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  • Writer's pictureSam MacLean


Years ago my teacher, Susan Tenney of Elemental Acupressure, introduced a small group of her students (I was lucky to be part of this group) to an alternative way of experiencing the Five Elements of Chinese Medicine*…with the Earth phase in the middle of the cycle. Instead of moving through the annual cycle beginning with Wood (spring)—> Fire (summer)—> Earth (late summer)—> Metal (fall)—> Water (winter), a more classical understanding of the cycle has the Earth phase as the transition in-between each of the other phases. It looks like this:

Wood (spring)—> Earth—> Fire (summer)—> Earth—> Metal (fall) —> Earth—> Water (winter) —> Earth

It took me until this year when I began truly connecting to the nodal calendar created by a local Milwaukee, WI acupuncturist, Sheri Lee of 8 Branches Chinese Medicine, to realize the deep truth of this approach. Not only does it make so much sense logically, it is how the natural world (which we humans are part of) moves through time/space. It is all about transformation!

Nothing in nature transforms quickly!

Day to day it is challenging to the see the leaves emerging in spring time. And yet, one day you look out your window and all you see is green!

Even in my own life as I reflect on my growth and evolution, I never jumped from one way of being to the next. I did not suddenly transform from the young gangly “tom-boy” in grade school to the overly-responsible adult. There was a step in between…and one that, had I experienced it fully as it was meant to be embodied, would have more fully informed my emerging adult self.

This alternate view of the Earth phase invites us to explore the importance of returning to Center…the grounding of Earth in the midst of change. There have been so many times that I have experienced the bone chilling, gut wrenching part of life when everything pauses. That in-between time. When no direction feels right. When the answer to your question has not appeared. When you have tried everything and now you are in the middle of what feels like nothingness. Emptiness.

Throughout much of my life I have experienced that emptiness as the problem. Something to remedy. To push against. To eliminate by doing and creating busyiness.

Now, I see it, experience it so differently. It is in actuality just a pause. An invitation to return to center. To reap the harvest, before the next phase of life begins.

A time for quiet and calm and nothing to hurry.

We are in the middle of one of the Earth phases right now. Nature is transforming from spring to summer. The theme of this particular Earth phase is EXPANSION! Just look outside and you can see EXPANSION everywhere…leaves exploding on the trees, daffodils and tulips bursting forth with their colorful faces, and the brightest green of the entire year is everywhere the eye can see.

EXPANSION…can you sense it in your horses? Dogs? Animals in nature?

EXPANSION…can you feel it in yourself?

I can feel it…my need to work on our land, clean the barn, be more active and play with the equine (horses and donkeys).

And yet, there is an even a deeper EXPANSION taking place within…I turn 60 this year and I am exploring a greater spiritual expansion.

In order to tune into this EXPANSION we must each return to our center. We must be connected to our core and feel into that silent space before we can show all of our glorious colors and dance around the Fire phase of summer.

So my plea to you is this…get out in nature! See, feel, hear, smell, taste the EXPANSION taking place all around you and then experience that silent center in yourself. Be with your horse(s)…just be. Connect with them and ask for no-thing. Feel into that experience and you will surely sense that EXPANSION in their personhood.

With heart and in harmony,


*If you are unfamiliar with the Five Elements in Chinese Medicine please see my other blog posts on the individual phases:

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