There used to be an ancient Christian practice called "Ember Days." These days occurred at the changing of the seasons; around the equinoxes and the solstices. They also flourished at a time when life found its rhythms around nature, not around shopping holidays. When electricity and information technology took us all over, that cyclic, predictable rhythm was lost to many of us in the developed world, though it still exists in places less developed than ours. We could do as much at night as in daylight; we could do as much in winter as in summer. Productivity, disposable money, speed - these became the standard of "the good life."

But this "good life" also has its shadow side. As the outer life speeds up, inner life is lost. Silence, solitude and pondering anything for longer than a minute is considered a waste of time. Constant socializing - the mindless chatter of "drinks" and parties - is the standard of what passes for communication. Anyone seeking quiet is suspect. Grief and tears are also suspect, "getting on with it" the only things to do.

In the face of such superficial engagement, I have been finding myself pulled back to the "Ember Days" of my early life. The point of what I now call "embering" is simply this: to draw back from the socializing and from as many external demands as one can (emails a big one for me) and to increase quiet. Going for a walk alone, standing in the woods, turning off all external sound while in your own house, spending more time in reading what turns you towards your inner self, meditating - these would be possible Ember Day activities. As would being aware of your actions rather than moving through the day automatically, resting, and allowing the answering machine to take messages. The fact that it's so difficult for us to imagine some of these practices is itself an indication of how enslaved we've become, how cut off from inner wisdom.

Ember days, as the name implies, are meant to open a space where we can encounter our own inner fire, the spark of our own spirit-flame. These are meant to be days of recovery and refiring.

Recently I put my words into practice, I moved for twenty-four hours to the tiny trailer that sits on the edge of our property. First of all I slept for twelve hours, wrapped in the deepest silence - an indication in itself of how badly I needed an ember day. The rest of the time was spent tracking what had become of my hassled and over-worked spirit. I did this by writing and by being present to what was happening just in this moment, using some of the ways named above.

Yes, I could definitely see my tactics of avoidance and resistance. The impulse to return phone calls and emails once I felt rested was strong. But I stayed....and stayed...and at the end caught a glimpse of that glowing ember that had gotten lost in the outer fray.

Perhaps it's time to look again at the outer wisdom that offers peace and wholeness.

Try this:  Look for your own way to have an ember day, or even half of one. Focus on finding your own inner fire and strength to continue all those other things that "must be done."