Every day, up to eight times a day, I silently perform the Daily Examen, a one- to three-minute spiritual ritual that is—quite literally—changing me. Now in my early 50s, I have decided it is the single most vital personal habit I have formed to date. According to my wife, I am becoming a different man.
Spiritually igniting, robust yet simple, the habit that is changing me is called the “Daily Examen.”
The Daily Examen is just one example of Ignatian spirituality and, in particular, the Spiritual Exercises. The Examen is…
…a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his 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” (www.ignatianspirituality.com).
My Journey Out of the Distracted Life
I suffer from what I call EBN—Excessive Brain Noise. At any given moment, a plethora of ideas, impressions, intuitions, conversations, projects, tasks and images are running through my mind.
The waters of my soul, in accord with this, are always stirring and sometimes—in a froth and a frenzy—splashing.
Quietude, awareness of the presence of God, self-awareness of my shifting emotions, attention to the influence of my strengths and weaknesses on my decisions and actions, are often out of my reach.
Over my lifetime, I have discovered and rediscovered some very helpful tools that work for my ongoing reorientation, with the Daily Office (not to be confused with the Daily Examen) leading the pack.
However, it took the Daily Examen of Ignatius to bring me to my knees in thanks for a moment-by-moment deliverance from a main enemy of sustainable faith in our time—distraction.
Much of my work and life centers around screens—my laptop, my phone and my apps. The level of daily distraction can cause me to miss hours and hours of reflection as emotions layer on emotions, and distractions feed small-story thoughts that pull me from Christ, slowly but surely.
A Reorienting Rhythm
The Daily Examen is my go-to remedy for that disorientation. I follow the five-step process below that I have now memorized (this is so important), and can scale it from being a one-minute exercise to being a 15-minute exercise.
It is a portable liturgy, a reorienting rhythm, that I do in my bed as I drift off to sleep, wake in the morning, drive in my truck, and walk in my office in between projects and emails.