LATE SUMMER AND THE EARTH ELEMENT
Gather, Harvest and Store!
As the long days of summer slowly begin to wind down, we enter a transitional “fifth season” that spans the end of summer into the autumn. This is the Late Summer, when the Earth’s energy is most dominant. After having reached the zenith of the Fire element at the peak of summer, the intense brightness and heat start to yield and transition to a cooler yin cycle. During this short season of Late Summer we are the recipients of nature’s generosity. Succulent fruits are at their ripest, our garden’s bountiful gifts are ready to be harvested, and the whole of nature is vibrant with colours, fragrances and delightful abundance.
Since we are a part of nature, and nature is part of us, it is wise to follow Mother Nature’s guidance during this season, both inwardly and outwardly. How and what can we gather, harvest and share with others? When we turn our hearts with gratitude towards all that we’ve been blessed with, it is natural that we would not wish to hoard all of this for ourselves, but to share the bountiful blessings with others.
During Late Summer, while the sun still warms our bodies, hearts and Shen (spirit) with joy, abundant energy and inspiration we can linger a bit longer in the outflow of our energies towards others. But soon enough, as in nature, we must also begin to make preparations for the colder months ahead. The natural movement of life energy is to then gather inward, and to store and nurture the inner fire as the yin energies become more dominant.
The Earth Element and the Spleen-Stomach Energies
According to TCM principles of healing, the Earth element is represented by the digestive and energetic systems of the Spleen and Stomach. As with all of the elements, the Spleen and Stomach are much more than physical structures. The Earth element also involves our mind, emotions and Spirit. And this functions at the invisible level of our vital energy or Qi which strongly influences our overall wellbeing.
Tonifying and balancing the Spleen-stomach play a vital role in our overall health and well-being. When we wish to implement positive changes and ways to nourish the Earth element in us, we will need to conscious of our dietary, lifestyle, exercise and spiritual needs in the coming months.
The Spleen and Stomach energies, as the officials of the Earth element, need to be balanced, strong and harmonious so that whatever we take in – food, drink, ideas, possibilities or external influences – can be digested properly. Only then can the essence and nutrients of what we bring inside us be transported as a source of nourishment to all levels of our being. Some good questions to check yourself: What are you eating, and is it nourishing and good for you? How are you digesting what you take into your body-mind-spirit? Do you notice what depletes your vitality, and what supports it.
Late Summer is a good time to reflect on what we will need to gather and store, and what will sustain and keep us balanced during the colder months ahead. It is important to consider how we must care for and nourish ourselves physically and energetically. While continuing to allow our qi to flow outwardly, we need to return to our central core to regenerate and sustain our vital energy. In this, we continue to be in harmony with Nature’s changing rhythm, which also begins to draw its life force deeper inward towards its roots in the Earth.
Yi: The Spirit of the Earth
As with all of the elements, every organ meridian system “houses” a spirit which has a correspondence with an aspect of our psyche. The spirit of the Spleen is called the Yi, which is commonly translated to mean intellect, but it also encompasses our thought processes and perceptions. Yi influences our capacity to study, concentrate, take in new ideas, and learn new things. But even more than that, the condition of our Yi has a huge impact on our capacity to cultivate a positive outlook and possibility thinking, especially when dealing with problems. This is why the Spleen qi needs to be supported when we find ourselves excessively ruminating or getting stuck in pessimistic or unhelpful trains of thought.
The primary negative emotion associated with the spleen is worry, which easily leads to overthinking that depletes the qi at the center of the body. With its connection to the mind and thinking, the Yi is prone to worry, anxiety, and rumination when the Spleen qi is out of balance. Besides mental fatigue, physical fatigue, digestive, gynaecological and various health issues can arise when there is imbalances in the Earth element. So, besides adjusting one’s diet and lifestyle, meditation and calming the mind are very important for spleen health.
Let us meet seasonal changes as opportunities to harmonize our health and wellbeing. Remember, like the cycles of nature, our health is also not a fixed state. So following the changes in nature, we need to adjust to the natural rhythms and flow of the earth with each change of season accordingly. This season of Late Summer is the perfect time to begin reinforcing the vitality of the earth element and spleen qi! It prepares us for the Autumn and Winter months ahead. As Autumn is the season of the metal element and the lungs, that time of the year when colds, flus, viruses and seasonal allergies circulate widely, by cultivating a strong earth element before then, this will contribute to a healthier and stronger immune and lung qi in the autumn.
“Knowing how to treat the center is knowing how to bring all networks into balance.” – Ming Dynasty 1368 – 1644 AD
In our next Seasons of the Breath series, we will work with the Earth element until late October, after which we will work with the Metal element until end of December. Our focus will be on grounding and firmly establishing our roots in a solid base, cultivating inner stability through regular qigong routines for the Earth element to strengthen the spleen qi, and meditation to create inner harmony and calmness. I will be writing a new blog for the Autumn Seasons of Breath in mid October.
Please see the Seasons of the Breath classes for the dates and times of our upcoming classes.