A way to add focus to your daily Examen

Many spiritual practitioners recommend the daily Examen to deepen a person’s spiritual life. It is different than an examination of conscience, where a person looks for sin. In the Examen a person looks for God.  It’s a simple, brief review of the day, recalling where God was present and where God seemed absent.

There are many forms, which usually involve five steps: (1) Placing yourself in the presence of God, (2) giving thanks, (3) reviewing the day, (4) seeking forgiveness, and (5) resolving to make tomorrow better.

For years, I’ve had a problem with the Examen. I couldn’t stay focused. Usually, when I start thinking about what I am thankful for or the day’s events, my mind begins to roam. It’s as if I opened the stable gates, and the ponies started wandering around the vast prairie of my mind. Before I realized I needed to coral my thoughts, the five or ten minutes I allocated to the Examen had expired. 

I discovered that I need to have a little more structure. I now sometimes use the Fruit of the Spirit for this daily review. (Gal 5:22-23) I choose a fruit and then look for that fruit in my day’s activities. I also look for its opposite. For instance, when did I love? When was I afraid to love? When did I experience joy? When did I feel discouragement?  I’ve memorized the nine fruits, so I can step through this exercise easily and fluidly.

There are two fruits with which I spend more time. Midway through is faithfulness. This allows me to explore how God has been faithful and ask God for help with the previous opposites that surfaced – those times when I was discouraged, anxious, or fearful. The last fruit is self-control. I use this to note areas where I can resolve to do better. 

Below is a list of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 and my chosen opposites: 

Fruit (Opposite)

Love (Fear)

Joy (Discouragement)

Peace (Worry/Anxiety)

Patience (Restlessness)

Kindness (Harshness)

Generosity (Selfishness)

Faithfulness (Doubt, also ask for God’s continued faithfulness in issues)

Gentleness (Controlling)

Self-Control (Excessiveness, also add resolutions for next day)

How might you become more aware of God in your day-to-day activities using the Fruit of the Spirit as a guide?