According to the Chinese metaphysical and healing arts, each of the Five Elements – Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth – have a corresponding season. “How can that be?” you’re probably wondering.
The months of August and September are considered a separate season, called Late Summer. If you look at many of the ancient and pagan traditions, many harvest festivals begin in August. August and September are the months when many celebrated Earth festivals, a time of gathering of the crops, giving thanks to Mother Earth for the plentiful gifts and enjoying the fruits of the Earth.
In my Transylvanian homeland, 6th of August is celebrated as a Christian Orthodox religious day, however, the church actually “borrowed” the day from the pagan traditions of the land. It is called “the day when the face changes”. In the religious context it is related to Jesus Christ, in the pagan one, the face is the face of nature. The Sun still shines over the land, yet its rays do not scorch the land as it did in July. The pagan tradition says that nothing grows anymore in August, but everything that has grown already ripens and matures.
In the Chinese arts, late summer is the season of the Earth element.
In Chinese medicine, Earth governs our digestive system and all its components. Its Official name is The Granary.
The main two organs of the system are the Spleen (Yin) and the Stomach (Yang)
The main responsibilities of the Earth system in the human body:
- Transformation: digestion makes nutrients for the Blood by transforming the food intake
- Transformation: by combining nutritive Qi with the Qi from the Lungs (air), it produces the nutrients for all the internal organs and the Blood
- Transportation: Spleen moves Qi upwards so that the nutrients reach the Lung Qi and the organs
- Keeps everything in its place: just like Earth holds everything in place, Spleen holds the internal organs in their proper place inside the chest cavity, the muscles on the bones and the Blood in the vessels
Given its responsibilities, the Earth system governs over the following areas:
- Production and quality of Blood
- Muscle mass and limbs
- The mouth, the tongue and the sense of taste
- Intellectual activities, reasoning processes, memorising, logic and critical thinking
At a mental and emotional level, the Earth is affected by:
- Worry. “Worry knots the Qi”
- Obsessive thoughts
- Excessive intellectual activities, reasoning, problem solving and memorising
The Stomach, the Yang partner of the Spleen, gives the Spleen its ability to discern between what is important and what is not, both in the case of digestion and in case of mental processes.
Common Earth disorders in the body
At a physical level:
- gastritis (the digestive system chewing on its own parts),
- nutrient excesses and accumulations: obesity, fatty liver, gallstones, kidney stones
- nutrient deficiencies: lack of vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium
- lack of appetite and energy, ME, CFS
- organ prolapses, heavy bleeding: haemorrhages, heavy menstruation
- lack of menstruation, scanty menstruation
- metabolic diseases, such as diabetes
- muscular dystrophy
- any lumps, cysts and phlegm accumulations
At a mental and emotional level:
- overthinking, worry, anxiety, OCD
- mental fatigue, lack of focus, inability to memorise or think logically
- brain fog
People with the Earth blocked by worry fail to nurture themselves, by neglecting their needs and putting everyone else first, or they will overeat in an unconscious attempt to become bigger than their worries.
Also, by trying to do everything themselves, they will try to control the odds of the outcome, but also deplete their energy resources: “If I do this instead of waiting for my partner to do it, I don’t have to worry that it won’t be done properly or on time”, or “I cannot take a day off from work because they won’t manage without me”.
Sadly, a lot of our modern life has made us believe we have to be present and in control of everything at all times and many of us we feel guilty about taking breaks or “me” time in order to nurture ourselves.
This is very important for our immune system
Earth is the Element-Parent of Metal, which is the Element that governs over our immunity, our defences. If the Earth does not nurture the Metal enough, the Metal will be weak.
This is why a good nutrition, adapted to your personal needs, combined with a calm mind that is free from overthinking and worry, and a body that is fit by keeping the muscles toned and the joints flexible, are all essential for a good immunity.
Health and Wellness Recommendations
Autumn is the transition towards the Yin energy from the Yang of Summer. It is the season of ripening (Earth) and harvest (Metal). The Yellow Emperor text recommends retiring with the sunset and arising with the dawn. Also the text mentions keeping the Lung energy full, clean and quiet, through breathing exercises
The emotional climate will go through the same changes and the weather. The Yellow Emperor recommends staying calm and peaceful, refraining from depression and grief
Any imbalances in Autumn will affect the Kidneys in Winter.
Thermal energy: warm
Foods for Late Summer: ripe fruits and vegetables, especially yellow in colour, grains,
Therapeutic foods for Earth: foods that nourish Blood, foods that produce Bodily
Fluids, foods that drain Dampness
Cooking method: stir-fry
Our Earth/Spleen-Stomach system is the major beneficiary of a properly adapted nutrition for our own personal constitution and needs. The Spleen-Stomach system starts to diminish naturally after the age of 35.
One of my favourite teachers at the TCM College likes to say: “This patient needs nourishment, not punishment”
What we nourish ourselves is not just in the form of food, but also what we put in our being by means of our relationships, our lifestyle, what we read, what we watch, how we choose to spend our time and how we “treat” ourselves in life.
Avoid: raw, uncooked foods, foods that create Dampness in the body, such as oils, dairy products and sweet tasting foods. Be aware of the fact that many foods that are in the category of “sweet” may not be actually sweet in taste. Avoid cold drinks, cold and chilled foods and ice-cream at all costs.
Have more: foods that drain Dampness and move the Qi. Also eat foods that nourish the Blood and Bodily Fluids in moderation. Cook lightly everything to give the Stomach a gentle boost of warmth and help the digestion. If you like nuts, roast them gently for a few seconds, bake the fruits before consuming or boil them in water rand drink the water with the fruits (compote). Apart from wheat, all the grains and cereals are your friend and they help to drain excess Dampness. A very popular dish with great benefits for the digestion is porridge, it can be made out of a lot of grains, you can add a touch of honey to support Earth, also cinnamon to warm the dish up and the possibilities are endless.
Superfood for Earth: chicken soup (clear soup, not cream)
Body & Mind cultivation
According to the Yellow Emperor, the emotional climate will go through the same changes as the weather in Autumn. The Yellow Emperor recommends staying calm and peaceful, refraining from depression and grief, as any imbalances in Autumn will affect the Kidneys in Winter.
- Swinging arms to purge Liv Qi
- Double hands up the heavens & holding up a single hand
- Swimming dragon
- Belt vessel turning (Dai Mai)
- Bear frolic
- Descending Yang, ascending Yin
- Daoist 5 Yin organ
The virtue that heals Earth is empathy
- Zuowang meditation
- Healing sound whoooo visualising golden yellow light entering the Spleen & Stomach
- Mindfully eating and being aware of the tastes
- Stargazing Saturn
- Body scans with a special focus on the muscles
- Cultivate self-acceptance, self-compassion and being comfortable with oneself
- Taking part in harvest festivals
- In the house, Earth can be supported by keeping the Southwest corner clean and harmonious, and with the use of yellow crystals and light. In Feng Shui, the Southwest corner is the corner for the Yin energies and the palace of Love