I started writing about this topic last week whilst reflecting on my own need to go to ground for a while. This was before it seemed as though a bit of a rest has become a worldwide imperative.
I wonder if we are being asked to prepare for some fresh change? I ponder how we can shift from alarm to responsiveness. From economic imperatives uppermost in our consideration to something more human, more heart-centred. What is the fresh crop we are waiting to plant as a whole global culture? And how do we take on this project in a time when it is easier to feel fear rather than trust?
When you are seeking to grow something new, it’s important to prepare the soil.
In many agricultural traditions, this means letting the earth rest.
You might plant a crop, but it will be a green manure; one that’s not harvested to eat or sell. Instead and often before the plant comes to flowering, the whole crop will be dug back into the soil to nourish it for a new planting.
Sometimes you might let weeds perform this task, allowing them to come up, take hold and then be dug in to serve as nourishment for the future of the soil.
I’ve been taking a self-declared fallow period, withdrawing from most public activities to see what kinds of weeds are coming up and how they need to be treated. Letting myself be sown with the green manure of activities that are slow, contemplative and full of care. Aware that my soil needs to be nourished to allow new growth, I have been exploring what is in need of healing, which habits are seeking change, which new ways of being in the world are longing to be embraced; what kind of green manure I should plant.
I won’t pretend it has always been easy. Some of my habits are tough old weeds with very long roots. I need to appreciate them and recognise them as a first step. Based on their identity, I can then decide to pull them out by the roots and either put into the compost (or weed tea), or dig them back in before they seed again.
The feelings surrounding these old habits, which include rage and grief, frustration and despair, also need to be acknowledged without reactivity. This is the task of the human being as we grow wiser. To welcome what is within us and all about us with as much stillness and wisdom as we can manage.
That way once we sense that our fallow periods – voluntary or enforced – are ready to shift towards another period of growth, we can do so in a way which honours what we have experienced as individuals and as a whole society.
We may not ever have the full picture but we can begin to understand more of the rich and strange mystery of life, death, healing and change which we have endured.