through the growth of vegetation.

Larre, Claude & De La Valle, Elizabeth Rochat (1994) The Way of Heaven p 110


It is also worth noting however that whilst Yang reaches it’s peak during summer, after the summer solstice that Yin starts it’s ascendancy.  The preceding season of Spring and it’s associated Element Wood need the warmth of the Fire Element to bring all it’s activities to bloom.


Nature too, flings wide its arms as the trees unfurl to their greatest height, and all growing things reach their maturity.

                                                                Franglen, Nora (2001) Simple Guide to Using Acupuncture p85

The days are longer and allow us the space to get a days work done and still have time to socialise with friends and share the longer evenings.  Not only is nature showing it’s rich colours but people will dress is bright and lighter clothing.  We are more open and relaxed.  We can be more present and after the hard work of the Spring have more of a sense of freedom and have the time to enjoy this with our friends.


There is such a profusion of wonderful colours, sounds, smells and tastes that it should be impossible not to enjoy and find happiness in them.

Worsley, J.R. (1998), Classical Five-Element Acupuncture™ Volume III The Five Elements and The Officials p5


The primary correspondences for Fire are listed in Table 1.


Season
Summer
Colour
Red
Sound
Laughter/Lack Of
Odour
Scorched
Emotion
Joy
1st Yin Official / Zang Organ
Heart
2nd Yin Official / Zang Organ
Pericardium
1st Yang Official / Fu Organ
Small Intestine
2nd Yang Official / Function
Triple Heater
1st Yin Official Peak Time
11am – 1pm
2nd Yin Official Peak Time
7pm – 9pm
1st Yang Official Peak Time
1am – 3am
2nd Yang Offical Peak Time
9pm – 11pm
Climate
Heat
Sense Organ/Orifice
Tongue / Ear
Tissue/Body Part
Blood & Blood Vessels
Residue
Hair
Taste
Bitter
Direction
South
Fluid Secretion
Perspiration
Power
Maturity
Table 1 – Fire’s primary correspondences


The Fire Element within us provides us with the gifts and capacities to support our body, mind and spirit by providing us with ability to communicate with the spirits of those around us. To be able to love and to establish relationships.  There will also be challenges to face.  Some of these gifts, capacities and challenges are discussed in the next sections of this paper. 




Gifts & Capacities

Below is a brief discussion on some of the gifts and capacities that the Fire Element brings to our lives.

Love and Joy
The Fire within us fires our spirit and allows us to share in the spirit of the divine spark which is present everywhere.  It flows through all our relationships.  It enables us to set aside the blocks we have in our egos and to reach the heart of everyone.  This in turn is a source of great joy in us, which in turn gives us the energy and enthusiasm for fun in our work, duty and play.

Warmth
The Fire Element provides us with an ‘inner sun’ which gives us the physical warmth we need to survive.  This heat helps the blood in our veins move more quickly, speeds up or digestive process and assimilation of food along with all the chemical processes, which maintain our life.

Communication
The tongue and power of speech is under the control of the Fire Element.  This allows us to communicate our emotions and thoughts.

Clarity of thought
The Fire Element lights up and fires the mind with enthusiasm.  At the mental level this expresses in lively and keen intelligence and in the ability to have clear thought and memory.  The essence of this notion is captured through the use of the word ‘bright’ to describe someone with a balanced Fire Element.

Understanding
This characterizes and encompasses all the gifts previously listed.   Taking time to listen and empathise with others with a honest exchange of thoughts and feelings is a sign of maturity and is a wonderful experience for all involved.  When we feel understood we can experience a soothing balm for whatever energetic imbalances we have.


Challenges

So whilst there are many gifts and capacities which the Fire element bestows to us we need to be aware that the love warmth from the Fire within us is given in an appropriate measure and within proper boundaries.  If left unchecked that same energy can scorch and destroy life.


The fire in a furnace warms a house, whereas in the forest, out of control it wastes and destroys the land .

 Beinfield Harriet, Korngold Efrem (1991) Between Heaven and Earth A Guide to Chinese Medicine p 178

On a physical level a serious Fire imbalance will manifest as an excess of heat which can show as a red face and red skin.  A person may have a thirst and all the secretions which keep a body moist may dry up.

If on the other hand someone has a weak ‘inner sun’ there will insufficient heat in their body.  On a physical level symptoms of wet and coldness will be present.  Their blood may be slow and cold and their face will appear drab due to lack of blood flow.

