Our Examen

During our week I worked behind the scenes to write an examen for our group, pulling from both our time together and my own experiences of reflection and Divine awareness. The idea kept popping up in my mind and around day three a long-time friend and fellow creative, Fred McKinnon, contacted me with the same vision.

And here we are.

I want to share something personal about this examen. I recently experienced a difficult circumstance that left me feeling unsure of what was going on both within myself and in the circumstance itself. In all my journaling, I was only scratching the surface of understanding, without much resolution or hope.

As I previewed this examen, a compassionate understanding washed over me. I was overwhelmed by both facing my own pain and the realization that it was all okay; that there was a Divine presence with me even then. Hope had arrived. The change in me was so real that even Drew noticed a difference, and since then I have been able to dig deeper into this circumstance with an assurance that I am held. Hope carries me.

THIS is the power of the examen, not just in reflecting and stillness and being aware, but also in a direct and real shift within our souls. We can receive a new understanding of ourselves and our circumstances if we allow a moment to recognize the Divine at work.

I know we are each finding a reflective time that works for us, and this one may not be it; and that's okay. But for a moment, enjoy this gift from us to you.

Examen Day 7

Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. (1 Pet 1:18a, MSG)

RESOURCES:

  • That Life-Changing article on Life-Giving routine HERE. Emphasis on how this changed the game for Mandy this summer, and I'll be referring to this for all of my future habit-planning sessions.
  • And an extra bonus resource: she talks more about this in "How to Set Goals Like a Normal Person." Y'ALL. Life-changing x2 right here.

And let's close with these thoughts again, amen? 

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ
excerpted from Hearts on Fire

 

Examen Day 6

Today will be a quieter day, leaning in to the spaciousness of the weekend as I lean into a space of family and rest. 

I'm finding that my energy determines the type of Examen I engage. The guided audio examens work best when I'm energized and leaning into calm. The written examens fit those times when I feel overstimulated, the mind buzzing with thoughts, and I am able to use the questions to organize my thoughts and put the pieces of my day together. I let my energy guide me to the examen I need.

Now, today I want to bring you a few simple thoughts on silence and sheep.

“In the silence of the heart You speak, and it is there that I will know You and You know me.” Words by Audrey Assad, sent to us from my Spiritual Director. This is a beautiful song to hold close this weekend whether our days are filled with activity or quiet and restful. Either way, let our examen time be that moment where we can listen in on the dialog of our souls.

This quiet restful moment brings us to sheep. I recently learned that they can’t digest their food unless they are lying down, but the problem is they don’t seem to have a natural instinct to lie down. They would rather eat all day. So the shepherd has to regularly make them stop and digest. All they want to do is wander through the meadow chewing the next blade of grass, but this isn’t what’s best for them. Their bodies aren't able to process the day's nourishment unless they stop.

Sound familiar?

It’s the same for us: When we stop to digest our day, our souls are restored. We are nourished by the experiences of our day, given a better understanding of ourselves and others, and can listen to the whispers (or cries) of our soul and Spirit. But if we don't stop we won't be able to take in the nourishment.

So, as you're settling into your examen time tonight, remember that this is a moment of nourishment, of digestion—the pause your soul needs to be refreshed and ready for another day.

Those familiar words from Psalm 23: 

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

Examen Day 5

What to do if you're run down or running out of time?

RESOURCES:

Guided Audio Versions

Printables:

Journals that work well with your daily examen time:

And soundtrack options while you journal and reflect, from our community.

Resources mentioned in our journey together, with rich insight on the Examen:

Examen Day 4

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention. 
Be astonished. 
Tell about it.

― Mary Oliver

Begin today by remembering what brought you to a place of "YES" to getting a handle on your soul and walking this seven day journey with me. There lies your motivation, there lies your answer to the question of why you're doing this and what you want to get out of it. There lies your reason to maintain curiosity for what works and what doesn't, and increasing your spiritual literacy by listening to your own soul.

There is much richness ahead, y'all.

"If you find yourself thinking “oh there it is again," pay attention. That might as well be that neon light in the sky you’ve been praying for."

RESOURCES: Journals are a great way to pay attention and notice patterns as they emerge!

