As I walk out to my backyard on a glorious late August morning, I feel the cool dew covered grass under my feet and the fresh humid air around me. I take a deep breath in and smell the fragrant aroma of soil, herbs and flowers. The sun shining through the leaves turns them a vibrant gold color while the cicadas buzz. As I stand here ready to practice my morning Qi Gong, I feel connected to the abundance Mother Earth offers.
An Overview of the Five Elements
In Taoist philosophy the principle of "as above so below, as within so without" permeates every aspect of life on our planet. Connecting to the natural world, the ancient masters from this tradition defined archetypal energies that resonate throughout our bodies, minds and spirits, and eventually they came up with the Five Element theory that continues to guide Chinese Medicine practice. Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal represent five phases of the life cycle that can be applied to the seasons of a year, the annual growth of a plant, or our own creative processes.
Each element holds a force of nature that carries life through the cycle from gestation and birth to death and decay. Water resonates with the depths of the collective unconscious and the source of our being, like a seed of undiluted potential. The energy of Wood is defined by strong and rapid growth, like a plant shoot needs for pushing through the soil in the spring. Fire corresponds to summertime and holds warmth and expansion. With its support we feel our capacity for action, actualization and connection with one another. Earth is the phase of manifestation, and holds the rich harvest that nourishes life, when the fruit has ripened and is ready to be picked and eaten. And finally the Metal element arrives as the descending phase of death and decay, aligning with the leaves falling in the autumn. It marks a time of letting go and heightens our awareness of how precious life is. From here we return to our beginning- Water- and the cycle begins again.
Late Summer: The Transition to Earth Element
Presently we find ourselves in the late summer or Earth element, the great harvest where we reap what we have sown during the previous three phases. A capacity to nourish is one of the main characteristics of this element and it refers to our ability to nurture ourselves and others physically, mentally and spiritually.
“They are reliable, generous, calm under pressure and adaptable to the needs of others….they are solid as a rock”
An earth type personality has a strong desire to nourish and protect others. When the archetypal force of Earth resonates strongly in someone, they tend towards caregiving professions like therapists, healers or teachers— people who whole heartedly give of themselves. These people are usually well-grounded, openhearted folks who can easily empathize with others and provide support in times of need or despair. In relationships this person often shows up as the "shoulder to cry on." They are reliable, generous, calm under pressure, and adaptable to the needs of others. In other words they are "solid as a rock".
“Earth Element is the residence of thought, so if we find ourselves caught-up in worrying or obsessive thinking we won’t be able to get to the harvest”
When the Earth within us becomes imbalanced we often forget to nourish ourselves in order to be able to nurture others from a place of abundant resources. We can start to feel exhausted, slow or find ourselves "stuck in the mud “, resulting that our ability to nourish others suffers. When this happens I tell my students to notice their diet— are you properly nourishing your physical body? The nourishment of our minds is also very crucial to our well-being. Earth element is the residence of thought, so if we find ourselves caught up in worrying or obsessive thinking we won't be able to get to the harvest or completion phase. It's like chewing something over and over again but never swallowing and creating energy for the body to use.
Celebrate Earth Element: Get Outside
So how can we positively connect to the Earth element? To feel more connected to the healing power of Earth try practicing Qi gong, tai chi or yoga outside, run or hike on a nature trail, go to a local farmers market and purchase foods from your environment, have a potluck with your loved ones or simply stand barefoot in your backyard or local park and take in the abundance our Great Mother provides for us. We are a microcosm of the earth herself so when we embody the essence of her we will have more than enough to share with others. I wish you a bountiful harvest during this Earth element season!