Friday, October 21, 2011

Looking within

Artist: Edwin Harris

The following was included in the email newsletter of the Diocese of Oklahoma. Including an "examen of consciousness" in one's daily routine is something I was taught in the convent. It's really a very powerful (and soothing) practice:
The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God's presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God's hand at work in our whole experience.

The method presented here is adapted from a technique described by Ignatius Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius thought that the Examen was a gift that came directly from God, and that God wanted it to be shared as widely as possible. One of the few rules of prayer that Ignatius made for the Jesuit order was the requirement that Jesuits practice the Examen twice daily-at noon and at the end of the day. It's a habit that Jesuits, and many other Christians, practice to this day.

This is a version of the five-step Daily Examen that St. Ignatius practiced.

1. Become aware of God's presence.

2. Review the day with gratitude.

3. Pay attention to your emotions.

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.

5. Look toward tomorrow.


  1. Thank you for sharing this ...please expound on "taking one feature of the day and praying FROM it". intruiging.

    annie c

  2. I like this discipline. I agree with it even. But, I must confess, I'm not a very disciplined person. So much the worse for me - sometimes. On the other hand, being free of disciplines sometimes has its positive qualities. There used to be more of them before I became gluten and lactose intolerant. ; ) Seriously though, there are times when I feel that I notice things while I'm not being disciplined that need to be noticed and that I might have missed were I practicing a discipline. Which is not to justify being undisciplined. It is only to say that one can never be totally sure that the person who is less disciplined isn't seeing things of value that are missed by the more disciplined - just as surely as the more disciplined are almost certainly seeing things of value that are missed by the less disciplined.

  3. What a beautiful painting of a beautiful - even if somewhat meloncholy looking young woman.

  4. Hi, Annie. I think praying "from" a particular feature of the day means something about selecting a part of the day that stands out - some awareness or event that would rather naturally lead to reflection. Then you sort of re-enter that mind frame and pray starting with the awareness that you have spontaneously.. It's a way of starting with something that is already meaningful to you so that prayer does not drift into being so abstract that it loses focus and authenticity.

  5. Hi, Tom. I'm really glad you like the painting. Yes, maybe she's melancholy but maybe she's just pondering something deeply.

    You know, discipline doesn't need to be obsessive. And if the word "discipline" has that kind of connotation, I prefer that people think of it simply as a routine or something that's supportive.

    You can do this Examen quite quickly, actually. One way is to write or print out the five steps and tape them to your mirror or closet door or some other place that's easy to notice. Then when you eyes fall on that piece of paper, you just gently let your mind follow the steps. It doesn't need to be onerous.

    The other thing that messes people up when they are trying to implement some sort of practice is that they tend to throw in the towel when they miss a day or two. (That's why I'm not terribly fond of the word "discipline" myself.) Not necessary. All the person needs to do is start the practice again. (As many times as necessary.)

    The great oboe player, Marcel Tabuteau, was once asked how he accounted for his greatness. He replied, "Whenever I get off track, I get back on." I've always loved that. He didn't suggest that the way to be great is NEVER to get off track! You just start over however many times you need to - hundreds of times, thousands of times. (The Zen folks call this "beginner's mind.")

  6. n interesting new way to approach such a broad topic, Prayer.

    hope you are all enjoying this amazing autumn!



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