Day 4: Examen 1

My hope, through these two weeks that we are spending together is two-fold.  The first is that we might build up our sense of thanksgiving.  The second is that we might explore some spiritual practices which can be useful in all kind of circumstances, through the holiday season and beyond.
We began with breath-prayers.  Breath prayers occur in every religious tradition.  It’s a rather arbitrary designation on my part.  The thing these practices have in common is mostly a focus on the breath.
As we move in to day 4, we are switching gears.  Over these next few we will take a look at practices which give us reason to reflect over our day.  Inevitably, these practices result in remind us of the things it would be easy to take for granted.
For the most part, during this phase, we will be focused on a practice called The Examen.  This practice was popularized by Ignatius in the 1400s.  We will approach The Examen from a few different directions, building on complexity as we go.
The Examen asks us to see our day in terms of consolations and desolations.  Consalations, for him, places it is easy to see God at work.  Desolations are places where it is more difficult to.  I think this is a relevant exercise for people uncomfortable with the idea of God.  One way to sidestep the question of God, in the midst of all this, is to consider Consolations the things it is easy to be thankful for.  Desolations are the things it is difficult to feel thankful for.
In todays Examen, we will break the last 24 hours into 4 distinct ‘chunks.’

Today’s Exercise:
1.  Create your quiet and safe space.  You might wish to light a candle or eat a peace of chocolate.
2.  Place your feet flat on the floor.  Breathe slowly and calmly.
3.  Spend a moment thinking about the last 6 hours.  Do the mental subtraction to determine just when this chunk of time started.  In your mind, review the things that happened during this time.
4.  Sit with your feelings about this chunk of time for a moment.
5.  Consider your desolations during this time.  What was the most difficult part of these 6 hours.  Why?  Sit with your feelings of this time.
6.  Where were your consolations during this time?  Allow yourself to re-experience these good memories.
7.  Spend a moment in thanksgiving for this time.  It is probably obvious why you might be thankful for your consolations.  Is there anything you can find in your desolations to be thankful for?
8.  Take a deep, cleansing breath.
9.  Consider the 6 hours prior to this time.  This chunk of time ends 12 hours before now.  In your mind, go over the events of this chunk of time.
10.  Sit with your feelings about this chunk of time.
11.  Explore your desolations.  Don’t run away from the difficulties.  Feel it in your body and mind.
12.  Move on to your consolations from this time.
13.  Spend a moment in thanksgiving for this part of your day.
14.  Take a single, cleansing breath.
15.  Consider the chunk of time between 12 and 18 hours ago.  Review, in your mind what occurred then.  Do not rush through it.  Go back to that time.  Rediscover the tastes and the smells.  Even if you were sleeping for most of it, think back to that sleep.
16.  Name your desolations from this time.  Be firm but kind with yourself.  Work at not ignoring the difficult partys.
17.  Consider your consolations.  Relive these.
18.  Spend a moment in gratitude for this time.
19.  Breathe.
20.  Go back in your mind, and review the time 18-24 hours ago.  Try and relive as much as you can.  Think about the clothes you were wearing, the people you interacted with.
21.  Hold your desolations from this time in open hands.  Go over them carefully.
22.  Consider your consaltions from this time.  Be equally carefully to work through these.
23.  Spend a moment in thanksgiving for this chunk of time.
24.  Bring all the consolations to mind from these last 24 hours.
25.  Spend a moment offering up a final prayer or thought of thankfulness.
26.  Consider the last 24 hours.  Explore whether you still feel the way about it you did when you began.
27.  Return to the world when you are ready.

2 thoughts on “Day 4: Examen 1

  1. Jennwith2ns

    Jeff, I am LOVING these–as I have also appreciated the other “campaigns” you’ve done with spiritual exercises. I really really hope you will produce these in book/booklet form for purchase someday soon. My reasons for this (repeated 😉 request are three-fold:

    1. Some of us connect better spiritually when our practice starts and ends in a little more of an analog manner. (I know–it’s ironic for ME to say that! But I know it’s true even as I feel called to provide some internet spaces for people’s spirituality as well.)

    2. Particularly in the last (first) three practices, you said to “shut off your phone”–but what if we’re using our phones to see what the next step is? That alone creates enough tension for me that I automatically think, “Okay–I’ll do this later, when I have a chance to absorb what I’m supposed to do and then shut off my phone and try it.” When I am engaging my daily morning spiritual practices that I already do, I try to keep my phone far away from me (this isn’t happening this morning! ;-). But by the time I get to that, I have already forgotten the practice you’ve suggested and so I never fully engage it even though I genuinely want to. This may be a problem unique to me, but…I suspect there might be one or two other people who are running or will run into this. If I had a book of these things that I could keep in my stack of other set-apart-moment books, I would be more likely to turn to it and try the practice before I get to my other ones, or even sometimes in place of them.

    3. As a spiritual care provider in “the real world” as well as online, like you (but unlike you, without this multiplicity of practice in my mental back pocket), it would be SUPER handy to have a physical handbook of this kind of thing to carry around with me or even have available in my office, so I could introduce relevant practices to people with whom I meet when such an “intervention” seems appropriate–without having to search for what I’m looking for on my phone, which seems to detract from spiritual conversations for the most part.

    Either way, thanks for doing this, Jeff. It’s a blessing.


    1. Jeff Post author

      All of our wacky weather and disruptions to our schedules have prevented me from replying. Sorry for the delay! I am thankful for your insights. I had been toying with the idea of doing a paper publication. I hadn’t considered several of the points you make! I think you know more than I do about the publishing on demand/ self-publishing stuff. I will probably be checking in with you on this (anybody else with tips, thoughts, or suggestions on how to best make this work, I am super eager to hear!)

      Liked by 1 person


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