By Hazel Appaqaq | 22 minute read

Although last March arrived much like any other, with its usual windy turbulence, the following three months oozed along like a banana slug, leaving our springtime hopes and wishes strewn behind in its soggy trail. Forget June-uary – the entire buildup to the solstice missed its cue, having taken a leisurely detour through the backwoods of April. 

And yet, evidence of the island’s intrinsic wake-up call was unavoidable. Creatures still crawled out of their burrows and nooks, insects spilled out of crannies and cocoons, and the vegetation did not hesitate to poke out of bed, stand up and begin its skyward stretch. Pregnant does were seen wending along their familiar routes, some with fawns and yearlings in tow, munching their way through an edible landscape. Ants advanced in brigades into our homes, scouting for forgotten crumbs and sipping from standing water. Bees and wasps fed on the forest’s succession of blossoms, as the trails became criss-crossed with shimmering threads. Between the bouts of drizzle, robins hopped about open spaces by the dozens, reminiscent of the nature spirits of Miyazaki movies. Meanwhile, a wobbling hum hung in the air over the ponds and marshes, as if a months-long mantra were underway – a guttural chant for the primordial union of Heaven and Earth, spirit and animal.

As accommodating as the weather was to the amphibians, it was taxing in equal measure to our local farmers. The wetness created a proliferation of pests for Sara of Wildflower Produce, costing many extra weeks fending them off, but without the usual payback in yields. Much of Linnaea’s production garden was repeatedly flooded, and any of the early crops that didn’t drown, died in apparent solidarity. Big Fir Farm also reported stunted crops and flourishing pests as, over and over, full weeks of sunshine declined to appear. In the face of this, the island’s primary producers displayed a seasoned shrewdness in dialing back expectations, reforming plans, and maintaining optimism for the mid and late season harvest. What’s modelled is an expertise in adapting to changing circumstances, and the serenity that comes from knowing that there’s always something of use to be gleaned from what happens to us in good times and bad. What was demonstrated by the farmers last year can be emulated this year by anyone confronted by a relatable challenge. According to Chinese astrologers, the lunar new year presently upon us is presided over by the Water Rabbit. This breed of bunny contains oodles of Yin energy. Already the zodiac’s ambassador of gentleness, its personality is enhanced by the Watery strength of proceeding through life gracefully: humbly, yet confident in a unity underlying all developments. For Rabbit year natives (1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023), this year augurs a period of rapid transformations and disruptions. This could be for better or for worse, but either way, the March hare will thump the ground with its powerful feet, and any sense of stability will high-tail it away. Rabbits are counselled to find the opportunities for growth in such changes, and to remember that trials don’t last forever, but will pass with the next turning of the wheel. On this note, the missing opening act to last Summer’s feature provided ample space for us to experience the themes of April. The activities that abound at this point in the year are representative of the functions in the human being that the ancient Chinese assigned to the Stomach.

The lifting of health mandates last March coincided with the accelerating return of the light and the renewal of our strength, empowering us to pierce through stagnation left over from the Winter doldrums. These can include habits such as entertainment as a method of avoidance, comfort eating, shopping or hoarding, and also stale or outmoded thought patterns and limiting beliefs. With the onset of April, our beings desire to reflect the efforts of sprouting seeds, breaking out of their husks and pushing through the soil. The emotion related to Spring is anger, which is the emotion that motivates us to push something unwanted off or away. If at this time we feel stuck in a holding pattern, spring cleaning is an old trick to initiate movement in our lives, a nod from the ancients to the continuity between our inner, energetic space and our outer, material environment. By the Chinese reckoning of the year, April brings us to the third month of Spring, and on the Chinese clock, the Stomach comes into full bloom from 7:00-9:00 am – about breakfast time (or, for the early risers – second breakfast). These temporal coordinates have burgeoning Yang energy and their characters combine a sense of determination with light-heartedness: the progression of growth is moving at a brisk pace and, in contrast to the autumnal theme of austerity, the mood of the land is decidedly one of glee. Both of these time periods are associated with such traits as being young, brash and inquisitive, and herald a period of rapid growth, stemming from a nature that is very open, immature and somewhat naive. Puppies fit this profile to a T, especially while they’re small and getting up to hi-jinks in their constant explorations. It’s no coincidence that making a fool of your friends is in the cards on the first of this month, as the archetype of the Fool, striking out on his journey, characterises the forces that climb to apogee now. Islanders who keep laying hens know that the time for raising a new flock of chicks brings about a youthful atmosphere. In the human lifespan, these are the teenage years, a stage when the offspring has separated physically from the parents yet is still in the throes of establishing an independent identity. The land demonstrates the balanced expression of the teenager’s need for recognition in his or her uniqueness. It’s as though the forest, in its Springtime process of unfurling, takes a dignified stance to say, “Here I am! This is my beautiful self!” 

