As we move into late September and the first signs of fall, we also find ourselves in Late Summer which corresponds with the Earth Element in our Five Elements (or Elemental Phases) cycle.
In New England, where I just spent almost four weeks, we were already into that late summer phase. Back home in Central Texas, with our afternoon temps still topping out in the low 90 degrees (F), it still feels like summer. Forget “late summer” – and we still seem far away from fall.
However, we passed the Autumnal Equinox a week ago. The days are getting shorter and the sun is noticeably lower in the sky, even in the afternoon. So let’s march on into Fall, shall we?
Before we do, let’s immerse ourselves into this Late Summer season that is part of the Five Elements paradigm.
A Natural Framework for Everything
Albert Einstein worked on developing a “Theory of Everything” that would explain all the wacky phenomena physicists were discovering as they inquired deeper into quantum realms. But Einstein never quite got there.
The Chinese did, however – and many centuries ago.
The Five Element Framework is ancient and deeply woven into the fabric of Chinese culture. Five Element theory is the foundation of Chinese disciplines such as feng shui, the martial arts, and the I Ching (The Book of Changes); and it provides a comprehensive template that organizes all natural phenomena into five master groups or patterns or phases in nature: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water.
From a health enhancement and medical perspective, the Five Element Framework provides a master blueprint that diagrams how nature interacts with the body and how the different dimensions of our being impact each other, as well as a diagnostic framework to recognize where imbalances in the body, mind, emotions, and spirit lie.
The Five Elements include the five Yin organs – Lung, Kidney, Liver, Heart, Spleen (and their corresponding Yang organs) – and address the interconnected relationships between them.
The Earth Element and What It Means
Late Summer is the season of the Earth element which corresponds with the Spleen and its partnered Yang organ, the Stomach. (This organ system also includes the pancreas.) In late summer and early fall, we enjoy the “fruits” of our labors. It’s a time of harvesting and gathering, including eating fruits and grains — foods that are sweet and help us put on some weight to prepare for winter and hibernation.
Mother Earth’s job is to provide our foundation and nurture growth. The Earth / Spleen element has to do with transformation – for example, transforming the food we eat into energy that feeds all the other organs.
And remember, because we’re talking energetically here too, the Earth / Spleen is also responsible for “digesting” mental and emotional items as well – helping you PROCESS your thoughts and emotions and keeping what nurtures you and is helpful to you, while letting go of what doesn’t help or serve you.
The Spleen houses your thoughts and your Yi, or intentions. It supports your higher cognitive functions such as analytical thinking, memory, and creativity or generating ideas.
We’ll dig more deeply into the physical, mental, and energetic aspects of the Earth and Spleen / Stomach in upcoming posts. For now, I’d like to point out a variation in how the Earth element is characterized.
In the Five Element Wheel, where we see the elements creation cycle flow in order, we typically see the Earth / Spleen as one of the five circling around a central point. There exist a generative cycle and a controlling cycle, which helps explain the interactions of the five elements on each other.
However, in some traditions or versions of the Five Elements, the wheel depicts the Earth Element in the middle, with the other four elements circling around it (see image to the right). This speaks to the Earth’s special place at the center of our existence.
Nutrition, digestion, and nourishment are a central foundation of life. Life is impossible without the Earth Element function to receive food (and drink), transform it into Qi and blood, and transport the Qi and blood throughout the body.
Each year on April 22, we celebrate Earth Day.
But in a sense, every day is Earth Day!
You Can Do It!