In Between Summer and Fall: The season of Late Summer
The Season of Late Summer:
Have you sensed it? Step outside in the morning and the air has a chill. Take a walk outside and you may see a leaf or two fall. Yet, the trees are still green and the flowers speak of life to be lived. Fall has not arrived, but summer is undoubtedly coming to a close for 2016. In Chinese medicine we actually have a name for this season, called late summer, and it corresponds to the Earth element.
I’m at heart a nature girl, and so the Earth element is one of my favorites. Historically, it’s held such importance that early Chinese physician, Li Dong-Yuan (1180 – 1251 c.e), created a whole school of thought that followed the principle that treating the Earth element could treat all disease. He followed the principle that is in fact gaining much attention in our current society, that most diseases are the result of injury to the digestive system. And this is way before the introduction of processed food and refined sugar! He laid out three main ways we damage our Earth element that are clearly still relevant today: eating in excess (especially dampening foods), overwork that leads to exhaustion, and excessive emotions (ie. stress and worry). Wow. That was nearly 1000 years ago and it’s still applicable today, if not more so.
I could talk all day about the Earth element, but to keep it simple let’s look at ways our Earth element can appear when its in balance and ways it expresses itself when it needs some TLC.
Feeling confident, happy, joyful, good appetite, good ‘ahem’ evacuation, lots of stable energy, an ability to nurture yourself and others (with good boundaries of course), and a good appetite. Also, a clean, organized house! Our home is definitely a reflection of our Earth, so if you have piles of clothes, dishes and papers…that’s a clue your Earth needs some love.
Out of Balance:
Feeling weighed down both physically and emotionally, obsessive thinking, foggy headed and groggy, lethargic, no appetite, sinus congestion, depression, ungrounded anxiety, a constant need to take care of others, and even prolapsed organs.
So that last part doesn’t sound fun does it? Well, guess what, fixing our Earth element can happen fast any time of the year! So if you are suffering from an out of balance Earth, no worries, I got you covered.
My top five, time-tested recommendations for getting our Earth mojo up and running:
- Acupuncture (and herbs). I would say this even if I wasn’t an acupuncturist. It just plain works quickly to give your energy a boost and clear your head. When I give a treatment for tonifying the Earth I see patients who walked in my door groggy and grumpy, walk out with a peppy step and clear thinking. When I’ve received a treatment for my Earth element I get home and have a compulsive urge to clean and tidy. I’m telling you!
- Food. As a practitioner, when it comes to food I recommend person-specific diets, however, there are some basic rules that are bound to make anyone feel better. Gravitate (in moderation) towards natural sugars like honey or coconut sugar, instead of regular old refined sugar (cane sugar, corn syrup). Reduce the amount of processed foods like breads, pastas, pre-made to-go food, and replace with whole foods (which are basically foods that are not pre-made…think sweet potatoes, rice, quinoa, veggies, protein). If time is an issue, I love the crockpot! And lastly, limit your dairy, especially cheese and milk, if you have any of the “out of balance” symptoms listed above. Don’t take my word for it, try it for one month and let me know how you feel.
- Positive thinking. The Earth element deals with thinking so this is a good place to start! There is an old saying that goes something like this: “If you want to see what you were thinking 5 years ago, look at your body today, if you want to see what your body will be like in 5 years from now, look at your thoughts today”. Visionary healers like Louise Hay, author of the book “You Can Heal Your Life”, use positive affirmations as a major tool of healing, even from cancer. Renowned biologist Bruce Lipton has scientifically shown how our cells change and respond to each and every thought. Just think how powerful we can be if we use our brains as a tool to help our healing process. Start by witnessing and taking inventory of what thoughts you are habitually playing in your head. From there you will have a good idea which areas you can add more trust and positivity.
- Nature. Ah, my favorite activity to replenish my Earthly resources. Just being out in nature exposes your to microbes that enhance your gut flora..isn’t that cool? Beyond that, connecting with the natural world, whether it’s a tree, a flower, a forest, a river or a creek, is a very, very potent healing force. As humans, we are not “in” nature, we are actually a part “of” nature. The Cherokee would to go to the French Broad river, which they called Agiqua, and whisper their illness, worries and any other concerns into the river as a first form of healing, before herbs, or going to the community healer. That’s how powerful they knew nature was in their healing process. Try it for yourself. Take a walk alone in nature and whisper your concerns to the trees or creek. Notice any differences you feel afterwards.
- Moxabustion (acupuncturists shorthand it to “Moxa”). A fermented herb- Chinese mugwort that is dried and usually rolled into a stick that burns and smokes. It is an ancient technique to warm and provide nourishment to certain points (usually Earth points) and areas of the body (lower abdomen is a common one). This is something I usually give to people to do at home between treatments if they are very low on resources or on strong antibiotics that make the Earth “cold”. I’ve seen it return energy that has thought to be vanished forever and make an appetite come back with regularity. It is powerful.
My challenge to you: use these recommendations as a guideline for one month.
Make them your own. Explore! Keep a journal to note any changes and then look back in a month and see how far you’ve come. I think you’ll be really pleased.
With Earthly gratitude and blessings,
Jennifer Blatnik, L.Ac., MAOM