Week Seven: Examen.

This week, I very acutely realized that I was cranky. After a Nor'easter (a fierce New England storm) knocked out our power on campus – not once but twice – I had had enough.  The darkness of the power outage did not bother me so much as the lack of heat in my bedroom.  Even though I bundled up in my blankets like a hibernating bear in winter, I woke up freezing cold with a sore throat and a sour attitude. Though hot coffee seemed to warm my throat and my perspective, I still felt some residual annoyance at having to deal with the interruption of a power outage.

I had no idea that my spiritual discipline of Examen would be so appropriate and challenging for this week when I did not feel like being particularly attuned to God's presence and grace.

So, what is Examen?

According to our now much familiar friend Adele Calhoun, here's the skinny:

"Desire: to reflect on where I was most and least present to God's love in my day.

Definition: The examen is a practice for discerning the voice and activity of God within the flow of the day. It is a vehicle that creates deeper awareness of God-given desires in one's life.

Practice Includes: a regular time of coming into the presence of God to ask two questions (possible ways of asking the questions are below)
  • For what moment today am I most grateful? For what moment today am I least grateful?
  • When did I give and receive the most love today? When did I give and receive the least love today?
  • What was the most life-giving part of my day? What was the most life-thwarting part of my day?
  • When today did I have the deepest sense of connection with God, others and myself? When today did I have the least sense of connection?"
(Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, pg. 58)
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Though I had intended to go through these questions each night before bedtime, I more so integrated them throughout the day. I especially sought to look for where my heart was at, as well as my attitude, at given moments. In doing this, I realized that my crankiness at the power outage was more a reflection of my choosing not to see the ways God was revealing His presence to me in some sweet ways:

During the power outage, my suitemates and I delighted at the shadow of a
bouquet of baby's breath flowers, caused by a phone flashlight. It was a moment of
pause and of beauty in an otherwise chaotic night.

I saw evidence of God's presence on Wednesday, March 7, on my sister's would-be birthday.
I bought this bouquet of flowers from Trader Joe's in honor of her.
Though the day was a teary one for me, I was astonished when three hidden white lilies suddenly
bloomed in all their brilliance. They reminded me that even in the long winters, spring is coming.

Towards the end of my Examen practice, I used the 'Pray as you go' iPhone app (it's wonderful) to go through one of their guided Examen Prayer practices. Through this practice, I became aware of how God had been present to me throughout the week (even when I was cranky) through His love and His graciousness. I felt His love among my fellow students this week as we crammed into a cold classroom to work on homework. I felt His love through a friend who paid for me to have a yummy Mexican food meal. I felt His love through another friend who gave me money to buy some cute & quirky thrift store finds. I felt His love when on the phone with my family, realizing how well they care for me. I felt His love when a Trader Joe's employee gave me a free bouquet of flowers since it's my birthday week.

And more than anything, I felt His love this morning at church when I received The Eucharist and reflected once again on Jesus being 'God with us.'

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If you're interested in practicing this spiritual discipline, here's a collection of guided Examen prayers from Pray as you go:



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I hope you find some pause in your week – some time when you can notice and perceive the movements of your heart and the movements of the Spirit.

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