by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde
Summer Rejuvenation: Praying the Examen
“For what moment today am I most grateful?”
“For what moment today am I least grateful?”
-Examen questions from Sleeping with Bread
Image: Cover of Book.
It’s Saturday, July 13 — the 14th week in Ordinary time, according to Fr. James Martin, and I am driving north on 35 out of the Twin Cities toward Duluth. My husband is nodding off in the passenger seat — after working overnight at our bakery — and our 9 year-old is tuned into a downloaded movie on her iPad in the back. We are on a rare road trip together. We are getting away for a day that includes sunshine and a state park.
Each of us is doing what we need to rejuvenate and engage. Rest. Watch. Review.
Humming along the interstate, my heart starts to soar.
I’ve been listening to Alice Waters, co-founder of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, tell the story of how her James Beard Award-winning restaurant came to be. I do a double take looking at my radio console, realizing that this interview is part of public radio’s “Planet Money” series.
Alice talks about traveling to France to study abroad during college and eating a wild strawberry for the first time. Her story moves me. As the fields pass by outside our car windows, my husband sleeps, and kiddo giggles to herself, I revel in this narrative, recalling my own experiences of tasting and travel.
I pass a lot of RV’s for sale and nudge Francois, pointing. He smiles sleepily. He knows my dreams. My imagination races forward to our family on another road trip, this one up the coast of California, through wine country, over to Berkeley, to eat in Alice’s restaurant.
Everything in me tickles with this idea. Maybe we could stop by the “Biggest Little Farm” – taking in its biodiversity – after just learning about it from a documentary my daughter and I saw the night before.
I notice myself coming alive in the connections my heart and mind and spirit make in an instant.
Food. Travel. Family. Story. Experience. A kind of love rises up in me that I recognize and I make a note: I am grateful for this moment.
Over the car’s stereo system, I ask Siri to stream the Examen podcast.
I want to pray.
“God’s will is generally for us to do more of whatever we are most grateful for or whatever gives us most life.”– Dennis Linn, Sleeping with Bread
I picked up Dennis, Sheila and Matt Linn’s book, Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life in June. Three years ago, my retreat director had gifted me the slim volume at the end of our eight days together. Revisiting the Linn’s format of the examen this summer, as laid out in the text, I have noticed a rejuvenation in my prayer.
I love Matt Linn’s take on noticing things that he’s not grateful for in the simple, two-question examen. I love the freedom that arises when I don’t deny a feeling; I welcome the rush of God’s presence I undoubtedly experience when I give voice to the sucky circumstance of any given day.
“When I discover something I am not grateful for, I name it, feel it, and appreciate
that I am not denying it and God is with me in it. Healing occurs to the degree I welcome all of my feelings and let myself be loved in them.” – Matt Linn
I appreciate Sheila Fabricant Linn’s story of what brought her to the heart of the Ignatian prayer practice. It is Sheila’s explanation that rings most closely with my own life experience and opens me to the freedom inherent in praying and being authentic before God and with myself.
Sheila writes: “I need the examen to help me in my recovery. In her book, “Co-dependence,” Anne Wilson Schaef says that for a recovering co-dependent, “Even the smallest lie can plunge us back into our disease.” In other words, distorting the truth of who I am in any way (to please others, to meet my expectations of who I should be or what I should feel) is like an alcoholic taking that first drink. I need the examen each day because it helps me get better at the telling the truth about who I am and what I need.”
What is your experience of prayer these days? Where are you noticing moments of gratitude and disgruntlement? How are you reflecting and praying?
What if, for the remainder of this Summer, you joined me in a daily examen? Can you fathom what God might awaken? Do you dare open yourself to any darkness? What would Desire and Nearness grace you with?
I’d love to hear your stories.
Join me in praying the podcast version of the Examen that is posted daily by Fr. James Martin.
EXAMEN with Fr. James Martin is available wherever you listen to podcasts. Here’s a link to an online source: https://examen.libsyn.com