At these points in the calendar and the day, nature is feeding and undergoing a growth spurt, indicating that this is the time to eat. In TCM, the assessment of a patient begins with the question, “How is your appetite?” As with our beloved furry friends, the appetite is a primary indicator of our health. In TCM this generally refers to a person’s intake function, with obvious regard to food and drink, but also to stimuli, information, activity and interaction. Consider that with every interaction we have with one another, there is an exchange of energy, even in something as simple as passing a cup across a table. More notably, the intake function is alive when we’re able to enjoy a podcast, feel uplifted by music, moved by a poem or when we can relax into bliss on a massage therapist’s table. The currency of all of these exchanges is qi. Once we understand that the give and take is a constant flow that moves through and around everything and everyone, the view emerges, like an impressionist painting, that we’re embedded in a qi field. Of course, being part of a network of interrelations is by no means a uniquely Asian perspective. Compared to the many Indigenous peoples bearing similar philosophies, the concept of being bound by one’s skin is the anomaly. The Stomach is also associated with the ability to take interest in something. To be piqued with curiosity for a country, to be able to consume material on a subject, to be riveted by a story, and enthralled by life’s mysteries are examples of the capacity for interest which resembles having an appetite on an intellectual, emotional or spiritual level. When this hunger is whetted, a connection is being made with the qi field. Our ability to take in constitutes half of the ceaseless barter process, or conversation with life and our surrounding world. 

The Stomach’s character, translated into a constitution, produces a breed of people who relish taking a bite out of life, of sampling widely from life’s smorgasbord of experience. The Stomach constitution refers to a type of person who is fairly simple and easygoing, who prefers to stay buoyant and keep things relaxed and fun. Such a person is generally easily pleased, as long as there are enough creature comforts within reach, for example having enough to eat and getting touched often. He or she may have a large appetite for food, drink and entertainment, and tends to invest in adventuring through the world to appreciate the vast diversity of nature and the many cultures. The ancient Confucians also pointed out that the trait of rapaciousness tends to be accompanied by a penchant for carnality. The traditional knowledge draws a likeness between our craving for food and the magnetism that draws people together in romance or lust, as these too are expressions of the Stomach’s appetites. Like the island’s wetland ribbitors crooning away at their throaty song of seduction, Stomach types tend to have a libidinous side and enjoy savouring the people whom they encounter on their travels. Their occupation or personal ambition usually includes making themselves into any kind of connoisseur. Careers and lifestyles of this category could include the farmer, or purveyor of quality foods, the perfumer, winemaker, fashion designer, a person who travels and tells stories about the countries they explored, or a commentator who reports on a subject with playful curiosity or wit. Cortes yoga teacher, Kelly, embodies good Stomach qi by creating an environment of ease and laughter in her classes. While imparting her knowledge, she inserts gentle reminders not to be so serious while we practice. Like flowers in bloom, Stomach types continually seek to open more fully to the wonders and delights of the world, and this is their gift to those around them. Locals of this ilk can be found clustered in the popular relaxation spots such as Smelt Bay and the Hague rocks, basking in the season’s riches and mingling amiably. Where some can get stuck in blind productivity, or conditioned into giving every ounce of energy away while forgetting to enjoy their lunch, Stomach types demonstrate the art of receiving the present moment. There is a skillfulness involved in relishing the taste of the first June-bearing strawberry of a chilly, rain-sodden Summer. Shortly after I first came to the island as a starry-eyed Wwoofer, I remember tasting a ripe plum straight from one of Blue Jay’s trees for the first time, and the package of taste it delivered to my tastebuds literally made me fall to my knees! This aliveness is what Stomach types must embody in order to thrive – if they’re unable to pursue their passion for sensual revelry, they seem to wither. The island’s volleyball community also encompasses the spirit of the Stomach official. It’s a gregarious and inclusive crowd that comes together to create an atmosphere centred around fun, laughter and good natured competition. 

