July 14, 2022
Student Spotlight: Summer Self-Care with Sarah Siegel
Summer is in full swing, with warm and sunny weather, outdoor events, and lots of opportunities to be outside connecting with friends, family, and community. In the Bay Area, we are so lucky to have such beautiful weather, especially during summer, that you can’t help but smile! When we think about summer, our AIMC community and students think about Five Element Theory, and how summer is represented by fire.
We were lucky enough to connect with one of our current students, Sarah Siegel, whose work with her “With the Seasons” Instagram explores the art of seasonal living, narrative medicine, and inspiring people to connect with the Five Elements. Seasonal living for our health is rooted in indigenous values and East Asian medicine wisdom. Seasonal living practices are documented over 2,000 years ago in the Su Wen of the Huangdi Neijing, a seminal text for the foundation of this traditional medicine. Seasonal living connects us to nature, but also allows for us to pay attention and respond to what is happening inside of us. The Su Wen says:
“The 3 months of summer are called prospering and developing the flower. The qi of Heaven and Earth intertwine, the 10,000 beings flower and bring forth fruit. At night, one goes to bed, at dawn one gets up[…] This corresponds with the summer qi. It is the way that maintains the growth of life. To go countercurrent would injure the heart, causing, in autumn, intermittent fever, through an insufficient supply for harvesting. When winter comes, the illness will get worse.” -Su Wen, Chapter 2
We were so happy to speak to Sarah, and are excited to share her tips on thriving during summer, some prompts for reflections and intentions as we look to the next seasonal phase of our lives and calendar year.
Reflections for the Season
Sarah’s beautiful work focuses on the seasonal phases, and how we start, end, and transition through seasons. Each season she offers intention prompts guiding us on how we can set ourselves up for the next season. Sarah shared her reflection of summer transitioning to a brief late summer, and then leading into fall. Is our behavior today nourishing our tomorrow? How are we taking care of ourselves in such a way that is nourishing for what is to come? Here some prompts you can use to reflect on how you are engaging the with the abundant Qi of summer:
- When was the last time you experienced exuberant joy? Think of ways you can continue to spark this feeling during the summer season.
- Who is your favorite person to share your time with? Take a moment to come up with some keywords that describe this relationship.
- Have you let a relationship of yours fall through the cracks? Consider reaching out to this person to rekindle a connection or spend some time journaling to provide closure.
- Make a list of your favorite summer activities. What is the quality of each one – are they yang (active) or yin (restorative)?
Fire Activities for Summer
The fire element is rooted in joy and connection, and even the quality of fire can teach us something about activities that uplift fire aspects during this season. Sarah shared that observing the movement of fire can tell us something about the season.
“Fire dances, the flames dance, and they reach out towards you. And so it’s about connecting…The bonfire is that great example of bringing warmth and community.”
Bonfires and connecting with those we care about during summer time brings about joy, which is associated with this season. Sarah also shared some great questions for thinking about how to cultivate and share joy through connections. “Connection is the thing we have the most energy for this season… Even if we’re an introvert, how can we expand relationships? If we’re a natural fire element, how can we deepen the many relationships we already have?”
Food and Nutrition
Sarah also shared some tips for the ways we can nourish our bodies during summer, a time when we want to preserve moisture and maximum nourishment during this season, since the warmer temperatures tend to cause us to sweat more. She recommends seasonal foods with higher water content, like cucumbers and tomatoes. (Check out one of our recent blog articles with a recipe for a delicious summer cucumber salad from Dr. Nishanga Bliss!) Eating raw foods in East Asian medicine tends not to be recommended, but lightly sauteing food helps retain some moisture.
Acupressure and Ways Stimulate the Fire Channels
Acupuncture and acupressure treatments can also support the summer season and fire element. All of the fire channels flow through the arms & hands, reflecting our capacity to connect and communicate. Sarah shared that Heart 7 and Small Intestine 3 are two of her favorites right now. Heart 7 is the Earth point on the Fire channel, meaning it can provide nourishment to the heart and help calm over-excited Heart and mental energy. “Heart 7 is a great one for anxiety. I just did the Small Intestine 3 the other day, which is the opening point for the Du channel. So we can think of this as giving us a stronger backbone with our relationships and our goals.” Since Heart 7 and Small Intestine 3 are both on your hands, they’re easy to find and press on yourself!
As our students are nearing the end of the Summer term, and we are looking ahead to Late Summer and Fall, Sarah left us with some questions to think about and look ahead. “Is it possible to overdo it in summer? Are we burning out? Are we borrowing from tomorrow just to get through today? That’s the biggest lesson summer can teach us is to not burn through our energy so quickly [since] we’re only halfway through the year.”
Sarah is passionate about integrating Chinese Medicine with Narrative Medicine. The Five Elements are a powerful tool for self-discovery. Through Five Element journal prompts, she uses the principles of Narrative Medicine to bring health and healing in a lasting, yet ever-changing way. Seasonal living requires us to check-in, set intentions, and reflect on the journey as we move through each seasonal phase of our individual lives and the calendar year. To learn more about Sarah’s “With the Seasons” work, and to explore more of her narrative journal prompts on your own, you can check out Sarah’s website, and her Instagram @withtheseasons.