The Daily Examen – a helpful tool to promote clarity

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St. Ignatius taught a method called the examen to his students that was focused on discernment , or gaining insight into which activities were life giving and which were draining.  Although Ignatius taught this method to spiritual seekers, it can be a valuable practice for anyone who is wanting to gain increased awareness in daily life.  Sometimes, we can be so busy and occupied with the many tasks of our day to day life, that we may have difficulty in understanding how we can make changes in either ourselves- or in  our preoccupations.  We may be on “auto pilot” much of the time, rushing from here to there, with little time for reflection.  The examen is a method for helping us to see more clearly where we are going, knowing which habits are not supporting our health, and which are life affirming.  It is simple and yet can yield surprising results.

At the end of your day, become quiet in a place where you can mentally review your day – all of the activities, the people you interacted with, etc.  Then ask yourself when you felt most inspired, or grateful.  This would be the “high” point of your day.  Then – once you have that moment, ask yourself when you felt the opposite – the “low” point of your day.  It is optimal if you can record both moments in a journal, or notebook.

Ignatius felt that there was learning in both circumstances and therefore important to reflect on gratitude and on challenges.  Some have referred to this practice as sorting through the “roses” and the “thorns.”  After several weeks of this, you may be clearer about which aspects of your life are supporting your optimal health – emotional, mental, physical and spiritual; and which are causing you continued stress.  This stress may be coming from your own thoughts or beliefs about yourself and others – or it may be from a particular habit or interaction with a person .  Once you can see the patterns that help or hinder your growth, you can then make the necessary adjustments where possible.  For example, you may notice that whenever you exercise you feel good – and whenever you watch to my television you feel tired.  Insight doesn’t necessarily lead to change – but it may be the first step to discovering your greater potential and peace of mind.

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