Examining Examen…


All those who have never heard of examen, post a comment! Until HeartPaths I had never heard the term examen (Merriam-Webster says examen is pronounced ig-ˈzā-mən, although I have heard it pronounced like the word examine, too.). It is a prayer practice initiated by Ignatius.

If I had to guess, most Christians do an informal version of examen without realizing it. While there are countless ways to do it, the essence is this: Review the previous day and find the underlying meaning of the day’s events. Do this every day. Most contemplatives would say that examen is the most important prayer practice.

Thus, my next year in HeartPaths will be focused on doing examen daily and reflecting on what I’m learning. Ignatius also created other spiritual exercises and I will also be doing those. Don’t ask me about these, since I won’t start them until this fall!

Some forms of examen also ask us to look forward to the next 24 hours and ask God for assistance where needed. However, let me be emphatic about this: one is not supposed to berate him- or herself for missteps that day–the idea is to simply admit we missed the mark, ask for forgiveness and try to discover what underlying emotions and thoughts might be at play in those moments. Was it distraction? Was it fear? Was it boredom?

Another aim is to notice God in each and every moment of our day, because guess what? He’s there! We silly Christians often think, “I’ll meet with God regularly when this is no longer on my schedule.” But the reality is that God knows us all too well.

We probably won’t meet with Him later.

So, God prefers to meet us in the moment, if we will only notice Him.

He wants a passionate love affair between us and Him. He wants to “WOW” us continually. He knows what “trips our triggers” and “floats our boast,” so why wouldn’t we let him “have at it”??? I think it has something to do with fear of the unknown, personally. How about you?

Let me point you to a little book that my spiritual director recommended for finding the “WOW” of examen: Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from Your Day by Mark E. Thibodeaux. There are 34 different ways to do examen in this easily readable, inspirational book. Thibodeaux suggests doing them in order, but if one is clearly not working, skip to another one.

The best thing about examen? It only takes 15 minutes a day. Most of us can find 15 minutes a day to improve our relationship with God! I like to allot myself 30 minutes because I make notes in my journal as I go along and it allows me to spot “patterns” over time that God may be deliberately calling to my attention. The 30 minutes goes quickly, trust me!

I would love to hear about your experience with examen. I often learn more from those around me than from reading and doing, so feel free to educate me by commenting below!

Friday’s Post: Who’s the Lucky “Winner”?

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 at 11:10 am and is filed under God stuff. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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