The Examen. Thank you, St. Ignatious
I've been reading, and listening to, a lot on gratitude, rituals, and mindfulness. Recently I heard of a process called The Examen. Despite decades of Catholic Church, and years of Sunday school, I have never heard of The Examen, which comes from the Jesuit tradition of Catholicism. (And, hello Catholic leaders and educators, this is the kind of teachings on prayer and reflection that I can really sink my teeth into and has invaluable daily application).
The Examen was practiced by St. Ignatius of Loyola, who believed that it was a gift that came directly from God to help us discern his direction for us. It is a practice of daily reflection (at noon and in the evening) on the course of the day. Whether or not you believe in God, and whether or not you believe he has a direction for us that we need to reveal, The Examen is an opportunity for reflection, to be attentive to our thoughts, feelings and experiences, and to prepare for our next day with intention.
Here is the basic idea of The Examen:
Be Aware of God's Presence. Ask for guidance in being attentive, embracing the gifts of today, and what we we are intended to understand or open ourselves to.
Review the Day with Gratitude and Thanksgiving. Reflect on the blessings of the day, big and small, and whether our gratitude is in proportion to these gifts.
Pay Attention to Your Emotions. Through our deeper feelings we can explore how we've responded to ordinary moments, engaged in our relationships and communities, and reacted to the experiences of the day. Did we experience joy and connection? Weariness? Vulnerability? Compassion? Optimism? What is there to be learned from these feelings? Is there a place to consider a change of heart?
Choose one Feeling and Pray From It. St. Ignatius believed we detected the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Pay attention to a particular feeling you had today, significant or small, positive or negative. Look at it and be attentive to it. If there is good in all things, what is your response to a particular feeling?
Look Forward to Tomorrow. Resolve to give tomorrow purpose, to be positively engaged, and live well. Be intentional in how you choose to prepare for, and move into, the next day.
If you are not spiritual in the Christian tradition, this practice is easily adapted. It's simply about paying attention, finding gratitude in the ordinary, joy in the good moments and grace in the difficult ones. It's intended to help us see each day's gifts, where we've had missteps, and opporturnites for tomorrow. It's a powerful prayer or ritual for the end of the day that may help us face tomorrow with intention and optimism. And Amen to that!