Refocus: The Daily Examen

Cocoa and journaling... that's my examen!

Cocoa and journaling… that’s my examen!

So, in an earlier post I mentioned that my word of the year is “intentional.” And then later, I mentioned that I planned to give up my I-Phone (in some capacity) for Lent.

Yeah, that’s so not happening.

Strangely, I’m not very upset about my lack of commitment. I just asked myself why I’m not making any headway and came to the realization that I’m dealing with a symptom instead of a root problem. Also, I was setting up a self-help book  style Lenten fast, which never works for me.

So I’ve decided to redirect. I want to be intentional this year… so I’m going to try to complete my examen every night. This is a spiritual reflection technique I discovered while reading The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. The examen is both awesome and adaptable–an Ignatian prayer in its original form, though easily adaptable to any faith tradition and/or secular viewpoint.

To be quite honest, the examen reminds me a ton of the lesson reflections I had to complete in graduate school. As my professors used to urge–and I still staunchly believe–we can’t improve unless we think about where we’ve been and make plans regarding how we wish to move forward.

Now, because I’m an epic school nerd I never really feel like I’ve completed my examen thoughtfully unless I write it down. Yes, I even turn prayer into an assignment. (And yes, you should feel very sorry for my former students.) That’s not the only way to do it, of course. But it’s what I need in order to focus my reflection. Otherwise, I’m apt to fall asleep in the midst of my pondering.

Unfortunate side effect: the prospect of setting up my journal always pre-fatigues me. In fact, I often forego the examen completely in favor of, say, watching She’s All That on Netflix Streaming. Not cool.

Here are the steps for my examen (I believe everyone modifies this slightly to fit their own reflection regimen). If you want to see it laid out, click here.

  1. Take a moment to center yourself and focus. If you believe in a higher power, this is a great time to ask Him/Her/It to be with you as you reflect.
  2. Mentally review your day. I break mine into nine routine chunks (waking up, mid-morning, lunch-time, etc.) In one column of my journal, I describe in shorthand what characterized that section of today.
  3. Note your blessings. Why do you have cause to be grateful? This is the second column in my journal.
  4. Consider your mistakes. Do you have to make amends for anything? Are there problem behaviors and/or times of day you hope to address differently tomorrow?
  5. Now consider your day as a whole. Any patterns or important realizations emerging?
  6. Close your examen. If you are religious or spiritual, this is a great time to wrap up your prayer. (I like to close with petitions on behalf of loved ones and the Prayer of Saint Francis.)
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