Getting Started in Ignatian Discernment

The goal of Ignatian discernment is to discover where God is active in our lives.  Here is a simple two-step exercise to get started with it. It is adapted from a “spiritual warm-up” developed by Tim Muldoon in his book The Ignatian Workout:

1. Be quiet (turn off radios, TVs, computers, video games; close books and magazines).

2. Think about what really makes you happy.

Step 1 isn’t easy. Muldoon suggests focusing on your breathing. Or you might deliberately pay attention to physical sensations, starting with your toes and working up to your head. The point is to shut out the world and turn your attention inward.

When things are quiet, move to step 2. Think about what makes you happy. Think about what you’ve done recently. What did you do last year? What are the key moments in your life? What has produced lasting happiness?

Focus on basic things: the people you are closest to, your work, accomplishments that you are proud of. What has given you most joy? What do you look forward to doing? What work can you do without feeling tired and without noticing the passage of time?

You will probably settle on a handful of ideas and memories that are especially important. Think about them deeply. Why did they give lasting happiness? What do they say about the way God made you?

This exercise is a good way to begin. You can find more ideas about discernment and reflective prayer elsewhere on this site. Be sure to visit the section on the daily Examen.

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Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. It’s good to find this site. Though an Anglican, I have been practising Ignatian spirituality for twenty years. I was at Jesuit schools in India and Venezuela as a boy and am evidence of ‘give me boy till he’s seven and I’ll give you the man’, though for me it was from 7 to 13.


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