| June Journal |

I see you
Your suffering, your pain,
Your ecstacy and your weariness.
Your vulnerable beauty.
I extend my hand to you
I spread wide my arms.
I have not the medicine you are seeking.
Nor do I have any answers.
But as I hold you in my arms I begin to understand
That all this time my vision has been clouded
For the you I saw was really me.
And the pain I witnessed was just an outfit.
Your identity shattered with a thousand thoughts rolling down a staircase.
And with it, mine fell also.

Outside the window I see two vines growing.
Interwined they grow outwards in stillness.
Their roots sinking deeper than their leaves fanning above.

Outside the window I see us growing.

Seasonal Shift: Energetic Expansion

For many of us in the northern hemisphere, June is the dawn of summer. Frosty nights become memories and the birds begin calling us from our beds ever earlier and tempt us into staying out late. The upward moving dynamism of Spring has changed course, shifting into an opening, exansive energy. After the Spring time hustle to begin new projects and early stages of explosive growth, the warmer days now invite us to sink in and blossom in our endeavours. The rapid and often erratic energy of the Wood element begins to level out as we transition into Summer, the domain of the Fire element. During this seasonal transition Nature extends us an invitation to come out, be outside, feet on the earth, and to expand both physically and emotionally. We may naturally feel a call to be more open in body and mind. Summer tends to be the most social season of the cycle and our desire to be more socially active will reflect the blooming of the flowers and the jubilant singing of the birds.

As the healthy Wood element gives birth to the healthy Fire element, the work and self-inquiry that you have been doing throughout the Spring will serve as a platform from which to continue your path of healing, exploration and growth through the Summer months. Take time to sit with the seasonal shift and note how well equipped you are to step into the expansive, heart-opening element of Fire.

Both Āyurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine recognise Fire to be the element of Summer. The most yang, or active, of the elements, Fire has the qualities of heat, passion, transformation, activity, and brightness. The transformative nature of Fire is evident in Nature, as the Sun encourages petals to unfold, to stretch wide and fill the air with heady aroma. It is evident in the heat we use to cook. To transform a mixture of ingredients into a digestible meal. It is evident within the body: the light behind the eyes with the power of disernment - able to digest and process our experience; and in the digestive tract, where the Agni (digestive fire) stimulates the process of converting food into the building blocks of the body.

Fire seeks connection and stimulation. In balance, it is an energy of joy and loving relationships. If we consider the Winter as a time for diving into the soul - restoring connection with our spiritual practice and exploring the deepest realms of our inner being; and Spring as the season for entering into the head space - making plans, calcultating, discerning, energising; then the Summer is the time for entering into the heart space - broadening horizens, being open to new perspectives, having meaningful relationships and learning to listen with deep compassion. 

Modes of Communication: Deconstructing “Speech”

It is clear that the Fire element of Summer is strongly connected to our relationships and interactions with others. Language and speech are most often recognised as the most direct means of connection and communication between humans. Chinese medicine considers the tongue to be the organ most closely related to the fire element. The tongue is not only essential for taste but also indispensible for our ability to speak. Āyurveda differs here as it links the element of Fire with the eyes and the action of sight. The power of discrimination comes from the light behind the eyes that harbours much of our sensory understanding of the world. However, these two differing perceptions are not at odds with one another and both can be exemplified clearly in the qualities of the summer months. The sense of touch is also in vibrational alignment with the Fire Element, being another of the primary componants of our relationships, from handshake to tender embrace. It is by no chance that all of the Fire related meridians in the body are located from the hands along the arms, providing the medium for sensing the world and communicating the feelings of the heart.

I have already mentioned that the summer time is a time of increasing sociability. Our desire to be out in the world and communicating with others is heightened during these months as we expand out of our internal world to embrace the world around us. The relation here to speech becomes clear - the more we are out in the world and socialising, the more we tend to rely on our speech to form these bonds and connections with others. However, as with all of our sensory projections, it is important for us to become aware of how we may use any particular sensory facet as a social crutch and form internal imbalance. Imbalances occur on a spectrum and in regards to speech, the spectrum can range from depletion of Fire element, causing speech impediments, debilitating shyness and difficulty in communicating, to excessive levels of the fire element, resulting in an overabundance of speech, often delivered at breakneck speed.

