Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode Ten of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. This week we are talking about: The Examen
For many years I’ve used the monthly calendar to direct my ongoing study of the 12 Steps of recovery: In January with Step One we admit that we are powerless over our dependencies. In February’s Step 2 we come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore our sanity. For March in Step 3 we decided to turn our life and will over to God’s care. For April Step 4 brings us to a time of reflecting as we take a fearless moral inventory of ourselves. In May’s Step 5, we confessed our wrongs to God, ourselves and another person. In June’s Step 6 we are ready for God to remove all our defects of character. For July and Step 7 we humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings. In August Step 8 calls for us to make a list of those we have harmed and to become willing to make amends to them all. Then in September and Step 9 we make our amends wherever it is possible. And now with the tenth month of October, we are focusing on Step 10, which reads:
We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Step 10 is a continuation of Step 4’s life inventory, but it’s to be done ongoing. How we take our ongoing inventory varies from person to person. Some like to keep a running inventory throughout the day; others, maybe take it in the morning and evening. Then there are those who like a seasonal weekend retreat for more in-depth inventory work
When we keep our inventory ongoing throughout the day, it helps keep our amends list short. This is a great use of the Notes app on a Smartphone. We can quickly jot down when we were short with our spouse on the phone at lunch. Then we won’t forget to apologize later at home.
Our Daily Inventory can also be more private at the end of the day by taking a few minutes to journal about the times where we might have harmed someone or acted in anger. However, we mustn’t forget to keep our inventory balanced also noting the things we did right that day. Our journal helps us have a record so when needed we can make amends as soon as possible.
There are many who like to take mini-retreats, to spend some time alone with God to pray and read over their journal entries. This is a great time to celebrate your victories and also see where you can improve over the next three months.
In the Christian Contemplative tradition there is another type of inventory. Saint Ignatius instituted The Prayer of Examen more than 400 years ago. The Examen is a technique of prayerful refection over the events of our day designed to detect God’s presence and discern His direction and guidance for us. There are many books and articles written with different versions and various ideas how to use The Examen. Today I want to give you a brief overview and a sample of the version that I like to use.
In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola, urges everyone to be taught The Examen, daily examining of our deepest desires and feelings. Ignatius calls our feelings consolations and desolations.
Consolations: connect us with God, others and ourselves.
Desolations: disconnect us from God, others and ourselves.
Ignatius believed that God would speak to us through our feelings and desires bringing about revelation and change. Ignatius adds our need for God’s grace. We aren’t resolving to perfect ourselves by the force of our own will. We are resolving to open ourselves to God’s grace through awareness of where we need His grace.
At the foundation of The Examen is gratitude. Ignatius knew that our awareness of God’s goodness would keep our relationship with God healthy. And if our relationship with God is healthy, our relationships with others and ourselves will be healthy also.
As we work our way through the steps of The Examen we prayerfully review our thoughts, feelings, and actions for today. Our goal is to become aware of hidden motivations that cause the behaviors that need changing. When we become aware of the unconscious motivations that interfere with our healthy intentions, we will be less likely to be dragged into the thoughts, feelings or actions that we want to avoid.
To begin our time of Examen we will set aside a few minutes alone with God. I prefer to do my Examen at the end of the day, just before bed. Some like to do the Examen twice a day, once at lunchtime and then again at the end of the day.
In my version of The Examen there are three steps. Now let’s breath in and prayerfully, slowly begin.
Step 1: Ask God to bring to your awareness the moment today for which you are most grateful.
- If you could relive one moment, which one would it be?
- When were you most able to give and receive love today?
- Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so good.
- Breath in the gratitude you felt and receive life again from that moment.
Step 2: Ask God to bring to your awareness the moment today for which you are least grateful.
- When were you least able to give and receive love today?
- Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so difficult.
- Relive the moment and the feelings without trying to change or fix them in any way.
- Take deep breaths and let God’s love fill you just as you are.
Step 3: Give thanks for what you have experienced. If possible, share these two moments with a friend.
The recovery community has a slogan, “One Day at a Time” by which they mean that sobriety isn’t achieved in a big resolution, but by trying to stay sober for one day – today.
It’s useful to look at our spiritual life in that same way… one day at a time. In The Examen we are only looking at today, asking God to reveal to us areas where we failed and where we didn’t, where we loved and where we didn’t. Going forward we prayerfully expect tomorrow for God to graciously give us the desire to change and the power to carry it out.