My hope, through these two weeks that we are spending together is two-fold. The first is that we might build up our sense of thanksgiving. The second is that we might explore some spiritual practices which can be useful in all kind of circumstances, through the holiday season and beyond.
We began with breath-prayers. Breath prayers occur in every religious tradition. It’s a rather arbitrary designation on my part. The thing these practices have in common is mostly a focus on the breath.
As we move in to day 4, we are switching gears. Over these next few we will take a look at practices which give us reason to reflect over our day. Inevitably, these practices result in remind us of the things it would be easy to take for granted.
For the most part, during this phase, we will be focused on a practice called The Examen. This practice was popularized by Ignatius in the 1400s. We will approach The Examen from a few different directions, building on complexity as we go.
The Examen asks us to see our day in terms of consolations and desolations. Consalations, for him, places it is easy to see God at work. Desolations are places where it is more difficult to. I think this is a relevant exercise for people uncomfortable with the idea of God. One way to sidestep the question of God, in the midst of all this, is to consider Consolations the things it is easy to be thankful for. Desolations are the things it is difficult to feel thankful for.
In todays Examen, we will break the last 24 hours into 4 distinct ‘chunks.’
1. Create your quiet and safe space. You might wish to light a candle or eat a peace of chocolate.
2. Place your feet flat on the floor. Breathe slowly and calmly.
3. Spend a moment thinking about the last 6 hours. Do the mental subtraction to determine just when this chunk of time started. In your mind, review the things that happened during this time.
4. Sit with your feelings about this chunk of time for a moment.
5. Consider your desolations during this time. What was the most difficult part of these 6 hours. Why? Sit with your feelings of this time.
6. Where were your consolations during this time? Allow yourself to re-experience these good memories.
7. Spend a moment in thanksgiving for this time. It is probably obvious why you might be thankful for your consolations. Is there anything you can find in your desolations to be thankful for?
8. Take a deep, cleansing breath.
9. Consider the 6 hours prior to this time. This chunk of time ends 12 hours before now. In your mind, go over the events of this chunk of time.
10. Sit with your feelings about this chunk of time.
11. Explore your desolations. Don’t run away from the difficulties. Feel it in your body and mind.
12. Move on to your consolations from this time.
13. Spend a moment in thanksgiving for this part of your day.
14. Take a single, cleansing breath.
15. Consider the chunk of time between 12 and 18 hours ago. Review, in your mind what occurred then. Do not rush through it. Go back to that time. Rediscover the tastes and the smells. Even if you were sleeping for most of it, think back to that sleep.
16. Name your desolations from this time. Be firm but kind with yourself. Work at not ignoring the difficult partys.
17. Consider your consolations. Relive these.
18. Spend a moment in gratitude for this time.
20. Go back in your mind, and review the time 18-24 hours ago. Try and relive as much as you can. Think about the clothes you were wearing, the people you interacted with.
21. Hold your desolations from this time in open hands. Go over them carefully.
22. Consider your consaltions from this time. Be equally carefully to work through these.
23. Spend a moment in thanksgiving for this chunk of time.
24. Bring all the consolations to mind from these last 24 hours.
25. Spend a moment offering up a final prayer or thought of thankfulness.
26. Consider the last 24 hours. Explore whether you still feel the way about it you did when you began.
27. Return to the world when you are ready.