Chinese Five Elements:
Late Summer into Autumn, Earth into Metal
In ancient Taoist philosophy and at the core of the teachings of Chinese Medicine is the system of the 5 elements, and what is known as Five Element Theory. Here at Bloom Holistic Retreats we resonate strongly with this approach and understanding of our interconnectedness with nature. This underlies the teachings and practices we offer on our courses. We use this philosophy to help ease us from late summer into autumn.
The 5 elements approach shows us how the changing cycles of natures rhythms directly affect our own cycles. And how we can live a life, wherever we are, that is tuned into nature and that acts as a guide to helping us live a fluid, balanced and harmonious life.
In Taoist philosophy there are 5 seasons and it is this extra season that we have recently passed through, the period of late summer. This time represents the perfect mix of yin and yang which is the essence of the Earth element and culminates at the Autumn Equinox, where the tangible shifts in nature are easy to see and feel, and we move into the Metal element.
The Earth element: nurturing, conserving, stability and balance
It is the time when seeds planted in Spring begin to ripen and mature. In nature we see colours change to yellows, browns and gold, the trees begin to slowly shed their leaves as we celebrate harvest time, with an abundance of edible gifts from nature nurtured by the summer sun. Harvest is also a time to recognise and hold the fruits of our labour’ and appreciate the harvest of our lives.
On the realm of the physical body the Earth element relates to the organ systems of the stomach and spleen and corresponds to the sweet taste and the emotional qualities of sympathy, empathy, compassion and worry. Earth represents the mother archetype which is internalised by how we nourish and care for ourselves and is expressed through how we nurture others.
The Metal element: eliminating, letting go and asserting boundaries
If the Earth element is a time of celebration, rich colours, gathering and collecting then the Metal element, which represents true Autumn, means really letting go and clearing the deck of any unwanted baggage, before heading into the time of full surrender that is Winter. At this time nature is stripping itself bare, letting go of its abundant creations as it nears the end of the growing seasons. Here we can learn much from watching how the trees shed their leaves noticing how they do not stubbornly hold on, just in case they should need them later! We can witness how Metal gives value to the Earth through gold, silver and its precious minerals and in the physical body where mineral balance is crucial to optimum health and wellbeing.
The Metal element correlates to the organ systems of the lungs and large intestines, and is symbolic of eliminating, letting go and asserting boundaries. This time signifies quality and value and offers us a greater chance for learning than in any other season. It is the time of inspiration, the time to look beyond ourselves, to purify and renew. Here we can really discern what is working for us, decide what we choose to keep close and get rid of that which is old and stale. This strengthens our sense of self worth. Metal represents the father archetype and whilst Earth is our connection to the literal earth and our roots, Metal is our connection to the cosmic and ethereal and represents our true essence.
Five Element Theory can be a complex subject and be a never ending source of wisdom and insight. It is however possible to understand and integrate simple gems from this approach into daily life, that make a huge difference in helping us live more connected to nature and less influenced by the fast paced, stimulant driven lifestyles of the modern world. Here are a few of our favourite tips for helping you support the Earth element and the transition into Metal and the wonderful season of Autumn.
