Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

The Season of Joy

This continues our series about the associations made in Chinese medicine and qigong between the five major organ systems and five elements. These associations are expanded to include associations with emotions, energies, animals, colors, sounds…and seasons. In this series, I’ve tried to highlight a few of the associations that you might enjoy contemplating.

Fall was the season of courage and gathering energy. Winter was the season of stillness and storing energy. Spring was the season of forgiveness and expanding energy. Now we arrive at summer, the season of joy and release.

Summer begins with the summer solstice. Just as winter begins with the return of the light as days gradually lengthen through the dark cold months, summer begins with the gradual fading of light as days gradually shorten through the hot sunny months. I’ve always loved that balance. Each solstice plants the seed of the next.


The organ associated with summer is the heart. While other organs might be doing critical work to keep our bodies alive, it is the heart that gets all the glory. I don’t recall many odes to livers and kidneys, and lungs rarely inspire poetic rhapsody. But hearts…. Hearts are the target of cupid’s arrows, the seat of wisdom, the source of endless description and metaphors.

Hearts break and heal. And pump. At my daughter’s first ultrasound, when she was barely pregnant, all I could see on the screen was a tiny blob. Within that blob was an even tinier fluttering. That, said the technician, is your baby’s heart.

The first visible movement of life. And all through our lives it is the one organ that we can hear and feel with a sensory awareness that leaves other organs in the shadows. When we hold someone close, we can sometimes feel each other’s hearts beating. Hearts never cease to fascinate and amaze.


Not surprisingly, the element associated with summer and the heart is fire. I ran across an ad recently for the “world’s most perfectly cut diamond” with the trademark name “hearts on fire.” Fire can be destructive, to be sure, but it is also beautiful. It gives warmth and light. It purifies. Like the heart, it spawns poetry and metaphor. And myth.

It captures our imagination and attention. We meditate with a candle. We sit around a campfire with friends, laughing when we realize that we are all staring into the fire as we sing and chat.

Fire also releases energy as it consumes its fuel. The energy associated with the heart is the energy of release. As kids are released from school, we release our daily routines and go on vacation. Fire releases its energy in an upward movement as heat rises. Our hearts feel lighter and more carefree in the summer.


As stated before, the emotional associations are often categorized as positive or negative, but don’t think of this as good or bad, but more like a polarity, or a balance. With fire and the heart, we think of a warm heart as beneficial, but a hot heart or a cold heart is not so desirable. When I lived in Thailand, where the climate itself seemed to be on fire most of the time, having a cool heart rather than a hot heart was admired.

The negative and positive emotions associated with the heart are reflected in the nature of the fire element. The negative emotions are hastiness, cruelty, arrogance, hatred. The positive emotions are joy, creativity, enthusiasm, honor, and of course love. Since I spent so many years studying and writing about happiness, I especially appreciate the joy that softly glows in a heart with healthy, balanced energy.

We are not always happy in a tra la la kind of way. But a healthy heart center is open, embracing, accepting, loving. It connects us to others in relationship, to our world in gratitude, to the sacred in union.

The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe. ~Joanna Macy

Bonus–If you want to get in the spirit of summer, watch this video! Make sure the sound is on. Guaranteed to make you smile.

6 thoughts on “The Season of Joy”

  1. "The season of joy and release . . ."
    Thanks to your enlightening post here, Galen, I'll never look at summer in negative terms (always have dreaded the heat that comes with this season). Instead, I will embrace it, opening my heart and welcoming the beauty I see around me.

  2. Each season brings its gifts and its challenges, doesn't it? Sometimes when I'm really tired of the rain in the winter here, I remind myself that it is our abundance of water that makes the Pacific Northwest so lushly green! (I think I made up that word–lushly–but I like it!)

  3. Thank you, Galen. The quote by Joanna Macy reminds me of one by Mary Oliver – "I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world." And the song "Anthem' by Leonard Cohen – there is a crack in everything/that's how the light gets in.

  4. Thanks, Mona, for the additional inspiration. The last one reminds me of the statue titled Expansion which depicts a woman seated in a lotus position with cracks all over her body through which light shines. So the cracks are not only where the light gets in–they are also where the light shines forth from inside. Look up some photos of the statue if you are not familiar with it. Whether the light is coming in or out, I love the idea that the cracks which we often see as defects are in fact the openings for light. Amazing. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Oh this cute video did make me smile. We love our dog Sammy and he is always doing something to make us smile. He is so smart.
    You post was so enlightening and I really like the correlation between the 5 major organ systems and 5 elements. It all seems to flow together in an orgnaized manner. I really liked the thoughts on summer, the heart and fire as it kind of flows into the emotions. I will enjoy contempleting on these thoughts for the season of Summer. You always stretch my thoughts and I often ponder upon your writings.
    Sending loving thoughts and hugs your way!

  6. Thanks, LeAnn. I have found this correlation really fascinating. It does indeed flow together in a way that helps me be more aware of my body and its systems, and how those systems connect me to the world around me. Always nice to hear from you!

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