- Sara Mann
I don’t know about everyone else, but I tend to go through life pretty quickly. I do one thing and then I’m onto the next. Before I know it, a month has flown by and I don’t even know what happened. After a year I see that things have changed, but I can’t really pinpoint how. I made some decisions that brought about a difference in my day to day, but only on really big things.
I rarely take the time to sit and really reflect on my day, my choices, what made me happy and what didn’t. Why did I make that decision? Why do I like this over that? How did I feel during that moment? I don’t slow down enough to take note of things so that I’m able to intentionally move my life in a direction that is fulfilling and lovely, free and abundant.
Coming out of an Eating Disorder I have had to really figure out what life looks like when my mind is not constantly consumed by everything anorexia. During recovery I have pretty much just put my nose to the ground and I do what I need to do. Taking the time to reflect just isn’t something I thought of doing in the midst of re-feeding, reclaiming my mind and coping with recovery. I’ve found however, that it is something I NEED to do in order to accomplish the type of freedom that I desire!
A while back in my support group, our amazing Chaplain introduced me to a tool called, The Examen (pronounced The Examine....I don’t know why the heck they spell it different, but whatever!). (1) The Examen is a tool that helps us notice movements in our lives. These movements can be spiritual, relational and personal. Examen helps us to see what in life pulls us towards some things and what pushes us away. When I practice Examen I get a better sense of what brings me life and what drains it from me. It allows me to take note of what my needs may be as well as where I might need to grow. I find out what I should be doing MORE of as well as what I should be doing less.
Examen includes this idea of consolations and desolations. Consolations are things that invite us to move toward freedom, love and abundance of life for ourselves and others. Desolations give us the feeling of pulling away or moving away from these things.
So, how can you practice Examen? It’s super easy! It takes just a few quiet moments and can be incredibly revealing!
-First, find a quiet place where you can reflect, and then quiet your mind and your heart. (Sometimes I will breath deeply to relax.) Remember that you are not alone and that you are loved.
-Second, review your day in your mind and notice what comes to your attention. (I literally go through my day step by step from the moment I woke up until the moment I started to examen.)
-Third, identify the consolation and desolation of your day. The simplest way to do this is to ask yourself a set of two questions, such as:
-What was I most grateful for today (consolation)? What was I least grateful for today(desolation)?
-When did I give and receive the most love today (consolation)? When did I give and receive the least love today (desolation)?
-What gave me the most life today (consolation)? What took the most life from me today (desolation)?
-When did I have the deepest sense of connection to God, others, and myself today (consolation)? When did I have the least sense of connection (desolation)?
-Where was I aware of the presence of the fruit of the Spirit (2) in my life today (consolation)? When was I aware of its absence (desolation)?
-Finally, give thanks for what you have noticed in your reflection. Consider whether today’s consolation and desolation might help you decide how you want to experience tomorrow! (3)
When I do this, over time, I notice certain themes. For example, I feel closest to God when I am hiking, feeling hopeless and listening to worship music. I realize what friends or people around me make me feel anxious and which people make me feel loved. I’m able to see when I am patient and what situations trigger me to be inpatient. This helps me make decisions about how I spend my time and who I may or may not spend it with. Becoming aware of these things has led me towards a more abundant and joyful life!
Try and take a few minutes out of your day at some point to test it out! You can even add your own questions to the mix if you would like! If you find that you experience more genuine joy when you help others, help them more! If you tend to be less kind when you don’t get a solid nights sleep, you’ll prioritize sleeping well so you can be more kind. I feel a sense of joy and freedom every time I write blog! (consolation!!) So guess what? I’m going to keep on writing them!
- Sara -
1- Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, IVP Books 2005, “The Daily Examen,” http://jesuits.org/spirituality?PAGE=DTN-20130420125910
1- If you Google The Examen there are a lot of different links and different ways to practice this method. The one I am sharing today was given to me by our support group Chaplain Erin Bail, M.Div.
2- The “Fruit of the Spirit” is a term from the New Testament; described in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.”
3 - This is taken from a worksheet given to me by Erin Bair, M.Div.-Chaplain. (Thank you Erin!!!)