  • One Line a Day — five year memory journal, a way to keep track of those things that repeat themselves (Thank you Tonya!!)
  • Bullet Journal — a customizable system for journaling/organizing your life. I now use this and I could spend another week talking about how it’s changed my spiritual life.
  • And the Fresh Outlook Journal was created for short daily entries using the examen, with easy to remember steps (relish, request, review, repent, resolve)! Seriously: I love this idea. (Thanks, Claudia!)

Examen Day 3

"The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates

Which Examen do you use? By now y'all are discovering that there are multiple formats/versions of the Examen, all centering around reviewing the day. Some of you might like the guided audio (like me), some might prefer a question/journaling style. Experiment, change it up, and go with what works for you!

Resources:

  • Podcast on numbing out, while using the examen as a way to pay attention and not check out, *ESPECIALLY* in times where things are bugging you and you just want to forget about it. This podcast talks more about why it's important to lean in to those moments.
  • For other audio versions, the Pray as You Go site has a number of guided examens, including one for kids. Find what works for you and run with it! (Thank you for pointing this out, Dianne!)

 

Examen Day 2

Cultivating attention and awareness in an age of distraction.

Quick Poll: Are you getting a daily message from me through your text or email? Holler if you're not and we'll work it out, so you can stay up to date!

Resources: 

  • Today's readings are from Daniel Wolpert's Creating a Life with God, with chapters on the examen and journaling.
  • More calming soundtrack options from our community, to use as background music for your Examen prayer time if you want to use a written version like the card below. (Big thanks to my friend Fred, a local musician and worship leader, for sharing his creative gifts.) 
  • Here's the Examen card printout to possibly use with your journal and/or the above worship interludes soundtracks. PDF HERE.(Thank you to Tricia and Tamela for pointing out this resource.) 

There are multiple versions of the Examen, so feel free to experiment and find what works for you!

Examen Day 1

Welcome to Day 1, where we will begin using the spiritual practice of Daily Examen to Cultivate attention and awareness in an age of distraction.

Examen Formats to get us started:

  • My favorite guided audio-examen I often just close my eyes and think it through.
  • An overview of the examen, explaining the general steps/themes.

How to do this:

  1. Give yourself 5-20 mins at the start or end of your day, as a time to reflect on the day behind you and turn towards the day ahead. 
  2. Choose an examen format to walk through (see above).
  3. At the end of your examen meditation (or during) take notes on what stands out; this will increase your awareness and attention to both the happenings of your day and the overall patterns that emerge.

Leave any comments, questions, thoughts here and you'll hear from me again tomorrow!! Love y'all!

Intentional Work

Intentions anchor me in a season that feels whisked away by the wind, bringing me to center between rounds of "mommy, mommy, mommy" and pings of the phone and general domesticity. 
We still get to determine at least parts of our days and most of our interiors, no?

Bonus: Two reads I highly recommend.

 

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I am not the me I was.

This may be the clearest example of the recent inner shift in my soul, and I’ve been searching for ways to explain this you but I think I’m just going to have to show you: The accomplishment reached deeper than the 18+ months of work, beyond the effort and push for the reception, exceeding the amazing turnout from my people. The greatest accomplishment was the pure absence of anxiety during those last stages of effort—that I’d travelled through the recent months with nearly no nerves about this exhibit, excited but not anxious. While outwardly celebrating and oozing with gratitude at both the show and the support, I’ve been speechless over the inner space and calm that I carried through the last few months of work all the way to the end of the reception. No worry. No anxiety. No perfectionism and urgency. I am not the me I was.

Stillness

Evening ritual of easy porch glider and sip of drink. But tonight's the kind of eerie quiet that makes one want to hide—the whole world holds its breath in anticipation…of what?

An otherworldly rattle answers from the southwest. I hardly have time to realize this imminent threat is more likely some form of plastic dragging from truck, then it relents.

My ears wait for the familiar melody of day’s end but there is only a hot and humid hush. No distant thunder. No chorus of birdsong. Only tweet of titmouse and hiss of cicada. I swat a mosquito and search for the beauty in the moment, as is my discipline of late, even in this disturbing stillness.

 Dia, 2018

Dia, 2018

That is it entirely: the stillness. The solace. This absence of activity is not an indication that something is amiss. The moment is not void, but full. Filled with peace.

It is complete.

It is enough.

Then the air slowly stirs. The flycatcher calls. A rumble rises as lawnmower stirs up dust and dog, and another dog, and another.

