A SIMPLE WAY TO BETTER YOUR LIFE
The method we propose here can be the beginning of a new life for you. This practice, the Daily Examination of Consciousness is a new interpretation of a traditional Christian form of prayer and it does not need any previous preparation or knowledge from your part, only faith in God (or a Higher Power if you want) and spend some time quietly, minimum five maximum fifteen minutes daily. If you are alone you can do it as well as couples can do it together as we will explain it later.
The Daily Examination of Consciousness (called sometimes also as the Awareness Examen) is the most important form of prayer of the Ignatian spirituality and it might become a very important means of growth for everyone who practices it. If someone wants to learn one powerful means of spiritual growth, healing and source of stability, this alone would be worthwhile, as a method for anybody trying to live a spiritual life, or simply to grow in self-knowledge.
This practice is highly important in the in the everyday life, it can help individuals and companions - as we call couples who walk together the road of life - to get in touch with the spiritual happenings during their usually busy days and recognize Godís presence and inspirations right there in the middle of their occupations. In this way the reality of life is not seen anymore as an obstacle of prayer or spiritual life, but exactly the place and means to grow in spirit and wisdom of self-knowledge, to develop a spiritual sensitivity toward the directions things tend to bring us and to see our reactions and responses to what life poses in front of us as questions or dilemmas.
The daily examination of consciousness is an excellent and necessary means to learn the discernment process and live a discerning life, and to "find God in all things" and so making the right choices and decisions which and so live in harmony with God, ourselves and others.
The stress in this method is on the loving relationship with God whom we actually believe to be present in our days in a special manner. So we want to share with him how we feel about ourselves and about the events of the day. We thank him for every good thing that happened to us or what we were able to accomplish and ask his healing or forgiveness where we recognize the need for it. This prayer is about our relationship with God lived during our day, not a search for faults or sins. We see how God worked for us, gave us life, healed and helped us through the events of the day. We become aware his presence deep in our heart, in our feelings, thoughts and desires, we see his work in the creation, in all things surrounding us. We begin to reflect upon our experiences and understand how we used to do things, what emotions and reactions are typical to us in certain situations, what makes us feel well, full of hope and joy, and what causes sadness, anger or similar feelings and reflect upon their meaning. The goal of this examination is to help us in discernment, not simply to see where we failed; however, if there was a sin, it will emerge from the stream of consciousness, "stick out as a sour thumb" with a fortunate expression somebody used for it.
A framework of five steps helps the Daily Examination of Conscience. These five steps are not a theoretical construction, but reflected experience, they are the successive moments of any personal loving relationship. However, it is not a necessary requirement to use these steps, but it can make a lot easier to learn and use it. These steps are the following:
2. ASK THE HELP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We ask to be able to see our life, recognize all the gifts we receive and be grateful for these. We express our gratefulness for the gifts of God in our day.
3. REVIEW OF THE DAY. With the help of the Holy Spirit we go through the "anamnesis" of the day. This is the most important part of the prayer when we simply allow our consciousness to bring forth spontaneously memories from the beginning of the day until the time of the examination. Most usual time for it is the evening, but it is possible to do in the morning, reviewing the precedent day. We use here what happens anyway spontaneously in moments of relax when our psyche brings up memories as a kind of sort out what we have lived through.
4. RECONCILIATION. In the review of the day necessarily we will see also our shortcomings and this moment gives occasion to reconcile and to ask forgiveness in a simple way. We reconcile with God, with ourselves and with others, eminently the companions with each other. This is very important step for a couple and strengthening their relationship through the everyday forgiveness and acceptance. Even on the worst day of fight we can make at least some gesture of reconciliation, if not else to give to each otherís our hands. As a guideline we can accept the rule "never go to sleep without reconciliation".
5. RESOLUTION. This point regards the future, we make a resolution about going on trusting God, loving and searching what is good. We used to o this step by our favorite prayer to the Holy Spirit:
Oh, Holy Spirit, soul of our souls, we adore you.
Enlighten, guide, strengthen and console us.
Tell us what we ought to do
and command us to do it.
We promise to be submissive in everything
that you permit to happen to us,
only show us what is Your will.
Let us end with some important notes regarding this method.
This prayerful focusing of attention will touch all the levels of consciousness, it will extend to the reality of "automatic" thoughts and images which occur in the background of consciousness, the sphere of experiences Bernard Tyrrell defines as "twilight consciousness"; but it will embrace also the peak level, the Godí-inspired thoughts, acts and the "super-consciousness", the very high and intense consciousness of mystical experiences. The main purpose of the examination of consciousness is to prepare and aid the discernment process, and similarly, the next stages in the healing and education of feelings is the discernment or diagnosis of oneís feelings and finally to arrive to a positive decision to live according the precedent discernment. Indeed, we think that the examination of consciousness in itself is an excellent means of psycho-spiritual and moral healing.
A little bit this exercise makes me remember on one method in the Psychosynthesis (Roberto Assaglioliís school of psychotherapy) experience, called "disidentification": one lets his/her feelings or thoughts emerge (maybe regarding a special record or person) and then tell "this is my feeling, but I am more then my feelings, my thoughts" etc. until arriving to the true identity of the person, which integrates and also transcends his/her body, mind and soul.
The freedom gained from the feelings is in the line of the freedom placed in front of us in the famous concept of "indifference" of the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. It does not mean to be without feelings, but the freedom from the excessive influence of these, for a good discernment and decision-making, for the more and more authentic service of God. Also, we can think of Jesus, who casting out the evil spirits asked their name, and when they told it, they lost the influence on that person. Maybe this fact can be adapted on our "bad feelings", if we can recognize, identify them, and already they loose their harmful influence on our lives.
You might try out fruitfully this little exercise at this point.
If you see it works for you, continue it for the rest of your life and see the difference it brings to you.
If you feel hard to do it, donít give up but try it again and again, it needs time to see the fruits of it.
Of course, it is possible that you find that it is not for you at all. Then leave it without remorse, because it is necessary to choose between the many possible good means the right ones for you to better your life.