Tagged: Summer

The Earth Element in Chinese Medicine – The Yi

The Yi, the Earth element in Chinese medicine


Origins of the Earth Element

During March, we approach the Autumnal equinox pivot.

At this time there is a point of stillness, then a swing of seasonal transition. We can feel it in the crispiness in the air. Autumn proper starts.

Yet before that, there is a time of the year that in Chinese Medicine they call Late Summer.


“Late Summer” – Traditional Chinese Harvest Time

It’s the season of the Earth element and it’s a time of the completion of the harvest. All the crops that were planted in Spring have fertilised, flowered and grown. They’ve been picked, they have been eaten and some have been set aside to be stored.

The farmers are tired. The land has been worked. The bees are buzzing over the squashed ripe grapes that have fallen off the vines. There is beautiful light.

It’s time to take stock of the love experienced in Summer. The celebration, connection, inspiration and release we may have had – let that nourish the heart.

Time to take that inspiration and plant it into our year – plan how we are going to garden those seeds so they can grow.


What is the Earth Element in Chinese Medicine?

But really, what is the ‘Earth’ Element and how is that related to me?

Good question.

I want to share a few of my favourite things about understanding Earth, as per usual inspired by one of my favourite 5 element writers, Lorie Eve Deschar.


The Spirit of the Earth – The Yi

Deschar talks about the ‘Spirit of the Earth’ as the ability to concentrate, to be receptive and creative in such a way that we weed and feed the soil of our dreams so that one day we can present them to the world in a substantial form.

In this way, the Spirit manifests as a project, a creation, a body of work, a unique gift that you bring forth.

The aspect of consciousness associated with the  Earth element is named Yi.


What’s This “Yi” All About?

Yi is our ability to concentrate and focus our awareness.

Yi is the stream of consciousness that flows through our mind, that involuntarily thinks, just as our heart involuntarily beats.

It also is related to our ‘psycho-somatic’ experience. Does this succession of involuntarily thoughts enable free-flow in our body and behaviour, or does it create discord?


The Ideal Expression of Yi

Ideally, we should have unimpeded movement from mind to body. Meaning we have a clear trajectory from our deep inspiration through to vision, plan and execution.

The classics suggest that when this process happens properly, your Tao flows effortlessly through you and into your world through your words and actions.

But how often does this actually happen?

How many of us are actually plagued with self-doubt, insecurity, confusion, worry, anxiety, shame?

These negative forces erode your confidence to grow and move forward in the direction of your deep purpose.

You can’t be creative when ego blocks your way, constructing doubt, comparison, jealousy.

And how deeply frustrating is that?


Problems of the Yi Can Lead to Stagnation

This worry, this hesitation, this doubt in taking action in the material realm interferes with your natural flow. It ties Qi into knots and causes it to back up and become paralysed, stagnant.

Qi follows Yi.  Energy flows where attention goes.

Problems of the Yi – problems with thought, concentration, lack of awareness – are actually problems of mental-emotional-spiritual digestion.

You can have obsessive thoughts, projection of responsibility and blame, insomnia, worry, martyrdom, resentment, frustration, anger and fatigue.

If ongoing, this starts to play out in the body, with chronic muscle spasms, digestive and appetite disturbance, epigastric discomfort, IBS, abdominal pain, bloating, distention, fatigue.


How to Cultivate and Balance Yi, the Earth Element

How to shift from this state of imbalance to feeling free to execute your dreams and visions? How do you reign in an out-of-control Earth element?

Yi is the aspect of our soul that lets the world know that we mean to stand by our dreams.


Get clear and accept your gift, your vision. What it is that feels ‘destined’ for you to bring forth?

  1. Know your centre.
  2. Know your boundaries – just like the river which freely flows in one direction once the banks are firm and holding.
  3. Cultivate concentration.
  4. One task at a time – close the tabs. Practice mindfulness.
  5. Get clear on what to keep and what to discard i.e. mentally declutter and digest. KonMari that shit.
  6. As Hishi Khan said, “You wouldn’t let assholes live in your house – why let them live in your head?” Get to know how you’re mean to yourself. Get that inner critic in check. Transform it into an ally.
  7. Let IT go.
  8. Funnel your energy into INSPIRED ACTION. What is inspired action? Action that creates a ripple in the fabric of life that brings your dream closer to a manifest reality.


Realise that by serving your dream/purpose, you are meeting your needs first. That will serve your relationships and your community far greater than trying to live someone else’s expectations of you or any other martyr-type behaviour.

The Yi responds.


What You Can Expect As You Heal the Yi

  • You can take on less but finish the projects you start.
  • You’re able to say what you think and express yourself more clearly.
  • You take the time to listen to your inner voice and take its messages seriously.
  • You feel more centred in your own self and less thrown off balance by other people’s problems, needs, demands or opinions.
  • You gracefully hold your ground, not shrinking or puffing up.
  • You begin to feel a sense of solidarity. When you meet an obstacle, you stay clear on your intention and work to find a way to solve the problem and move ahead with your project.
  • You begin to feel as if your actions in the world will result in a bountiful harvest. The world becomes a fertile ground for your ideas and actions.

We often think of Spring as the beginning of a new cycle. It is, in the sense that it’s the emergence of all that has been cultivating under the surface in the deep still Yin months.

Yet this time of “Late Summer” or early Autumn is the time of completion. It’s a time to pause and to be nourished by all that you have created. To receive the gifts of your efforts and let that fill you with abundant confidence of your ability to go around the cycle again.

Like resting satisfied after a great feast. You have had enough. You are enough.

Learn more about Chinese Medicine and your health – join the Cloud Gate mailing list for wellness updates straight to your inbox.