Stomach types can also be collectors of precious, beautiful or culturally valued items. When enacted from an attitude of inner and outer abundance, this type’s focus on the material plane is a healthy reflection of nature’s momentum in the Spring of increasing life in number and mass. It follows that, when unbalanced, the Stomach type’s love of earthly delights can become his Achilles heel. It can turn into a fixation on sourcing every bit of sustenance and meaning from the physical world. When this happens, enjoyment can warp into avarice, as he can resemble a hungry ghost or black hole, habitually taking everything for himself, while at the same time feeling haunted by dissatisfaction, or an inability to be satiated. Narcissism is a similar pitfall, as seen in the desire to be the centre of attention, to take all the credit or sense of importance. We need all of these things to some extent for the formation of a healthy ego – attention is a universal human need, we benefit from being thanked for a job well done, and we feel fortified when we’re able to see our own value. Any mother can relate to the need for appreciation of her constant efforts. The Spleen especially represents the daily work that keeps a household functioning but which easily goes unnoticed. This applies also to the service positions occupied by islanders who are cooking in the background, keeping our public buildings clean, washing dishes, doing childcare, growing food – work that can feel menial or meaningless by the extent to which they’re funded. There’s nothing wrong with needing more affirmation or acknowledgement – our emotional needs are bound to be different, just as we all have different nutritional needs. However, when a Spleen/Stomach type continually elicits attention or sympathy, but the need is never satisfied upon receiving them, or abates for a short while but then returns, this is a sign imbalance. The task of the Stomach type in this case is to notice the impulse toward selfishness, and correct it. 

The Spleen and the Stomach hold within them the wisdom of moderation between extremes. However, it’s completely understandable that a tension would occur, especially at the season’s transition periods. Summer is crowned with the reputation of being the best time, and in a sense, rightfully so: it’s easy to celebrate the overflowing light, physical energy, and deliciousness of all kinds. Yet it can be challenging to embody that transition when we’re still burdened by sluggishness remaining from the dark slice of the great cheese round. Even though the changes happening are pleasant ones, in order to harmonise with them, we must find a way to crawl out of the grotto, an action that takes effort and know-how. When the Summer’s in full swing, it’s essentially an extreme, and if we haven’t shifted gears well, and found a way to generate an internal Spring in our bodies, we can feel disconnected from the festive spirit expressing all around us. This discordance can feel depressing, like there’s beauty everywhere at large, but it’s not for us. Islanders whose jobs involve working more during the Summer can attest to how dissociating this part of the year can feel, from being so distracted by the endless tide of things to do that they lose touch with all sense of flow. The Co-op, being a business fed by the island’s vacationers, at once derives a subsistence from the influx and contends with the strain of the season’s fullness. In her French podcast about TCM, “L’Appel du Dao,” Lydie Vachon guides her listeners through a study of how to make this journey from the darkness to the light.

At the same time as symbolising a hunger and lustfulness towards life, the morning and Springtime confer a quality of clarity. In the hours before sunrise and in the month of April, the land’s energy is different from the preceding periods of midnight and deep Winter. In both of these stages, nature is gently waking up. Such is the clarity of this stage that it allows us to discern the whisper of the heart’s deepest yearnings. This purity can be described by the positions that these temporal intervals occupy in the seasonal and diurnal cycles. 

