Friday, August 27, 2010

Late Summer

Late Summer a pivotal point in the energy of the seasons when the Earth Element plays a central role. Described in ‘Traditional Acupuncture The Law of the Five Elements’ as “The forces of Nature are very precisely balanced and interacting every moment” (Dianne Connelly 1994). Earth has a special significance in that it supports all the other elements. Earth is the source of the other elements, the centre from which they arise.

Earth’s energy comes to the fore in late summer and yields forth it’s ripe fruits and crops in the harvest which have been growing since the ascension of Yang from spring. The climax of Yang during summer has passed and provides an opportunity to prepare for the ascension of Yin, commencing in autumn, and peaking in winter. If we are “awake” to this opportunity we can realise this by storing and taking advantage of the bounties of Mother Earth. Earth has been “giving” of itself since spring, producing many sources of nourishment for us in fruits and vegetables, and now is resting before she starts to “receive” her own nourishment, for example through decaying leaves, to be ready to produce when the next spring season arrives.

The origin of the Chinese ideogram for Earth (Tu),  was derived from the image of a plant growing from soil.

This is indicative of the early recognition of the gift, which Earth gives in providing nourishment.Plants need an appropriate soil to grow in where the roots can take hold and not be easily uprooted. This gives us an indication of other gifts provided by Earth in that it provides support and stability.

Many civilisations have myths and stories about the Earth, a stable ground, which receives a “kiss of rain” from the heavens, which allows the ground to be fertile. In old diagrams of the Five Elements Earth was located in the centre surrounded by the other four elements. Like a mother surrounded by her children! This reflects Earths direction, which is centre.

Late Summer is a time to recognise the many gifts Earth presents to us. We also need to be aware of the challenges that Earth has for us. All the gifts, capacities and challenges affect the body, mind and spirit.

Gifts & Capacities
The Earth gives us somewhere to make our home. She provides the raw materials we need to build our homes. She provides the sources of energy that we use to provide light, heat etc in our homes. She rotates on a central axis providing us different seasons. These seasons in turn provide the various environmental conditions required for various food types to grow and mature which in turn play a vital role in providing us with physical nourishment. Having our physical needs met and prepared for through the harvest that come with late summer allows us to have a sense of belonging and a feeling of being safe and secure. This in turn allows us to operate from a centre, be at home with ourselves, at ease, be balanced and centred, and yet able to interact and connected to the rest of the world.

The Earth is made of many varied terrains and landscapes. There is an abundance of life that provide us with many smells and sights that are pleasing to our mind and spirits. There are a huge variety of sights, smells and sounds, which reflect Earths capacity to cater “for all tastes” so-to-speak. There is something out there that may please the billions of individuals living on planet earth.

Mother Earth is a giant ‘re-cycling’ plant. She is capable of taking the pollutants we throw at her and re-cycle them by absorbing them and purifying them. We have however, to maintain respect for this capability and not take it for granted and over stretch it. We can see signs of this strain on Mother Earth in feedback such as global warming.

One of the key challenges that Earth presents to us is to be aware of what are our individual needs. We need to consider what is the right place on Earth for us? Having found a place we need to find out what we can do to ensure that Earth can fulfil it’s potential. If we are not aware of our needs this shows us an imbalance in our Earth element energy.

We need to strike a balance in our life in taking care of our body, mind and spirit. In her book ‘Traditional Acupuncture The Law of the Five Elements’ Dianne Connelly states “If we care for ourselves be creating health, the children to whom we give birth must then be healthy and strong in life, learning to create harmony in the same way.” (1994). This balance can be realised through an appropriate mix of nourishment via a balanced diet, regular exercise, and some time put aside to relax and meditate. Indeed the season of Late Summer is a time of stillness and an ideal opportunity to reflect upon the fun and relaxation we have experienced during the summer and prepare for the challenges if life during autumn and winter by filling the our storehouses to help us nourish our body, mind, and spirit. If we have an energetic imbalance in our Earth element in relation to taking stock from the harvest we could for example come from a position of having a fear of lack of, or not having enough. Always providing for the “just in case” scenario whether that be through always having cupboards full of food, or perhaps if travelling having a supply of food, blankets etc in the car. On the other side of this imbalance we may not use the harvest to rest and recuperate and lose the appropriate balance for caring for our self and others. We can give of our selves constantly and eventually burn out as an exhausted martyr.

On the mind level we need to be aware of the energetic influences of the Earth element. In balance the mind can take in information and process it. Out of balance can result in over pensiveness for the mind. A strain is presented if for example we are constantly stuck in making decisions.

Someone with well developed Earth energy is a well grounded, nurturing, compassionate person, sometimes depicted as the archtypical “earth mother”. Earth people like to bring others together and make good mediators or peacemakers and reliable friends. They often enjoy both preparing food and eating.

When people have weak Earth Qi, they can be worriers and meddlers. They are prone to pensiveness. They may overwork, especially in studying or other intellectual work. They are vulnerable to digestive problems and diarrhea. They may gain weight easily and lose it with difficulty. Their bodies have a tendency to make excessive mucus, and they may suffer from cloudy thinking, muzzy-headedness, and a lack of clarity.

Associated with the Earth Element we have the Stomach (Wei) and Spleen (Pi) Officials. These play an important role in providing nourishment to our body, mind and spirit.

