A 12m(onth) Measuring Tape
The turning of a year brings with it a full cycle of many things – the experience of all four seasons, an inescapable increase in age, another Easter and another Christmas, the celebration or mourning around an anniversary and – clench your buttocks – for those men over forty – the annual visit to the urologist.
It provides a natural and helpful juncture to be able to look back and to assess – no longer speaking of the urologist, to be sure…
How did we fair in school or at university? What do our financials tell us about the state of our business? Did we succeed in bettering our sense of worth, purpose and our general well-being?
The highlights of the entertainment industry and the achievements of the sporting world are more often than not recognised and chronicled in reference to a particular calendar year.
A Day at a Time
Taking stock of what has happened, and preparing oneself for what lies ahead, more often than not, proves to be an invaluable exercise. I was reminded recently, reading a book that was gifted to both my colleague and myself for Christmas, that many who have drunk deeply from the well of life, have recognised the value of such reflective moments, to the extent of having created a time and place for them on a daily basis.
For the Dalai Lama it is early morning meditation, for Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, it is another form of prayer, for some of us it may be Yoga, exercises in mindfulness, a few moments spent reading, journaling, listening to music or to a podcast, simply absorbing one’s surrounds in a quiet and picturesque setting.
The best of these things – in addition to the great value of the daily disciplines of exercise, of spending “screenless” time with family and friends, of tending to household chores – inform and refine our attitudes and values, refresh our inner resilience and secure our sense of identity, breathe life into our questions of meaning and purpose.
They interrupt what can become a ceaseless and exhausting flow of activity, where one day seems to merge into another. They awaken our senses and unmask the miracle of the ordinary. The gift of these disciplines – more particularly the way in which the Giver nurtures human life through them – is implied in the words of the Poet of old:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
In Luke’s Tradition, the Founder and Leader of the Christian Faith, highlighted the place of regular renewal and commitment to His early followers, when he said:
One of the many ways in which a life-giving and daily habit of assessment and reflection may be practiced is through the centuries old discipline of the examen.
The examen is basically an examination of conscience, an opportunity to reflect upon the happenings of the day and hear what they may have to say back to us, paying particular attention to thoughts, words and actions.
The following offers an outline of a model for the examen:
A prayer of thanks to God
A petition for God to send His Holy Spirit
A prayerful examination of the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of the day
Gratitude for the ‘highs’ and remorse for the ‘lows’
A prayer asking God to stay close and a resolve to change
Click on the link below for further information on the examen