Late Summer, the interchange of all Seasons, and the Earth Element.
As the peak days of Summer begin to descend and Autumn days loom in the distant future, there is a time when the glory of Summer fruits and Summer-sun seems to persist in abundance - fruit is ripening, all that has grown and matured lie ready for harvest. In the garden, there is is sense of peace and plenty.
When is Late Summer? Usually falling on the last month of summer, or right in the middle of the Chinese moon calendar (note the first day of the Lunar New Year is different every year, and is usually sometime between late January or early Feb). It is an important time of the cycle of energies transitioning from two expansive and warmer Yang seasons (Spring, Summer) to inward and cooler Yin seasons (Autumn, Winter).
Late Summer and the 5 Elements: Earth
The Five Element Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine reminds us that our bodies follow the natural cycles of nature and our energetic movements mirror the same shifts. To attune with the Earth element, we should focus on nourishing the Stomach-Spleen organ network. This Zang-Fu organ pair is responsible for transforming and transporting solid and liquid, incorporating food and experience into the substance of who we are.
Earth also represents the transition point between each of the four major equinox and solstices we experience throughout the year.
Inner Classic: The earth Element, represented by the spleen-pancreas, regulates the "center" which is constant, from where it harmonizes the effects of the four seasons.
While Earth holds the time of the end of summer, it also has a place 7 1/2 days before and after each of the 4 equinoxes, which is why we always need to balance the Earth element.
EARTH - In the body.
Earth represents the Spleen-Stomach network. This is because in TCM, the spleen-stomach is responsible for breaking food, which transforms and transports nourishment to the rest of the body. This organ network is most active from 7am-11am. The Qi energy and other components from food are digested and delivered to the rest of the body to build immunity, vitality, and restore the foundational structure that our body needs everyday to carry out physical and mental activity.
EARTH - In the mind.
The energy of Earth gives us the ability to find stability, grounded-ness, fullness, and to feel nourishment in many areas of our lives. When your Earth element is out of balance, you may experience over-activity of worried thoughts, which may lead to obsessive worrying or self-doubt. To transform rigid or stuck mental/physical symptoms, take time to practice centering grounded practices, such as grounding imagery exercises or Zen meditation.
How to attune with the Late Summer season through food
To nourish the Spleen, choose foods that are harmonizing, centering, and naturally sweet, yellow, or golden and round.
- Dried: millet, chickpeas, soybeans, amaranth, cantaloup, apricots
- Vegetables: corn, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, yams
How can you tell if your Spleen-stomach is in check?
A balanced spleen-stomach generally appears in someone that has a good appetites and digestion, enjoy self-nourishment, and are hard-working and responsible. They have strong endurance, have fit-limbs, and do well in creative endeavors. Chronic spleen-stomach in-balance can result from a poor diet that contains too many highly processed foods. If quality of the diet is poor, it can cause a general Qi deficiency (energy), and physical symptoms such as loose stool, chronic fatigue, or having poor appetite can often appear.
Mental inbalance of the spleen-stomach represents compulsive thoughts that are stuck. The build up of mental stagnation . For nourishing spleen-boosting recipes, head over to the cookbook to try one of my favorite late-summer spleen-boosting porridge TCM recipes.