I always cherish these last few weeks of Summer before the energy moves down and in. The heat spell has broken and as the evenings are starting to cool down, it feels like even the molecules in my own body are slowing down. Having a weekend to “do nothing” feels like a welcome respite from the dizzying agenda of the height of Summer. We have officially entered Late Summer which is that beautiful brief moment as Summer is transitioning into Autumn. In this article, we’ll be discussing what may come up for you physically and emotionally in this season and how to flow gracefully through this transition.
THE EARTH ELEMENT
In Chinese Medicine, the Late Summer is associated with the Earth Element. For me, when I think about the Earth Element, the place I am brought to is the farm that I tend with my partner Andre. We have been planting and weeding and toiling for the past six months and all that hard work has paid off because for the past month or so our garden has been gifting us with cucumbers, beets, tomatoes, blackberries, kale, chard, cabbages, beans, potatoes and zucchini. The Earth element is all about slowing down to welcome and receive the abundance that we have cultivated in our lives. This isn’t just about what is happening in the garden. Even if you don’t have a physical garden…
What are you harvesting from your metaphorical garden?
Each Element governs an aspect of the emotional and intuitive aspect of human nature. The emotion associated with Late Summer/Earth is Worry. In Chinese Medicine, we do not consider any emotions to be “negative”. Rather, we understand that any emotion can be manifested in a healthy way or mutated to an unhealthy coping mechanism.
During its infancy a few thousand years ago, Chinese medicine was developed by philosophers and practitioners who were in direct contact with nature. They assigned the emotion of Worry to the Late Summer season because it is when the Joy of Summer is winding down and thoughts of the upcoming Winter are starting to trickle into our consciousness. Of course, Worry has its adaptive function because the planning that comes with Late Summer is about consolidation. How do we store enough food for the Winter? Do we have enough?
It is easy to see if we frame it in this context why Worry is such a big part of our emotional landscape during this time of year. This can manifest as repetitive thoughts that seem to circle endlessly without resolution like a hamster in a wheel. It can also appear like looking at the world through the lens of feeling like the glass is perpetually half empty.
These types of thoughts and the fact that we are in a season of transition can feel quite ungrounding for people. I offer a few inquiries to keep you grounded through this Season…
- What can we be grateful for? How can we acknowledge abundance?
- What plans can we set up to nourish ourselves through the Winter? What is bringing up feelings of scarcity and how can you fill your cup?
The organs of the Earth Element are the Spleen and Stomach which are the two powerhouses of digestion. Late Summer is the time of abundance as reflected through the literal bounty of food that ripens during this time of year. The Stomach’s role is to break down food and the Spleen is responsible for transporting nutrition into the cells.
The Stomach and Spleen also have a spiritual role that reflects their physical function. When we eat food, we are taking something that is external to us and integrating it to feed and power our bodies. Similarly, there are external events that happen to us and around us that need to be digested, processed and internalized. In Chinese medicine, the Stomach and Spleen are responsible for digesting experiences and emotions. If there are too many things happening all at once, we get overwhelmed. Energetically, you may need to ask yourself:
What am I not able to digest?
PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE EARTH ELEMENT
These are the common ailments that I see clinically with imbalances of the Earth Element. You may need customized care with an acupuncturist/herbalist if you see these chronic problems:
- Digestive issues (constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, nausea)
- Worry, overwhelm
- Prolapse (of organs, of spirit)
- Repetitive or ruminating thoughts that seem to circle without resolution
- Excessive menstrual bleeding
- Easy bruising
- Weight gain that is difficult to lose
- Yeast infections
GROUNDING EARTH RITUALS
Because Late Summer can be a bit of an ungrounded time for many, I encourage you to incorporate the following grounding practices to help you ease into this season.
Chew Your Food: The Organs of Earth are your digesters: the Stomach and the Spleen. Help them out by chewing your food thoroughly. This is especially important when eating foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are plant defense systems to deter animals and insects from eating them. In most antioxidant-rich foods, the more you chew your foods, the more antioxidants are released because the plant thinks it is under attack.
Eat Your Breakfast: Turns out, your Mom was right, breakfast actually IS the most important meal of the day. In Chinese Medicine, there is an organ clock that represents the time of the day when a particular organ is at its optimum function. The Stomach is responsible for the digestion and breakdown of food and it has the most energy between 7–9am. The Spleen’s function is to assimilate the food that the Stomach has taken in and extract nutrition from it. The time that the Spleen is working most efficiently is between 9–11am. This is why it is so crucial to eat a healthy breakfast loaded with good fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates early in the morning. If your breakfast hits your Stomach between 7–9 am you are harnessing the power of your body’s digestive power.
Start Slowing Down: This is not the appropriate time to start making and breaking ground on big plans. The big planning is best left for the Spring when energy and momentum feels like it is full of potential. Late summer has a different energy. Look out the window, temperatures are starting to drop from the high heat of the Summer and leaves are just beginning to show signs of color. For those of us who garden, the crops are at its most prolific. So much abundance in fact that we are figuring out ways to store the harvest by canning and pickling. The appropriate energy for this time of year is to slow down with the intention of basking and taking in the abundance.
Hold Boundaries: It’s easy to get overwhelmed during this time of year. The kids are going back to school, plans are being made for the holidays. In my own life, there are just too many darn cucumbers to pickle! If boundaries get loosey goosey, it is easy to grow resentful and develop what I call “Empty Cup Syndrome”← Check out this older Medium article for helpful tips on how to develop healthy boundaries.
Walk Barefoot in Dirt or Grass: Hiking and gardening barefoot has been something that I’ve been intuitively doing for years to feel grounded and calmer. I was so excited to find these research papers (1)(2) demonstrating the health implications of reconnecting the human body to the Earth. This practice of walking barefoot is called “grounding” and it has been demonstrated to reduce inflammation, speed wound healing, combating sleep disorders and showing a reduction in the perception of pain.
EAT FOR LATE SUMMER/EARTH
During the Late Summer months, it is best to stick to a diet that emphasizes these key points:
- Soups and Root Vegetables: This is when you should start transitioning from your lighter summer recipes like salads and smoothies into warmer and more nourishing foods for the Late Summer. Root vegetables are chock full of minerals and vitamins that are very grounding to the body and soul.
- Support your Microbiome: To support your digestive system that might be a bit sensitive during this time of the year, it is a great idea to find foods that are supportive of your microbiome. My favorite homemade microbiome booster is kombucha, but it might be a good idea to add a probiotic to your supplement regiment.
- Avoid Sugar, Dairy and Processed Foods: This goes back to the microbiome discussion because sugar, dairy and processed foods wreak havoc on your beneficial bacteria colony.
Are you interested in staying up-to-date on how to stay in flow with the Seasons? Let’s stay connected.
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