The MicroShifts Examen

by Gary Jansen

MicroShifting is the act of making a small change in the way you look at the world or in the way you live your life. From setting aside a few minutes every day to read something inspirational to taking a multivitamin to reducing how much coffee you drink to catching yourself when you want to criticize others, subtle shifts in the way you act and think can lead to a healthier and happier you.

One MicroShift that has made a tremendous impact on my well-being has been adding the steps of the Examen to my daily life.

The Examen, as many of you know, is a way of praying that asks us, first, what is drawing us near God and, second, what is pulling us away from God. St. Ignatius, who popularized this technique, believed that it is easy for us to overlook the sacred in our actions and thoughts. The Examen, hence, is a simple way of practicing identifying the presence of God.

Though Ignatius suggests we perform the Examen before we retire for the night, I recently decided to MicroShift the prayer into all parts of my daily life. Its effects have been transformative. I am calmer, less anxious, and I’ve been feeling closer to God in the things I say and do. So whether I’m stopped at a red light or walking to work or cooking dinner or waiting for my son’s baseball game to start, I can take the steps of the Examen and use them to help bring me a greater awareness of the Almighty in those in-between moments that we all experience throughout the day.

What follows are the steps of the Examen and simple suggestions on how to incorporate them into your daily life. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should stop using the Examen the way Ignatius instructed; this is just a way of making subtle shifts in bringing prayer into all we do.

Step 1: Ask God to be revealed.

Literally, just ask, “God, please reveal yourself to me.” It’s that simple. Waiting for your mother to finish her doctor’s appointment? Ask God to help you feel his presence. Sitting anxiously before having to give a presentation? Ask God to stand by you as you give your talk. Think about how much better we feel when we believe someone has our back. God does.

Step 2: Cultivate gratitude.

Give thanks for everything. Give thanks for the fact that you woke up, for your job, your family, your health, your clothes, and for your home. Give thanks for the sun and the stars and the moon and the tides. If you walk to work, give thanks for your shoes, the street, traffic lights, and crossing guards. Look at everything as a gift from God.

Step 3: Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions.

What we think and feel changes throughout the day. Take notice of those shifts. Sometimes what goes on inside our heads might make us anxious or depressed. Sometimes we feel happy and hopeful. Whatever is going on inside you, God is present. That’s easy to believe when things are going well, less so when experiencing a rough patch. Still, take notice of the good, the bad, and the boring. Those observations will come in handy later.

Step 4: Choose something that happened today, and pray about it.

Maybe you’re having a great conversation with a friend. Take a brief moment and offer that experience as a prayer to God. Feeling energetic today? Then tell God how you’re feeling, and share that joy with him. Prayer is communication, so talk to God about your day and what stands out.

Step 5: Ask, Where is God for me today?

No matter what you experience throughout the day, ask the question, Where was God in a particular moment? If you are having a rough day with the kids or have gotten into an argument with a store clerk, try to stay calm and ask where God is right now. Tough to do at times for sure, but this question is enough to change any heated moment into a minute of grace.

Step 6: Bless the future moments.

As you’re walking to your car to drive home, ask God to guide your journey. When you’re shopping for your family and running through a checklist of things you need for supper, ask God to bless your dinner and the evening before you. And for those who have trouble sleeping, ask God before you get into bed to help you catch your zzzs. God knows what we need even before we ask, but it never hurts to ask for an extra blessing in all that we do.

 Gary Jansen

Gary Jansen

Gary Jansen is senior editor of religion and spirituality at the Crown Publishing Group at Penguin Random House.

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