This month, as we begin to embrace all of the expansive qualities that Summer time brings, let us be very aware of how we communicate. Whether you consider yourself naturally to be a social ‘people-person’ or whether you are much happier in your own company, the summer is encouraging us to engage socially with other people in a much more hands on manner. By expanding and opening ourselves up to new relationships, new ideas, new truths, we should monitor our own internal balance sensitivly in order to navigate friendships with an open heart, but safe from hurt. We can start by simply becoming a witness to any patterns of behaviour we have in social scenarios. How do you listen? How do you share? Are you always thinking of what to say next or does the conversation flow freely? Are there any topics of conversation you find yourself avoiding or returing to again and again? And can you recognise why? Do you like to talk about yourself or do you take genuine interest in what others have to say about themselves? When you ask questions, do you have any preconceptions about the answer? Do you ever find yourself slipping into judgmental thoughts about yourself or others around you? And what is your energy like after being in a social situation? Do you feel inspired and energised or drained and exhausted? Of course every situation will be different and the answer to these questions may differ from one day to the next, but these are just a few ideas of ways in which you can become more in tune with your own social dynamic and any habitual behavioural patterns that may want to be addressed.

It is important to remember, when witnessing your own behaviour, that the witness is not a judge, meerly an onlooker. Therefore we shouldn’t give ourselves a hard time about our behaviour. And if we find ourselves doing so, this is something to take note of also. I’m sure we have all experienced social remorse and embarressment in hindsight: ‘I was way too loud last night’; ‘I wish I hadn’t talked about myself so much’; ‘I wish I had come back to that comment like this...’; ‘Why was I so shy? I hate how my cheeks get red which I’m embarressed’ etc. etc.

When you are communicating with others from a place of balance and internal harmony, you will find that conversation will flow in a much healthier and more harmonious direction. Therefore it is worth taking time to ‘prepare’ before entering into any social situation, whether highly charged or relaxed. This can take many forms - I find a short meditation (five minutes or so) and doing some deep breathing puts me in a much more centred place from which I can hold space, share and communicate without becoming drained or emotionally compromised. If, by asking yourself the above questions, you have identified any behavioural patterns that you would like to shift in social situations, you can make this a focus of your preparatory meditation. If, for example, you feel you start to nervously babble and speak too much in group settings, then take some time to breath and ground, establishing a sense of stability and stillness, connecting to your sense of self worth. Make a commitment to be kind to yourself and not to expend energy for the sake of other people’s judgment or opinion. It takes time like any practice, but becoming more present in communication is one of the key ways in which we can become more connected and invite deeper and more meaningful relationships.

The Obstacle to Reality: Identification with the Mind

Almost all of us are afflicted by not being able to stop thinking. Non stop thoughts running through our heads has become so common that it is considered a normal mode of being. However the incessent noise of the inner voice chattering away is preventing us from being able to find a realm of inner stillness and to engage with Reality. I say Reality (capital R) because it is often different from how we perceive things, or what we consider our personal reality (small r). Our perceptions are clouded by our stories, and preferences - the children of the conditioned mind.

Eckhart Tolle unpacks the famous statement by Descartes: “I think therefore I am.” Tolle points out that Descartes’ ‘fundamental truth’ was in fact giving expression to the most basic human error: ‘to equate thinking with Being and identity with thinking’. Throughout history we see fatal examples of people identifying with their thoughts rather than with their innate, personal truth. We see this same pattern developing in our current social climate - people identifying with one another, and with themselves, through patterns of thought which are inherently flawed in and of themselves because they do not represent the full picture, they do not represent Reality. Reality - of that which IS - is sublime and sacred and far beyond our intellectual capacity to rationalise. To attempt to understand, or master, Reality is a waste of time that mankind has become preoccupied with. Our purpose is not to solve the mysteries of the universe, but to embrace them, love them, be in awe of them. With humility we must recognise that our world, ourselves, and everything in existance, belongs to a state of wholeness that can not be compartmentalised for our exploitation.  Our desperate attempts to ‘succeed’, to ‘progress’, to have some sort of ‘control’ over our destiny is alienating us from experiencing some sort of enlightened meditative state. If we were to make a conscious decision not to identify with the fickle and flawed mind, to allow the incessent thoughts to drop into stillness, we could enter back into a state of wholeness, to be ‘at one’ and therefore at peace.

By identifying with the fickle and illusiory mind, we are creating an opaque screen of labels, images, concepts, and words that block us from entering into any form of True relationship. This identification comes in between you and yourself, you and your fellow humans, you and Nature, you and God. We forget that really, underneath all of our temporary and transitory garb of physical appearance and mental speculation, we are souls, small drops in the ocean of universal Truth. So as we move into the season of external energetics and expansion, let us do so consciously from a space of acceptance for what is. Trying not to come at situations with preconceptions and baggage. Making time to still the chatter of the mind that drowning out the wisdom we all have within us. To become quiet and peaceful in the mind so we can enter into social situations from a place of grounded clarity. It is from this place that we are at liberty to experience true joy. True harmony. True love and expansion. 

