The first apples have appeared in the local farmers market, and even though the days are still warm, the nights have become cool and crisp. Fall is fast approaching, but as summer wanes, time seems to hang suspended in the air, the pause just before Autumn serves up her harvest. Indian summer. It’s a time of peace in which we can appreciate the fruits of our labor and that of the Earth.
In Chinese medicine, the time between Summer and Fall is the season of the Earth element. According to the book Between Heaven and Earth, “Earth’s density and mass sustain our momentum, keeping us aligned in the direction of our desired goal.” It is during this time that we can use this energy to generate change without losing our balance. Earth and its energy represents our center of gravity, the place we always come back to when we need grounding.
Late summer, the time when Earth emerges, is associated with transformation. Makes sense, right? Days are getting shorter, weather is getting colder (in most places within the northern hemisphere), school is starting again, summer’s time of fresh fruit and vegetable abundance is at it’s climax, and soon we’ll be heading into the wintery decay. It’s all part of our earthly cycle.
The organs related to Earth are the spleen (yin) and stomach (yang). The spleen is one of the main organs of digestion, it helps to recycle red blood cells, and is where white blood cells trap organisms that cause infection. Energetically, it incorporates whatever we take in, food, experience, etc. into the substance which makes us who we are. According to Sarah Powers, it is the source of life for other organs because it takes the pure essences of ingested food and converts it into blood and chi.
We all know the stomach is primarily responsible for digestion, assimilation, and distribution. From the stomach, immediately usable nutrients are sent to the spleen and things that need to be further broken down are sent to the small intestine for more filtration. Consider this: the stomach is the first thing to receive our food, other than our sense organs (mouth, nose, eyes, etc.). It is responsible for nourishing our energy on all levels, physical, mental or emotional, which is why it is so important to take in unpolluted food and food that will nourish our individual constitutions.
Remember when I said our Earth energy is what grounds us? So what happens when this energy, our spleen chi, is out of balance? Our whole system can fall into a state of disharmony. We end up feeling disjointed, uncertain, stressed out, and mentally and physically drained. Our sleeping, thinking, eating, even breathing patterns can be thrown off. We feel “ungrounded.” We may experience feelings of anxiety, worry, pensiveness, or off-centeredness.
This obsessive, anxious thinking depletes your spleen energy. You may begin to feel mentally tired and dull. Soon you might start to notice some digestive issues you’ve recently developed (or maybe you’ve always had them since you’ve always been an overthinker) ranging from indigestion, gas, and bloating to IBS. When you deplete your spleen energy, it affects your stomach since they have an energetic relationship.
Likewise, it’s possible to deplete your spleen energy. Irregular eating habits, lots of cold or greasy food, and eating close to bedtime can all contribute to a decline in spleen energy. When your stomach and spleen have to work harder to assimilate and digest the food you take in, it can lead to physical depletion of spleen chi, which eventually can cause mental weakness. The mind affects the body just as the body affects the mind. What you feed yourself contributes to your overall well-being on all levels, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I read a quote the other day that said “Don’t think. If you do think, act.” The next time you start to overanalyze or obsess over something, ask yourself if you can do anything about the situation. If you can, take that first step. If you can’t, try to let it go. This ability to “let go” in our lives is an important skill for our health as well as our sanity.
So in this time of Earthly abundance, take a moment to enjoy this brief pause between birth and death, growth and decay, and cultivate a sense of groundedness, of being at home inside yourself, at ease wherever you are, while still being able to connect with the world around you. You’ll notice if you take a moment to ground yourself in this time and place, you’ll be able to think more clearly as well as be more adaptable when the unexpected arises.