Food and Nutrition
*eat slowly and calmly, savouring every mouthful
* begin to include more root veggies and honour the seasonal gifts carrots, squashes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, beets, swede etc
* enjoy bringing more yellow and orange coloured foods into your meals
* discover natural ways to honour the sweet taste and think of foods that calm, soothe and feel deeply nourishing
* cook slowly and gently on low heat make one pots, broths, soups and stews
* increase more naturally sweet and warming spices in your meals such as cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg
* enjoy a nourishing drink of warmed plant based milk infused with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, turmeric and black pepper add a little ghee or coconut oil
* keep the nutrient dense seeds from squashes and pumpkin to make milks out of
* if you tolerate whole grains you can add these to your meals, especially millet and barley – be sure to soak and wash well
* bring in soaked pumpkin seeds and pine nuts
* try making porridges for breakfast with a mix of grains or seeds such as quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth soak, wash well and long cook if possible
* eat an abundance of late summer greens such as spinach
* be mindful of over consuming meat during this time and any foods that aggravate the stomach
* stand barefoot on grass for at least 5 minutes per day if you don’t have a garden go to a park or find a patch of grass or earth
* take time daily to practice conscious breathing
* nourish the skin with regular dry skin brushing and exfoliation
* take a weekly bath with epsom salts or a homemade bath soak made with oats, salt, lavender, calendula and chamomile
* if possible take a weekly sauna (dry or infrared)
* make herbal tea infusions containing cinnamon, ginger and liquorice
* make note of the things in your life that are no longer serving you and taking up too much energy, notice what is holding you back
* be discerning with that which you choose to keep and embody
* slow down and take precious moment for self and to just be
* let go of any lingering worry and anxiety
* reflect on any seeds planted back in Spring are our visions, dreams and ideas taking shape or feeling stagnant?
* get a regular massage or hands on treatment
* practice kindness and thoughtfulness
* enjoy hugs!
* enjoy being close to the earth
* as you practice remain aware of all the points of contact between your body and the ground
* focus on gravity and grounding
* play with rolling, rocking, soft, slower and more gentle movements explore more creative and intuitive movement
* explore balancing poses
* make time for a meditation practice and pranayama or conscious breathing
* adopt a lighthearted, playful and childlike approach to your practice let the body reveal its natural wisdom
Food and Nutrition
* begin to include more white foods in your meals such as cauliflower, celeriac, parsnips, turnip, yam, daikon, kohl rabi
* balance pungent foods in your meals i.e onions, garlic, ginger, mustard and mustard greens, most herbs and spices, horseradish, wasabi etc
* avoid damp and mucus forming foods such as milk, cheese, too much meat, fish and eggs, inflammatory foods
* eat foods that promote the elimination of mucus i.e soaked chia and linseeds, agar agar, pineapple
* enjoy foraged mushrooms such as chanterelles, porcini and shiitake if you tolerate them
* eat brown rice that has been soaked and washed well
* avoid baked and refined white flour products, over consumption of eggs and too much sweet foods
* cook with less water and on a lower heat for longer periods of time to internalise focus
* include a small amount of fermented foods to help encourage beneficial bacteria in the colon and elsewhere in the body, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh and miso
* use sour foods to balance and concentrate scattered energies such as homemade pickles, sourdough breads, vinegar, limes
* gradually start to add more seaweed and black/dark coloured foods as we get closer to winter
* immerse yourself in your self care routines and enjoy them!
* try adding magnesium rich epsom salts to a bath and take a long soak
* continue with dry skin brushing and exfoliation practices
* make sure your sleeping patterns are regular and consistent enjoy earlier nights and mornings
* explore waking up before sunrise and enjoying the time when the activity of the lungs, digestion and the metal element is at its peak
* address any lingering grief or sadness
* practice laughter
* make pungent herbal tea infusions with cloves, ginger, cinnamon and liquorice or with oregano or thyme
* combine turmeric with black pepper and try adding this with cayenne to an almond milk or coconut based smoothy
* infuse water with rosemary or sage
* regularly cleanse your home by burning sage
* get outdoors on a daily basis and breathe!
* increase mediation and sitting practice
* increase conscious breathing and pranayama practice
* try exploring working with mantra and mudras
* take a less is more approach and internalise the focus to the more subtle energies and sensations
* work with postures that open and create space in the lungs, diaphragm, ribcage and upper chest
* play with postures and movements that stimulate and ease digestion
* if you tend to be over active and dynamic in your practice then slow down, if you are lazy and sluggish in your practice then increase cardiovascular activity and try playing with more flow based movement styles
We hope that this provides you with some valuable tools and information on how to tune in to the changing season and offers you inspiring ways to explore this connection deeper for yourself.
Enjoy your passage into Autumn,