top of page

Summer Begins

⁣Illustration by Laurel Long

Happy May Day, Beltane, and the first day of summer. A day often celebrated as a day of freedom and labor rights. May this be a time we cultivate our sovereignty in body, mind, and spirit. This is the time of abundant growth, the zenith of yang energy, and it is ideal for activity, ripening, and completion.

“The heraldic animal of summer is the Red Phoenix - an enormous, magical bird whose radiance is the sun. It is the ascendance of Yang rising out of the devastation of winter and it pulls all dormancy into action.”

– Liu Ming

May 1st, or Beltane, marks the first day of Summer in pagan traditions. According to the Tong Shu, the ancient Chinese almanac, May 5th is the first day of Summer for 2022. In the west, Summer Solstice is often heralded as the beginning of summer, but this is when the days start to get shorter again -when yin grows. Summer Solstice marks the height of summer when yang qi is at its zenith - it is the longest day of the year. So we are now between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice - the beginning of summer. All the seasonal pivot points are shifted in this way according to the Taoist tradition. The vast majority of this teaching comes from Liu Ming.

Rather than qi being only loosely defined as energy, we can actually understand it when we think of it as about time. It holds the changing of the seasons, the moon, and other cycles as governing our conduct. When we are in accordance with the seasonal qi we prosper, when we disobey these qi cycles, it brings decline. It is important to make a clear distinction between Spring and Summer. Where the yang qi was immature in early Spring, now it is reaching its maturation and there is completion all around us. Summer’s qi has more force fullness in it than Springtime qi.

Now we have about 6 weeks before yang begins to decline and yin begins its’ growth towards the winter solstice. This is the time to fully dive into whatever it is that you are devoting this year to and be fully active in participating in your growth. Go full steam ahead with projects, ideas, resolutions, and plans. The Nei Jing says the ‘three months of summer are a time of “splendor and growth” when “all things fruit”. Anything is possible when we align ourselves with the qi available for us now. In the botanical world, we can observe everything becoming itself. That which was dormant and not visible in the winter is now in it's state of splendor.


Everything can flourish in the summer. There is enough sunshine that communication between the sky and the earth is fully activated. Moisture is being drawn up from deep in the earth into the plants reach for the sun using the fire of heaven to draw up the yin - the moisture of the ground. This is happening all around us. The Hot Qi of summer is what can bring about the completion of the plans and ideas of the Spring.

On the other side, when we don’t act in accordance with summer’s qi we stumble.

“Disobey the mandates of summer and it will bring harm to the Heart and produce fever (trapped Heat) in the autumn."

- Nei Jing

Inappropriate behavior in summer creates deficiency at autumn harvest. We are part of the seasonal change. When we follow this dance of life we preserve our vitality. Even though there is so much abundance available to us, it is possible to squander this abundance with excessive ambition, rigidity, power-seeking, and aggression, all of which damage the heart-mind, or Shen, which in turn leads to a premature aging.

We are a part of nature, and when we conduct ourselves in this way it brings longevity and a deep embodiment of what it means to actually be a human being. There is a timing to everything and when we conduct ourselves with this fundamental idea of doing things at the right time it brings about the nourishment of our destiny. Believing we are magically outside of this cycle of nature is a kind of arrogance that is expensive to our personal and planetary health.

Spring is the time when new ideas are generated, and summer is the time for them to get legs and manifest. As we age, the differentiation between Spring and Summer becomes even more vital. Having the freshness of sprouting new ideas in the spring is what keeps us young. Spring is the time to let go and allow innovation in. This does not necessarily need to be productive, it could be restorative, but it does contain fresh new ideas.

When fresh yang comes it starts to solidify and press new ideas to replace old ones. If this process fails to take place summer manifests as heat damage. Clinically, we see this in premature aging syndrome. If we are conducting ourselves the same through all the seasons, perhaps at a 40 hour a week job 12 months out of the year what is generated is successful, perhaps, in the summer, but in the winter it creates emptiness and deficiency. A small fire warms the hearth, and a large fire burns the house down. Fire is often strong in youth, but we must be cautious about it as we mature to not let it blaze and deplete our kidney qi.

Summer’s pattern of ascending yang is that of acquiring and growing. If we cultivated yang properly in the spring with education the yang now arises in a productive manner rather than being out of control fire blazing. Healthy yang manifests as a kind of dominance that is generous and mild rather than shapeless, aggressive, and unproductive.

“The three months of summer are called the time of splendor and growth. At summer solstice tang qi reaches an apex and yin qi emerges; yin and yang commingle and all living beings/things prosper. Yang qi energizes all phenomena and yin gives them shape. Because of this yin/yang commingling, all things flower and fruit. People, like all phenomena, are included. They should follow the seasonal qi to preserve vitality.”