The Winter brings us into what’s been called the dreamtime – a state of deep rest and introspection which allows a period of reflection on what the previous growing season yielded, and which supports the formation of our wishes for the next cycle. Then, beginning at the Winter solstice, there’s a perceptible rising and building of energy in the entire living world. Even though it’s still frigid, pitch dark or pouring rain, the solstice, like a flint, strikes a primordial impulse within all life toward incarnation. This point is likened to conception – the passage between Water and Wood. And like conception, in the first two months of the year, it’s only the thought and barest beginnings of new life. Like the seed in the belly of the mother, the life force of the land is still fully internal and at one with the Dao. Come February, although in the Northern hemisphere we still generally haven’t made the connection in our minds with early Spring, a rousing and stirring has already begun, as the land’s energies are building. With March, a subtle shift results from the focus turning from the inside to the outside. There is a strong birthing quality in nature, and the intent for incarnation is made manifest. With April, nature is continuing to build upon itself in a way that implies the accumulation of internal pressure, while simultaneously beginning to seek its outer expression.

The same process exists in the diurnal cycle. Dedicated yogis rise at about 4:30 am, or as early as 2:30 am, to meditate, practise asanas or hone any other cultivation practice because, as our life force wants to move in sync with the land’s, the upward surge creates ideal conditions for channelling our own energies upward through the body’s energy centres, into the higher functions of our being (for a scientifically minded explanation of this last, refer to Dr. Joe Dispenza’s book/audiobook, Becoming Supernatural). This idea is comparable to Maslow’s theory of hierarchies, except that the Indian/Chinese knowledge adds that the structure of the pyramid is reflected in energy centres within the body, starting from the perineum, moving up through pelvis, the abdomen, chest, neck and into the head. The earlier you get up and begin aligning with the day’s impetus, the more momentum you can harness for the day’s activities. Of course, we typically don’t feel like jumping out of bed at the crack of dawn to nourish a practice. The sluggishness of the early morning and early Spring is like a shell or husk that must be pushed against.

As mentioned before, the energy of these time periods is like that of a puppy – it needs to go somewhere! If a puppy is tied up or kept inside for too long, its energy will soon pressurise and then explode, and the pup will behave accordingly: chewing, eating, barking, scratching, digging… Likewise, our life force needs to be released through movement, thought, interaction, and creativity – otherwise the energy starts to stagnate, or flow in deleterious patterns; the fuel of our being becomes pathological. Therefore, at these times, the task is to break through the desire to remain overly soft, that we might make ourselves into living channels of qi, and direct our energies into answering the call of the quiet voice from within. Since getting up at 4:30 am is impractical for the layperson, a short practice anytime before 11:00 am still makes it possible to catch the wave. Even 15 minutes of stretching, Qigong, intentional breathing, body tapping, self massage or freeform dance can affect a considerable difference. Some people find a morning jog to be powerful, while others swear by the writing of morning pages. As I was taught at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, there are as many styles of practice as there are practitioners. After learning the forms of a few styles, most people benefit from combining them into a style that’s unique to them. The difference between developing a relationship with your ‘energy body’, and relying on coffee and stimulants to kickstart your system, is that the stimulants take a toll after they’ve worked, and eventually ensnare us into a pattern of dependance. It’s comparable to the harmful effects of chemical fertilisers on soil life, and eventually the soil itself, or of subsisting on credit card debt. On the other hand, spiritual and energy medicine practices are referred to as cultivation practices because they nourish the functions of the body at a deep level and support the natural movement of the energy. This is what is meant by living in accordance with nature. Both Yoga and TCM teach that making something out of the building blocks of our lives is important work which requires a timely beginning. By midday and Solstice, the movement of the life force has already begun to scatter, and if we haven’t focused our resources, there’s a greater chance that our attention will scatter as well, and we won’t be as empowered to accomplish much. 

