November 25, 2013

The Examen

Good morning! This post is based on a chapter about the Jesuit Examen from the book A Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin. It's a very thought-provoking book that I would encourage you to pick up sometime.

The Examen is a meditation that can be done by Christians and non-Christians alike, but please note that since I did this exercise based on my own perspective (which is a Christian one). However, if you want to try the Examen and are not actively "seeking God," the option is always available too.

With that said, here is a brief reflection on the Examen: talking a little bit about what it is, and how it was beneficial to me. I hope that it will encourage you to also try it for a while and that it will help you find a heightened capacity for gratitude, love, and growth. (What better time to start the process than during the hectic holiday season?) Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!
-Riley XO


Ever since about sophomore year of high school, time became an integral part of surviving the day. School, practice, and lessons begin and end at these specific times; I need to sleep for a certain amount of time; this specific time should be set aside in order to work on a project. Time is necessary for planning a schedule, and schedules are in turn necessary for fitting in everything that needs to be accomplished in the day or week. Juggling the many aspects of life is a struggle for many people, who despite having improved technology find it harder to balance work, play, family, and friends. I for one could not make it without a weekly planner--imagine how many more assets I would have to keep track of in the future when work, and a larger family or friend group are added to the list. When people get in a perpetual cycle of plan, execute, plan, repeat, there comes a problem because soon life loses its spontaneity and therefore vibrancy and wonder as well. How does one preserve the treasures found day to day when life soon becomes reduced to a list of tasks to check off? Well, although it is impossible for us to stop time, it is possible to remove ourselves from time, to stop the perpetual cycle, take a break, and reflect on the magic of daily life that cannot be reflected in a schedule. There are several ways to remove oneself from time, such as through meditation, journaling, or prayer. The Examen is a specific type of daily prayer that allows someone to intrinsically pause time, reflect, and improve his/her mind and spirit; it is therefore encouraged.

 "In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius includes a prayer designed to enable believers to find God in their lives" (87). In a life where events, jokes, food, and friends are so tangible, it is easy to lose sight of the supernatural, which, while present, is not always completely in the forefront. The Examen is a prayer or meditation for Christians to realize the presence of God, to help strengthen the definition of an abstract deity. It is done in five steps: gratitude, daily review, sorrow, forgiveness, and grace (97).

Taking these steps allows a person to realize that God is indeed with him/her every day. After I began doing the Examen, I began to take note of the little blessings that had been dismissed before: the warmth of the sun, smiling at other people and seeing them smile back, the little squirrels prancing around campus... Each of these, although a small gesture, creature, or something that is always there, is a creation of God. This reflection has deepened my sense of gratitude for what I have been blessed with. Not just the little things, but especially for friendships, new and old, for attending a wonderful university, for staying in touch with my family, for the opportunities to be involved, and for knowing that I have plenty of food to eat and the chance to exercise. Being aware of these blessings have instilled a sense of contentment with my situation here at Creighton University, which has helped me remove myself from my schedule. Now, while walking to class, I am more aware of what is going on around me instead of being focused on reaching my destination.

Reviewing my day is also extremely helpful because it leads me to realize that my life isn't about finishing these tasks and sitting through hours of meetings. It emphasizes the fact that life is a story. There are highs and lows that make each day unique, therefore significant. It has certainly been beneficial to renew the feelings that I experienced throughout the day and has also made me more aware of others' various perspectives. Experiences play a big part of shaping who we are, and we have the power to influence what is occurring around us, so being aware of what happens each day, along with how certain events precipitated and some of the repercussions that may have arisen as a result, is important to becoming an individual graced with self-awareness.

Sorrow and forgiveness are two elements of the Examen that were more challenging for me. I guess that I have been aware for a while that my primary character faults are impatience and pride or stubbornness. Being reminded of these have helped me develop humility and understanding for others. I realize that my frustration does not help difficult situations, and am not starting to develop more patience and a calmer attitude, channeling the intense nature that comes from within to do something that is productive and good. While recognizing my sins and being able to ask for forgiveness is constructive, it is also slightly frustrating because there is a desire to improve daily, and can at times be difficult to remember that change is a process, and bad habits cannot be eradicated immediately.

Asking for grace for the next day, on the other hand, is a calming experience because it reminds me to live in the present; it also really helped me learn to calm down and enjoy what God has given me now, turning away from any worries of the future. So although I plan and make to-do lists, which are goal and long-term oriented, I have started focusing on what I can currently do to study and prepare, as opposed to fretting over how much a future test will cost. The Examen is a beneficial prayer because it is a removal from the grueling schedule of daily life. It reestablishes what should be valued in life, and stirs an appreciation for creation, love, and morality. It is certainly a positive tool for spirituality and can be used to add flavor and enjoyment. It has helped me refocus my attention on God in the midst of a busy college life and is a commemoration of each day. Martin was right in saying that it is possible to "look back" to find God (98).

1 comment:

  1. I hope you guys enjoyed this post about the Examen and feel encouraged to try it! Please subscribe to my blog so that you can get updates! I also wanted to note that I originally wanted to post my study tips today, but realized that the timing would be better if it came out next week, so please check in again next week on Monday to see my top 10 study tips :) Thank you for reading, and have a great day!


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