Monday, December 14, 2009

The Examen

My pastor's wife lent me a book, Simple Ways to Pray for Healing, by Matthew Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Dennis Linn, when I got sick.  It is a rich little book, with a lot to chew on regarding healing.  I also quoted this book here .  

At the end of the book is a chapter titled The Examen, which describes a process used to end each day. 
Every night we gather together, light a candle, look back over the day and ask ourselves two questions:  For what am I most grateful?  For what today am I least grateful?  We can ask these questions in different ways, for example,

When today did I give and receive the most love?  
When today did I give and receive the least love?  

What moment today gave me the most life?  
What moment today drained life out of me?  

This spiritual tradition is used as a way to get in touch with consolation and desolation; the two interior movements that help discern the guidance of the Spirit within us.
As a person who has often struggled with discerning my true voice, with acting upon what truly gives me life versus being led by pleasing people or keeping peace, this has been a really valuable tool for me.  It is a good way to think through any issue or problem, decision, or determining vocation.  "Because we can assume that God always wants to give us more life, the simple examen questions can guide us to greater wholeness in any situation."

Children can do the examen.  I want my girls to know what they really do want, and I find this a great way to help them to understand themselves, to notice their own feelings and have an opportunity to express them.  It also gives me an opportunity to hear and understand them, as they can express things that they may not otherwise verbalize.  I modify the questions, such as What was your happiest time today?, and What was your saddest time today?

Most nights they only want to tell me the best part of the day, and can't really think of a sad time.  But one night I had a really teachable moment with my oldest.  A person we had been with that day kept pointing out how shy she is, and they kept saying it in front of Sami, in a way that sounded negative, even though I don't think she meant it negatively.  It bothered me, because I hate when people put labels on kids; I know that kids are always changing, she can be shy at times or outgoing at times . . . anyway, I observed from her expression that it may have bothered her, but I didn't expect it to still be on her mind at bedtime that night.  When I asked her what was her saddest time, she said that it was when she was feeling shy.  I was able to talk with her about how everybody feels shy sometimes, and it's not a bad thing, that I know she isn't always shy, but when she does feel shy it's okay.   I was so glad that these questions brought out something that was weighing on her, and allowed me to talk it over with her.

The girls always want to hear the best and worst parts of my day, and I think it's a good way for them to know me, too.

The daily examen can be a really life-giving way hear the way that the Spirit leads you by reflecting on your own responses to things, learning to pick-up on patterns, negative and positive feelings, and using those signals to help discern what gives you life, and what takes life from you.  


Elizabeth said...

This is a great idea Jess! Our team does something similar... we begin our weekly meetings by sharing our "highs and lows" from the past week and then end the meeting by sharing something that made us feel strong and weak during the past week. It's a great way to know what's going on in each others' hearts and minds... and I can see how it would be a great idea to use with your family too! Hope all is well with you guys...

Becky said...

very well put, always! :) and yes, wonderful to do this with our kids. i am intentional with this for awhile, and then i get too self-centered and get all off track. but this is great for seeing into their hearts...which is the gift i want to give my kids this cmas (and always)!