In the eyes of astrologers, life as an individual is a tug-of-war between capacity and opportunity. We all come into the world with our unique constellation of attributes, which we must mold into livelihood and creative endeavour. Likewise, the latent energy of the landscape in Spring contains potential. In April, nature’s activities of eating and growing contain the added intent of funneling resources into fruit, seed or offspring. In the human being, that potential can manifest in healthy or unhealthy ways: we’re all lopsided due to our strengths and weaknesses, making it a central theme of our life path to achieve a balance between them. We each get different skill sets and talents which make us especially suited to this or that calling, but seldom do our opportunities match up gracefully with our aptitudes. It behooves us to struggle against our own patterns of resistance and torpor as though we were tunnelling through ourselves, pushing like earthworms or plant shoots through dense humus. Ultimately, the day-to-day and even moment-to-moment act of reaching for our heart’s deepest longing is a healing path in itself, which contributes to our highest form of well being: the unearthing of destiny. Thus, the heaviness that we tend to wake up with is viewed as a veiled opportunity for growth, comparable to the painful passages that life regularly throws at us. The process of getting our energies fired up and purified in the morning relates to our ability to adapt to trying circumstances. 

Beyond the healthy oscillation of our intake function, the Stomach’s role is to ensure that what we take in will ultimately serve our higher needs, that at some point our feeding fuels a purpose. As creatures endowed with free will, we must answer the question posed to us by the Stomach official: what is your life force going toward? It is a privilege to be able to act on one’s talents and bring them into the world as an offering to others. A thread can be found here that links to the saying known as the Golden Rule: “Do unto others…” There seem to be many interpretations of this innocuous phrase. An implication that’s typically overlooked is that you cannot help others unless you first help yourself. The Stomach embodies the wisdom of taking good care of yourself, so that you’re able to then give generously to others. This truth focuses on each person’s relationship with themselves – arguably the most important relationship of all. And to further extrapolate from here; the work on self that one does, and the private healing that this effort yields, directly support the qi field that we are all a part of. By offering ourselves a wide range of self care, we can become more capable of contributing a refined form of qi back to the matrix. Examples of this could include the gifts of poetry, humour or music, a home cooked meal, or simply a happy demeanour, choosing one’s words carefully, moderating the quality of your voice or holding a presence that seems best suited to a situation.

Deficient Stomach qi would be found in someone who can’t eat breakfast in the morning, or who, when they do get hungry, can only eat a little, or in someone who feels nausea while eating or at the thought of eating. Any compulsive behaviours such as anorexia or bulimia would be indications of either excess or deficient patterns – as would orthorexia (obsession with healthy eating), as would a lack of all care about what one puts in one’s body. Painful or traumatic life experiences can be internalised by all of the officials, and incorporated as disease. On the spectrum of function between excess and deficiency, excess denoted by voracity, deficiency appears as the inability to take in, and can be imagined as the spirit’s fire being dimmed. This form of impact on the Stomach would be visible in a person who has lost the desire to eat, socialize, partake in pastimes or get active.

What these last patterns reflect is a distortion of our relationship to food, which in turn is a re-creation of the greater paradigm which produced them. As seen through the Chinese lens, this last is the unbalanced masculine; Yang that has become disentangled from its counterpart. Consider a dominant culture that perpetuates itself by maneuvering into positions of power and control, in order to extract desired outcomes; a culture that sees land as fractured into various resources, needing to be managed and waiting to be exploited. This way of life spawns the widespread addiction to coffee, sugar, refined and highly processed food products, alcohol and opiates – all of which serve to manipulate our inner state into something sharper and more productive. Shaped and herded on a daily basis by this paradigm, most of us find it incredibly hard to realize any other way of existing that doesn’t involve being driven. Stomach types are especially vulnerable to this way of operating, being already such enjoyment oriented people. Indeed, all addiction is an imbalance of the Stomach official. However, underneath the tsunami of objects and experiences that mainstream society pursues, a basic truth lies hidden: that we want to want. On a spiritual level, this can be understood as the systematic training we all undergo of becoming addicted to desire itself. 

