a regular prayer of review
deeper, wider, gentler, clearer
The examen process
Set aside ten to twenty minutes. Do whatever helps you to relax …. light a candle, play some reflective music, breathe in the love of God and breathe out your cares.
Ask the Holy One to bring to awareness the moment today for which you are the most grateful.
Ask God to bring to your heart the moment today for which you feel least grateful.
Let your feelings come to the surface. You may wish to take deep breaths and let God’s love fill you just the way you are.
Give thanks for whatever you have experienced.
Reflect and relax. You may like to journal your learnings or share them with a companion.
You may like to do the examen alone. Or perhaps use it as a basis for dialogue with your partner, a team or companion group as a regular spiritual stocktaking. It can be used daily, or weekly, or even yearly – or all of these.
Whichever way you choose, the examen can help to put us in touch with the voice of God that is within each one of us.
As we learn to use this tool for spiritual growth, we become more able to discern God’s leading and to make life-giving decisions which enhance our ministry and our humanity.
What questions do we ask?
For what moment today am I most grateful?
For what moment today am I least grateful?
When today did I have the greatest sense of belonging –
to myself, to others, to God?
When did I have the least sense of belonging?
When did I give and receive the most love today?
When did I give and receive the least love today?
What did I feel contented about today?
What was my biggest struggle today?
Read more about this method in “Sleeping with Bread” by D. Linn, S. Fabricant Linn, M. Linn. (1995) Paulist Press.
During the bombing raids of WWII, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of the children could not sleep at night, fearing waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Finally someone hit on the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding the bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them , “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”
(Sleeping with Bread, p.1)
Like these children we can benefit from holding our ‘daily bread’ while we sleep. The insights of a few minutes nightly reflection can nourish us and help strengthen us for the next day and all the days ahead.
And further examples can be found on the Pray as you go website
In its simplest form, the examen can mean asking ourselves questions to help us identify the ‘consolations’ and ‘desolations’ in our lives – ‘the interior movements through which divine revelation unfolds.’ (SWB,p19) We learn to recognise those things which give us life and energy or which draw energy away from us, leaving us feeling drained and empty instead of renewed and encouraged.
The examen can also help us identify patterns in our responses which might need our attention, such as a tendency to avoid conflict or to keep silent instead of speaking out about something important. Consistent attention to these interior movements can help us resolve problems and discern a way forward which will enable us to live out our unique way of giving and receiving love.