So, for the past month I've been practicing the Examen. At the close of every day, I've tried (not always successfully, but mostly) to reflect on my day, to rummage through my mind for the moment in which I experienced the most joy, and the moment in which I felt the most disconnected or heavy. And I can honestly say that I was surprised. I was surprised that after only three days I was starting to see patterns; that after only three days I was starting to notice how much I focus my attention on the negative, when realistically my life is filled with so much positive! I think the way patterns began to emerge was really the most meaningful part of this practice for me. I can understand why so many find it to be invaluable when making life decisions.
It has also been fascinating to engage with the children at church in this practice; to see how readily we're all able to share with one another when we're sharing about our own stories, the stories that we know the best. And it's been fascinating to see how much our children focus on the highs, or the awesomes in their lives, and simply let the negatives float away. And yet, when they do name the negatives, those negatives are complex. They share tensions that need to be navigated and sadness in relationships in much the same way that adults identify those same things.
I can see how families that practice the Examen regularly are offering one another a valuable gift that leads to greater self awareness, and greater appreciation for the core of the other. Because it's the core that begins to emerge through this process. When we take the time to rummage through all our thoughts and emotions to find those moments of greatest joy and greatest sorrow, we find who we really are; we discover who we're created to be.
So, many thanks to St. Ignatius for this valuable spiritual practice!