It is late summer, a time of harvest and of basking in the abundant splendor of nature, as gardens and orchards brim with flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Down in my garden the "naked ladies" (a flower that's technically called Amaryllis Belladonna) are blooming with the smell of absolute pink-ness, and the peach trees are laden with ripening fruit. In the Chinese Medicine model of the Five Elements, late summer is a season unto itself, and it is the one associated with the Earth element. A very core and central theme for the Earth element is nourishment. In my newsletters throughout the year I like to share ways in which we can align our bodies and spirits with the energetic of the season. We all have these Five Elements within each of us, manifesting in many different ways. This month I'm offering suggestions relating to the Earth element, and how we can bring our own inner Earth element into greater health. Earth is also my personal constitutional element, so I have a lot of thoughts on this particular one!
Ways in which you can cultivate a healthy Earth element:
*Make a nourishment list. This is a "homework assignment" that I give to many of my clients, when they are depleted and drained. Write down everything you can think of that makes you feel deeply and truly nourished. I define something as nourishing if it leaves me feeling like the best possible version of myself. Let this list be long, and keep adding to it as new ideas come to you about what feels nourishing. Write down every food that feels deeply nourishing, every self-care practice and healthy habit, every book, every song or musical artist, every healing modality or healer, every friendship, every place you like to visit. It can help to post this list where you see it on a regular basis, and when you are feeling like your cup is running empty, refill it with something from your nourishment list.
*Look at the "ecology of needs" in your life. This is a term that my teacher Thea Elijah shares when discussing the Earth element, and it is a very central theme with this element. The ecology of needs is the balance (or lack thereof) in our lives in relationship to needs: our own needs and the needs of others. As with any ecosystem, this balance can easily get disrupted. To see how your own ecology of needs is doing, it is helpful to ask ourselves these questions (journaling can be especially insightful):
Do I consistently ignore my own needs? Do I give too much? Habitually doing this can lead to chronic energetic depletion and/or resentment. "To be generous, one must be rich" is an expression that is an important one for the Earth element. Our cup must be full before we can really give in an authentic way. A lot of health problems stem from continually giving and giving without refilling one's own cup and honoring one's needs.
Am I able to voice what my needs are, to myself and to the people in my life (the greater community)? Am I comfortable with asking for help when I need it, without feeling guilty? Earth is about community, and an essential piece of community is reaching out for help when needed (and in turn reaching out to help others when they are in need). A key sentiment for the Earth element is "We are all in this together." There are times when we simply need support or resources outside of ourselves. If we really struggle with the act of asking for help, we should delve into why that might be, and work to build the inner muscle of asking for help.
Are there ways in which I'm too needy? Are there ways in which I can and should be more self-sufficient and resourceful? Just as it is healthy to be able to ask for help, it can also get out of balance the other way if we are always depending on others to take care of our needs. It is a good idea to try to assess and discern what needs we can and should take care of on our own, and when it is time to reach out to the greater community for help.
*Spend quality time in nature. One of the best ways we nourish our Earth element is by spending time with our feet actually on the earth! Take yourself on a date with nature: no concrete, no technological devices (cell phones off!), even no talking or reading. Go to a natural place that feels particularly healing to you. Take a slow and mindful walk in this place, opening your senses to the sounds, sights, and smells that surround you. As you walk, pay attention to your feet connecting with the earth with each step. See if you can feel fully supported and nourished by this planet that is holding you in its gravitational embrace. Allow yourself to move really slowly, so that you can fully soak in the essence of this natural place.
Sitting or even lying down on the ground in a natural place can be one of the most replenishing and grounding things you can do for yourself. The Earth Element governs our relationship to Home-- be it our our actual living spaces, our bodies, or our planet. A healing theme for the Earth Element is to learn how to fully come home, to ourselves and to this planet. As you sit, stand or walk in the natural healing place you've chosen, try to see just how at home you can feel there. Try to cultivate a sense of really belonging, remembering that you are in fact a part of this natural ecosystem. It may even help to say to yourself, "I am home" as you spend your quality time in this place.
*Examine and heal your relationship with food. Food is one of the most primal ways to nourish oneself, and it is also a powerful way of connecting with the Earth and all of its abundance. Many people who struggle with Earth imbalances struggle in their relationship to food (and also with appetite and digestive issues). It is important to think about not just what you eat, but also how you eat. Eating should be a loving and enjoyable act of self- care, not a source of stress and guilt. It's true that if we are addicted to processed foods and refined carbs it might take a little while for the cravings for those foods to end, as they are addictive foods. But once we kick the habit of eating that way we can begin to relish food that is truly nourishing to our bodies. As equal parts foodie and health nut, I'm pretty adamant that we don't have to choose between delicious food OR healthy food. The two can and should overlap!
I'm also a big proponent of mindful eating. When you sit down to eat, take a moment to prepare your mind and body for this act of nourishment. You might even silently say to yourself before every meal, "May I be nourished by this food." Be sure to chew your food thoroughly, even setting your fork down between bites to slow down the process. This will also greatly help your digestion as many digestive problems stem from eating too quickly or not chewing thoroughly enough. Try to eat without distraction (again, no cell phones!) and when you are done eating take a moment to just sit and observe how you feel. Pausing to notice how you feel after eating can also give you information about which foods are really good for you, because you should feel good after eating!
*Get regular acupuncture treatments, to establish and maintain balance in your Earth Element, as well as all the other elements. Acupuncture can support the health of these Five Elements within us on a deep energetic level, as well as on the physiological/symptomatic level. If you are struggling with a physical and/or emotional imbalance in your life, I would love to help you move through it towards a place of vibrancy, by using my synthesis of acupuncture, heart-centered lifestyle counseling, nutritional guidance, and herbal support. Call or email me today to see how I can help you on your healing journey...
Wishing everyone an abundant and nourishing late summer season!
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I am a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist with a Heart-centered practice in the Santa Cruz mountains. See my About page for more about me and the work I do.