You asked if any of the disciplines/practices I had followed for Lent had become more permanent fixtures in my journey of faith? The short answer is YES indeed they have! But I think the whole area of spiritual disciplines deserves a series of letters of their own….. so for now I will just comment on my experience of one of them!
In one of my earlier letters on meditation, I mentioned St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and his Spiritual Exercises. A key element of Ignatian spirituality is the practice of the Daily Examen. Ignatius required the Jesuits to pray the examen at midday and again at the end of the day. There are numerous websites/Youtube videos devoted to this practice (click here for an example).
I have been aware of the Daily Examen for years and have practised it from time to time, but it wasn’t until I came across it in Ian Adams book Running Over Rocks that I re-engaged with it, and decided to do it every day in Lent, last year.
What particularly drew me to Ian Adams take on this was the fact that he added simple gestures to each step, and I found that really helpful. By the time I reached Easter I was on a roll with it and have continued it ever since! So, what exactly is it?
The Examen is a way of prayerfully reflecting over the events of the day and of looking forward to tomorrow. It has the following five steps:
- Be still and become aware of the presence of God.(Open your hands)
- Review the events of the day with gratitude.(Place your hands on your heart)
- Recall the emotions you have experienced during the day, and consider why you felt this way. (Place your hands on your stomach)
- Select one moment/element of the day and pray about it. (Hands to lips)
- Look forward to tomorrow. (Open your hands again)
Doing the Examen in the evening before I go to sleep, I find the gestures help me to focus on each stage and there is something significant about using the body in prayer in this way.
Ian Adams comments, that if we practise the Examen for a while, we will find ourselves giving thanks during the day and not only at the end of it! “It will start to become an unconscious stance of your life.” This has been my experience, and I have grown in my understanding of the ability thankfulness has to change us. I encourage you to try it and let me know how you find it!
So back to 40 Day journeys! This time the 40 Day Journey with Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life – What On Earth Am I Here For?
This originally came out in 2002, but it has recently been re-issued in an extended format, complete with QR codes that link to 42 brief videos featuring Rick Warren. It also has new chapters on how to overcome the blocks/barriers that might be encountered and which prevent people from fulfilling their purpose. It was on ‘BookPal’s list of 15 Best Religion Books of 2015’!
I embarked on this 40 day journey with a friend, as the book advised (unlike the 40 day prayer journey!!) and we met regularly, to compare notes/discuss the material and to pray together, about our findings and their impact on our lives.
It was a productive and fruitful journey. However, I am sorry to say that I can no longer locate the journal that I wrote at the time, and so I cannot be more specific about how I found it. Suffice it to say, that it is a classic book and well worth taking the time to complete!