The wheel of nature turns:
in autumn harvest time,
all is slower, heat receding,
we gather in our resources & energy
to keep healthy, strong and resilient
Each solar term is divided into three pentads (候 hou), so there are 72 pentads in a year. Each pentad consists of five, rarely six, days, and are mostly named after phenological (biological or botanical) phenomena corresponding to the pentad.
Our intuition, along also with the established wisdom of the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) system, inform our choices and recommendations.
(See “What’s good in this season?”)
The Five Elements are wood, fire, earth metal and water. In traditional Chinese medicine the Five Elements theory is used to interpret the relationship between human physiology and the natural environment. First, abstract phenomena are assigned to each element. Then it is inferred that the respective elements have, associated with them, specific organs, colours, tastes, directions, seasons and so on. Everything is categorised in accordance with this scheme.
Thus, wood involves the aspects of germination, extension, softness, and harmony. Fire involves the aspects of heat and flaring. Earth involves growing, nourishing and changing. Metal is associated with cleaning up, killing, strength and firmness. Water is associated with cold, moisture and downward flowing.
Wood, then, for example, is associated with the liver, gall bladder, eyes and tendons, the taste of sourness, the direction east and the colour green.
As for the seasons, wood represents spring, fire is summer, earth late summer, metal autumn and water winter.
Between each of the elements there exists the close relationships of mutual generation, mutual subjugation, extreme subjugation, and counter subjugation. Mutual generation means multiplication and promotion, while mutual subjugation means mutual restriction and restraint. Thus, wood generates fire, fire generates earth, earth generates metal, metal generates water, and water generates wood. Wood subjugates earth, metal subjugates wood, etc. Extreme subjugation and counter subjugation are the pathological conditions of the normal mutual generation and subjugation relationships. An example of counter subjugation is: when metal is weak and insufficient, it leads to the hyperactivity of wood.
As wood (the liver) generates fire (the heart), a TCM doctor will seek to treat and strengthen a patient’s liver when they present with a weak heart. Since water (the kidneys) subjugates fire, the doctor will use Yang ingredients (fire) to try to curb excess water in the kidneys.
The principle of Yin and Yang describes the innately dynamic, cyclical, bipolar, pulsing, rhythmic nature of everything in the universe. The universe expands and contracts. Light and sound move in waves, the earth turns on its axis, seasons have their changes and humans our sleeping/waking cycles and the rhythms of our heart and lungs, the dilation of our eyes and all the constant pulsing of our embodied life.
These rhythms are all described and explained by the forces of Yin and Yang. Yin is that part of a cycle or process in which energy is being accumulated, assimilated and stored for later use. Yang is that part in which energy is being expended in order to create a manifest reaction.
Yin is often associated with rest, receptivity and quietude, while Yang is associated with action, creativity and movement. Yin provides sustenance for the Yang and the Yang protects the Yin. Yin is the cool, feminine principle, Yang the hot, masculine. They always exist together and their relationship is never static. Though the two forces are acting in harmony with one another, they are also always competing with one another for dominance.
In normal health, the interaction of the two forces will remain within well-defined limits. Health is in fact dependent on the maintenance of the correct balance of Yin and Yang forces.