As we continue our Wednesday Evening Contemplative Worship gatherings, we experience spiritual practices that we can include in our own devotional times. Last week, we practiced the Examen, which is focused on seeing God’s action in your life, something that feels very relevant right now.
“Throughout the centuries, prayerful people have found direction for their lives through the practice of the examen (also known as the “examination of consciousness”). The examen is a foundational aspect of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556). Ignatius was concerned that the missionaries in his society would know how to detect the movement of God in their lives. He believed that discernment came out of an awareness of how God moved uniquely in each soul. The examen provides a way of noticing where God shows up in our day. It is a practice that attends to what weight otherwise miss in the press of duties and busyness. The questions of the examen open our attention to how God’s internal movement is present in our external comings and goings. They lead us to listen deeply to the data of our lives. These questions help us pay attention to our mental state, our body responses and our emotional baggage. Our insomnia, nervous stomach, difficult interaction and headache can all take their place as a possible way of more deeply leaving into God. The examen helps us recognize the things that bring us death and life. Once these things are known, they become part of our ongoing interaction with God in prayer. The examen can open us to both the difficult and beautiful in our lives, relationships and profession.” (from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun)
The examen consists of four parts, opening ourselves to God’s presence, gratitude, review and response. Each of the parts can take two to twenty minutes, depending on on how long you would like to try this practice. I find using a meditation app on my phone helps me focus without watching the time. One of the keys to this practice is to allow space for God’s spirit to speak without feeling like you have to figure out the correct answer on your own.
As you prepare to practice the examen, begin in silence, quieting your mind and asking God to be present with you. God has never left us - sometimes we just forget that God is with us or we ignore God’s presence. As we begin, we ask God to help us notice God’s presence.
Then, moving into a time of gratitude, we center on the following questions:
For what are you most grateful?
What makes you feel thankful?
In review, we remember the events of the day without judgment, just noticing what happened and how we felt. Then we ask:
When or where in the past 24 hours were you cooperating most fully with God’s action in your life? When were you resisting?
What habits and life patterns do you notice from the past day?
It is natural to want to respond after gratitude and review. In response, you might need to seek forgiveness, ask for direction, share a concern, express gratitude or resolve to make changes and move forward. The following questions can be helpful:
Beginning today, how do you want to live your life differently?
What patterns do you want to keep living tomorrow?
I invite you to take some time to practice the Examen this coming week. There is still one more opportunity to join us for a Wednesday evening service - email firstname.lastname@example.org for login information. Join us in using this time to deepen our spiritual roots!
In the abiding hope of the Risen Lord,