Once the heat, movement and expansion of Fire pass away, it leaves ashes- Earth.  Earth is one of the five phases, but it is also the center, the substance, the stage where life takes place.  Like the other phases, Earth has its own season, late summer/ harvest time, but it also governs the transition between every season.  Earth is the balance point, that moment that seems to hang suspended in stillness like the center of a wheel or those days at the end of summer when the sun shines, the harvest is ready and all you want to do is lie in the warm sun and bask in the moment.  But the bounty of the harvest festival, when every person feels warm, cared-for and pleasantly full, is also earth.

Your Earth Type friend is the friend who invites you over for a huge meal, has you eat until you’re filled to the brim, and then keeps checking to make sure you’re ok and don’t need anything.  In our culture, this is often characterized as a motherly role, although anyone can embody these characteristics.  Let’s take a closer look at the Earth phase in human life, how an Earth Type person might function, and the types of imbalances to which an Earth person might be prone.

The color of Earth is yellow, its sound is singing, its flavor is sweet, and it pertains to family, peaceful relationships and digestion.  The basic challenges of Earth arise from its place as the balance point, the peaceful center.  It can become either too dense or too porous, and may overcompensate in its attempts to realign itself, swinging wildly like a pendulum rather than achieving dynamic equilibrium.  When balanced, an Earth Phase person sits at the center of a web of family and friends: this person enjoys caring for others, mediating disputes to promote a general sense of comfort, peace and harmony, and meeting the needs of others.

However, it is easy for an Earth Type to become overextended, forgetting to meet their own needs for the sake of keeping the peace, or otherwise allowing others to take advantage or their kind, self-sacrificing nature.  An Earth Type, when depleted in this way, loses the resilient, calming substance that defines this phase, becoming more like porous, loose sand than fertile soil.  When this happens, compassion and willingness to help others may turn to constant worry, debilitating anxiety and a tendency to interfere inappropriately in others’ lives. Physically, fatigue, weight loss or an inability to gain weight, dull complexion, digestive pains, diarrhea or constipation may ensue.  Cravings for sweets may overtake an appetite for nourishing foods.

On the other hand, Earth Types can also get weighed down, collecting too much mass and inertia, losing their ability to move with life while maintaining poise.  They can become emotionally overbearing and gaining physical mass as well.  Feeling bogged-down and foggy, once again with a range of digestive dysfunctions, the Earth Type’s self-esteem may also feel weighed down, like thick, dense clay, dried out or sludgy and damp, but either way unable to support and shelter life as Earth most desires to do.

In order to restore, maintain and properly distribute high-quality resources (which is Earth’s primary function and desire), an Earth Type person must be sure to allow adequate time and space to care for their own needs as well as those of others.  Taking in resources, both in the sense of healthy, supportive relationships and healthful, nourishing foods will keep an Earth Type in prime condition in order to be able to distribute and give to others as well. Whole grains, late-fall vegetables and fruits, and yellow foods can be considered Earth phase foods.  Remember- in order for Earth to be able to give, it must receive, and the quality of what it gives depends upon both the quality of what it receives and its ability to properly sort and process what it receives.

This is because Earth’s primary functions within the body are digestion and assimilation.  That includes not only physical substances but also everything else that a person must take in, process, and subsequently assimilate or discard: emotions, thoughts, experiences, and information.  It may seem like a stretch at first to our Western minds, since we’re not used to the idea of our digestive function covering more than the physical.  So if Earth is such an important phase, central to our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, how do we take care of it, whether or not we are Earth-phase people?

Remember that Earth is the center around which the other phases move.  This means that, no matter what your primary organizing phase, you’ll need a healthy Earth phase to support it. Maintaining healthy, peaceful relationships with family and friends supports the Earth phase, and although each phase has its own social activities and goals it finds fulfilling, each one typically functions best with an Earthy foundation of a predictable schedule with plenty of time for both rest and activity (this may be hardest to swallow for Wood types who thrive on challenge but may actually help make them even more productive and efficient).  Whatever time of year, and especially at season changes, we all must care for our Earth phase.

Posted in Chinese Medicine, Five Phase Theory.