In terms of communication a Fire imbalance can result in a disturbance in a persons ability to speak and communicate as the power of speech and tongue under Fire’s control is affected. 


Everything which flows to make speech possible stops at source, and with no energy to drive it the tongue weakens, the voice falters, and the mind and spirit seize up.

Worsley, J.R. (1998), Classical Five-Element Acupuncture™ Volume III The Five Elements and The Officials p31

Too much heat can result in everything overheating and moving a great deal too quickly.  Words can tumble out if control and race away.

A Fire imbalance can also drive people to be desperate to be understood.  They may appear selfish and attention seeking as they search for someone who knows exactly how they feel.

A Fire imbalance can also affect how open or closed a person is.  This is a function of the Pericardium discussed in more detail later in this paper.  A person may go about wearing their heart on their sleeve or in the other extreme never dare to expose themselves for fear of losing love or loosing themselves.  They will feel vulnerable and frail.


The saying ‘laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone’ might have been written by a Fire type.

Hicks, Angela & Hicks, John (1999) Healing your Emotions p 62


Associated with the Fire Element we have the Heart (Xin) , Small Intestine  (Xiao Chang), Pericardium (Xin Bao) and Triple Heater (San Jiao) Officials. 
Their role is discussed in some more detail in the next sections of this paper. 

The Heart (Xin) Official




The Heart holds the office of lord and sovereign.  The radiance of the spirits stems from it.

Su Wen, Ch. 8



The Heart is often referred to as the Supreme Controller.  Its role is as an emperor in the kingdom of the all the Officials in the body.  Whilst there is an interdependency between all the Officials the Heart is important because it governs every other Organ.  If the emperor is calm and well, the Officials can carry out their respective charges and functions.  If the emperor is disturbed or unwell the Officials are unable to function well.

The Chinese character for most Organs, contain the ‘flesh’ radical, indicating that the organ is part of a physical body.  The ideogram for the Heart Official, xin, has no ‘flesh’ radical and instead shows a space.  This illustrates that the Heart is not just a muscle to pump blood but that the space where our shen, or mind-spirit resides.  The heart is more to do with ‘being’ than with ‘doing’.
This is reflected in the two aspects of the Heart jin (the Heart as lord and sovereign) and zhu (this authority at work) 



At the center, there is nothing but emptiness, the only possible shelter for the spirits.  Sovereign of the being and pivot of life, the heart is the guarantor of the unity of a person’s existence.

Larre, Claude & De La Valle, Elizabeth Rochat (1995) Rooted in Spirit – The Heart of Chinese Medicine p174





The Shen is said to have 4 functions:
1.      To make us fully conscious – in the sense of being physically and emotionally self aware
2.      To help us think clearly – to be able to think a problem through with a clear objective and to speak coherently
3.      To have a good memory – this is in the short term sense of not being absent minded and knowing where are keys are of remembering the name of the person we just met
4.      To sleep well – especially being able to drop off to sleep quickly and sleep deeply

The functions of the Heart are listed in Table 2.

1 It governs Blood
2 It controls the blood vessels
3 It manifests in the complexion
4 It houses the Mind (Shen)
5 It is related to joy
6 It opens into the tongue
7 It controls sweat
Table 2 – The Functions of the Heart -  Maciocia, Giovanni (2005)
The Foundations of Chinese Medicine p 107

The Heart’s authority is exerted through the Blood (Xue) and through the life-giving network (the mai).  The Heart communicates it’s orders to the zang through the Pericardium (xin bao luo)

Some examples of points on the Heart meridian, which describe their possible application in supporting the body, mind and spirit and also reflect their relationship to the Fire Element, are listed in Table 3 below:

Point
Title
Example point application

HT 5

Penetrating Inside
Opens into the tongue.  Good for stammering. 
If they’re “dying of loneliness”.  Bring warmth from the heart to Mind/Body/Spirit.

HT 7

Spirit Gate
Use this point for nourishing a Fire CF.  Takes this person back to the safe place of the source.  Has the virtue of Heaven when used on any CF.  Use when the spirit is willing but the body cannot go – “I really want to but…”.
Table 3 – Example of points and their application on Heart meridian



The Small Intestine (Xiao Chang) Official





The Small Intestine is responsible for receiving and making things thrive.  Transformed substances stem from it.