The esoteric branch of TCM points out that being in a state of desire brings with it a certain level of attachment. Whether we experience a deep-seated addiction clamouring to be satiated, or a habitual craving that stealthily pursues our consciousness, there’s a certain tension involved with desire. The work of trauma therapist, Gabor Mate, posits that all addiction can be linked to a lack of connection, whether it be with other humans, nature, place, heritage, or meaning. To the ancient Chinese mind, the universe was included in this web of relations; the cosmos being another vast ecosystem, containing and permeating our billions of human bodies. Often, it’s necessary to distinguish whether the cravings we feel are emotional ones, originating from intellectual yearnings, or are speaking to us of hunger pangs of the spirit. Honing in on the nuances surrounding these signals can assist towards figuring out how one would go about feeding them. The form of listening that this requires describes the Chinese way of relating personally with the universe. 

From this perspective, the universe speaks to us through our personal experience via a multitude of channels: through dreams, emotional states, bodily sensations, injuries and diseases, daily interactions, recurring circumstances, and any number of other avenues. In the same way that dream symbology is different for everyone, the practice of listening for signs from the cosmos is deeply personal. All that’s required is an open mind and willingness to reflect on what’s being conveyed. In addition to developing this intuitive form of listening, cultivating an interchange with the cosmos requires receptivity. The view that we want to cultivate is that of impartial presence. The spirit of Daoism is one of being in the world, rooted in the present – not looking toward an afterlife or eschewing the senses. Daoism does not reject the animal aspect of being human, and is decidedly sex positive. It has been a philosophy of immanence, not transcendence. There is a complete acceptance of our feminine nature, paired with wisdom handed down through the ages, which confers a perspective that lies outside the inherent ups and downs of the human condition. One can imagine taking on the form of a seaweed fixed firmly to its hold on the ocean floor, yet the rest of it is in total surrender to the currents. Or of becoming like one of the island’s mountains, standing still amid the effects of the elements and the whirl of the seasons. From such a vantage point, one can observe the passage of time as if it were a slow moving current, through which we witness the rise and fall of the cycles of the planet, including the land’s progression from growth and expansion through death and decay, and our own human voyage from the cradle to the grave. TCM posits that the movement of all of existence can be seen within this basic pulsation, unfolding between expansion and collapse. 

The gift of the Stomach type is self acceptance. When a Stomach type is comfortable in her own skin, she exudes confidence, which comes from being in radical acceptance of every part of her being: her character and talents, as well as limitations. The Stomach, Spleen and Earth all signify a state of gratitude, a state of being which contains a fertile environment for new life and creative expression. Even in times of deep depression or grief, whenever we experience a darkening of the senses, when our bodies or beings insist that we fall down into our shadow, a mysterious truth is that in that shadow place lies also our medicine, the wellspring of our healing and rebirth. The salve can only be accessed by vulnerably contacting our personal demons. Doing so requires a profound level of self acceptance. To engage with ourselves from this humbled posture is aligned with the traditional Chinese concept of destiny. It’s similar to the plant’s journey from the seed, beginning with the downward extension of the first rootlet, which is then followed by sending a shoot up. In much the same way, we require our basic needs to be satisfied before being able to manifest sturdy, enlivening expressions of our creativity, whether they be practical or spiritual, starting a family or writing a book, building a garden or taking up a new instrument. We can of course achieve these things while those needs are barely addressed or while some are left by the wayside, but to our detriment. Self acceptance is among those foundational needs which the Stomach type models while moving along any trajectory. In contrast to moving from the idea of self improvement, or even the attempt to prove self worth, this way of moving through life is analogous to the art in Tai Chi or Chi Gong of moving from one’s energy, instead of from muscular force. Presence is a variation of the same theme, empowering us to begin walking the hidden path that grows us closer to our essence. 

