I’ve been talking about my plans to spend some time in Lent doing the Examen more. So I thought I’d talk about what it is and why I find it useful and what I find difficult about it.
First, what it is? It’s a Jesuit thing. First started by Ignatius Loyola, the Daily Examen is a way to encourage prayer filled mindfulness, as a way to find God’s presence and discern His direction in our lives. Grace did a whole service on it a while ago.
There are lots of ways of doing this, the basic steps are:
- Become aware of God’s presence – look back on your day, look for where God was and when it felt like God was absent
- Review the day with gratitude – in every day, no matter how terrible something good happens. That could be a coffee with a friend, a seat on a train. Be thankful for those things
- Pay attention to your emotions – we feel a range of emotions during the day, when did we feel what? According to Ignatian spirituality we detect the presence of God in the movement of our emotions, so what is God telling us?
- Pray on an aspect of the day – Think about something in the day, it could be where we know we fell short, it could be something we did well, it could be something that we need help with. Consider it and pray on it. It could be asking for help, it could be more thankfulness, it could be a prayer for others.
- Look forward to tomorrow – Think about tomorrow and the joys and challenges in it. Ask God for what you need to get through the day.
There are other ways of doing it and I think even if you’re not Christian or don’t believe in God, you can see the basic structure is useful for reflection and self-care. When I was really struggling with depression, I did a cut down version of it ‘three things to be grateful for in a day’ and sometimes I still do that but the examen, takes a bit of time and it’s sometimes hard to find that time, in the middle of work and tiredness and perimenopause and a life full of ‘should’ do, sometimes I just feel too tired. But when I take this time for reflection and prayer, I always feel calmer and more balanced.
Which is why I wanted to make it a Lent practice, if it takes 30 days to build a habit, then making some time for it over 46 days, will help embed it.