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Examen Explained

7 May, 2003 9:37 AM

As I mentioned yesterday, last night at Living Room we spent some time looking at an ancient form of prayer called Examen of Consciousness (no not X-MEN prayer...ExAmen). A few people have already emailed asking for information so I thought I'd outline the process here. I've found it amazingly helpful for me in my personal prayer life as well as using it with groups of people.

Examen was developed by St. Ignatius Loyola whowas a practical kind of person which is reflected in this daily method of prayer he recommended to his brothers. They prayed it numerous times per day as part of their daily rhythm of life.

It is is a prayer where we try to find the movement of the Spirit in our daily lives as we review our day. There are five simple steps to the Examen, which should take about 15 minutes to complete. Many people make the Examen once around lunchtime and again before going to bed. This prayer can be made anywhere´┐Żon the beach, in a car, at home, in the library.

The following is just one interpretation (of many) of these five steps to discerning the movement of Gods Spirit in your day.

Before you start: Try to be in a place where you are least likely to be disturbed, and where there is the least amount of external noise.Perhaps you light a candle or change the lighting when you pray to symbolise the start of this activity. Then sit comfortably and still yourself. Relax, be aware of your breathing, your body and how you are feeling.

1. Recall you are in the presence of God

We are always in God's presence, but in prayer we place ourselves in God's presence in an especially attentive way. God knows intimately. He loves you in the deepest way possible and desires for an intimate connection with you. In John 15 Jesus says 'abide in me and I will abide in you' — his invitation is to make our HOME in him. As you still yourself be aware that God is present with you, in creation of your surrounds, your body, in those around you. Remind yourself of his presence with you and desire to BE with you. Be still and know that you are with God.

2. Look at your day with gratitude

After a few moments, begin to give thanks to God for the gifts of today. Special pleasures will spring to mind: a good night's sleep, the smell of the morning coffee, the laugh of a child, a good meal or lesson learnt. As you move in gratitude through the details of your day give thanks to God for his presence in the big and the small things of your life.

3. Ask help from the Holy Spirit

Before the next step of reviewing your day, ask that God's Spirit might help you to look at your actions and attitudes. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to understand the motivation of your heart, to see the gifts of God and how you've responded to them. Ask that you'd learn and be shaped as your reflect. Remember, this is not a time to dwell on your shortcomings rather, it is a gentle look with the Lord at how you have responded to God's gifts. It is an opportunity for growth of self and relationship with God.

4. Review your day

This is the longest of the steps. Here you review your entire day, watching it like a movie that replays in your mind. Be sure to notice the details, the context of what happened and how you acted. As you look through the day, notice especially your motives and feelings. This is not psychoanalysis, rather it is a time for you to discern your daily motives, actions and reactions. Don't try to fix everything in this stage, just examine how conscious you have been of God's presence and actions in your life.

As you review you may wish to ask yourself some of the following questions.

When did I fail today? (why?)

When did I give love today?

Where did I receive love today?

What Habits and life patterns do I notice in my day?

In what ways did I notice God in my day?

When did I feel most alive? Most drained of life?

When did I have the greatest sense of belonging? Least sense of belonging?

When was I most free? Least free?

When was I most creative? Least creative?

When did I feel most fully myself? Least myself?

When did I feel most whole? Most fragmented?

As you review your day allow your thoughts to wander through the situations you've been in and allow God to speak, challenge, encourage and teach you.

5. Reconcile and resolve

The final step is our heart-to-heart talk with Jesus.

Here you talk with Jesus about your day. You share your thoughts on your actions, attitudes, feelings and interactions. Perhaps in this time you may feel led to seek forgiveness, ask for direction, share a concern, express gratitude etc. There may be an area you've felt challenged on or some action you feel you need to take out of this time. Resolve with Jesus to move forward in action where appropriate.

You might like to finish your time with the Lords Prayer.

Compiled by Darren Rowse 2002

As I said earlier, this is just my interpretation on the steps having drawn upon a number of online sources and put them all together. Once you've done Examen a few times you will find your own rhythm and method. You might like to add some music, candles or images to help you pray.

I was amazed by some of the conversation we had last night after doing this exercise as a group. I think we all enjoyed just spending some quiet time, reflecting on the small things of life. I was personally challenged to remember that God is even in the 'normal' and 'mundane' and to realise just how 'rich' my life is although I so often take it for granted.

I'm interested to hear how others go with Examen

For another 'ancient prayer' method check out my entry on Lectio Divina



Copy & paste.

Laura » 7 May, 2003 10:01 AM

wow - I'd heard about this but didn't know where to look for it (I was spelling it wrong in my net searches) - thankyou, I'll give it a go right now.

Tristen » 7 May, 2003 10:17 AM

Dude, where do you find this stuff? Sometimes I wonder if my net surfing is just incredibly innefficient compared to others! Cool doin's. Thanks!

Caleb » 7 May, 2003 12:11 PM

I love this ancient stuff from the old monks. Will be giving this a go. How did it work with a group of you doing it at the same time though?

Noeye » 7 May, 2003 2:56 PM

I've been doing some personal reflections lately on my own. Alot of them have taken a very similar form to this exercise, although I've never heard of it before. I've found them to be really helpful, but would love to find a community to do it with and share with afterwards. Would you consider moving to Texas?

Roger » 7 May, 2003 3:19 PM

Mate, have been working with this since last year - not all the time. Anyway, I decided to start doing it as a way of developing my sensitivity to the activity and presence of God in my everyday world - work, family, going to the movies etc....
Had another really good time of instruction around it on my recent Ignatian retreat - the retreat director (late 70's - Jesuit Priest) has been working with it for a 'life time'. He was saying that Ignatius would excuse a monk from times of meditation, but NEVER from "Examen of Consciousness" - It was just to important. The Jesuit community the retreat director is from in the USA does it twice a day....
Keep going with it mate....it might even naturally mesh with your temperament, but I can't quite recall what your Myers Briggs result was when you did it early this year....

Paul » 7 May, 2003 8:14 PM

A couple of you wrote:

"Dude, where do you find this stuff?"
"I love this ancient stuff from the old monks."

Guys, it's all here in the Catholic Church! We treasure our traditional forms of prayer and our ancient practices. It's nice that you found something we've never lost.

I'm grateful that my walk with Christ is helped along by such beauty and richness....

Therese Z » 9 May, 2003 12:34 AM

Thank you for compiling this. I'm planning on picking up the Examen as a Lenten discipline (and hopefully will continue) and I was pleased to find your writeup on it,especially the questions in the Review section.

Belinda » 9 February, 2005 12:52 PM

Let me add my thanks - I live in a Christian household in Perth and we have been doing Examen weekly for some time - inexpertly, especially in my case. I've printed out your notes and we'll use them to improve our practice. I also think my house church (Perth Anabaptist Fellowship - perthanabaptists.modblog.net ) will be able to learn a lot from your experiences. Thank you.

Nathan Hobby » 4 March, 2005 3:20 PM

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