Spiritual Practice: The Examen

I originally talked about the Examen on my blog five years ago.

“The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern God’s 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… described by Ignatius Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises.”.

From the website: ignationspirituality.com

I thought it was time to revisit this practice since The Examen is an easy on-ramp spiritual practice and I’ve found a way to make it even easier. In her wonderful book, Be Kind To Yourself: Releasing Frustrations and Embracing Joy, Cindy Bunch offers a very practical examen.

It’s a simple way to check in with yourself at the beginning, middle or end of the day. Simply ask, “What’s bugging you?” and “What’s giving you joy?”

Not only have I been doing this for myself since I read Cindy’s book, but I’ve been using it in many zoom meetings I lead with my teaching team for spiritual direction or when I’m supervising spiritual directors. It’s such an easy way to focus a sharing time, which as we have all experienced, can go over-long and meandering if opened with, “How are you doing?”

The answers can be as deep as, “What’s bugging me is my friend just died from Covid19. He was a kind, loving man who was only sixty-two years old and in good health. He leaves behind a wife, three boys and three grandchildren. I’m devastated. (True story please get vaccinated if you can).

And, the answer can be as light as “What’s giving me joy is that the sun it out and it is beautiful outside.” (Also, true)

So, give yourself a treat and ask yourself — or your friends — these two simple questions. As you can see, they’d work in any kind of gathering, it is not limited to a spiritual situation.

I’d love to hear if you try this examen and how it went for you.

Also, check out Cindy’s book for lots of easy on-ramp spiritual practices.

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Spiritual Practice – Spiritual Direction

I first wrote about the spiritual practice of Spiritual Direction in February of 2017. At that time, I took you through what might be a typical spiritual direction meeting. Clink the link below to start there or come back to it later.

Since then several things have changed. First, I’m now not only a spiritual director and a supervisor of spiritual directors, but I also run a spiritual direction training program! And, there seems to be a huge openness to the practice of receiving spiritual direction that wasn’t so common when I last wrote. This is very exciting!

Spiritual direction is an ancient practice that goes back to the desert mothers and fathers in the Christian tradition, and it can be found in different forms in most religions. Basically, it’s the practice of meeting with a spiritual guide who companions you on your faith journey. Most directors go through a two or three year certification program before starting a direction practice.

The name spiritual direction is a bit of a misnomer. A spiritual director does not give you direction. Spiritual companion might be a better term. It is a person who sits with you in the presence of the divine and listens deeply.

This person might notice themes or point out repeated phrases, or ask open ended questions. There are many differences between therapy, pastoral counseling, life coaching, and spiritual direction. The biggest difference is that the spiritual director does not have an agenda for you. As a therapist my agenda is to help you heal from past trauma or places you are stuck in life. As a pastoral counselor I used to focus on training and equipping people or helping them solve problems. Life Coaches focus on setting and attaining goals. A spiritual director’s only agenda is to listen to you in the presence of the divine, and to join with you wherever you are in your spiritual journey.

People often seek spiritual directors later in life when the things that worked for them spiritually aren’t working so well anymore. For instance, if the forms of prayer they are familiar with become stale and they feel disconnected from God, they might seek out a director. Or if they are in a life transition and need someone to help them navigate it, they might see a director. Or if, as in my case, when I was being trained to be a director, I needed to have a director!

I’ve had two directors over the last ten years. I meet with my director monthly for one hour, and even though I often don’t know what I want to talk about when the session starts, I have usually figured out some things by the end. It’s a very grounding experience.

If you think it might be time for you to find a director there are several places to look. The biggest resource list is Spiritual Directors international. They have directors listed by region and directors of all faiths. Most directors are meeting virtually now so you can also find directors online via the program I run, Christian Formation and Direction Ministry in Nevada (CFDMNV). Check here to find a director who is taking new directees.

You probably want to interview three directors before you choose one, and know that you and the director both have the right to say, “this is not working for me” at any time. I’d say give yourself three meetings with your director before making a decision; if it’s not a good fit, try someone else.

Does this sound like something you’d enjoy? Have you tried meeting with a director? I’d love to hear about your experience or answer any questions I can.

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