The Expression of Joy: Dancing

The movement of Fire is outwards. When we think of wild fire we think of actions of spreading, engulfing, fluidity and brightness. It is natural that the emotion accompanying this element will be one of expansiveness. By Summer we have reached the highest point of the annual cycle - a celebration of abundance and an overflowing of joy. Joy denotes ideas of ‘jumping for joy’ or ‘bursting with joy’. It has an almost childlike sense of freedom and lightness.

These qualities are something we can experience within the body that resonate within the mind. Whether you consider yourself a good dancer or not, dance is an ideal medium through which we can explore fluidity, opening new spaces in the body and expanding through the heart. This outward moving expression of joy promotes an inner feeling of well-being.   

As with most things in life, we have a tendancy to try to deliniate our emotions into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ camps. While anger, for example, is considered a negative emotional state, joy is considered to be the one of the most positive. But when we talk about an emotion in connection to an element and season, what we are really doing is pointing out the predominant emotion causing challenge during this season, or to people who are high in Fire energetics in general. Someone who is a ‘Fire type’ may experience a fundamental challenge around joy. This may come in the form of a tendancy to almost addictively seek out joy, to avoid any situations or topics that threaten to bring the mood down. At the other end of the spectrum is the absence of joy even at times when it would be appropriate or expected.

Moving the body, particularly in time to music, can help us become more congruent with what is happening around us. Dancing allows us the freedom to explore the boundaries of our relationship with joy - the delicate subtlties and even soft sadness, through to a feeling of bursting joy, bordering on hysteria. When we move with the rhythm of music we allow an external energy to guide us. We become free from rigidity and self-consciousness. If this is a challenge for you then work out why and experiment with ways in which you can push through the comfort zone, expanding into an area of movement, both internally and externally, that you chose not to enter into before. Invite new shapes, angles, and spaces that you didn’t previously inhabit. And celebrate the newness of each feeling. 

In the Garden: Mastery and the Non-Seperate Entity

“Our innermost guidance is Nature! Mastery isn’t about controlling things. It is about connecting to that place inside us that is natural and acting from there. Then we act from the Earth itself; we act from Nature just as the bird and tree - effortlessly exposing grace and beauty in all that we do!”
- Wu De, Tea Medicine

When the natural world invites the sensitive intervention of human hand, there can be no error. All is as it should be. As it is intended. For no matter how the gardener fusses and tends, the immaculate detail of the garden comes only from the breathing plants themselves. Placed by divine will, each leaf, each blade of grass, each stone. Everything that one can see within this environment inspires peace and wonder. The garden is a timeless place. A historic network of lives, hands, and breath that have covered the and since time immemorial.

It’s very easy to witness the ravages of man against Nature and the exploitation of organic matter for our material comforts often to the detriment of ecological systems. But once we enter the space of the garden we behold a different story of man’s relationship with Nature. Many of us are so far removed from the environment that we forget that human beings are as natural a part of any ecology as the birds, bees, plants and animals. We have every right to inhabit this space as long as we treat it with the same respect that the other entities do. So we could consider that when the gardener works his art upon the landscape, it is just as natural as any other force. The actions of the gardener are dictated by the garden itself. Without the cooperation or modifications of the vegetation and other life forms within the walls of the garden, the gardener has no means by which to practice his art.

In the same way we can consider the body to be the garden and the soul to be the gardener. Or this is how it should be, but too often we allow the mind to override the inner guide, the soul, Nature itself. A very skillful gardener will leave the garden looking untouched man. The actions of the gardener are so in tune with the environment that the gardener becomes the garden. We get into trouble when we confuse the desires of the ego with the callings of the heart. Wu De writes: ‘When there is too much of you in your doing, you get in the way of yourself... in order for the inner guidance to actually be the guide, you have to get out of the way.’ This quote beautifully exemplifies how the ego can interupt our comunication with Truth. We cannot act properly when the idea of the ‘self’ lies between us and what we are trying to do. Becoming more awakened in the art of life requires that we let go and get out of our own way to allow the Truth to flow through. Once we drop the focus on our individual ‘self’ and quieten the mind to the ramblings of the ego, we can become truly present and focus on the matter at hand, whether its a technical procedure, a conversation with a friend, or tending to a plant. In order to live from the guidance within you, you have to be listening, which requires the removal of illusiory distractions.

