While June 20, being the summer solstice, is widely regarded as the first day of summer this year, the summer solstice marks the longest day of the year but is not necessarily the best indicator of the first day of summer!
Traditional Chinese Medicine, a time-honored practice dating back to more than two centuries before the common era, follows the principles set forth in the Wu Xing, also known as the Five Element Theory. In the Wu Xing, we are given the dates for the four seasons plus "between season" periods.
Traditional Chinese thinkers were fond of pondering the cyclical aspects of nature with the repetition of days, moons, seasons and years as they observed the effects of those cycles on all living organisms. Humans, like animals and plants, are affected by nature’s cycles, so it is not surprising that the study of nature was the first basis in their understanding of vital energy. Knowing that there can be no effect without a cause, the predictable seasonal patterns pointed to the existence of a cause.
Unlike ancient Greeks and Egyptians who attributed cause to the whims of various gods, the Chinese simply saw chi (energy) as the mover of matter but not as a deity. They saw this energy being responsible for cyclical and predictable stages and changes. They evolved the more complex and subtle Law of the Five Elements which includes the energies symbolically named Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water and the multiple aspects of their interrelationship.
The ancient Chinese saw how the cycles of the seasons profoundly impact everything from weather to plants and crops, animals and even human mental well-being. They surmised that to each season corresponds a specific energy that influences all life forms. They concluded that in addition to the cyclical movement of yin and yang, there must also be changing energies causing, and therefore related to, seasonal changes. They subdivided yin and yang into five phases, also called elements that they named: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. These five phases are also known as the Wu Xing.
In the Wu Xing, summer begins May 7 and ends July 19. Shortly therafter and until August 6 is a "between season" period leading up to the Fall season.
According to the Wu Xing, the 72 days of summer is a period of swelling and flowering, full of energy and fire. The heart and the small intestine are the organs that require focus so that their function may be balanced and in harmony with the season. The emotionality of summer is exuberance and joy.
This summer, be sure to have fun and be joyful. Your time for seriousness comes in the Fall.