We are all familiar with Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, but did you know that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) includes a fifth season? According to Chinese Medical theory, the fifth season is actually that important time between the seasons, where we ‘return to center’. About two to three weeks before the beginning of each season is a time of transition. During this time, one can balance their Qi (so as to adjust to the upcoming season) or one may find themselves more susceptible to the shifting energies of the seasonal change, and therefore more vulnerable to dis-ease.
Each season correlates with an elemental energy. Spring belongs to the wood element, Summer to fire, Fall to metal and Winter to water. The transitional time between the seasons rightfully belongs to the Earth element, as this is the time when the seasonally-dominant energy returns to the Earth to be transformed into the next seasonal energy.
The Earth Element is generated and managed in the body by the Spleen and Stomach. These organs are in the business of metamorphosis. As digestive organs (according to TCM), they transport and transform the food we eat into nutrition to build our blood, nourish our cells, and provide energy. The Spleen governs the muscle strength and tone, as well as being associated with digestion and energy levels. Its associated orifice is the mouth and Spleen Qi is what produces Blood, according to TCM. The Spleen is also known for housing the intellect (Yi) and is involved with the thinking aspect of spirit. The color of the Earth element is yellow and the taste associated with the Spleen is sweet.
The Chinese Lunar Calendar sets the start of the seasons earlier than our Gregorian calendar, so if we are following the seasons according to Chinese Medicine, we can anticipate the start of Fall this year around Aug 7th. The period about 18 days prior to that date (beginning around mid-July) is called Late Summer, and this is the time to pay special attention to the energy of transition.
The benefit of nourishing our Earth element during this time is the promotion of balance and stability for periods of change. The Earth element represents our center stance from which we can safely assess the next move. The importance of core stability rings true whether we are talking about physical activity (ie strong abdominal and mid-low back muscles) or more subtle energy dynamics.
Here are some tips to help nourish your Earth element:
Limit or avoid damp-generating, cold foods (ice cream is a perfect example), as it puts a burden on the Spleen which prefers warm and dry conditions. It’s also advisable to eat breakfast between 7am to 9am; this is Stomach time according to the Qi Clock. Limit or avoid processed sugars while enjoying the natural balance of sweetness from the Earth with foods like apples, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Eat more yellow foods during this season: bananas, yellow peppers, lemons, etc.
2) Release Worry Patterns:
The Spleen houses the intellect and is responsible for thought, but can be weighed down by over-thinking which can slow its ability to transform our food into useful energy. Most of us can think of times when worry or rumination led to unpleasant digestive experiences, so it is useful to find ways to shift patterns of over-thinking and worry. (Cue the serenity prayer…)
Go straight to the source! Get those bare feet on the ground (pesticide-free please). For those of us who are urban-dwellers, parks and backyards offer nice patches of grass and dirt to ground in. Research shows that this seemingly simple practice provides innumerable health benefits.
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