The Examen - The Review of the Day
The examen is a way of praying each day (usually towards the end of the day) to try to discern where the spirit of God has been moving throughout the day and to discern your response. St Ignatius of Loyola described this way of praying in the sixteenth century and it is a fundamental part of Ignatian (Jesuit) spirituality. There are a few different ways of describing how to do the examen but this is one method I find helpful. Why not try it for ten or fifteen minutes tonight?
1. Relax in God's presence - find a quiet spot, turn your thoughts and your feelings towards God.
2. Think back over all the good things of today - be specific - the lovely early morning cup of tea, the meeting with a friend, the sunshine, the kind word...
If it's been a lousy day, then remember your strengths that have helped you through it.
Say 'Thank you' to God with your mind and in your emotions.
3. Now ask for the Holy Spirit's enlightenment to reveal to you more deeply what the day has brought for you. Let yourself open to God - I like to imagine a flower opening its petals in the sunshine. You might want to express this physically by opening your arms.
4. This next step takes the most time. Review the day and examine, in the light of God's love, what you have felt through this day - your moods, your emotions, your ups and downs, and your responses. How has what has happened today impacted on you? How have you impacted on events and on others?
This is not a time for self-flaggelation. Simply run through the happenings of the day, recalling your responses and noting them. Then take some time to ask yourself for each thing you bring to mind:
- Did my response to this help me or hinder me in my spiritual life and growth?
- Did my response allow Christ to be seen in me or was I distracted by other things?
Do not beat yourself up. The idea of this is to become more self-aware and, in becoming more self-aware, to become more open to God and God's promptings. Allow God to challenge you but also to encourage you and lead you forward.
If you are short of time, then choose just one or two of the significant happenings of the day and concentrate on those during this review.
5. Now take a few minutes to have a conversation with God about your understanding of the day. Put it into words.
I like to imagine, at this point, that Jesus is sitting beside me and that we have a talk together about the day. This might be the time to say sorry for those mistakes!
Then turn your conversation to tomorrow and ask for God's help and for an awareness of God's perception of the events of the next day.
Finish by saying the prayer that Jesus taught us to say:
If done regularly, the examen can be a way of growing in understanding of ourselves and of God's actions both in the world and in/through us. It can enable us to become more open to the Spirit's promptings and to point us in the way of becoming more Christ-like.
Other methods for the examen:
From New Orleans Province Jesuits website
From St Beuno's website
A less structured examen from Comtemplative Christian blog