We have arrived in what Traditional Chinese Medicine terms the season of “Late Summer.” Here in southern New England, this begins on some unscheduled moment in August, when the winds shift, the humidity clears, and the temperature veers away from the torpid high numbers. We breathe more easily, and sleep more soundly. We turn our smiling faces again to the afternoon sun, no longer in fear of scorching.
The Spleen system, along with its pair the Stomach, is now in control. The red hot Fire element of the summer’s heat fades into the warm golden glow of the Earth. Heavier vegetables and fruits ripen, full of sweet flavors which easily charge our bodies with Qi after quick digestion. This thick density of flesh and easy energy then nourishes our muscles, and builds our immune system against the colder months to come.
The Earth is our mother, she grounds and nurtures us. The harvest fills us with summer’s stored energies, strengthening our bodies; memories from our active summer will entertain for months. With a hot squash soup and a fresh bread loaf, we are cared for, supported, sustained, sated, and loved.
A wonderful season for activity, exercising now will not only strengthen our muscles, but pump the lymph to clean our bodies. Too much inactivity now will add fat to our frames and blood, slowing our metabolisms, contributing to ill health through wintertime.
The Spleen is in charge of our digestion, and so loves foods that are easily digested: cooked foods: soups, stews, steamed vegetables. These foods give us quicker energy, or Qi, are often high in carbohydrates, and tend to be earth toned: winter squashes, potato, most grains, seeds, salmon & sardines, poultry & beef, dates & figs. Other vegetables in full ripeness now also make the list, including eggplant, cucumber, and watercress.
What’s the best way to nourish your Spleen/Stomach system and Earth element? Get outside and walk. The Chinese suggest walking 1000 steps after each meal to maintain your health. Consider getting in the habit of an after dinner neighborhood stroll, or a midday lunch break walk in the sun. Walk with a friend or loved one, and enjoy your time. Joy is the emotion of the season, and the brain its organ, so stop overthinking, let the details go, and appreciate all that’s around you: the beauty, the bounty, the sunshine, and those you love.