“For it is not knowing much, but realizing and relishing things interiorly, that contents and satisfies the soul.” ― Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises
Within the “Spiritual Exercises” written by Ignatius of Loyola he suggests a daily review which he calls the “Examen”. The examen is another journey of self-reflection where we take a daily inventory of our life. We look at our choices in life and ask the question, has this choice made me a better person?
There are basically two types of examen. The first type is when we evaluate our overall life choices. We look at our past, where we’ve been, what has happened recently and what has happened in our distant past to get us into the place we are today. This type of examen is usually done when a person arrives at a life stage where they are questioning – Is that all there is?
It might look something like this:
1. Spending time meditating on why you were created.
2. Looking at the strengths of your liabilities.
3. Discovering the blessings and riches of your life
4. Choose a scripture story and imagine yourself as each of the characters – What did you learn about yourself?
5. Be honest with yourself and recognize the times when you have turned away from God.
6. Confront your sins – what have these choices done for you? What were you protecting or afraid of when you made the choice to turn away from God?
7. Read one of the accounts of the Crucifixion – imagine yourself at the foot of the cross – notice your emotions – what do you say to Jesus?
8. Face up to these choices before God. Have a conversation with God – what did you do? Why did you do it? What were the consequences and how did you feel afterwards?
9. Journal about what you’ve learned and tell a new story about who you are.
10. What is your definition of hell? What does it feel like?
11. Make your confession. What this looks like will depend on your religious affiliation. The point is to atone for your choices and make a commitment to change.
The second type of examen is becoming more conscious of the happenings of a particular day and is usually done at the end of that day. The steps listed above can be used for this type of examen. Because you will be focusing on only one day it will take less time and you will choose to meditate on a single day instead of your whole life. Take each step and rework it to fit the particular day instead of a span of life.
If you’d like to do some more reading on this check out Tim Muldoon, the Ignatian workout – daily spiritual exercises for a healthy faith.
I do hope you will take some time to try one of these exercises. There is no right way or wrong way – there is only the way that works best for you.