Su wen, Ch. 8



The Small Intestine is the Yang/Fu organ of the Fire Element.  It provides an extremely important function of “separating pure from impure”.  This separation takes place at the level of body mind and spirit.  On a physical level this Official supports us by extracting pure Qi energy from the food we consume, however polluted or inappropriate this may be.   On the mind level this Official supports us be helping us separate the simple values we need for our lives from the glut of information that is thrown at us on a daily basis.  On the spiritual level it helps us to know the proper path we need to take, our Tao, and also gives us our sense of natural justice.


In this lies its connection with the essence of Fire, for by using the heat of the fire to transform Qi energy in this way and keeping nothing but the clean and the pure and discarding the impure, there is maximum joy in our lives.  The warmth and love of which we are capable is not tainted by corruption or wickedness.

Worsley, J.R. (1998), Classical Five-Element Acupuncture™ Volume III The Five Elements and The Officials p130

The functions of the Small Intestine are listed below in Table 4.

1 It controls receiving and transforming
2 It separates fluids
Table 4 – The Functions of the Small Intestine -  Maciocia, Giovanni (2005)
The Foundations of Chinese Medicine p 191

Some examples of points on the Small Intestine meridian which describe their possible application in supporting the body, mind and spirit and also reflect their relationship to the Fire Element are listed in Table 5.

Point
Title
Example point application

SI 1

Little Marsh
To help patient sort out appropriate and inappropriate.  A marsh offers fertility.  Involves separating the pure from the impure (alchemy).

SI 5

Yang Valley
Pulls the arm Yang points together.  Helps with mental clarity and seeing the right path.  Revitalizes the essential elemental essence of the II Official. Help a person who is weak in spirit and unable  to cope.  Build the spirit and calm mania/anxiety.
Table 5 – Example of points and their application on Small Intestine meridian



The Pericardium (Xin Bao) Official





Tan Zhong has the charge of resident as well as envoy (of the Heart).  Elation and joy stem from it.

Su wen, Ch. 8


The Pericardium is seen in Chinese medicine as something that protects the heart not only physically, but also emotionally.  It will function to do it’s best to prevent us from experiencing a broken heart!.  It is likened to an imperial bodyguard!.  The Pericardium’s capacity to protect the heart depends on how healthy and balanced it is.  Like all organs during our childhood it takes time to mature.  A child will love unconditionally from the moment it comes into the world.  Over time it realises that some people are less friendly and others even dangerous.  The people around the young child help it to develop an emotional awareness to love appropriately and in turn nurture the development of the heart protector function of the Pericardium.


In addition to the Heart’s openness, there are other internal factors that in excess, strain the Pericardium’s managerial energies; these include: Wood’s directionality, Metal’s propensity to “let go,” the Water’s chaotic drive and power.  The Pericardium must restrain and regulate all of these forces so that there is no outpouring of energy beyond what one receives.

Hammer, Leon (1990) Dragon Rises, Red Bird Flies p203

The Pericardium is also responsible for all internal and external sexual secretions.  In this regard it has a close relationship with the ming men.  This reflects its role as much as an ambassador as a guard in that it helps to distribute and dispense the warmth.  Also in its role as ambassador it takes charge of all the other Officials by passing on the light of the spirits of the Heart (the shen ming).

Some examples of points on the Pericardium meridian which describe their possible application in supporting the body, mind and spirit and also reflect their relationship to the Fire Element are listed in Table 6.

Point
Title
Example point application

PC 1

Heavenly Pond
Gives a new perspective when life has lost its sparkle.      If spirit is dry, a divine bath. If shy/withdrawn/cut off in relationships.

PC 8

Palace of Weariness
Tonifies the Heart and the Heart Protector.  Reinvigorates Fire.  If isolated, feeling cut off.
Table 6 – Example of points and their application on Small Intestine meridian

The Triple Heater (San Jiao) Official





The Three Heater is responsible for the opening up of passages and irrigation.  The regulation of the waterways stems from it.

