A discussion on the balance between self care and community care from a chinese medicine perspective.
When I first started writing this piece last month I couldn’t help but feel some what fraught. And to a degree still do.
We are in limbo. Awaiting a summer that was supposed to be here a month ago. Awaiting a political change on a national and European front, a global environment crisis. We are in flux.
A time when we see ‘self care’ on every corner. We are urged to take time to be with ourselves and nourish our own self. And whilst I have written many a piece about how important this is I can’t help but feel we are missing an additional point.
By continually stressing the ‘Self’ are we not heading more and more towards developing a nation that only looks inwards; that just looks at the self? And by doing so are we reducing the importance of external relationships; relationships with our families, communities and our planet?
I read a great piece about ‘community care’ as the new ‘self care’ and I couldn’t agree more.
As I reflected, it fitted hand in hand with the understanding of the summer season in Chinese Medicine and the importance of the balance between ‘self’ and ‘relationships’.
Summer is a time of joy.
Summer is the outward expression of energy, expansiveness, movement and activity. It is the most yang of the seasons and is ruled by fire. Life and energies are at their peak.
Many look forward to summer all year round. The weather is hot and the sun is out, improving people’s moods and people are drawn outdoors to participate in all the activities they have been longing for all winter. Plants grow quickly, people are full of energy and the body’s qi and vitality are at their peak. It is a time to cultivate the yang energy (fire), while making sure that it does not come to excess.
This is a time to nourish our spirits, realize our life’s potential, finding joy in hot summer days and warm summer nights.
Summer is the time for heart energy; it is about following the path of your desires and happiness.
When the heart is balanced, the mind is calm and we sleep deeply and wake rested. When the heart is imbalanced, we may lack joy (which manifests in depression) or have an excess of joy (mania or manic behaviour). Some indications of a heart imbalance are nervousness, insomnia, heartburn and confusion, red complexion, poor memory and speech problems.
Emotionally, because the heart is connected to our spirits, summer is the best time to heal emotional wounds that we have carried with us from our pasts. Healing these wounds frees up space that we can fill with love, joy and happiness and ensures that we will not carry our old hurts with us into the future.
The emotion connected with summer and with the heart is Joy. Joy not just in yourself but also in our relationships with others. Paradoxically we live in a world where we are more connected to each other than ever before through the wonders of Internet and social media. People are forming friends and relationships and even living entire lives through their computer. However every year we see increasing numbers of people with anxiety, depression and loneliness. How can this be so? Whilst we may be more connected to people at the other end of the line, we are in fact more isolated. Evenings and weekends spent trawling the Internet instead of socialising with friends and meeting others. We can be so mentally focused that we are left feeling burnt and disconnected. We are shutting down the heart energy of both giving love and joy and receiving love and joy.
We often tend to step up a gear in summer months. Doing lots of activities and tasks. Being busy, busy, busy.
But if we continue at this pace then we will burn out our reserves for the winter months.
So how can we find balance? How can we nourish ourself in the season of self love and happiness, but at the same time nourish the part of you that needs social interaction and community spirit?
Try and shift your mindset from making endless summer plans and tasks to living in the moment and being spontaneous.
Think about what feeds your soul? What nourishes you? Do more of that. What makes you feel energised? Build more of this in to your life. Live your passion.
Make time for your local community, neighbours and friends. What can you do to give back? If there is a local fair on or an open day pop down and show your support. Schedule it in to your diary to make sure that you push yourself to go. Try doing a random act of kindness and just watch how that makes you feel. Receive that love.
Then on activities that you have set yourself, such as tidying up your garden, be mindful during the task. Slow it down and relish in what it is you are doing.
It is important to take time to stop, pause and reconnect with the beauty of nature and the powerful effect that the sun has on all living things.
Soak up the sun on our skin, soak up the qi from taking a long walk on the hills, soak up the joy from spending good quality time with friends; nourish our heart energy and we become more happy and satisfied with ourselves and our surroundings. By looking after ourselves and our communities in summer it puts us in great stead for the months ahead in autumn and winter when we will need to tap in to the energy we have conserved.
Try some of these things. Try all of these things if you want! Have a think about your relationships both with yourself and your friends and your community. Give yourself a little push if you need it. Make use of that yang energy and push ahead; you may surprise yourself. You may flourish. And everything flows easier when you flourish.