Love is the essence of our humanity and what makes life worth living. In Five Element acupuncture theory, the Fire Element within us is the foundation for love, trust and the ability to connect to others. Love makes us vulnerable, and to express it we need to feel safe.
In this extraordinary year of pandemic, we face unusual challenges and real threats. Social distancing, necessary for safety due to COVID-19, keeps us from gathering in community. It reduces physical presence and touch with those we love. At the same time, intense social disruption and political polarization tear us apart with fear, hatred and anger. When we feel threatened, we shut down. We are hijacked by fear and the acute stress response (fight-or-flight).
More than ever, we need the power of the Fire Element to help us reconnect and love. Here’s some insight into why and how the Fire Element can help us heal.
Love and the Fire Element
Love, empathy, joy, ease, play, laughter, warmth and connection are the realm of Fire. Human beings are social animals by nature. We need each other to survive. Healthy development and maturation, from infant to adult, depends entirely on the nourishment and love given to a child by those who care.
The Fire Element governs our ability to form healthy relationships, and to create communities of trust. In other words, the Fire Element is closely related to the human social engagement system – the neurological platform that we access every day when we connect to others, communicate and navigate relationships.
The Fire Element helps us to stand in someone else’s shoes. If we feel secure, we can engage with someone even when we disagree and feel angry. It keeps us from backing down into aggression, fear and hatred. It allows us to apologize, negotiate and collaborate for the common benefit.
Summer and the Fire Element
In the Five Element cycle, each Element relates to a season of the year. Summer is the season of the Fire Element. It’s not hard to see why. Summer bathes us in the warmth and light of the sun, the ultimate source of Fire. Life around us is at the peak of activity. Plants bloom, mature and begin to set fruit. Humans, too, enjoy the long, warm days. We delight in the color and activity of nature. We take vacations. Summer is the season for play, relaxation and vitality.
Normally, Summer is the peak season for festivals, weddings, outdoor concerts and other large gatherings. Not so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our instinct to be out and about, to gather and socialize, is thwarted by the priority for health and safety. Social distancing protects not only ourselves but others.
To learn more about the Fire Element in Summer, watch the video.
Chronic Stress and The Heart
The Heart is the seat of unconditional love, and a primary body system of the Fire Element. It is the Emperor of the body, mind and spirit. The Heart’s job is to keep the beat. It governs rhythm, order and harmony throughout the entire body. When we feel threatened, the acute stress response takes over to prepare the body for fight-or-flight. In fear or fright, we may feel our Heart pounding, or “skipping a beat.” Once the danger is passed, the Heart and the Fire Element restore rhythm and coherence, signaling that we are safe. The Heart brings us into the present moment, and lets us know that “we are ok now.”
This year, the entire nation is under chronic stress, with constant reminders of very real threats to our health and economic well-being. When the acute stress response is triggered over and over, fear becomes the emotional baseline. That makes it harder for the Heart to restore rhythm and signal safety, even when we are actually safe. Body and mind both suffer.
Four Ways to Restore the Heart and the Fire Element
Here’s a few ways that you can help the Heart to restore rhythm and express love, during the stress of the pandemic:
- Reconnect with nature. COVID-19 is disrupting the human world, but the rest of Mother Earth is doing just fine. The cycles of life continue. Spending time in green space – a park, garden or forest – is a natural, physiological calm and benefits mental health. We are part of the web of life, and reconnecting with nature helps the Heart restore rhythm and feel safe. Even something as simple as bringing a plant or flowers into the house can help.
- Practice mindfulness. Feeling safe means knowing “I’m OK now.” Any simple practice that brings you into the present moment – meditation, yoga, even a few deep breaths – reminds you that you are safe and alive in this moment.
- Reconnect through physical presence and touch. Our bodies respond to the natural rhythm of other living beings. We need it, and we can’t get it on Zoom or Facebook. If you have family at home, this is a good time to feel grateful and give them a hug. If you live alone and feel isolated, consider adopting a pet or fostering a shelter animal. Studies have shown that petting a dog stimulates a release of oxytocin, one of the “feel good” hormones, for both dog and human.
- Take time for creativity, play and laughter. Creativity, humor and play can break through isolation, worry and fear. Art and music connect us with ourselves. Amuse yourself. Take a time out from bad news.
- Alaine D. Duncan. The Tao of Trauma. North Atlantic Books, 2019.
- Stephen W. Porges. The Pocket Guide to Polyvagal Theory. W.W. Norton & Co., Inc. 2017.
- J.R Worsley. Classical Five Element Acupuncture, Vol. III: The Five Element and the Officials. 1998.