About ten years ago due to heavy workload and stress I found that I was constantly juggling with difficulties the various areas of my life. I experienced burnout. Even though I was very successful with my career, that meant nothing because I couldn’t sleep properly, my relationships and social life suffered and I constantly felt fatiqued and overwhelmed.
I realized that I needed to develop more self-awareness in my life. The daily examen spiritual exercise provides simple steps that have helped me reach spiritual balance.
Before you start, try to find a place where you will not be disturbed by people, noise or other distractions. Make yourself comfortable. You might like to light a candle or get a picture or symbol that means something to you to look at to help you focus. Still yourself and let your body relax and become calm. You might like to start with some quiet deep breathing to help calm yourself.
1. Recall you are in the Presence of God (Be aware & mindful that God is with me and I am with God)
We are always in God's presence, but in prayer we place ourselves in God's presence in an especially attentive way. God knows you intimately. He loves you in the deepest way possible and desires for an intimate connection with you. As you still yourself be aware that God is present with you, in creation of your surrounds, your body, in those around you. Remind yourself of his presence, be still and know that you are with God.
Take a few minutes just to quiet yourself and turn your attention to God.
2. Look at your day with Gratitude
After a few moments, begin to give thanks to God for the gifts of today. Special pleasures will spring to mind: a good night's sleep, the smell of the morning coffee, the laugh of a child, a good meal or lesson learned. As you move in gratitude through the details of your day give thanks for the big and the small things of your life.
Note: this step alone can be a powerful thing to do particularly in times of stress or restlessness. I find it puts life into perspective a little more and can turn a pretty ordinary day into a much more positive one.
3. Ask for Freedom from God as you Review Your Day
Before the next step (reviewing your day), ask for freedom to look at your actions and attitudes. Ask God to help you to understand the motivation of your heart, to see the gifts of God and how you've responded to them. Ask that you'd learn and be shaped as your reflect. Remember, this is not a time to dwell on your shortcomings rather, it is a gentle look at the day that you've just had. It is an opportunity for growth of self and relationship with God.
Really this step is one of preparation to think about your day, getting your mind in a good attitude and giving God an opportunity to use the next few minutes.
4. Review your Day
This is the longest of the steps. Here you review your entire day, watching it like a movie that replays in your mind. Be sure to notice the details, the context of what happened and how you acted. As you look through the day, notice especially your motives and feelings.
This is not psychoanalysis, rather it is a time for you to discern your daily motives, actions and reactions. Donít try to fix everything in this stage ñ just replay your day in your mind.
As you review you may wish to ask yourself some of the following questions.
When did I fail today? (why?)
When did I give love today?
Where did I receive love today?
What Habits and life patterns do I notice in my day?
In what ways did I notice God in my day?
When did I feel most alive? Most drained of life?
When did I have the greatest sense of belonging? Least sense of belonging?
When was I most free? Least free?
When was I most creative? Least creative?
When did I feel most fully myself? Least myself?
When did I feel most whole? Most fragmented?
As you review your day allow your thoughts to wander through the situations youíve been in and allow God to speak, challenge, encourage and teach you.
Note: as you do this over a number of days, weeks and longer you begin to see patterns in your days. You might notice that you feel stress at the same time each day or that your relationship with a particular person or an activity is leading your to negative ways of thinking or that you seem to be at your best at certain times. Itís amazing what putting just a few minutes aside to reflect upon how you live your life can reveal to you.
5. Reconcile and Resolve
The final step is our heart-to-heart talk with God.
Here you talk with God about your day. You share your thoughts on your actions, attitudes, feelings and interactions. Perhaps in this time you may feel led to seek forgiveness, ask for direction, share a concern, express gratitude, make a decision to make some kind of change in the way you live etc. There may be an area youíve felt challenged on or some action you feel you need to take out of this time. Resolve with God to move forward in action where appropriate.
You might like to finish your time with the Lords Prayer or some other prayer or ritual that is appropriate.
A few Concluding Thoughts. Iím very aware that this meditation comes from a spiritual (and Christian) perspective (although itís also very grounded in day to day life) ñ however thatís the perspective I come from so itís all Iím really able to authentically share.
As I mentioned above ñ if you donít share my faith background I still think that much of it can be helpful. Stage 4 in particular is really useful for reflection. As I mentioned in the ënoteí above ñ the practice of just setting aside time to think about how you live, react to situations and to notice the patterns that you slip into can be an enlightening one.
I love this meditation because it ís not overly spiritual and is quite practical. It does force me to stop, still myself and just ëbeí for a few minutes each day but I find it also challenges me to work on aspects of myself that are slipping and also gives me a space to process and deal with the crap that life can throw at us and move forward.
I hope something in this is helpful to you. I'd love to hear the exercises and meditative exercises that you use too.
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