by Thomas Malone, M.Ac., Ph.D., L.Ac.
According to the ancient Chinese, late summer (harvest time) was a fifth season that corresponds to the Earth Element. The late summer manifests all of the best qualities of the Earth Element. For example, the harvest is a time of plenty and abundance that Mother Earth bestows upon her children. The Earth Element is about generosity, which is seen when we share with our neighbors the extra tomatoes that have grown in our gardens. Mother earth even provides a surplus harvest so that we can store up for the winter. The roundness and soft, yielding quality of Earth is seen during this time of year in the juicy, sweet full-bodied peaches hanging from the tree, ripened by the golden sun of late summer.
We can also find the same qualities of the Earth Element expressed in our Tai Chi Chuan form. Through the Roots and Branches 5 Element Qi Gong work, we know that there are several postures that represent the Earth Element, such as Lifting Hands, Strumming the Lute, Slantingly Flying and the Four Corners.
In Lifting Hands and Strumming the Lute, we hold our arms in a generous, cradling gesture that looks as if we are either receiving or handing a little baby to someone.. Thus, the gentle, loving and caring quality of giving and receiving that comes from the Earth Element is embodied in these postures.
In Slantingly Flying, we feel as if we are gathering and then sowing seeds for the next harvest. A global vision of this image runs deep into Humanity's fundamental need to feed itself, and to take care of all the earth's inhabitants so that no one goes hungry. Imagine the depth of compassion, generosity and a recognition of our unity that would be necessary for us to actually achieve our goal of zero hunger. That depth actually exists within the essential nature of the Earth Element, and by actualizing our True Nature we can best manifest our potential. Mother earth doesn't discriminate against any human being. Rather, she cherishes and sustains us all equally as her children.
Earth Element also feeds us on the emotional, mental and spiritual levels as well. Practicing the form and holding these earth postures give us the energetic and spiritual nourishment that we all dearly need and transforms and inspires to work on behalf of All. The Bodhisattva attitude of working toward the enlightenment of all was epitomized by our lineage father, Professor Cheng Man-Ch'ing, who worked skillfully and tirelessly to spread Tai Chi Chuan to humanity, so that all human beings could be strong, healthy and happy.
The Four Corners as postures in our form, illustrate the roundness and completeness of the Earth Element. By traversing all four corners of the earth, we encompass the totality of the globe. There is completeness in our journey, as we gather the true harvest of all of our life experiences and we feel we have some wisdom to share with others. As we step into each of the Four Corners, we come from our center, step out and shift forward, extending our arms upward and outward. However, we never lose our centeredness, as we then shift back and re-center before stepping out in another direction. Likewise, we remember to nourish ourselves each time before extending outward once again to our fellow man. Giving and receiving, teaching and learning from others are the natural gifts from the Earth Element.