by Joseph Odom

The urge to find order in our world is as old as humankind itself. Many cultures generate symbols to help demystify existence. Chinese philosophy employs the five element theory to aid in making order from chaos. The five elements of China are water, wood, fire, earth and metal. These elements have many correspondences including a season of the year, the four seasons we know plus the season of ripeness, late summer.

The earth element is strongest in late summer. It is found, in the natural order of the elements, between fire (summer) and metal (autumn). Directionally, it is the center with the other four elements taking the cardinal compass points. Holding the center together is a function of the earth. Holding our individual centers together is the earth element. The correspondence within our bodies is the spleen and stomach, in Chinese Medical theory the spleen assimilates and converts what we eat into useful energy, qi and blood. Like Mother Earth, the spleen-stomach is the provider.

My teachers of Oriental Medicine always stressed to me the importance of strengthening and protecting the center qi. Individuals with weak center qi manifest with digestive symptoms. It is useful when digestive problems arise to examine our personal relation with the earth element.

This late summer is the perfect time of year to look at our relationship to the earth and all those things which nurture us. What is our, relation to home. Do we feel like we have a place on the earth where we truly belong. Do we feel well cared for, and can we care for others with grace? What things make us sick to our stomach?

It would be good to go outside this late summer and find a place on the earth, feel her support and contemplate these questions. We all need physical, emotional and spiritual support, it is in our relation to earth that these needs are met. Enjoy the end of summer.


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