The practice of using the examen of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, is a worthy discipline. He recommended that the brothers examine their lives twice each day—at lunch and at night before bed. For me, doing it once a day is hard enough! I try to do it before falling asleep at night. This way, if something happened during the day that was really bugging me, I can let it go and focus on finding gratitude for what went well. (An added benefit is that then I can fall asleep instead of brooding and tossing and turning.)
I use the examen questions as they are interpreted by the authors of Sleeping with Bread, a book byDennis, Sheila and Matthew Linn: For what moment today am I most grateful? For what moment today am I least grateful? They suggest other ways of framing the questions: When did I give and receive the most love today? When did I give and receive the least love today? Or: When did I feel the most alive today? When did I feel the life draining out of me?
It’s like soul aerobics or spiritual chemotherapy. It cures one of the spiritual illnesses that we can fall prey to (especially when stressed out)—resentment and envy. For me, it can start to reveal patterns and reminds me of how much I have to be thankful for—even on a very bad day!