Tuesday, June 14, 2016

At the End of the Day: The Examen ...

Looking back so the view
looking forward is even clearer.


Hello, Everyone,

I've said here recently that I am becoming more and more interested in the intersection between trauma resilience and spirituality. I think there are a vast number of spiritual practices we can glean from various faith traditions to help us calm our bodies, access presence and peace, guide our lives and fuel our work with others. One such practice is an updated version of the Jesuit exercise of daily Examen.

The Examen of Consciousness is usually practiced at the end of the day. It is a review that contains a short reflection on the day, recalling events, noting feelings and being mindful of the presence of The Holy (however you understand that to be) in your everyday life. The process is basically encapsulated in the answers to two questions:
 1.  For what moment today am I most grateful?
 2.  For what moment today am I least grateful?

Variations on this theme, offered by Dennis Linn, Sheila Linn and Matthew Linn in Sleeping With Bread, are:
 1. When did I give and receive the most love today?
     When did I give and receive the least love today?
2.  When did I feel most alive today?
               When did I most feel life draining out of me?
3.  When today did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, The Holy and the   universe?
     When did I feel the least sense of belonging?
4.  When was I happiest today?
      When was I saddest?
5.  What was today's high point?
     What was today's low point?
6.  What did I feel good about today?
     What was my greatest struggle today?

Practicing the Examen takes about ten minutes to half an hour each evening, depending on whether you share the answers to your questions with yourself, your partner, your family or a group of friends. The Linn's say that they have met with a group of close friends every Sunday afternoon for several years to do an Examen of the week together before sharing a meal. In this case, the Examen not only provides a way to be more reflective and mindful, it offers the opportunity to build a deeper and more intimate sense of community with close friends.

The Examen can also act as a guide to important life decisions. Paying close attention over time to what makes you feel alive and what drains your life force can help you to choose occupational paths, decide whether to deepen relationships, know how to spend your re-creational time and determine your direction for a new year.

So, whatever your faith tradition or the lack of it, I invite you to try the Examen for a week and see if it might be a spiritual tool you'd like to add to your resilience toolkit on an ongoing basis.

ps And for those of you who are interested in the practice of meditation, Sounds True is offering a 10 day online Meditation Summit, starting today, with free talks by some of the top Buddhist and Christian meditation leaders, some of whom you've seen mentioned here from time to time, including Reggie Ray, Tara Brach, Sharon Salzberg, Rick Hanson, James Findlay, Thich Nhat Hanh, Saki Santorelli, Jack Kornfield and Pema Chodron. You can listen to each talk for free for 24 hours after it takes place.