Stomach & Spleen Officials
The Element Earth is our connection with mother Earth herself. From her we receive our physical nourishment which, along with the air from the heavens, is the only way that we can replenish and revitalize the Qi energy with which we are born. We also receive from her the mental and spiritual nourishment which gives us the feeling of stability and security, the center and equilibrium on which our whole lives are founded. The Officials of the Earth Element, therefore, are vitally important to the whole economy of the body, mind and spirit.” (J.R. Worsley 1998).

The Stomach (Wei) Official
The Stomach Official is the Official responsible for the rotting and ripening of food and drink. It’s an Official that people tend to be most disrespectful to. The stomach prepares the food and drink for the Spleen to extract the food Qi. As Su Wen Ch. 19 states “the stomach is the root of the 5 Yin organs.” When allowed to function as it should we derive maximum benefit from food Qi or “Gu Qi” which supports the Jing (Essence), Blood and Shen (Spirit). We can realise this by eating a “balanced meal” which in Chinese medicine terms is one which includes all five tastes, (sour/acid, bitter, sweet, pungent/spicy, salty), in proper proportion.

If the Stomach Qi fails to descend we suffer from “rebellious Qi” which includes symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. We need a proper fluid intake to support the stomach in it’s role for it is said that the Stomach “likes wetness and dislikes dryness”.

The extent of the Stomach Officials influence within the body, mind and spirit if reflected by the extent of the pathway of it’s meridian. The Stomach meridian starts on the face just under the eye and finishes on the second toe. It has 45 points, making it the second largest Meridian of the body!

The Stomach Official also plays an important role in our mental and spiritual lives in that it takes in our mental and spiritual food. Our language is full of expressions which reflect this. For example we talk about “digesting” information, “chewing” over problems or finding something hard to “swallow”.

There are points the Stomach meridian which describe their functions on the body, mind and spirit and it’s relationship to the Earth Element. For example St 4: Earth Granary, St 8: Head Tied, St 14: Storehouse, St 20: Receiving Fullness, St 24: Lubrication Food Gate and St 25: Heavenly Pivot.

The Stomach Officials most energetic time of day is 7am to 9am and it’s weakest energetic time is 7pm to 9m. This is reflected in the wisdom of the old adage to breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.

So we need to respect our Stomach Official for if it is sick then none of the other Officials can have any nourishment. In such a scenario our body will make itself heard screaming out for food and from this will arise an excessive need for sympathy, mother’s love and cravings for sweet tasting food which goes directly to the Earth Element within us. Over time may come the other extreme where there is a rejection by the child who no longer trusts its mother. Any sympathy, nourishment etc that is offered is cast aside.

The other half of the Earth Element Officials team is the Spleen Official. The rotting and ripening of food for the Officials is only of value if it can be distributed to the rest of the body, mind and spirit. This is the function of the Spleen Official.

The Spleen (Pi) Official
The Spleen Official is the Official responsible for transportation and distribution. The Spleen transforms food and drink, extracting ‘Food Qi’ and ‘food essences’ which are distributed to Lungs, Heart and Liver. This is an important process in production of both Qi and Blood. The Spleen directs Qi to the muscles, especially those of the limbs. So for example, if the Spleen Official is weak, a person may suffer from cold hands and cold feet because the Spleen Official is seen to behave like the driver who is too tired to finish their rounds. The Spleen produces a lifting effect along the midline of the body helping ensure that the internal organs are in place.

The responsibility for movement also extends to the mind and spirit. This is reflected once again in everyday expressions such as when we describe our minds as being “stuck”. We need to allow our thoughts to “flow” for creative processes. In an energetic imbalance the impact on mind and spirit can result in things such as poor concentration, worry and anxiety. Mental agility can show signs of losing the flow.

In the spirit the same sort of distress arises from the lack of proper distribution of the nourishment. The Officials between them ensure our connection to the spirit of Nature and the Dao, and each has to work to full capacity in partnership with the other to achieve harmony and balance in all our affairs. If some are under-nourished because this Official cannot transport Qi energy to them there will be the same sort of rootlessness and agitation which we see in the motherless child. Lack of comfort, lack of love, and lack of compassion in some and no tin others is going to lead all off the disunity we see when some children are better cared for than others. The jealousy, spite, attention-seeking, depression and isolation shatter the harmony of the spirit, and only when a solid connection with Mother Earth is re-established will the Officials, together as a whole, be able to breath a sigh of collective relief.” (J.R. Worsley 1998).

Some examples of points on the Spleen meridian which describe their functions on the body, mind and spirit and it’s relationship to the Earth Element are: Sp 8: Earth Motivator, Sp 17: Food Drain, Sp 21: Great Enveloping.

In conclusion having looked at the Earth Element and it’s related Officials of Stomach (Wei) and Spleen (Pi) we conclude by looking at some suggestions that may help us to live in harmony with Earths season of Late Summer.

- Be thoughtful of how we can nourish others!
- Be conscious of the harvest in our life!
- Consider what we need to do to make ready for the letting go of autumn.
- Enjoy the abundance!

Connelly, Dianne M. (1994) Traditional Acupuncture The Law of the Five Elements. 2nd Edition.
Maryland, U.S.A.: Tai Sophia Institute

Worsley, J.R. (1998) Classical Five-Element Acupuncture™ Volume III The Five Elements and The Officials.
J.R. & J.B. Worsley

College of Traditional Acupuncture (2005) Blue Group S2005 Session Notes.

Franglen, Nora (2001) Simple Guide to Using Acupuncture.
Kent, England: Global Books Ltd.

Herrmann, Christa-Maria (2000) The Five Elements Volume 1.
Coventry, England: Paul Coughlin Ltd.