The Fire of Summer
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, summer is characterized as the element of fire — a metaphorical expression of nature at the height of heat and expansion. A time of abundance, illumination, and activity, summer sets the stage for replenishment as we renew whatever was diminished in winter. We’re tasked with rebuilding the reserves of energy that have been depleted, and the connectivity that took a back seat to solitude. But in order to fully benefit from this sacred season, we must proceed mindfully. Too much fire leads to hyperactivity or restlessness; too little fire and we feel empty and apathetic; but when it’s balanced, fire brings joy, spaciousness, and infinite possibility.
Fire’s association with summer is part pragmatic rite and part communal tradition, The expression “slash and burn” comes from an agricultural practice used for cultivating more fruitful harvests in the future. The idea is to ignite fertility, rather than wait for passive destruction by leaving vegetation to dry in the heat and intentionally setting it on fire. The nutrient-rich, burnt ash blankets the bare soil and when the late summer rains descend, the crop is born again. Similarly, the smoke has been viewed by indigenous communities as a symbol of thoughts from the Earth rising above to be heard by a greater spirit.
Consider this interaction with fire as a metaphor for our internal lives. When something is burned it disappears, making room for something new, just as we need to release what’s no longer serving us, in order to make room for that which does.
The simple act of gathering around a campfire is one of our favorite seasonal rituals as it is both a physical and figurative venue for connection. In an anthropological study of conversations around the fire among the Ju/’hoan people of Namibia and Botswana, researcher Polly Wiessner observed that the majority of their time together was devoted to storytelling. She writes, “Stories told by firelight put listeners on the same emotional wavelength [eliciting] understanding, trust, and sympathy.”
A Fire Ritual for Renewal:
1. Gather, with loved ones, around a fire
2. Hand out small pieces of paper and pens, instructing each person to write down what’s no longer serving them, something they could do without, or even a habit that they’re ready to part with. This can be a drawing or even a single word.
3. In no particular order, whenever one feels ready, drop your paper into the flame and say farewell as you watch it burn.
4. Allow yourself to feel what rises with the smoke. Wait, in silence, until each person has dropped their paper into the flame.
5. Go around the circle and name what will occupy this newfound space. This can be in the form of an intention, a new daily practice, or even a single word that holds personal meaning.