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Although it's only mid-Ma ...

Posted Mar 10 2010 6:00am

Although it's only mid-March, the seasonal transition is in full swing. For example, it's raining today, not snowing. We wake up to above-freezing temperatures and soar into the 40s. Our ice cave has icicles on its ceiling and grass on its floor.

I've been ruminating this week on the 5-element cycle in Chinese medicine and the best way to flow through these seasonal changes. Personally, I find that when I sink into the groove of a season  I'm fine....I know what clothes to wear, what foods to eat, what books to read with the kiddos, what activities to craft.

Throw me into a time of change, though, and I can so easily get off-kilter. I tend to feel the effects as emotional turbulence, weight gain, and drops in my bank account as I suddenly think I need all these things to get ready for the coming season. I literally lose my ground and find myself frantically searching for the groove. I go through my closets to see what fits my mood and my waist. I eye the catalogs and sales for the allure of the perfect me in the near future season. The transition from spring to winter is particularly notorious for stirring up emotions that have stagnated during the long, cold hibernation.

Living in Minnesota, I see anew the beauty of the 5-element system. The 5-element view of life is basically that there is a cycle of elements at work within each of us, each element corresponding to seasons and body systems among other things.


Do you see that extra season there? Harvest time. That most abundant time of year when we're so busy picking and processing and saucing and canning and freezing. It's so important, it's its own season. And behold, the physical process that corresponds to that time of year is the spleen/stomach, more familiar to us Westerners as the digestive system.

Each season also has its own lists of foods to eat, activities to engage in, even colors to wear. But here's where it gets even more interesting...and confusing.

Here's another map of the elements, also used in Chinese medicine.


See how the earth has moved? Here, the system acknowledges that the harvest and the digestive system are the center of it all.  And finally, after 2 winters in Minnesota, this season that has always flummoxed me in terms of what in the world to eat, makes a little more sense.

Return to the center. Return to the spleen/stomach. Return to the digestive system. What does this mean? It means moderate, cooked foods. For us this week, it means oatmeal, lentil soup, chicken and coconut milk soup, roast chicken, carrot/cabbage/raisin slaw. It means protecting the regular rhythms of sleep, rest, play and routine. The wisdom of Chinese medicine instructs us to return to the center to ease the transitions between seasons. I get it now, finally, over 10 years later.

With the wisdom of the ancient medicine, my own experience, and a few more servings of Heather's  Crack Pie , I should be all set for a plentiful spring!

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