“In the morning form your intention and at night examine your conduct…” – Thomas a Kempis
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates
The Examen is taking time to reflect on the past day before rushing on to live the next. It is looking back and taking stock in order to become more aware of life, our own motives, and God’s presence. As you look back at the highs and lows of the day you discover things to pray for and become aware of your own unhealthy ways of interacting with others. This exercise often makes us both more grateful and more sorrowful about the events of the day – thus making us more alive to life itself. Those with melancholic tendencies may find that while the day’s low points stand out clearly, they need the Examen to help them recognize the life-giving moments the Spirit brings during the day. Those naturally inclined to optimism need the Examen to help them name the difficult things in life and to become more self-aware. A natural place to do this exercise is at the end of the day – perhaps making this exercise the last step in your “Daily Office” (see the spiritual discipline of Daily Office).
Here is one way to do it:
and quiet before God (some people find it helpful to light a candle or sit with
their palms facing up, i.e. open to God).
Think through each stage of your day
and then ask five questions, taking time to reflect slowly on each one:
1. For what moments today am I most grateful ?
2. For what moments today am I least grateful?
3. Where did I see God at work in the world today?
4. How did I join with God today?
5. How did I resist God today?
Consider how God is inviting you to pray about these things before you nestle into his arms
and fall asleep. Close in prayer “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
Adapted by Langdon Palmer from “Spiritual Disciplines Handbook” by Adele Calhoun, and Alan Hirsh and from “The Sacred Way” by Tony Jones