This is part 4 (go to part 1, part 2, part 3) of a seasonal look into the energetics of each season and how they affect our inner and outer worlds. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), The 5 Elements Theory, invites us to live more in flow and alignment with the seasons and offers us the opportunity to link ourselves more to the natural world and to become more aware of ourselves, the world around us and our role within it.
The five elements through the lens of TCM - wood, fire, earth, metal, water - represent the cyclical changes of nature. The cycles we see in nature are interconnected with those we experience as humans. The flow of the cycles manifest in many ways and are reflected in our energy, creativity, emotions, ease and dis-ease, expression, foods, tastes and colours we seek and crave.
Each season is linked to an element and a set of organs that need a little more care and nourishment in that specific season. Health conditions and/or emotions related to the specific organs may also flare up but there are many things we can do to support our body through the cyclical changes that also manifest within us. Learning about each element may enable us to create more internal balance which will improve all areas of health whether physical, mental or emotional.
Yin & Yang and late summer
The Yin and Yang theory is the underlying principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Philosophy, the Taoist culture. Everything is composed of opposites, relative to each other, complementary and as constantly interacting forces. One cannot exist without the other.
There is no night without day, no heaven without earth, no moon without sun, no up without down, no out without in, no cold without warmth, no youth without age, no opposition without unity, no stillness without noise, no passive without active.
Late summer is the beginning of the transition between summer - the most yang (hot, bright, active) in nature - and winter - the most yin (cool, quiet, dark, reflective) in nature. Days become a little shorter, nature around us starts to change, intense transformations happen within and without us. It's a time for centering, nurturing and simplicity and it's time to prepare and start slowing down.
In TCM, good health is believed to come from a balance of Yin and Yang. Too much or too little of one or both will cause imbalances throughout the body and will manifest in physical, mental and/or emotional dis-eases.
The Earth element
In TCM and according to the 5 Elements Theory, the Earth element is associated with late summer (a season of its own) and the Stomach and the Spleen.
Organs: Stomach and Spleen
Colour: Yellow, orange
Taste: Sweet → nourishing, building, harmonising, calming, relaxing, strengthening, stimulates gentle circulation, tonifies Yin.
Positive emotion: Compassion, empathy, rational, clear-headed
Negative emotion: Worry, anxiety, feeling unresourceful, foggy, self-pity
In TCM the stomach receives and ripens ingested food and fluid. The Spleen is considered the "Official of Granaries", it rules transformation and transportation of the energy of what is ingested.
As mentioned, the Earth element is a time of transition and transformation, a metamorphosis of sorts. There's a downward and inward energy. We may be looking for more nourishment after the excesses of summer, we may seek more balance, routine and stability in our daily lives. And it's harvest time, an important preparation phase for winter.
In its central position the Earth is the pivot for all of the other Elements which encircle and spin around it. It is a place of stability within the body, mind, and spirit. From this stable anchor, change and growth can take place. Our food can be transformed and processed by the Stomach and Spleen and turned into qi that nourishes the mind, body, and spirit
When the Earth element is balanced we feel stable and safe in life, we become grounded within ourselves and in our environment. There's a sense of peace despite ups and downs, we're not easily destabilised emotionally
An imbalanced Earth element can manifest in different ways. Where the Earth element is too strong we lose interest in life or in doing anything. We stagnate and don't move out of our comfort zone.
On the other side, if the Earth element is too weak, we may feel unstable or unsupported which can cause anxiety, worry and overthinking. We may struggle with committing to things in life. We may feel easily triggered and obsess or fixate over things.
The Earth element plays an pivotal role in our overall well-being and affects all the other elements. Our gut health (Stomach/Spleen) affects our mental health, if your digestion is out of whack, you'll feel it physically and mentally. If you don't feel stable, safe or balanced, you will struggle to move through life and let life move through you.
It may therefore be the most important element to address when looking at our health and overall wellbeing.
Earth generates Metal. Metal is related to autumn and the lungs. A time when colds and flus circulate the most. By cultivating a balanced Earth element and supporting a strong stomach and spleen, in particular in late summer (but also in between seasons), we directly contribute to a stronger immune system and respiratory system to help us through autumn.
Prevention is the best medicine!
Further down you'll find useful ways to balance and nourish the Earth element through the food you take in and other practices you can incorporate into your day.
How to nourish your body
Food is medicine and food is a powerful vehicle for transformation!
Your daily food intake is the basis of your transformation. Your food becomes your blood, cells, organs, body, mind, emotions and thoughts. Food is nourishment. Your input will affect your output physically, mentally, emotionally. The gut and the brain are inherently connected and our food choices will have a direct effect on our brain function and our emotions.
Seasonality and energetics when talking about food is important in the way that foods that grow in summer are lighter in nature and have cooling properties to them, such as tomatoes, cucumber, berries etc., when in turn in winter, the seasonal foods are heavier and warming in nature.
Late summer is harvest time and like in summer it's the best time to indulge in the abundance of delicous, fresh and colourful produce that is still available.
Nature is beautifully intelligent and if we look closely, we can find so much wisdom from the changes and transformations that can be witnessed within each season.
Late summer foods and cooking styles
In this in-between season there's such an abundance of produce, stock up on all the different vegetables and fruits and berries available. The diversity will strengthen your gut and support your Earth element.
The main theme for late summer is yellow, orange, light brown. These colours in particular nourish the digestive system (stomach and spleen in TCM). The flavour is lightly sweet.
Late summer foods
Most of the summer fruits, vegetables and berries are still available, pumpkin, parsnip, beetroot, celery root, carrot, sweet potato, whole grains, root vegetables and mushrooms are starting to emerge, sweet corn, potatoes, plums, apples, pears, grapes.
The summery way of cooking is still very much there but we may slowly start adding more yin cooking styles like sautés, boiling and occasional baking. Generally if your Earth element is out of balance, favour simple, cooked, warm foods that are easier for the body to assimilate.
Wellbeing practices to balance the Earth element
The Earth element is nourished by self-care. Here are a few ideas and suggestions to balance your Earth element
Enjoy this season with all its beauty and abundance in food and soft air. Here in Luxembourg (as well as many other places in the Central and Northern parts of Europe, we've been blessed with the return of summer temperatures, sunshine and blue skies. May this Indian summer be a nourishing time for your body, mind and soul.
The next (and last) season we'll look at is Autumn and the Metal element. How does Autumn relate to our bodies and minds and how do we support them at that time of the cycle?
Warm Earthly hugs from me (Mia)
Feel free to share your thoughts or simply say hello in the comment section below!