Features and Occasionals

Indian Summer, Time of Transitions

By Valerie Litchfield

Feng shui for your body, house and mind.

In the Chinese Five Element system, the element of Earth corresponds with the late summer, often referred to as Indian Summer, and that glorious moment in the year when we begin to settle down once more for winter. The glimpse of fall foliage on the mountainsides invites us to gather ourselves inward and ground closer to the earth.

During this pause, we can stop and reflect on where we are and observe the abundance we’ve created in our lives. Earth element is the time of harvest and preparation as we move forward with the wisdom gathered from previous cycles.

Powerful Earth energy moves in sideways and horizontal directions and is central to all the other elements. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the other elements refer to one of the four seasons, with Earth being the pivot points. I like to think of Earth as the season that connects the other four seasons.

Earth is stability. Mother Earth nurtures us and provides us with a supportive surface on which to rest. Earth is the stable place where we can remain centered through times of transitions. We can review our lives, see what we need either more or less of, and then make the necessary changes. Once you’ve developed a practice of centering yourself and connecting to the earth, you will learn to trust your instincts.

If Earth is balanced, being confident, nurturing, relaxed and sociable come naturally. Alternatively, being consumed with worry that can lead to self-doubt and disappointment gets in the way of change and the ability to let go of old patterns and habits. Virtues of Earth include commitment, loyalty and diplomacy.

Stomach & spleen/pancreas

These organs associated with Earth element are the centers of digestion. Their functioning is reflected in our mental and emotional activity. Like a switchboard, the stomach and spleen/pancreas are in charge of absorbing, forming and transporting the energy from food. This process is finely tuned by the nervous system, which controls the assimilation of nutrients. Any imbalance in the diet or the handling of stress can affect its function.

In Chinese medical theory the stomach is called the sea of nourishment, a process that begins with chewing food well, consuming moderate amounts and doing so in a relaxed setting. Our emotions are closely linked to proper nourishment; gulping food down while on the run or eating under stress of any kind can change the nutritive quality of food and the effect it will have in the body.

The stomach, located on the left side of the upper abdomen, is the yang muscle in this Earth element pairing. Food enters from the esophagus and is treated with hydrochloric acid and enzymes such as pepsin; this makes digestion happen. The stomach muscles contract and churn the food, transforming it. It is then sent to its yin counterpart, the spleen/ pancreas, where the essences of the food are distributed to all of the other body parts.

Both the spleen and the pancreas are spongey, solid organs in the upper far left part of the abdomen. As part of the immune system, the spleen acts as a filter for blood, recycling old blood cells.

The pancreas in TCM is associated with the spleen and secretes the hormone insulin to regulate the body’s use of glucose.

The body has the ability to make its own sugar from proteins in the form of amino acids, fats and simple and complex carbohydrates. Sweetness is the flavor associated with Earth. But an overuse of sugar in the form of sweets can lead to imbalances of high blood sugar or diabetes.

Food combining and digestion

The season of the Earth element is the perfect time to implement the changes we desire because it opens us up while at the same time slowing us down. Changing our diet is a powerful way to change our lives, especially if we have been experiencing imbalances associated with Earth such as slow or sluggish digestion, abdominal gas and bloating, lingering hunger after meals or cravings for sweets.

Coming to understand the process of digestion and the way that foods work together is a great place to start.

It all begins in the mouth, the sense organ associated with Earth. Food begins to break down with chewing and the secretion of enzymes by the salivary glands. From there, food enters the stomach where various digestive substances break them down. While fruits may take 10 to 20 minutes to digest, proteins such as meat can take up to 90 minutes. If fruit and meat are eaten at the same time, the fruit will be held up in the stomach by the meat, causing gas, belching and bloating.

Another bad combination can be fruit and starches (grains, breads, beans, nuts and root vegetables). The enzymes that digest starches can be disturbed when combined with the ones that digest fruit, leaving you feeling slow and sluggish.

The most efficient combinations that can be ingested together are proteins and vegetables or starches with vegetables. Fruit are best eaten alone or in combination with each other. An easy rule is that foods that are grown together can be eaten together.

The late summer diet consists of the fruits that are falling from the trees, and the vegetables that have been growing on the vine as well as in the earth. This is still a time to continue to eat light and celebrate the abundant harvest of apples, grapes, tomatoes and zucchini.

As the autumn equinox grows near and the days become shorter, it signals the need for more starches, proteins and fats. Mixed in the correct combinations with the beautiful array of late summer fruits and vegetables, they create the building diet that readies the body for the autumn and winter months ahead.

Earth at home

Our environment can work like a magnet and, over time, anchor our patterns if adjustments are not made to support the changes we desire. To anchor your desired changes, a Chinese proverb suggests that you “move 27 things in your house.”

Earth element is associated with the Southwest and Northeast areas of your home, as well as the center. These areas are the transitional and pivotal points of energy movement in the home. They make great places for bedrooms, workout rooms, dining rooms and meditation spaces. To create harmonious energy in the center of your home, place a solid piece of furniture, such as a round table with a smooth base, for the energy to move around.

Placing a painting or photograph of mountains bathed in the sunlight can symbolically create the Earth energy that resides in the Northeast and can remind us to be still and contemplative, while at the same time encourage change.

The nature of Earth when it resides in the Southwest is one of nurturing, adaptability and unconditional support. From the Chinese point of view, the matriarchal spirit which resides in the Southwest is the key to family happiness, devotion and ability to find true love in our lives. Crystals are a splendid way to enhance Earth and work best when placed in pairs in the Southwest area or your home to enhance the energy of romance and love.

The female aspects of Earth can be captured by placing the image of Kwan Yin, the Chinese goddess of mercy and compassion, in a place of honor in the Southwest. Place around her offerings of the late summer harvest.

Valerie Litchfield is a longtime feng shui practitioner with LifeAlign Classical Compass Feng Shui. She lives in Salt Lake City.


This article was originally published on September 2, 2017.