Throughout my career as an integrative family physician and author, I have been teaching and writing about being attentive to the cycles of our planet’s seasons and how they affect our life and health. It’s really one of the simple yet key concepts from our decades long ‘Back to Nature” movement where natural healing modalities have been integrated into the dominant Western medical system.
Of course, here in the United States and in most of the modern world, the idea of four seasons is accepted without question and the year is indeed divided into four by the two solstices and equinoxes. However in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is the system I use for my seasonal approach to health, there are five elements and five seasons.
What is the Fifth Season?
Well it’s happening right now! We would call it Late, or Indian Summer – a special time between Summer and Autumn when there is often a glorious hot spell. Nature is rich and full – with harvests of all kinds – apples, corn and grapes to name a few where I live in Northern California. This is also an important period of preparation and readiness for the work ahead in Autumn and the darker half of the year, which is about to begin with the Equinox on September 23rd.
Interestingly, for many of us who grew up in the US, this is when the new school year starts and so we have an intuitive understanding of this time of transition starting in early childhood right through college. We know it can be both exciting and anxiety provoking.
In the Chinese system this period corresponds to the Earth element and the word “Doyo,” meaning life transition, is used to describe this time. The center is the direction associated with the Earth element.
Doyo relates not only to this summer–to-autumn transition, but to the times of seasonal change, which come four times a year for ten days before and ten days after each of the two solstices and equinoxes. This three-week period has some aspects of all the seasons, or elements, so it can seem a bit chaotic – often the weather can be “unseasonably” hot, cold or some other extreme during these times.
How to Stay Balanced during the Doyo?
Late Summer is a short season, but it can be a time of intense metamorphosis in Nature and within ourselves. During transitional periods in general, it is especially important to stay centered, a state of being in contact with the Earth, that we call “grounded,” so as not to fall into chaos when things are in motion both inwardly and outwardly and it feels like there’s nothing to hold onto. Right now, it is also important to be aware of the shift from the outward expression of spring and Summer to the inward focus of Autumn and Winter.
There are many qualities connected the Earth element as you can see in the chart below from my book, Staying Healthy with the Seasons
Nourishment is Key
The organs relating to this Late Summer time and the Earth element are the Stomach and Spleen. Integrating concepts from both Eastern and Western medicines, these two organs work together to digest our foods and distribute the resulting energy throughout the body. Nourishment is important to your energy state and wellbeing, so the proper functioning of these two organs is vital to feeling good and to preventing illness. Our eating habits, like chewing food thoroughly, are key to keeping our digestion working efficiently and maintaining a strong Stomach and Spleen.
Clarity and balance in our diet will see us through many external problems and through seasonal transitions. We can move from our lighter summer diet toward a bit more density, giving us more fuel and inner heat. We may feel stronger and more able to work. This building program may include heavier protein and fat foods, whole grains, seeds, nuts and beans. But remember, our diet always needs a good percentage of fresh vegetables and some fruits too, for a proper alkaline balance. It’s also a good time to work on our food-combining and eating habits generally.
Exercise is another key to our vital health, so we can also start toning up in our exercise program as well to help build our strength. Working with weights, as well as calisthenics and isometrics, are good exercise programs to begin now, but we should keep our outdoor activities and sports going as long as possible. This daily exercise will help regulate weight and balance the tendency to gain a few pounds through the fall and winter.
Give your Body a Break as the Seasons change!
This Doyo period and early Autumn are also great times to consider giving your body a break from your habitual consumption patterns. For the last 40+ years I have been offering an Autumn Detox group program at my clinic in Northern California and for the last couple of years I have also lead an online class through the Zoom online conferencing platform, which enables me to interact with students around the world.
Stay tuned for more details on my seasonal classes online – join my newsletter list if you haven’t already to keep in touch.
I hope you can join us