Seasonal Cultivation : Late Summer/Earth
Earth is the name the Chinese give to the energy of late Summer. This special season was added to the four traditional seasons to create numerical consistency with the five elements. In the yearly cycle, it is the transitional season between Summer and Fall, although some ancient texts correlate it to the transition times between each of the other four seasons.
Late Summer is the season of the Harvest. The gathering in of all that has been produced the rest of the year. As such it is correlated with nourishment and abundance, a time when grains are reaped and fruits are pieced in preparation for winter. It is a golden time of contentment and security, of basking in the flow of achievement and satisfaction. The energy of Earth is that of rich ripe stillness.
We experience this energy at mid-life when we raise families, create a body of work, or are productive in our jobs. It is a time when we settle down and create a home for ourselves. After the hard work of youth and early adulthood, we begin to reap the rewards of our labors. Our thoughts turn to nurturing the next generation, and the tasks of parenting, mentoring, and solidfying what we’ve created. This season is associated with “Mother’ Earth — the primary nurturer — and so we need to “Mother” something at this phase of our lives.
Late Summer can be a time of great fulfillment, if we’ve planted our seeds well and tended them carefully as they grew. It can also be a time of great unhappiness and insecurity if, like the grasshopper in the tale of the grasshopper and the ant, we’ve put nothing away for the Winter. Those who have no harvest within feel needy, desperate, disconnected, and uncentered — “like a motherless child”.
The Earth energy in our bodies governs our ability to nourish ourselves through the foods we eat, how we ‘harvest’ our daily bread. It also governs all the cycles and rhythms of life — the menstrual cycle, our sleeping, eating, and breathing cycles. Any disruption of natural cycle, or any difficulty with eating or digestion could point to an imbalance in the earth.
The organs associated with the Earth are the stomach, the spleen the pancreas. They are essential for digestion and the nourishment of the whole body-mind-spirit. The stomach in the classics is called “ the official of the public granaries” - it receives the food we eat and must transform it into something that the body can use. The spleen pancreas, in the Chinese model, is in charge of distributing the nourishment through the body.
On the mental level, Earth energy enables us to ‘digest’ ideas and anything at all that comes into our field via technology, information to process our experiences, and to form thoughts. An imbalance in Earth could lead to obsession, thinking the same thoughts over and over again in a futile attempt to digest something mentally. It can also manifest in anxiety-this going around in circles could also become a kind of obstinancy or stubbornness, the inability to accept any new ideas while we chew on the old ones.
The emotion connected to Earth is sympathy. Again, this can be seen as a kind of “motherly” feeling, of being Empathic toward others in need, and wanting to care for them. In the best sense, it is a compassion for all of life, a generous giving of oneself when the need arises. The negative side of this is worry — when the sympathy turns obsessive. As with all the emotions the important thing is the ability to flow between them. Someone who is always asking for sympathy or someone who is always sympathetic to others but refuses to receive any sympathy is pointing to an imbalance in earth energy.
Spritually, Earth energy grants us the capacity to be grounded in reality, to be balanced and stable in the world. Ultimately it is being at home in oneself. Then out of this calm nourished center, we can feel sympathy and compassion for all life, and a desire to care for all of creation.