Drawing from the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine as we move through the seasons
The transition from summer to fall can be tough, and some people dread this time of year. Resistance to the changing seasons can cause stagnation in the body and weaken the immune system. Being in tune with our planet, the seasons and the ever changing internal and external landscapes helps us to thrive in our lives and in our recovery from all the things!
In Taoism theory, each of us is a microcosm of the universe, it stands to reason that the human body will experience similar cyclical patterns as in nature, such as the changes of seasons and the cycle of life and death.
Late Summer refers to the additional season that sits between the fullness of summer and the beginning of autumn. According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is a time to reorganize one’s self before commencing the surrendering and grieving process that begins in the fall.
Earth season arrives, expected but still taking my body by surprise. Summer's fire is dying down_not yet to embers but a dying flame. I walk out into the garden and feel the damp, humid heaviness over take me. The ghosts of Autumn are still hidden but I can hear them faintly preparing to emerge behind the curtain of green. I sense their preparations in the pockets of coolness and longer shadows. There is more moisture, more matter, more weight. The sunflowers can barely hold up their golden heads . Everything begins to acquiesce to the impending F A L L.
In the amber hazy golden atmosphere of late summer, of ripening and gathering harvest, abundance and repletion. Mist softens the edges of the meadow grass at dawn. Song sparrows peck for fallen coneflower seeds. Gourds split open and the scent of apples fill the air as bees buzz drowsily over hedges of spiky purple thistle. Sunlight spills over the lip of early afternoon like sweet peaches pouring from a basket.
Earth season arrives on a slow and humid morning, calling us to nourish ourselves and each other, to celebrate the generosity of the land.
Yet, as the season cycle tips back down to darkness, Earth reminds us that unless we enjoy and share her gifts, they will ultimately end up rotting in the field.
Earth Calls us to give and to receive, to assimilate, transform and deliver what we digest.
In Chinese Medicine theory, there are five natural elements that exist within us, as they do in nature. Each season belongs to a particular element and has unique correspondences. When we study nature’s patterns and cycles, we can learn how to support our own health and stay well year-round.
LATE SUMMER’S ASSOCIATIONS IN CHINESE MEDICINE
YIN ORGAN: SPLEEN
YANG ORGAN: STOMACH
SPIRIT: YI (INTELLECT)
SENSE ORGANS: MOUTH
VIRTUES: EMPATHY, NURTURING
We come inside to the center of our hOMe... to the
HEARTH within. (notice that the word earth, is inside the word Hearth)
“Knowing how to treat the center is knowing how to bring all networks into balance.” - Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644)
The two organs associated with late summer, are the stomach and the spleen. The main function of these two Earth Officials, is to allow us to digest our life experiences and to use them is service of the Tao.
They are "responsible for the storehouses and granaries," the gathering and assimilation and distribution of nutrients at every level of our being.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO BOOST THE VITALITY OF YOUR EARTH ELEMENT AND THE WELLBEING OF YOUR MIND, BODY, AND SPIRIT: Warm it up. The earth element thrives on a nourishing diet, and nutritional therapy related to the Spleen is key for maintaining good and balanced health. Cold raw food creates dampness in the spleen, which interferes with its role of the transportation and transformation of nutrients and energy, and its ability to produce qi and blood. This leads to a variety of health imbalances. Maintaining warmth in the Earth center of the body is very important.
As summer draws to a close, it’s time to phase out your consumption of cold raw foods, including smoothies, ice water, and cold salads. Dairy, refined sugars, and fatty and greasy foods also contribute to dampness. Do include warm, cooked meals. Aromatic spices like curry, ginger, fennel, coriander, caraway, and cardamom help to warm things up, resolves dampness, and strengthen the spleen Qi.
Say yes to sweet. Sweet flavors, in small amounts, favor the Spleen and Stomach Sweet foods that strengthen the Earth element include whole grains, like millet, rice, and root vegetables, such as yams, sweet potatoes and carrots. Enjoy the sweet fruits like figs, and veggies that are in season and available in the late summer harvest. I highly recommend this Immune boosting IMMUNITEA by NUF (New Universe Foods).
A delicious and sweet combination of organic ginger, turmeric, and lemon.
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Don’t skip breakfast. According to the Chinese Medicine clock, the Stomach has optimal digestive capacity between 7-9am. Your meal should be substantial and fortifying. A good breakfast strengthens the stomach and spleen qi and yang for the day. Optimal breakfast foods are energetically warming foods, prepared with warm cooking methods that stimulate the body and do not spread dampness. A favorite in Chinese Medicine food therapy is breakfast congee (recipe here), a highly nourishing and healing way to start the day. I also love our local Indian market, India Spice. Gita and Jai Paul will help you balance your digestive system through Ayurvedic foods such as a very nourishing Kitchari Dal. (recipe here)
The color of the Earth is yellow. Yellow corresponds to the Spleen”. Eating foods that are yellow and orange are especially supportive for Spleen health. Examples include squash, sweet potato, yams, corn, papaya, and carrots. (solar plexus chakra)
Find your center. The Earth element is about stability, nurturance, caregiving, and bounty. Seek activities that keep you centered and grounded; focus on what nourishes and fulfills you and those you care about. With fall just around the corner, the season of "letting go", we will soon think about the things we have too much of and begin the process of releasing, clearing, and simplifying. Be mindful about what you mentally ingest. As our focus turns to the health of our Spleen and Stomach organ systems and its relationship to the "Yi"- our mind and intellect- we need to be mindful about what we MENTALLY ingest, as well. This is a perfect time of year to think about our relationship with social media and the news and to create boundaries around screen time.
Hum, chant or sing! Every element has an associated sound, through which it expresses itself. The sound of the Earth element is "singing". Notice how you may have been wanting to hum or sing naturally! It is amazing when you tune into the awareness that we are all one in concert with each other that we feel the ebbs and flows of all of creation within us!
I hope this feeds and nourishes you. Consider coming on a White Flag Rētreatment or attending a WF class to learn more about how to weave this philosophy into your life and well being. I also offer private mentorship for select individuals who are ready for this work.
Again, The transition from summer to fall can be tough, and some people resist this time of year. Resistance to the changing seasons can cause stagnation in the body and weaken the immune system. Being in tune with our planet, the seasons and the ever changing internal and external landscapes helps us to thrive in our lives and in our recovery from all the things!
Lastly, today I stopped at a farm stand and bought the late summer offerings. Squash, cabbage, cucumber, zucchini, tomatoes and watermelon. I delight in the simplicity of a farm stand and the man who sits at it. His tomatoes and peppers all so perfectly lined up, the watermelon sunning their green rines. The sun on my back as I placed everything in my big basket.
I came home and peeled, sliced, and de seeded the cucumber. Next I added a a seasoned rice vinegar and sesame seeds with just a touch of sea salt. How nourishing. How simple. When did we get away from the joy in this simplicity and seeing two cucumbers as a great meal?!