Activate Your Center

Align with the Rhythms of Nature

By Heath and Nicole Reed
[Savvy Self-Care]

We are living through one of the most significant periods of change in our lifetimes. The adage “the only constant is change” can’t mitigate the widespread upheavals to our normal routines. Ancient wisdom from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) offers us modern-day counsel to align with the rhythms of nature by fortifying our felt sense of groundedness, centeredness, and presence—even when we find ourselves standing on shaky ground.

TCM’s Five Element Theory bestows the period around the autumnal equinox with special significance. Just as temperatures begin to cool at the end of summer, a whiplash of heat punctuates and delays the felt onset of fall for a couple of weeks. Farmer’s Almanac refers to this on-again, off-again period of fluctuating temperatures as “late” or “Indian” summer. TCM calls it doyo, and it is associated with the element of earth.

The Earth Element Embodies Change

Doyo transliterates as “transition” or “transformation,” and is a perfect potential to explore in these unpredictable times. Doyo not only refers to the phase evoking the advent of autumn, but also acknowledges the mini-season where microfluctuations exist in the transition between all four seasons. In this moment, doyo is inviting us to remember to give attention to the slow, purposeful shift from the outward expression of spring and summer to the inward focus of fall and winter.

Doyo is exemplified by the element of earth, which provides a mirror of the strong, stable center of our own being where we are nourished. We can reflect nature by rooting ourselves into the core of our essence and trust we can peacefully transition without losing our center.

How Do You Feel About Change?

For many, change might feel difficult, sad, frustrating, scary, or something to avoid. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been forced into some kind of routine change. We are living inside a new normal and find ourselves in a world of fluctuating unknowns. With so much more to consider, clean, and take care of, we are looking for a way to be at peace in the midst of the shifting sands beneath our feet.

When we bustle through transitions, we become vulnerable to accidents, injury, added stress, and illness. According to the Five Element Theory, other symptoms you may experience when you are out of sync with the earth phase include “physical fatigue, worry, blame and forgetfulness, loose stools, nausea, poor appetite, bloating, [and] excess weight or being underweight.”1 Other clues we are out of harmony with the changing seasons may include feeling off balance, easily distracted by external events, or muddled and unclear in our thinking. Explore the following practice as an opportunity to befriend the unpredictable and unfamiliar nature of change as you realign with nature, your core, and restore your sea of chi.

Centering Breath Qigong

Stand or sit with your feet hip-width apart or wider. Feel yourself both rooted down and lifted up at the same time. Visualize yourself as a bridge between heaven and earth. Rest your hands palms up in front of the base of your belly. Slowly float your right arm out to the side and inhale as you continue to lift your outstretched arm over your head. As you exhale, make a half-prayer shape with your right hand as you trace the centerline of your body from above your head, down through your forehead, sternum, and navel, and then return back to start with your right palm faced up in front of your inguinal ligament. Repeat this same flow with your left arm to complete the circle shape and bring your centering energy and intention down the axial highway of your central nervous system.

Continue to flow with alternating arms and equal breaths until you feel calm, centered, and aligned. Imagine the light of your attention growing brighter in your belly with each exhale as you return your hands to your center. Just before you are complete, pause and gently press your half-prayer knuckle of your thumb into the space between your brow on your forehead (your third eye), and breathe for one full inhale and exhale. Then, descend your half prayer to the sternum and pause at your heart space for a full breath in and out. Repeat with your opposite hand to complete this balancing round.

When you feel complete, gather your flowing energy into your belly by resting your hands palm over palm over your lower belly (or dan tien). Pause and notice how you feel. Trust in the energy you create. Trust that your energy knows where to go and your body knows how to heal itself.

What in Me Wants to Be Transformed?

Instead of rushing through, numbing out, or complaining about change, what if we use this time to fortify our relationship with the earth, with our inner and outer nature, and with the relationships that most nourish and support us? What if we use this global transformation as a catalyst to be the change we wish to see in the world?

In the coming days, we invite you to make friends with change, to smile into the unknown, and rest easy in knowing we are all in this together. We are not separate from nature. Nature lives through us, and no matter what feelings of transitional uncertainty arise, we can create inner and outer space to feel nurtured, supported, and transformed.

Begin to loosen the grip of expectation and assumption that dictates how things have been in the past, and feel yourself get curious. Add the sound of wonder—“Hmmm . . . ”—as you ask the following questions aloud, and give yourself space to allow any sensations, feelings, or ideas to flow. Ask yourself: What in me wants to be transformed? What can I do for myself that would give me the feeling of groundedness, nourishment, and stability? How might I rest easily in my own center?

Feel, Find, and Massage Your Center

Gather your fingers and thumb together (like a crane’s beak) over your navel, and press gently inward until you feel your own pulse. Where is your pulse? Does it feel centered? If your pulse is not centered, begin to gently knead, press, and massage your belly as you match your pressure with supportive, full, and equal inhales and exhales. Smile into your center as you feel yourself relax into your own center of presence. Continue to massage your sea of chi until you feel your pulse at the center of your navel beating clearly and steadily to the rhythm of your strong heart.

Responding to the rhythm

Change is something we can rely on. In nature, we see flora, fauna, and wildlife responding to the rhythms and patterns of the day, month, or season. We can see ourselves reflected in nature and see the organic rhythm of our own lives shapeshifting in much the same way.

When we give ourselves permission to enjoy and engage with transitions, a great reservoir of energy and support opens up and becomes available for us to access and be nourished from. Your mindful practices are a way to honor your intrinsic connection to nature, gather your resources, harmonize with earth’s ever-changing rhythms, and grow a strong, powerful center of presence.


1. Sarita Cox, “Return to the Earth Element,” Cultivating Wellness Blog, June 14, 2019, accessed June 4, 2020,

Heath and Nicole Reed are co-founders of Living Metta or Living “Loving Kindness.” The Reed’s have been team teaching national and international workshops and retreats since 2001. They place a strong emphasis on growing body intelligence, intuition, and self-care. They invite you to join their Seasonal Virtual Retreats and their membership community for an experience of living in harmony with nature. Their bodywork, self-care videos, webinars, home-study courses, and more can be found at