Harvest Your Best You This Late Summer
In Chinese Medicine we have Five Elements, with each corresponding to its own season. In our Western calendar, we only observe four seasons. The ancient Chinese identified Late Summer as a distinct fifth season, sandwiched between summer and autumn.
August marks the beginning of this special season. In Jacksonville you may hear some people refer to this season as “the dog days of summer”. It can seem like summer drags on, until it comes to a different stage of season. Further north, some people call this season an “Indian Summer”. This season lasts from August through early October.
What makes this season different from summer? Fruits and vegetables are ripening, in preparation for the harvest to come. Late summer in Florida is hot and damp. Humidity is associated with the Earth Element. This season brings with it the warm, humid, near-tropical climate of Florida. By the middle of late summer, evenings and mornings get a little cooler, and the days become noticeably shorter. The Earth Element relates to fertility and, since our harvest is around the corner, it is as if nature is pregnant and about to pop.
The Earth Element
The Earth Element is comprised of two meridians of energy – Stomach and Spleen/Pancreas. The Spleen and Pancreas organs share the same meridian of energy in Chinese Medicine. Together, these meridians have a large role in our digestion, movement, and distribution of energy throughout our body.
The ancient Chinese understood the connection between our body, mind, and spirit. This holistic approach is based on their understanding of the vital life force energy that permeates all creation and is contained within the meridians of the body – called Qi (pronounced “ch’i”). Qi flows through your meridians and maintains the vitality of its corresponding organ, as well as its corresponding functions for the mind, emotions, and spirit.
For example, the Stomach meridian flows through each side of your body, from your eye to your toes and passing through your stomach. The Stomach meridian provides vital Qi energy to your stomach so the stomach can digest food and drink properly. The same Stomach Qi that supplies your stomach organ with the energy it needs for digestion also provides the energy for your mind to “digest” thoughts. Whenever you understand something that is said or written, whenever you process information, you are essentially digesting it on a mental level. Your ability to understand and process thoughts and feelings is provided by the mental level of energy of the Stomach meridian.
At the spiritual level, your Stomach Qi gives you the power to assimilate and nourish yourself at your deepest level. When your Stomach Qi is healthy at every level, you can nourish yourself physically with healthy food and drink, process your thoughts and absorb information effortlessly, nourish yourself and others emotionally with care and empathy, and can reap your harvest spiritually. The health of your Stomach Qi allows you to soak up the goodness that is always available to us, giving us the openness and awareness we need to receive it.
The Earth Element’s corresponding emotion is Sympathy and Worry. When the Earth within you falls out of balance, you tend to over-sympathize with others and can feel so sorry for them that you drain your own emotional energy. You put the needs of others ahead of yourself. You may overly worry about others. This kind of emotional pattern can be exhausting.
The opposite may also be true. Some Earth people will be very needy, clingy, and self-centered. They want everyone to sympathize with them. In this way, Earth traits can be separated into two main types: the Earth Mother and the Needy Earth. The Earth Mother wants to nurture and care for everyone else, and the Needy Earth wants everyone else to nurture and care for them. Either way, the result is usually someone who is under-nourished – whether it is emotionally, spiritually, or both.
It is important to tend to your Earth Element by taking care of yourself, such that you can take care of others from your overflow, rather than your lack. Self-care practices are sometimes easier to say than do. It begins with a nourishing wellness program that includes diet, exercise, and Five Element acupuncture.
August is National Wellness Month
It is no coincidence that August is National Wellness Month. All during August, National Wellness Month focuses on self-care, managing stress, and promoting healthy routines. Create wholesome habits in your lifestyle all month long and see how much better you feel!
Research has shown that self-care helps manage stress and promotes happiness. Whether you challenge yourself to a new yoga pose or treat yourself to a massage or acupuncture treatment, make a small change and it will impact your health in positive ways.
There are numerous ways to make those small changes, too.
• Increase your water intake.
• Add more fruits and veggies to your meals.
• Monitor your sleep and adjust for better sleep habits
• Join a yoga, walking, or aerobics class.
• Learn to meditate.
• Get balanced during each season with Five Element acupuncture.
By Michael Kowalski A.P., Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)
Founding Acupuncture Physician @ Acupuncture & Holistic Health Center, Jacksonville, FL