This continues and completes our series about the associations made in Chinese medicine and qigong between the five major organ systems and five elements. These associations are expanded to include associations with emotions, energies, animals, colors, sounds…and seasons. In this series, I’ve tried to highlight a few of the associations that you might enjoy contemplating.
Fall was the season of courage and gathering energy. Winter was the season of stillness and storing energy. Spring was the season of forgiveness and expanding energy. Summer was the season of joy and release.
And now…what? There is a fifth season? Yes, this is the season of late summer, the season of in between. The days are shortening yet still warm. The leaves are still green yet not as lush. Many are fitting in one more vacation while they are also in the process of gearing up for the new school year. It is a time of transition, as summer winds down and fall has not yet arrived.
In the West, at least in temperate climates, we think in terms of four seasons. The Chinese add this in between time as a fifth season, a season of balance.
The organ associated with late summer is the spleen and pancreas. Although separate anatomically, these are considered one organ system. The spleen serves multiple functions of filtering, recycling, and storing blood. The pancreas produces insulin to regulate the body’s glucose levels. All these functions are related to the energy of this season – balance. It is an energy of poise after the gathering of fall, the storing of winter, the expansion of spring, and the release of summer. Now there is a pause before the beginning the cycle again with the gathering harvest of autumn.
Just as the spleen/pancreas provides balance within our bodies, this in between season is a wonderful time to find balance in our lives. An instruction in meditation and in martial arts is “Not too tight, not too loose.” Balancing is a dynamic process, shifting moment to moment to maintain equilibrium.
The element associated with late summer is earth. We sometimes describe balance as being grounded, or we compliment someone by saying they have their feet on the ground. In Greek mythology, Antaeus was the son of Mother Earth. As long as he was in contact with the earth, his mother protected him and he could not be defeated in battle. (Hercules figured this out and killed him while holding him up in the air.) We think of the earth as nurturing, providing a bounty of beauty and blessings.
If we review the elements associated with the five seasons, we will see that they follow a creative cycle. Metal, associated with fall, “creates” water through condensation. Water in winter creates the wood of spring. Wood creates summer’s fire. And now the ashes after the fire return to nourish the earth. And earth, in turn, cradles metal. Each element in turn brings its gift to our lives and ushers in the next. So generous.
As stated before, the emotional associations are often categorized as positive or negative, but don’t think of this as good or bad, but more like a polarity, or a balance.
The negative emotion associated with this in between season is worry. I see that manifested all around me now for so many reasons, some national or global in scope, but also I hear worry in individual lives.
The positive emotions are fairness and compassion. I find it fascinating to contemplate the emotional pairings associated with the seasons. Some are easier to connect, like the anger and forgiveness of spring. But some are more subtle, like the sadness and courage of fall.
Fairness has an obvious relation to the balance energy of this season. But how does compassion balance worry? It seems to me that worry often involves judgment. Anticipated circumstances are good or bad, or we fret that we are somehow falling short. Compassion softens judgment. Compassion opens and connects. Compassion accepts. It finds the fairness and balance in the middle.
So, my friends, as we rest in this in between season, may we release all worry and find balance in our lives through compassion for ourselves and everyone.
If a problem has a solution, there is no need to worry. If a problem does not have a solution, there is no need to worry. ~the Dalai Lama