If the description of the Stomach seems almost identical to that of the Spleen, it’s because these two are a different kind of couple from the other companion organs. Referred to as “the Spleen and the Stomach official”, they operate more like inextricable aspects of a single function, the Stomach being associated more with intake and the Spleen with metabolism. An interesting trait of this duo relates to their nature of being in the middle. The Chinese associated the organs located in the abdominal cavity as having an animal nature, a nature more to do with the physical side of the earthly existence, namely functions involved in the survival and mating instincts. The Stomach and Spleen are included in this division of the organs, while the Heart and Lungs, located in the chest, are said to be more spiritual – more involved with the subtle or immaterial side of life, including thought, vision, communication, values and meaning. Yet the nature of the Spleen and the Stomach is of being on the threshold of this division, of possessing both an emotional nature and a quality of surrender: the yielding of personal desires in pursuit of higher spiritual goals. One can see how this is a reflection of the transformations happening in nature in April and May, as vegetation and animals are already making strides toward producing the next generation of their species. The Spleen and the Stomach are located in the middle of the abdomen, whose characters have one foot in each realm of the animal and the spiritual, the material and the nonmaterial. Their functions straddle the process of receiving an individual identity, growing up, and eventually surrendering the attachments of personhood. Furthermore, recall that both these officials are presided over by Earth, the element described as the fulcrum around which the other elements interact. The Chinese holographic model of reality holds that the nature of existence is movement. All of creation follows a universal impetus towards a certain type of movement: expansion leading to contraction, leading back to expansion – not linear, but cyclical, like breathing. Thus, the journey of the self is a reproduction of this breathlike movement of the Dao, splitting off and moving away from, then back to itself in the eternal genesis of material reality. In the cosmological Stages outlined by Chinese mystics, elemental Earth symbolizes the ground that this dance plays out on. It stands for the underlying basis of all relationships – the necessary existential requirements for a being to come into existence, experience its own development as it travels along a path of evolution, perhaps to reach toward an overarching purpose. Earth, which perhaps can also be translated as Soil – the incredibly complex structure that at once houses decay and new life – is that which provides an essential backdrop to the trek of the Hero, the mythic figure that aptly characterizes the breath of the Dao. 

Late Summer hovered luxuriously. Instead of bowing out on September 1st in deference to the Fall, the two seasons shared many more moments in the sun. The second harvest brings completion and the impulse to be lavish. The faltering start of the warmer months added extra fire to our bellies to squeeze every last morsel from the growing season’s banquet. Meanwhile, the geese congregated at their favourite spots to feed, poop, nap, and harangue each other loudly, and then departed with their parading fanfare in the sky. The flowering foxglove resembled purple and white rocket ships blasting off into outer space. 

At Summer’s culmination, Yang has dissipated itself as much as it can and begins to transform into its opposite. At the turn of the solstices there is a chance to glimpse a mystery of the twin siblings: that what is most Yin is most Yang, and what’s most Yang is most Yin. At the climax of Fire season, Yin is at the deepest level of interiority, where it’s in the most powerful position to retake the throne of outward manifestation. The same is true in the depths of the Water phase, when Yang is at its most concentrated form, which has in it the greatest potential to spring back like a tiger. Reflecting on such paradoxes can inform our own aims of maturation and evolution. TCM invites the modern person to experience the world as a fractal unfolding in time and space. It offers a bird’s eye view, complete with landmarks by which to navigate the landscape of our individual stories and to find our ideal life paths. Yet the concept of personal destiny is not limited to the connotation of a singular, great work achieved after a lifetime of striving. The most important sense of one’s internal life path is of what can be done each day, or immediately, which affects a change in the direction of that higher purpose. It means something simple and doable, which would include how we are relating to ourselves in each moment, and how we respond to the subtle messages that come to us via our experiences. The task of reevaluating our perceptual apparatus is never not relevant. The Chinese ancients recognized the ever present potential to refine the way we apprehend reality and assimilate our experiences, because how we make sense of them defines what we’re able to receive, and this in turn informs our ability to uncover alternative ways of meeting with life’s constantly blooming opportunities.