Can you feel it? The heat and energy of summer is slowly coming to a close, transitioning us into what we traditional Chinese medicine practitioners refer to as Late Summer. Late Summer is considered the fifth season and it has completely different energy than Summer or Fall. What do you notice? That yellow-orange sunset, all the sunflowers at full capacity – just beginning to break down, that apple orchard with fruits so heavy you can practically hear the trees yelling for help! These are some of the images that draw to my mind in Late Summer.
In the practice of traditional Chinese medicine and the Five Element system, Late Summer gives us the opportunity to pause, reflect, and enjoy the literal and figurative fruits of our labor.
You see, the plants during this time aren’t using their energy to reach tall and wide towards the sun as in the height of Summer. Instead, they’re gathering all the energy from the soil and the sun and using it to ripen their fruit. Neither leaning yin nor yang, this season presents to us a moment to find our center once again in the cycle of seasons.
Pausing to Prepare
In my practice and in my book, the Five Element principles are unpacked by season, organs, taste, emotion, and other associations to guide and support us more deeply and completely. Late Summer, represented by the Earth Element, governs the digestive system and the Spleen/Stomach/Pancreas in particular.
Just like the soil on our Mother Earth requires turning and replenishing of nutrients, our body-mind-spirit requires the same degree of nourishment, attention, and care. The Stomach, Pancreas, and Spleen are the spotlight of focus during this time as the digestive system sets the tone for the health of our mind and our immune system. The health of the Earth Element is the determining factor as to whether we have an appetite or not, what our relationship to community/family is like, whether or not we can generate compassion for others, and if we are able to give and receive nourishment with our world.
With an unbalanced or depleted Earth Element, our Stomach doesn’t know what exactly is nourishing to our bodies and therefore the Spleen and Pancreas don’t know what to do with the nourishment (or lack thereof) it’s receiving. This can lead to all kinds of digestive troubles as well as tremendous anxiety. We might find ourselves seeking nourishment in all the wrong places.
Alongside the digestive system, the balancing of the Earth Element’s emotions of empathy and compassion are just as important. When these emotions become unbalanced or suppressed, they lead to anxiety, worry, unboundedness or overboundedness, and overthinking. We all know the burden of feeling anxious, stressed, or worried. That notable feeling in our Stomach of contraction and unease is all too familiar.
To assist with the balancing of the Earth Element, I recommend contemplating these 3 questions:
Have I cultivated what I intended over the Summer for my own body, mind, and spirit?
Does my body, mind, and spirit feel nourished – or do I feel depleted?
Have I spent more energy than I truly had over the last year?
Since Late Summer is centered around the harvesting of the fruits of our labor, our nourishment should also be centered around nutrient-dense meals that are grounding and slightly sweet in nature (the sweet taste tonifies our Earth Element). The digestive system is the foundation of our overall health and well-being. Therefore, what better way to take care of your gut and protect your immune system than through the foods we eat and beverages we drink? As a treat, I’m sharing one of my favorite sweet treats straight from my book for your perfect Late Summer pause.