Naming and Holding What Gives Us Life
During the bombing raids of WWII, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”
- Linn, S. Fabricant Linn, M. Linn, “Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You life”
Two questions can help us name the things that give us life:
- For what moment today am I most grateful?
- For what moment today am I least grateful?
Many other ways to ask the same question:
- When did I give and receive the most love today? ...the least love today?
- When did I feel the most alive today? …the least alive?
- When today did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, others, God, and the universe? When did I have the least sense of belonging?
- When was I happiest today? …saddest?
- What was today’s high point? …low point?
The assumption underlying this practice: God loves me and wants to be in a deep and personal relationship with me. God speaks to me through my deepest feelings and yearnings.
TRY THE PRACTICE OF NAMING AND HOLDING WHAT LIFE BRINGS.
You can do this practice by yourself, or you can do it with loved ones.
Preparation: Light a candle. Take a deep breath and slowly release it and become aware of God’s presence (or my desire for God’s presence). Repeat once or twice if desired.
Review the day.
I begin with about 5 minutes of quiet to ask myself two questions.
- I place my hand on my heart and ask God to bring my heart to the moment today for which I am most If I could relive one moment, what would it be? I ask myself what was done and said in that moment that made it so special. I breathe in the gratitude I feel and receive life again from that moment.
- I ask God to bring my heart to the moment today for which I am least When was I least able to give and receive love today? I ask myself what was said and done at that moment that made it so difficult. I pay attention to and stay with whatever I feel, without trying to change or fix it in any way. I take a deep breath and let God’s love for me fill me just as I am.
- I give thanks for whatever I experienced today. If possible, share these two moments with a friend, or others.
- Helps me become more aware of my deepest feelings and desires.
- Helps me get better at telling the truth about who I am and what I need.
- Helps me start to recognize a sense of direction in my life.
- For the things for which I am grateful I am reminded of what has gone right in my life and give thanks.
- For the things for which I am least grateful: name it, feel it, appreciate that I am not denying it (naming may well take courage), and know that God is with you and loving you.
- Sharing these truths out loud with others helps the answers become more real and more important to me. The people I share with become more important as we enter more deeply into each other’s hearts.
Digital Resources for Praying the Examen
An excellent place to explore and learn more about the practice of The Examen is through the wonderful resources provided through the website Ignatian Spirituality which includes ways you can pray on the computer or on your phone:
- An Examen flip books can be used on your desktop, laptop, or mobile device: https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/22138/reimagining-the-ignatian-examen-flip-book-gratitude
- Download this app which offers a modern take on St. Ignatius’s 500-year-old prayer. https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/23542/reimagining-examen-app