Why Does a Nip in the Air Seem to Electrify Us?

Simple – it’s harvest season. And to humans, that means something evolutionarily. 

Even though some parts of the world are on fire (read: California), the rest of us can’t have helped but notice the winds have shifted, the temperatures are dropping, and although it isn’t yet fall, we know that late summer is breathing its last breath.

In terms of the five element theory, we’re moving from the Earth stage (stability) through to the Metal stage (grief and loss, but also regeneration).

All year long, we’ve bemoaned our stability. This stage, though it may feel similar to harvest seasons of yore, isn’t the same as it was last year. 

Some of us haven’t been able to sow the same seeds as last year, and thus are looking at a unique harvest. It’s an interesting time to consider moving from stability, gratitude, and fullness towards the grief and loss of fall – in a way, it seems like the whole year has forced us to focus on our feelings of grief and loss. 

It’s felt hard for many of us to anchor our transitional phases this year, since it seems like nothing is behaving the way we’re used to.

But the seasons don’t change. And every year, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, our temperaments move through and correlate with the seasons 

Here’s what that looks like… 

Five Element Acupuncture

Since the roots of this style of acupuncture are Taoist, it makes sense to understand the five elements, the seasons, and our relationship to them through a lens of “balance.” Yin and yang, internal and external, hot and cold, etc. 

What happens to the outside world around us is reflected in our inside worlds. 


  • Fire – Summer: Associated with the emotion of Joy
  • Earth – Late Summer: Associated with the emotion of Sympathy
  • Metal – Autumn: Associated with the emotion of Grief
  • Water – Winter: Associated with the emotion of Fear
  • Wood – Spring: Associated with the emotion of Anger

Notice that late summer is the only “late” period that gets its own element. Why is that?

Because traditionally, something very important happens in late summer – the harvest.

Spring and summer are periods of laboring. And certainly, even though this year’s laboring looked different from the laborings of the past, we have worked hard for the last six months. 

Adjusting to new living standards, redefining what fun looks like for our families, preparing for a school season that we still aren’t sure how to navigate, making tough decisions about what’s safe and ethical, confronting our own loneliness and finding new coping mechanisms…

Harvesting the fruits of our labors will definitely look unique in 2020, but it will still be composed of two main parts: 

Taking stock of what we have and feeling grateful and preparing our soil for what’s next.

Late Summer Earth Vibes

Fall is coming. That crisp, bracing quality of the air, the shortening of the days, and the slowing of the daily pace of our lives lends itself nicely to internal reflection.

Before the Earth element gives way to the Metal element, we have an opportunity to reassess and take stock of our current selves.

It’s difficult to move forward without knowing where we’re starting. The changing of every season is a chance to look honestly at where we are right now – our needs in the fall may not be the same as our needs in the summertime. 

Fortunately, we have late summer to languish in so the transition isn’t as harsh. After all, we give our gardens a thorough examination and reevaluation during this time. What can you do for your life garden?

What seeds have you sown in the last six months? Did they yield a harvest? How bountiful – have you really soaked in that gratitude?

Did something go wrong in the process – not enough nutrients in the soil, pests gnawing at our leaves, less attention and care than we really needed?

Don’t forget, autumn is another chance to plant a garden. As we talked about earlier, it’s most closely related with the emotion of sympathy. 

It’s a time of regeneration, of using the discarded parts of our past selves to nourish and enrich the soil of our future harvests, of shedding aspects of our ideologies and physical lives that just aren’t working. (More on that in a future issue.)

For now, since we’re still hanging out in our late summer Earth element, bake time into your life to assess where you’ve been and gone during the spring and summer…

What worked, what didn’t, and what you’ve got to show for it. 

Feel true gratitude for the gifts you’ve been given and the gifts you’ve given yourself. Ground yourself as you prepare for the next transition – the bittersweet and nourishing losses of autumn.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.