And just like that, my moment is lost. All is cacophony.

And questioning.

What do I want this new moment to be, at the very least, for me? Do I want to buzz with the noise surrounding, or settle into the stillness that was? Do we get to decide the tone of our own souls? Or are we at the mercy of every twist and turn of time?

I sit. And settle. And listen to the stillness within.

Spirit

Oh may it be so: “The same Spirit that hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation hovers over the mind of the artist at work.” St Thomas Aquinas

 Cosmos, 2018

Cosmos, 2018

Bring out the YES

We stood there for an hour talking art and creativity and purpose and pain and burnout and big cities and rural childhoods and it was the kind of convo you don't realize you're having until it's over and all that's left to say is this: Surround yourself with people who bring out the YES in you.

A D J U S T

Adjustments rattle multiple souls in this family, and this shift from spring break to school days is still sending shockwaves.

On the way to the studio, I lean on Gregorian Chants to still myself after the morning’s reverberations. Listen and breathe, listen and breathe. A solitary sanctuary opens up on my drive: “It is all as it should be.”

A plan comes—scaffolding to hold us up until the shaking stops. I adjust the evening for this support.

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In the studio, today’s dreamy rainy day hides the light I need. I adjust my goals and prep another workspace. And for the first time in my history as an artist, I swipe my water pail. In a breath it pours out and over my
table
tubes
brushes
everything.

I freeze. This isn’t happening.

But the dripdripdripping pulls me into a reality of water streaming off the table and onto new canvases.

I am shaken out of the residual calm of the commute, and adjust again—wipe away what I wish wasn’t, what I don’t want to be, but what is. 

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And I breathe.

“We cannot expect things to be any more than what they are.” This rolls through my mind somewhere between soaked towels. I repeat and repeat and breathe again.

And I paint.

(Less expecting. More accepting. There is no other way to live.)

When life feels disjointed…

Aside from working on a series of feminine paintings (that's more than I was planning on saying, but I'm warming up to the idea of sharing them with y'all) parenting is 100% where I'm at right now. 

And looking at both of these efforts, I see that I'm shaping women on the canvas while doing some deep shaping of these two precious little women who call me Mommy. My life and art layered over one another with real similarities—but it gets clouded by the feeling that while I can see the potential in all of these women I'm just not sure if I have what it takes to help any of them fully achieve theirs.

So I edit, erase, study, learn, and try again. It's slow work right now, y'a'll, both in the studio and at home. But this is art at the life-level...no, at the soul-level. There's something beautiful about living these layers. Something honest and real and raw. 

Something artfully integrated. 

Deeply integrated.

When we stop and actually look at it, life is not as disjointed as it seems. Ask for integration and watch how life pulls the layers together, sliding one on top of the other until you see it all as one beautiful picture—all the questions you carry, all the random tasks and conversations, all the hopes and dreams. It all fits. Hold it up to the light to let the layers show through. There's a synchronicity there waiting to reveal what your current days are all about.

Whispers.

There’s something happening at the studio.

No, let me say it like this: Yesterday the question came — did I paint for others or paint for myself. The short answer is that each piece comes with you in mind…as a conversation, an exchange. 

But not this time. Not this week. This week is solitary.

We have to go back to the start — something is happening at the studio. 

Birthing?

No, there’s too much noise and urgency involved and this is so quiet.

It’s the gentle tap on the shoulder past midnight, the one meant to rouse but not alarm. The one that’s been waiting for hours to say what needs to be said and finally comes and finds you and whispers the confession. Waiting since October, since walks in the woods where words came. Yes, words.

So now these word-pieces are whispering, claiming their moment on my calendar. They requested my audience, without any other audience in mind. It’s the hardest way to paint—free of dialogue, free of feedback, fueled by gut reaction and unfiltered expression.

They won’t let any one else in. They won’t even let the colors in, y’all. I have to insist on the lightest touch of hue. So odd, these patient pieces.

And I do not know whose eyes they intend to reach.

So for now I share this process through words, and mainly to say: I didn’t mean to leave you outside, but the studio shut the door and declared itself a sanctuary of sorts. Maybe there is something sacred about all that whispering silence. These patient pieces do sound less like conversations and more like prayers. 

Intercessions, really.

And really, for us all.