Summer is almost here in Western New York, a wonderful season that warms everything and brings folks together. It’s no wonder, given that Fire is the Element Chinese Medicine associates with Summer. Also, in Chinese Medical principles, the Fire Element influences our relationships and how we connect to ourselves and with others, fueling the joy we feel—or don’t feel.
Living through the pandemic has shown that whether we’re extroverted or introverted by nature, we need connection. Without connection in our lives, in all its myriad forms, we suffer. Even the ascetic, solitary yogis engaged in long-term, solo retreats, need someone to periodically bring them food and water.
Think about a tiny spark lighting dry kindling placed on a campfire that bursts into flames. Just a single touch is all it takes to start a beautiful, roaring fire. Sharing joy is just like that.
In contrast, it’s easy to recognize when the fire’s gone out. There is a lack of joy and connection in our days, often leaving us feeling depressed and lethargic. Instead of reaching for medication, which Westerners tend to do all too quickly, our ancestors knew the best way to uplift and heal one’s spirit was to be physically active and to engage with warm and friendly people.
Summertime gives us the opportunity to connect with relative safety, especially if we’ve been vaccinated. So, why not share your joy? Everyone needs an uplift, small or large, at least once in a while. And some people do rely on others, consciously or not, to feel their own excitement and joy. Reconnect with nature, too! Walk or bike a trail, climb a peak, swim a lake, or sit by a pond and soak up the feeling of pure joy and connection nature provides for us.
You’ll know when joy’s present because so is laughter—the sound Chinese Medicine attributes to the Fire Element. Are you the person with rippling, effervescent giggles, or do you roll on the floor with deep belly laughs? Let your laughter be one of the infectious sounds of summer that fuels joy!
The range of emojis we use to connect digitally are a great depiction of the range of smiles and laughter.
The summer of love starts within.
The pandemic isolated us from each other physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. With all this pent-up energy, the search for romantic love will most likely burn hot this summer, like a bonfire! While the Fire Element plays a significant role in sexuality (a topic for another time!), it’s also about nurturing the love of self and all other beings, a much grander endeavor.
Self-love starts with being happy, even amid a pandemic. Where does your happiness come from? I’m not talking about momentary pleasure like eating an ice cream cone or enjoying sweet frozen grapes. Instead, what lights your fire? Where do you find your bliss? You'll find the answers within. Filling your reservoir of innate happiness gives you the power to dissolve and transform the hardness and harshness of life and keeps the inevitable disappointments you experience in perspective.
The best instruction manual for happiness I know of is THE ART OF HAPPINESS, authored by an expert in the field of human emotions, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the Living Buddha of our times. In spite of enduring abject hardships from an early age, he is known throughout the world for his infectious laughter.
The COVID Connection
When a butterfly flaps its wings in India, can the consequences be felt in Texas? The “Butterfly Effect,” a term coined in the 1960s by meteorology professor Edward Lorenz at MIT, supports the idea that tiny changes could result in significant good or bad consequences.
Our experience during the COVID-19 pandemic makes one thing clear—we are all in this together, one human family inhabiting our home, Planet Earth. The inescapable truth is that humans and all living beings depend upon one another in countless and untold ways.
Fortunately, humans are an amazingly resilient, creative, innovative, and adaptive species that can shift the tides, if they choose.
In the United States and other nations, the 2nd year of the Covid-19 pandemic has been much better managed with more people getting vaccinated, making it much safer for everyone. With countries cautiously loosening travel restrictions and reopening borders, the desire to return to normal and reconnect with loved ones is inescapable.
Despite so much hope in the air, the dramatic and shocking resurgence of the pandemic this spring in India, Nepal, Thailand, and other areas of the world should stop us in our tracks. This devastating news is a reminder that the pandemic is not over, and that we cannot let down our guard.
Actions you can take now!
Dedicate your prayers with the specific intent to help the people of India and South Asia. More than ever, we must remain prayerful that more people will get vaccinated, and those countries will share any vaccine surpluses with lesser organized areas of the worlds in need. We pray for the willingness, strength, and courage of those who are able to do whatever they can to help others in need.
Donate money for Covid-related needs, such as vaccinations, ventilators, protective clothing for healthcare workers, and oxygen. In addition to being as generous as possible, give wisely! To maximize the impact of my gift, I check the organization’s Charity Navigator rating to determine if most of the money goes to those in need versus administrative costs. I support 501c-3 organizations like Mercy Corps or Doctors Without Borders, so my donations are also tax deductible in the United States.