The mellow, golden days of late Summer bring gifts of stillness and abundance. Gardens are full of flowers, fruits and vegetables, the fields are ripe with grain and there’s often a sweet, hazy quality in the air. We may start to feel tired, reflective, more relaxed or even relieved as the season starts to turn; either way, it’s a wonderful time to begin slowing down, gathering in, and appreciating the nourishment we receive from nature and from the fruits of our labours.
After the active offerings of the high season, we are held in the transitional “sweet spot” between the masculine Yang energy of summer and the cooling, feminine Yin energy of autumn. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, this time of year is associated with Earth element. Summer’s Fire, intense and expansive, must now make way for the more stabilising, centring energy of Earth. The ancient Chinese philosophers understood that when we flow and align with the elemental energies of the seasons - which were believed to correspond with all aspects of human experience - we tap into an abundant source of wellness, and are empowered to live life to its fullest expression.
Characterised by the balance between Yin and Yang, Earth element allows us to feel abundant, rooted and nurtured. It has a strong and harmonious vibration. Its corresponding taste is sweet and its colour is yellow, like the late summer sun or the profusion of yellow flowers and vegetables we see at this time of year.
“'Characterised by the balance between Yin and Yang, Earth element allows us to feel abundant, rooted and nurtured. It has a strong and harmonious vibration'”
Earth’s primary tasks are digestion and metabolism. It governs the stomach and spleen, both of which allow us to draw nourishment from the food we eat. Earth is concerned with how we nourish our bodies both physically, and how we process and assimilate the emotional and mental “food” of our thoughts, feelings and experiences. As our emotions play a big role in our digestive systems – the gut often being referred to as the “second brain” - Earth occupies a central role in the wellbeing of the entire body-mind.
Fertility, pregnancy and “mothering” are also strongly linked with Earth. Caring about others is the natural state of healthy Earth energy: as well as the physical sustenance of food, the unconditional love, attention and care that babies and children receive from their parents awakens, strengthens and enhances their Earth element, endowing them with a lasting sense of security and contentment. Similarly, Earth grants us the ability to nourish and care for ourselves – to sustain the inner mother, who feeds our creativity, compassion and connection - all throughout life, and to value and utilise the nutritive bounty and support we receive from the ultimate mother, planet Earth.
When our Earth element is in balance, we experience stability and steadiness and feel firmly grounded. Earth types are usually great listeners and are good at bringing people together with their kind, warm and supportive presence. Their qualities of being empathetic, nurturing, practical, hard-working, patient and reliable generally equip them well for the challenges of parenthood. However, an imbalance of Earth can affect one’s ability to nurture oneself and others and to process emotions in a healthy way; symptoms like cloudy or obsessive thinking, worrying, anxiety, exhaustion, selfishness, weight issues, sugar cravings, congestion, indigestion, nausea, eating disorders and poor muscle tone may surface.
Children with a well developed Earth element are friendly, caring and sociable, though they may not always enjoy being in the spotlight. They tend to be loveable little souls who are keen helpers, often displaying a remarkable ability for comforting others from a young age. They can sometimes be rather serious, and prone to worrying about things. The love, reassurance and care they receive from parents will give them a strong foundation for life.
Practices to strengthen Earth element energy in late summer:
- BODY: Any bodywork practice which helps us calm, centre and move into the nourishment of Mother Earth is especially beneficial at this time. Viparita Karani, or Legs-Up-The-Wall, pose is a restorative, grounding yoga asana which assists digestion and helps quiet the mind, strengthening the dual aspects of Earth element. It’s easy to teach this pose to children, and it has so many benefits that many Yogis believe that it can be used for pretty much whatever ails you! Harmonize Earth with the abundance of naturally sweet tastes, golden yellow and orange foods which are in season now: carrots, yellow courgettes and tomatoes, squashes, sweet potatoes, apricots, peppers and grains. We can turn food into a sacred practice by showing gratitude and being mindful of the hours of sunshine, rain, fresh air and energy that go into producing each mouthful. Traditional Chinese Medicine views all human beings as a mixture of different elemental energies, and the complex flow of interactions between them. A course of professional Shiatsu or acupuncture treatments can holistically treat imbalances in any particular area.
- MIND: If you are feeling spacey or unfocused, your Earth element may be out of balance. Taking your shoes off and going for a walk outside is a wonderful way to ground, connect and rebalance. Kids and teens (as well as adults!) respond well to short, simple meditations which encourage calm, focus and self-awareness. The “take 5” breath, where you inhale to the count of five, then exhale to the count of five, dropping the breath further down into the belly with each round, effectively calms the nervous system and brings mental clarity. You can deepen this practice by visualising any thoughts that arise as clouds, passing through the clear sky of your mind.
- HOME: Endow your home with Earth’s qualities of protection and abundance by using earthy tones like yellow, beige and brown, incorporating solid objects like ceramics, earthenware, crystals and soft, comforting items like throws, rugs and cosy blankets, particularly in the northeast, southwest and centre aspects. A great earthy activity with kids is to press natural objects like shells, leaves, nuts and seed heads into hand-rolled ‘pebbles’ of air-drying modelling clay. Once dry, the resulting pottery treasures will add a rich Earth feng shui element to a space.
- SPIRIT: Allow yourself to gratefully receive the abundance of life. Recognise and hold what you are “harvesting” now. Which parts of your life are rich and bearing fruit? Which parts feel stunted? Are there ways in which you could live in greater reciprocity with yourself or your environment? Let go of ideas that do not nourish you and practice loving the body you are in. Feeling at home in our bodies and caring for ourselves has a direct impact on how we care for others and for our mother earth - what better reason to give yourself the gift of loving kindness!
Caroline is a mum-of-one, writer and holistic therapist based in East Sussex. You can connect with her at talesfromtheseed.wordpress.com or on facebook at facebook.com/carolinemellorwriter