The Heart of Summer

This article was original published one year ago, and it’s one of our all-time favorites about summer and the fire element. Enjoy, and Happy Solstice!

A few days ago I was out in the sun in a beekeeping suit for hours, lifting frames of comb that were heavy and dripping with honey. We had to damage the bees’ work because they had “cross-combed” some of their frames together (built comb that bridged multiple “drawers” of their hive), so they were buzzing around us angrily and dive-bombing my face. It was getting very toasty in my suit, and then I started feeling my heartbeat in my head. I turned to Briana and I said, “I think I might pass out.” 

I remembered a cooling technique one of my first yoga teachers taught me: you curl your tongue and inhale slowly through it like a straw, then exhale through your nose, and repeat. I don’t know if that’s what did it or if it was the Great Bee Spirit yelling into my mind, “Get it together, man! Do NOT drop that box full of thousands of bees!” I am happy to report that I didn’t faint and we finished our work without incident. 

That convergence of tremendous heat and the beating of my heart reminded me that it’s a good time to revisit the lessons of the Fire Element. Fire presides over summer, when the Sun – the quintessence of Fire – is closest to us. In the human body, each element is represented by an internal organ. Can you guess what the main Fire organ is? 

I’ll give you a hint. It’s red, it’s constantly pulsating, and it radiates its influence over the whole body. It’s the heart, of course – the sun of the human being. Over the past couple centuries, the brain has largely displaced the heart as the organ people think of as most important – but it would be worthless without constant, uninterrupted blood flow from the heart. 

In traditional Chinese medical philosophy, each organ has a position in the community of the body-mind, and the heart is considered to be the Emperor/Empress. The ancient Daoists had a lot of wise things to say about leadership (see the classic, Dao De Jing by Lao Zi), and I think these insights are especially valuable at this time – particularly in the U.S. where recent years have brought intense sociopolitical division. 

The role of the superior leader, Lao Zi wrote, is to integrate, to allow all parts of the kingdom to feel included. Before the throne of the superior leader, everyone is heard; no one is stifled or invalidated. As the Fire organ, we could say it’s like allowing the light and warmth of the sun to spread to and encompass the farthest reaches of the solar system. Even a planet as distant as Pluto is still held in the Sun’s grasp. 

The role of the heart as an organ is the same – it wants to circulate its blood to all parts of the body. If there’s something sick or objectionable, like a sore on the foot, it doesn’t exclude the foot from its circulation. While that might kill the foot and eliminate the sore, it wouldn’t be real healing. 

The heart is considered to be the portal by which Awareness (Shen) enters this body and mind. I consider the term Awareness here to be synonymous with Light of Consciousness, Holy Spirit, God, Love, or whatever word feels best to you. Let’s use Love for the moment, since it doesn’t push as many buttons as “God” and it shares a lot of qualities with Fire. 

Until about 100 years ago, Fire (as the sun, campfires, candles, etc.) was the sole source of light and warmth in our world. When we open our hearts to Love, we feel a similar inner light and warmth. Love could be considered the heart’s greatest power. Love, like Fire, is a unifying force. People of all kinds and in all places look up to the same one light and are sustained by it. And though all manner of things can be fed into a fire, they become one homogeneous pile of ash – all differences rendered indistinguishable. The same is the case for Love. 

The heart works best when it’s open. An open heart lets love and awareness through. An open heart is inclusive. But we’ve all closed our hearts many times. We do it as a reactive defense mechanism in order to not feel pain or other undesirable feelings. We do it whenever we refuse to accept some aspect of reality (like white supremacists or human trafficking, to name two of the hardest). Sometimes we believe it’s best not to feel at all – because that will make life easier or will make us strong and manly. So the heart remains mostly or entirely closed. Is it any wonder that the main cause of death is, essentially, closure of the heart and its vessels (we call this stroke, heart attack, and other forms of cardiovascular disease)?

The physical implications of closed hearts are relatively minor, though. The psychospiritual implications are where this habit hits us hardest. What are we left with when we exclude Love, Light, and Spirit from our lives? It’s like restricting ourselves to seeing just one color (it’s called Pantone 448 C, by the way). It makes us think of the world in terms of “us and them.” It causes us to focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right. And it enables us to be willfully ignorant (but not entirely ignorant) of the impacts of our choices on other humans and the planet. 

I believe the work of the heart (through the power of love) is absolute inclusion. Feel everything. Accept everything – even the things you’re working to change. Accept everyone – even those you condemn (they have something to teach you about your shadow). This is not an invitation to bypass the work before you. It’s a call to step into that work with an open heart. 

If there’s something you don’t like about the world, or a person you find difficult, consider the likely outcome of rejecting or excluding them. How would you respond to being condemned? Like the sick foot, does this person heal through exclusion? 

Find the parts of your kingdom (within and without) that you have excluded, and let your love rush into them. If there’s something you don’t like, begin with inclusion. Say, “I completely love, forgive, and accept myself – even though I have this {issue that I find objectionable}” or “I completely love, forgive, and accept you – even though I disagree with your views {or even condemn your actions}.” You may even find your heart saying, “Even though I must stop you from harming others, I completely love, forgive, and accept the essential being that you are, and I welcome the healing of your mind and the re-emergence of that essence.” 

Saturate and envelop, and draw into your heart, the orphaned and rejected elements of yourself and the world. I believe this is our soul work; this is how we heal the world. 

Be well,

Dr. Peter Borten

2 thoughts on “The Heart of Summer

  1. Thank you for the perspective. This article on an open heart and your article on racism are so poignant. I have literally stopped to think and journal my thoughts, my weaknesses, how I can be better.

  2. That’s great, Sophie! Thanks for sharing.

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