One of the practices that I remember sharing with our daughters was the practice of the examen. The Ignatian examen invites you to reflect on your day—not to be confused with the examination of conscience—and it gives you the ability to identify feelings that all too often get stuffed after a long day of interacting with classmates or co-workers.
I often felt that as a child, culturally, I had a very limited awareness of feelings. It seemed to me that you could be happy, sad, mad, or glad—and if you were mad you better get glad. But then again it was the era of “children should be seen and not heard”. So, at times I feel that I was emotionally stunted.
The beauty of the examen is that it invites the family to gather, perhaps before bedtime as we often did, and reflect on the day—both the good and the not so good. It gave us an opportunity to share with each other at a time when we could just “be” with the day’s experiences and decide which events had been life giving and which had left us drained.
It was amazing to hear the girls share their day and we concluded the time by thanking God for the good and the awareness of the not so good. I believe they began to learn to trust that their feelings were valid, as well as growing to believe that God was present and concerned about their joys and sorrows. Perhaps one of the best gifts of the examen was cultivating a heart of gratitude even in the midst of life’s daily challenges.
I encourage you to take up the practice of examen with your family for thirty days. Be aware of your shifts in thinking as you practice this review of the day, and become more attentive to the presence of God as revealed in your moments of reflection.
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Juanita Campbell Rasmus is an inspirational speaker, motivational teacher, author, and founding board member of the Bread of Life Homeless Project. Juanita and her husband Rudy co-pastor Saint John’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.