Wu Wei: Effortless Effort in Practice

Effortless effort. This poetic paradox captured by the ancient Daoists signifies the participation in an activity without a participator, as if the situation is unfolding of its own accord. It is the suggestion that one is so inextricably bound up in what you are doing that you lose all sense of the seperate self and simply become the action itself. This concept may be likened to the notion of instinct or intuition, however neither of them really do justice to the intricacy of wu wei. When we allow the ego to unfold and become fully present, engrossed in the situation at hand, with heightened awareness and unwavering acceptance of what is, then we are truly situated in a state of effortless effort.

The mastery of any art can only really be considered mastery when the master becomes the medium and vice versa. So, like the example I used of the gardener becoming the garden, in order to perform any action from a place of truth, we must form a relationship and understanding with the situation or object’s inherent nature. Not from a scientific lens (although in some cases this addition is welcome) but through a quiet, contemplative acceptance and sensitive respect. 

You may be wondering how this holds any relevance to the energetics of this seasonal shift into summer. Well, here’s how. When we become expansive and more open through the heart space, calling in more relationships and increasing our social output, we risk spreading ourselves too thin. By this I mean, how many meaningful conversations can you realistically have in one day? And by meaningful I mean you are fully present and engaged with the other person/people, you are processing and assimilating what they have t say on an intellection and emotional level, and you are holding the space for you both to expand in relationship together without becoming attached to their story. Sometimes in our bid for expansion we bite off more than we can chew and the result is only scraping the surface of relationships or situations. This superficiality prevents you from diving deeply into your path and finding the real expansion that only comes through the cultivation of wu wei. When we engage with other people we must drop the egoic self if we ever hope to create real bond and understanding.Awareness of the nature of wu wei guides us to authentic and empowered communication from compassion and full expansion. 

Connection to Simplicity: Slowing Down Habitual Practices

How often do you move out of habit? As though acting by rote, we attend to many of our daily activities from a state of passivity, not being present as we allow the mind to wander from thing to thing. As the spirit of summer moves us to become more open, expansive and active, we become more suceptible than ever to inattentive activity and over complication. Just as with relationships, being preoccupied can have negative effects on our personal lives also. 

We must be mindful to keep things simple, act with steady surity and dignity, take things apart and value the process of getting there - whether its boiling water for tea, running a bath, or making juice, move slowly and deliberately with grace. When I think of the word ‘expansion’ I envision a deepening as well as a spreading. Almost like an expansion into greater intimacy if you will. Commit to exploring a deeper relationship with the mundane menial tasks you perform on an everyday basis. I speak often about the nature of ceremony and the power this can hold for our growth and spiritual development. Anything can become ceremony if it is treated as such, with reverence and commitment. When we choose to expand our relationship with the chores we mindlessly have been performing for years at a time, the experience can transform into something profound or deeply soothing. By maintaining a presence of mind we can find clarity in moments that we had allowed to escape us. There is something so inherently freeing when the mind is no longer a prisoner to the millions of illusiory thoughts that flood us whenever we let our guard down. When we simplify action, living with gratitude and acceptance within our means, attentive to all the opportunities to serve (whether to ourselves, the community, or God) we make space for higher thoughts to occupy the mind. The action that we take will be done with great care and integrity, performed to a high standard and will leave us satisfied where we otherwise could have been frustrated and distracted. 

Meditation: Heart Expansion and Protection

This month, with the arrival of summer, we practice cultivating a relaxed expansiveness. However, when we expand we are opening ourselves up and therefore must find a way to honour and navigate this delicate communication between our desire to be more out-going and receptive, and our innate vulnerability. Society is in a state of turmoil, and whilst we want to engage in the world and broaden our horizon during the warmer months, we should be sensitive to protecting ourselves from absorbing this energetic turmoil and engaging with it on a physical, emotional or spiritual level. Becoming overly invested and attached to the uncontrollable forces playing out in the natural and manmade world is frustrating, dispiriting, and ultimately exhausting, which can result in symptoms of burn out.

We have a tendancy, as humans, to focus on the negative side of life, and become blind to the manifold wonders and blessings that surround us moment to moment. One of the most integral parts of expansion is embracing an open-armed gratitude and becoming more finely attuned to the beauty in our lives.

