Contemplative Living and Fallow Time
By Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of theirLeading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog and is one of the social media coordinators for the Shalem Institute Facebook page.
“The time of fallowness is a time of rest, restoration, of filling up and replenishing. It is the moment when the meaning of all things can be searched out, tracked down, made to yield the secret of living. Thank God for the fallow time!”—Howard Thurman
I was at a silent retreat recently. Several people, when asked, said they were here because they felt fractured, exhausted, pulled in so many directions. I’m not sure how far this depleted fragmenting has spread around the world, but I know it is an epidemic in this area.
I went to the retreat that weekend because I have a call to listen to my heart in a new and deeper way. After years of rampant busyness, my heart’s voice is sometimes so soft it can be a struggle to hear it clearly.
What I hear in myself and the other retreatants is a true need for more fallow time. Time to rest, restore, fill up, quiet down, a time to listen deeply. The word retreat comes from the Latin word meaning to ‘pull back.’
Instead of pushing forward, don’t keep at it, pull back, ease up.
I have had to work hard over the years, as I’m sure many of you can relate, to be comfortable and able to do “nothing.” On the retreat my spiritual discipline was to allow the fallow time. I
absorbed each word of a poem
became entranced by the beauty of a milkweed seed
watched ripples on a pond
When I came home, I found that I could more easily recall those still spaces. I took 30 seconds and sat and watched the gray November morning make the fall colors pop in the woods as the rain fell.
I stood and watched leaves glide by in a small crook of the Patuxent River.
These fallow moments only took half a minute, but they connected me to the Great Silence and restored me for a day.
Blessed be the fallow time. May it restore you and may you carry a piece of it with you.
What is your experience?