The Heat Is On!


Yes, it’s summer. Yes, it’s hot. And hotter than usual, whether you blame global warming or not. Although I’m always telling people to get outside to spend time in nature, which is a wonderful way both to get grounded and to expand your consciousness, there are certain precautions to take at this time of year.

Extreme heat is dangerous, like any “extreme” is. When the temperature rises to the high nineties and low hundreds, your body goes into overdrive, trying to cool off through perspiration and evaporation. Obviously, if you stay indoors and the electricity is working so your air conditioner works, you’re okay. This is about when you are outside.

The very young and the very old are at risk in the heat, as are people with mental illness or chronic diseases or those who are obese. But even those who are young and healthy can be in trouble if they are doing anything physically strenuous outside. And for those who live in cities, the stagnant air traps pollutants that can trigger respiratory problems.

When the heat is up and humidity is low, the most common problem is dehydration. If you’re in direct sun on days when the temperature is higher than 90 degrees, you can lose as much as half a gallon of water every ten minutes, which seriously mucks up your internal thermostat and can lead to heat exhaustion, which can lead to heat stroke, which can be deadly. Drink lots and lots of water!

That warmth you longed for all winter is now the hot air you’re trying to escape. Clearly, an excess of anything creates problems. When the elements go to extremes, we get hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, flooding, forest fires, and earthquakes. When alcohol or drug use or gambling or sex becomes excessive, you have addiction. When emotions go to extremes, they can lead to mental disturbances, illnesses, panic attacks, and negative behaviors, even murder.

It’s important to avoid excesses in life, or try to get back into balance as soon as possible. Excess makes the senses weak and inhibits will power. It’s hard to get anything done, either on the outside or within your own mind. To avoid excess, think about simplifying your life. The less “stuff” you have to deal with, the easier it is to stay in balance. Think of the yogis, the true renunciates, who can control their inner heat; they can create enough heat in their bodies to melt snow and ice, or they can stay cool in the parching heat on the plains of India.

So kick back in these dog days of summer. Stay out of the midday sun. Wear sun screen and protective clothing when you have to go out. Consume lots of water and non-alcoholic beverages (alcohol adds to dehydration). Get to the pool or the beach early in the day or in the late afternoon/early evening. Visualize cooling images: sitting in an igloo, plunging into icy waters, floating on an ice floe, whatever works for you . . . Make sure to clean/change the filter in your air conditioning unit.

And while you’re sitting outside in the shade of a swaying tree, looking at the stretch of sky and sand and water before you, feeling the cool breeze as you sip another iced tea, take some time to review the excesses you are prone to. What would bring you into better balance? Less chocolate? Less worry? Less money spent on clothes? Less time on Facebook? Less workaholism? What do you have to add? More exercise? More veggies? More time for friends and family?

There is a simple exercise called the see-saw that can help you find your balance point. Visualize a see-saw. At one end, put your favorite excess. Put its opposite on the other end. Now focus on the fulcrum, the center point. What would that look like for you? What would bring the see-saw into perfect balance?

The heat may be on, but you don’t have to burn. Stay cool!

Deborah King