When we consider the resonance of heart expansion it is impossible not to find yourself talking about ‘love’, in whatever incarnation it presents itself - be it the love of a pet, a meal, a lover, family, the environment, or God. No matter the nature of any given ‘love’, the feeling is all consuming. We want more and more of whatever it is that we truly love. We want to know it in all of its forms, shades, and incarnations. Love cannot be valued. Nor can it be succinctly expressed. Love makes us at once indestructable and deeply vulnerable. The loss of something we love is the source of many of our deepest fears. When we work with the nature of Fire, we work with the balance of heart expansion. How to navigate the energetic exchanges that take place from the heart centre is something to be approached senstively. The extent to which we are able to feel love, give love, recieve love, or express our love indicates the health of our Fire element.

Practice... Taking a comfortable meditation seat, be it seated on the floor or a chair, or even lying down on the ground. Allow several rounds of breath to invite the eyes to gently close. Allow long exhales to anchor the body down into the earth. Begin like any other meditation - first attuning the senses to the surrounding sounds, scents etc. The awareness becomes heightened however we remain forever the witness, unattached to the input our senses are recieving. As you watch the breath come and go, slowly and deeply, simply surrender to the moment. Become a vessel reflecting the stillness that you find within the space. In this manner the boundaries between you and the space surrounding you begins to dissolve. Become so harmonised with the space through gentle regulation of breath and softness of body and mind, that you can enter the state of wu wei, demonstrating an effortless effort in your meditation practice.
By allowing the consciousness to extend beyond the confines of the body and blend into the surrounding environmental energetics we allow ourselves to expand in the truest sense of the word. We are left solely with ‘what is’. The only time is ‘now’ and everything that we percieve, everything that constitutes our individual reality is made up of a little piece of us. For without being touched by some element of our consciousness we would not percieve at all. Therefore we must learn to recognise ourselves in the roses, in the rain clouds, in love, in pain. We must recognise and accept the extremities and all that lie inbetween with a kindly impartiality, knowing that all elements are inextricably bound up and essential to the structure of the whole.
Draw the attention into the heart space, inviting the interal gaze to travel deeply inwards. Take several minutes to breath into this space, to connect with the anahata chakra. Feel very full inhales fill you up and open across the heart space, creating freedom and expansiveness through the rib cage. Allow the entire torso to grow and puff out with the nourishing inhale. With the exhale invite the consciousess to sink a little deeper into the heart space. Just as in yoga we use the inhale to create length and use the exhale to move us deeper into the new space that has been opened us, here we use the inhale to make space and the exhale sinks us a little deeper.
Begin to visualise the heart flame lapping within you. Feel its warmth, its gentle undulation. Feel the rhythm of the blood extending outwards from the flame, carrying the warmth out to the extremities. See the flickering light, the warm glow of the flame as it lights up the corners where we push our discomforts. Use the breath to expand the flame across the chest. Move slowly, using the inhales to push the heat and light ever outwards, beyond the skin. Continue for several minutes until your entire body and surroundings are consumed by the light and heat of the flame. Consider the intensity radiating from a small point in the chest. Be in awe of it. Revel in the fullness of it.
Try to maintain this feeling if intense fullness and openness as you start to draw the flame back in to the heart space. Take your time, moving with ease and grace, until eventually the potential of all that expansive love is safely nestled within the body. You can really take your time over this progression and therefore may find that one round is enough. But if you feel called to, you can do multiple rounds of expansion and safe return of the energetic heart flame.

Medicine: Rose

The first roses are beginning to open up and scent the meditation garden here at Hq. They are the quintessential heralds of the arrival of summer and it is by no chance that they are deeply healing for many of the seasonal imbalances that may arise during this period of the Fire element. Rose flowers are particularly good for reducing the symtoms of excessive Pitta dosha. They relieve heat and congestion of the blood, soothing inflammation.

It is not only due to their sweet fragrence and delicate beauty that the rose is associated with love. Rose flowers are medicinally linked to the heart, containing the ability to open the mind and heart. Rose water can be easily prepared boiling fresh petals and condensing the steam into another vessel. This water is instantly calming and refreshing when applied to the skin and is cooling for the eyes, which may become inflamed with excess fire element. A preparation of rose in tea is effective in relieving headaches and sore throats - making it also an excellent medicine for hayfever symptoms.

At this time of year, roses make their way all over my daily practices - offered on the altar, dried as pot pourri, rose water decotions for my skin, and (of course) brewed as bowl tea. 

This month is a month of relaxed expansion. Of growing in our relationships and delving deeply to find truth beyond egoic superficiality. We take time to consider how we communicate and how we could better prepare ourselves to hold space for others without becoming drained. But most importantly, as we enter into summer, we explore what it is to love, to express joy, and commit fully to everything we hold dear. 

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