This week, I very acutely realized that I was cranky. After a Nor’easter (a fierce New England storm) knocked out our power on campus – not once but twice – I had had enough. The darkness of the power outage did not bother me so much as the lack of heat in my bedroom. Even though I bundled up in my blankets like a hibernating bear in winter, I woke up freezing cold with a sore throat and a sour attitude. Though hot coffee seemed to warm my throat and my perspective, I still felt some residual annoyance at having to deal with the interruption of a power outage.
I had no idea that my spiritual discipline of Examen would be so appropriate and challenging for this week when I did not feel like being particularly attuned to God’s presence and grace.
So, what is Examen?
According to our now much familiar friend Adele Calhoun, here’s the skinny:
“Desire: to reflect on where I was most and least present to God’s love in my day.
Definition: The examen is a practice for discerning the voice and activity of God within the flow of the day. It is a vehicle that creates deeper awareness of God-given desires in one’s life.
Practice Includes: a regular time of coming into the presence of God to ask two questions (possible ways of asking the questions are below)
- For what moment today am I most grateful? For what moment today am I least grateful?
- When did I give and receive the most love today? When did I give and receive the least love today?
- What was the most life-giving part of my day? What was the most life-thwarting part of my day?
- When today did I have the deepest sense of connection with God, others and myself? When today did I have the least sense of connection?”
Though I had intended to go through these questions each night before bedtime, I more so integrated them throughout the day. I especially sought to look for where my heart was at, as well as my attitude, at given moments. In doing this, I realized that my crankiness at the power outage was more a reflection of my choosing not to see the ways God was revealing His presence to me in some sweet ways:
|During the power outage, my suitemates and I delighted at the shadow of a
bouquet of baby’s breath flowers, caused by a phone flashlight. It was a moment of
pause and of beauty in an otherwise chaotic night.
Towards the end of my Examen practice, I used the ‘Pray as you go’ iPhone app (it’s wonderful) to go through one of their guided Examen Prayer practices. Through this practice, I became aware of how God had been present to me throughout the week (even when I was cranky) through His love and His graciousness. I felt His love among my fellow students this week as we crammed into a cold classroom to work on homework. I felt His love through a friend who paid for me to have a yummy Mexican food meal. I felt His love through another friend who gave me money to buy some cute & quirky thrift store finds. I felt His love when on the phone with my family, realizing how well they care for me. I felt His love when a Trader Joe’s employee gave me a free bouquet of flowers since it’s my birthday week.
And more than anything, I felt His love this morning at church when I received The Eucharist and reflected once again on Jesus being ‘God with us.’
If you’re interested in practicing this spiritual discipline, here’s a collection of guided Examen prayers from Pray as you go: