Noticing the details.
Have you heard of the daily examen before? I’ve written about it once before, and it’s a centuries-old practice that maybe you have read about or practiced previously.
It’s a perfect addition to this series about finding God in the daily.
In fact, I’d say it’s the most practical, direct way to find God in the daily, so if you’re looking for one simple handle to get started, I’d recommend starting here.
So, what is the daily examen?
It’s a simple 15-minute practice you incorporate into the end of each day that involves 1) a mental review of the day in order to 2) discover God’s presence in ways seen and unseen.
- You look back over what happened that day.
- You ask, “How was God present in ways I noticed or didn’t notice at the time?”
Anything that lent itself to light, to goodness, to joy, to kindness, to generosity, to gratitude — in essence, to life — can become markers for you of God’s presence in your day. Consequently, anything that moved you toward darkness, death, despair, gloom, anger, bitterness, fear, or trembling can become entryways for you to converse with God and invite him closer into those situations, seeking his wisdom or aid.
Practicing the daily examen blew my mind when I first began doing it.
I could hardly believe the number of places I came to see God’s presence each day in retrospect, and this led to a heightened awareness of his presence with me all the time. Even in situations that were hard or stressful, I came to see his saving presence — giving me the self-control to not snap at someone, saving me from a near-accident on the road, and so on.
It also increased my sense of gratitude as an overall posture toward life — being more thankful and wonder-struck at life, rather than pessimistic or closed.
And, in the end, it helped me be responsible for the events of my days, specifically in noticing the way I received the events that happened when they happened and how I responded to them in the moment. The daily examen provides a place to notice the details in the dailiness of our lives and converse openly with God about who we are becoming as we respond to them.
* Special note: Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook has the best list of questions I’ve found on the daily examen. These can be great jumping-off points for this daily practice, too:
- 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?
- Where was I aware of living out of the fruit of the Spirit? Where was there an absence of the fruit of the Spirit?