Su wen, Ch. 8



The relationship of the Triple Heater to all the other organs in the body is indicated in the ideogram for the Jiao which shows the all of the elements of the body linked together and joined on a central stem.  There is also a fire underneath, providing the warmth necessary for life processes.  The three  Jiao divide the torso of the body into three areas with each corresponding to certain internal organs.  The Upper Heater (Shang Jiao) ‘contains’ the Lungs, Heart and Pericardium and lies above the diaphragm.  It’s primary function is receiving Qi energy and distribution of protective Qi (Wei Qi).  The Middle Heater (Zhong Jiao) ‘contains’ the Stomach, Spleen, Liver and Gall Bladder and is responsible for rotting, ripening and transforming the Qi energy.  The Lower Heater (Xia Jiao) ‘contains’ the Small and Large Intestine, the Kidneys, and the Bladder and is concerned with separating the pure from the impure energy and expelling wastes. 

The Three Heater is responsible for maintaining an even balance of heat between the Three Jiao and also between the whole body and it’s environment.  This is often likened to the western medicine concept of homeostasis.  Without this even temperature within each Jiao the other Officials could not work at all.  If this Official is in imbalance the effects are going to be felt by all other Officials.   Emotionally the Three Heater helps prevent us from blowing ‘hot and cold’ in our relationships so that we maintain a balanced emotional temperature.

The functions of the Triple Heater are listed below in Table 7.

1 It mobilises the Original Qi (Yuan Qi)
2 It controls the transportation and
    penetration of Qi
3 It controls the Water passages and the
    excretion of fluids
Table 7 – The Functions of the Triple Heater -  Maciocia, Giovanni (2005)
The Foundations of Chinese Medicine p 209

Some examples of points on the Three Heater meridian which describe their possible application in supporting the body, mind and spirit and also reflect their relationship to the Fire Element are listed in Table 8.

Point
Title
Example point application

TH 18

Feeding Meridians
The intermediary between the Ming Men and the source points.  Sends Yuan Qi to the source points.  Can be used on any CF.   Feeds ALL meridians.

TH 12

Relax and Enjoy
Let the sun warm your bones.    Relaxation that creates joy and happiness.  When burned out and in need of a vacation.
Table 8 – Example of points and their application on Three Heater meridian

Conclusion
In conclusion in this paper we have looked at the importance of the energetic of the Fire Element, which provides us with the key ability to understand.  The Heart Official along with its three ministers are the means by which the light and warmth of the spirit are kept alive in us!

Finally below are some suggestions for tending our Fire during the Summer season:

  1. Have fun on a regular basis.  Make this a priority, which may require we schedule time for fun!
  2. Share some of yourself with others.  Take time to listen.  Look inside your heart and find out what you have to give to others unconditionally.
  3. Live your passion, whatever it may be, e.g. song writing, hill walking, photography.  If you don’t know what your special passion is, be willing to admit that you don’t – in the meantime, stay amused and keep looking!
  4. Get physical.  Get into your body and out of your head.  Love, exercise, dance, run, play.  Get your circulation going.   














References:

Beinfield Harriet, Korngold Efrem (1991) Between Heaven and Earth A Guide to Chinese Medicine
New York: Ballantine Books

Franglen, Nora (2001) Simple Guide to Using Acupuncture.
Kent, England: Global Books Ltd.

Hammer, Leon (1990) Dragon Rises, Red Bird Flies
Barrytown, New York: Station Hill Press, Inc.

Hicks, Angela & Hicks, John (1999) Healing your Emotions
London, England: Thorsons

Larre, Claude & De La Valle, Elizabeth Rochat (1995) Rooted in Spirit – The Heart of Chinese Medicine
New York: Station Hill Press

Larre, Claude & De La Valle, Elizabeth Rochat (1994) The Way of Heaven
Monkey Press

Maciocia, Giovanni (2005) The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, 2nd Ed.
Churchill Livingstone

Worsley, J.R. (1998) Classical Five-Element Acupuncture™ Volume III The Five Elements and The Officials.
J.R. & J.B. Worsley


Bibliogrpahy

College of Traditional Acupuncture (2005) Blue Group S2005 Session Thirteen Notes.

Connelly, Dianne M. (1994) Traditional Acupuncture The Law of the Five Elements.  2nd Edition.
Maryland, U.S.A.: Tai Sophia Institute

Hicks, Angela; Hicks, John; Mole Peter (2004) Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture
Churchill Livingstone


Kaptchuk, Ted J (1983) The Web that has no Weaver.
London: Rider

Veith, Ilza (2002) The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine.
London: University of California Press, Ltd.

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