We all are very familiar with Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter but why does Chinese medicine include a fifth season and where does it fit on the calendar? According to TCM theory, the fifth season is that important time between the seasons, where we ‘return to center’ so we can ‘pivot’. About 2-3 weeks before the beginning of each season is a time of transition.
Each season correlates with an “elemental energy.” Spring belongs to the wood element, Summer to fire, Fall to metal and Winter to water. The transitional time between the seasons rightfully belongs to the earth element as this is the time when the seasonally dominant energy returns to the earth to be transformed into the next seasonal energy.
The Earth Element is generated and managed in the body by the spleen, pancreas, and stomach. These organs are in the business of metamorphosis. As digestive organs (according to TCM), they transport and transform the food we eat into nutrition to build our blood and nourish our cells. The spleen governs the muscles and is important in the free movement of the body. The associated orifice is the mouth and spleen Qi manifests in the lips. The Spleen is also known for housing the intellect (yi) and is involved with the thinking aspect of spirit. The color of the earth element is yellow, and the taste is sweet. The Chinese Lunar Calendar sets the start of the seasons earlier than our Gregorian calendar, so if we are following the seasons according to Chinese medicine, we can anticipate the start of Fall this year around Aug 7th. The period about 18 days prior to that date (beginning around mid-July) is called late summer, and this is the time to pay special attention to the energy of transition. The benefit of nourishing our earth element during this time is to gain balance and stability for periods of change. The earth element represents our wide center stance from which we can safely assess the next move (picture the slow smooth movements of tai chi). The importance of core stability rings true whether we are talking about physical activity or more subtle energy dynamics.