The height of the summer is waning. Shadows grow longer. The bright blanching sunlight is diminishing and in its place glows a softer orange. In the West, we do not recognise ‘late summer’, but Chinese medicine perceives it as a season in its own right. It is the time of the harvest, when trees bear fruit. The expansive energy of midsummer decreases and yet, this is a time of abundance.
Acupuncturist Michael Arnold describes, ‘golden fields of corn and apples ripening on the trees. Springtime is when we see growth; during summer, there is maturity and by late summer, it is time to fill our storehouse in order to prepare for the scarcity we experience during the cooler months.’
We ourselves are a reflection of this seasonal change. ‘It is a time to nourish ourselves, to reap a harvest in ourselves. It is the time to focus on self-care,’ Arnold explains.
There seems a natural inclination for rest and replenishment during August – a month, which many Europeans choose to take off work and have a holiday. But what if we don’t give ourselves the attention and nourishment we need?
In 5 Element Acupuncture, late summer is associated with the Earth element corresponding to the functions of the stomach and spleen. The stomach allows us to digest food and extract the nutrients we require. Similarly, our minds and souls also need nourishing. If we do not feed all aspects of ourselves or cannot absorb and process nutrients, it results in feeling unsupported. We can find ourselves with everything we want but still dissatisfied - a common malaise of our time. This affects our sense of wellbeing, stability and feelings of contentment.
The spleen acts as the distribution network, taking that nourishment and sending it exactly to where it is needed in the body, mind and spirit. We can fill our storehouse with all of late summer’s bounty, but if we do not take it to where it is needed, it will rot where it sits. The spleen is about movement – without it, we can get stuck and stagnant. We can have lots of ideas going around in our head but have problems converting them into action. When this happens we can fall into obsessive and unhealthy thought patterns. So what can we do to align ourselves with the potential available at this time of year?
Firstly, Arnold recommends taking time out. We cannot run on empty, so take time to yourself and restore your energies. In the words of author and speaker Eleanor Brownn: ‘Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.’
1 Barefoot walking. The Earth element connects us to our stability. A great way to feel grounded is to take off your shoes and stand on the grass. Sounds a little out there? Well, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health concluded that doing this can counter many common health disorders including stress, insomnia, inflammation, pain and heart disease.
2 Acknowledge your needs and establish boundaries. Arnold likens this to a scene of an overflowing river. The earth gets water-logged and seeps everywhere. Self-care requires us to set boundaries, finding a balance between giving and receiving. Nurture yourself by saying ‘no’ when you need to, voicing your needs and asking for help.
3 Get into your body. By getting the circulation moving, going for a walk or exercising, we can counteract those over-thinking tendencies that can get us so stuck.
Michael Arnold practices and teaches Five Element acupuncture in London. For more information, go to consciousacupuncture.co.uk/about