By José Sanchez – based on the article “My Examen Cheat Sheet” by Lisa Kelly
In a world that values productivity, achievement, and external success, it can be easy to lose touch with our inner selves. We may become so focused on achieving our goals that we forget to check in with ourselves, to listen to our inner movements, and to be present with our emotions. However, the Jesuits remind us that analyzing a situation is not the be-all and end-all of a situation. What is more important is recognizing evidence of the presence of God, beyond us, bigger than us and infinite.
In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius emphasizes the importance of recognizing what is stirring inside us. It can be new ideas, gut feelings, or something else entirely. Whatever it may be, when those thoughts stir something inside, we are to sit up and take notice. Ignatius invites us to name that feeling, to admit it for better or worse, and to have a conversation with God about it. Are they invitations or temptations? Are they of God or not of God? By doing so, we are able to gain insight into our own inner workings and identify how we are letting situations affect us.
Ignatius invites us to name that feeling, to admit it for better or worse, and to have a conversation with God about it.
For many of us, being analytical is second nature. We like to analyze situations, control or resolve them, and move on to the next challenge. However, it is important to remember that our emotions are an integral part of who we are. By acknowledging and naming our feelings, we are able to move beyond analysis and control and start identifying patterns in our emotions. We begin to see how our emotions affect our actions and how we can respond more authentically to the situations in which we find ourselves.
A cheat sheet of feeling words can be a helpful tool in recognizing and naming our emotions. You can find one here: feelingswheel.com. By keeping a list of feeling words in the back of our journal, we can use it during the Examen as a cheat sheet of sorts. Sometimes the right feeling word will jump out at us, stirring memories of where we felt it during the day. Other times, we may notice patterns in our emotions, recognizing that we have been feeling insignificant more often than we would like.
Identifying patterns in our emotions can become the launching point for our prayer. We can imagine our feelings as a big blob of something that we can look at and sit with. We can listen to what infinite love says about it, without feeling like we have to stamp it out, avoid it, embrace it, or react to it. By simply naming our feelings and noticing them, we can discern whether our feelings are moving us toward or away from the person God needs us to be.
Identifying patterns in our emotions can become the launching point for our prayer.
Listening to our inner movements is essential for living a fulfilling life. It helps us stay grounded in the present moment, gain insight into our emotions, and identify patterns in our lives. By accompanying ourselves on our inner journey, we can develop a deeper relationship with God and move toward the person we are called to be.