In today’s driven world of constant rushing and outer productivity, the state of fallowness is like an unwelcome guest. Most would avoid it like an outbreak of the plague because it’s a suspended state of “down-time” from over-doing and the repeated overuse of one’s precious adrenaline reserves. But all systems require a break. Winter arrives on schedule.
Viewed from a spiritual perspective, a fallow stretch of life is meant to be a time of emptiness and rest, so that accomplishment gives way to a sense of not knowing the next step. The function of fallow is similar to that of a retrograde planet in the birth chart or of a transiting planet’s annual retrograde cycle, which for Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto last approximately 5 months every year. Mercury takes us into the retrograde zone 3 times per year for approximately 3 weeks or so.
Used wisely, the changed tempo of the planetary retrograde periods draw us inward to unwind and let go, to relax and reflect, and to allow for renewal to once again motivate us forward, having made adjustments and refinements. From out of bareness, the world freshly glows. Original ideas flow outward through a revived mind and heart that has beheld—in moments of peaceful quiet—those innovative depths that reveal new possibilities on the horizon. The Light returns and spring’s blossoms open in the natural course.
For some, however, these times can be terribly uncomfortable and disorienting to downright agonizing, if the higher purpose is opposed. Struggle and resistance serve only to intensify and prolong the psychological (and sometimes physical) aridity of fallow episodes. Allowance and acceptance, by contrast, let the energies dissipate onto the floodplain to drop and release the accumulated sediments of overly stuffed lives.
During infertile periods, when nothing quite gels, any contrived attempt to force life’s energies back into the production mode will be premature and ineffective, often setting us back. The length of the Master Jesus’ wandering in the desert lasted precisely 40 days—not a day too short or too long. “And this too shall pass” is the affirmative stance when desolate times descend, so that we move downward into our heart center—the real center of our universe. Outwardly, there is the sense that nothing useful is happening. Inwardly, an entirely different level of productivity is transpiring, albeit with an apparent lack of output. Intense inner work takes the place of outer work.
Inactive, idle, dormant, inert are words that define fallow. Further connotations circling around the meaning of fallowness are: barren, sterile, dull, uncreative, unfruitful, without purpose, unproductive, unoccupied, void and at a loss, uneventful, blank, insignificant, inconsequential, unimportant, meaningless, unsuccessful, worthless. When viewed only from a superficial, material lens of life, fallowness is indeed a state of abject dread and deplorability to be avoided at all costs in a world that leans toward and applauds endless over-commitment. But these so-called slumps are a normal part of living. Athletes, artists, actors, ascetics, to name a few, all have them!
While traversing such periods of barrenness, it can be a rich, inward passage of waiting. Waiting, waiting patiently for Divine Timing to reveal the next signpost along the Path. This suspended animation is often characterized by varying degrees of the “dark night of the soul.” The great mystics and saints, from Joan of Arc, to St. John of the Cross, to Mother Teresa, experienced passages of spiritual fallowness, feeling disconnected from God’s voice and guidance. Mohandas K. Gandhi, Anwar Sadat, and Nelson Mandela spent years imprisoned. Behind locked bars, it appeared their influence lay dormant. Their outward state of confinement opened into the vastness of spiritual emptiness wherein they drank and ate of a different level of sustainment and illumination.
These void periods, often lasting many years, are meant for further spiritual intake and realization, much like Jesus spending time alone in what might be viewed as idle wandering and lack of earthly accomplishment. These purposeful breathers were his necessary times of contemplative restoration and Inward Attunement.
Moreover, such segments of the journey are an evolutionary test of endurance and faith to continue to believe in our self and the Source of Life secreted in our heart. Spiritual sustenance is the only food that nourishes us in these lowest of moments when there is discouragement, difficulties, and obstacles. We may fall to our knees more than once as hope dims, but in the morning light some small miracle helps us to keep on keeping on. We can rest assured that one day we will surely plant our field again—a magnificent harvest running over in ways that would not have been possible prior to the long, fallow period.
Meanwhile, when in the midst of such flattened inactivity, nap often, if that’s what your body wants. Read books. Cloud watch. Take long walks. Cuddle into a light-hearted movie for a good laugh. Let the page or canvas remain blank. Trust the process. And, wait with fortitude and certainty.
Be resilient. Be grateful for every experience, however challenging, because it is part of spiritual development to stand steadfast. Remain full of faith. Even if temporarily obscured, the Inner Light continues to shine and enfold. Let the season of blossoms and fruiting return naturally, as it must, but be ready for the appointed time of restoration and release. Begin anew with comfort, ease, and grace at a higher level of spiritual unfoldment. The energy of inspiration and creativity flows unimpeded now. Fallowness has once again served its divine purpose.
Text © by Zane Maser, 2013. Photos from Wikimedia Commons. Photo of newly planted field is attributed to Callum Black. All rights reserved worldwide.
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