Refreshing the Examen

I’m a big fan of the daily Examen, as many of you know. It’s a good idea to make it a daily habit, but it’s also helpful to inject some variety into the Examen so it doesn’t become stale. If you pray the Examen regularly, you might try this variation by Paul Wilkes, a noted Catholic author:

  • What did I do that made me happiest?
  • Where did I feel ashamed of myself?
  • What action would I do over again and how?
  • What habits or tendencies worked for or against me?
  • When did I feel most in alignment with what is best in me?

Stay with the feeling and allow it to lead you inward.

This is from an article by Wilkes about Ignatian and Buddhist methods of prayer, which is interesting in its own right.


  1. @Nancy Walton-House: I’m in the middle of reading Brené Brown’s book on women and shame right now (“I Thought It Was Just Me”), and I totally get the distinction you’re making and agree w/ you. Maybe it’s a both-and . . . one question could be “where did I feel disappointed in myself?” and another could be “where did I feel shame?” The first gets us in touch w/ our actions and how we might have fallen short. The second gets us in touch w/ when we felt cut-off from God’s love for us and that we are created in God’s image. Both are useful things to reflect on regularly–reflecting on where/when we feel shame identifies those spirits which have the ability to cut us off from our ultimate belovedness and helps us avoid listening to them.

    • Agreed. If we did not feel really bad about ourself because we did something we KNOW is wrong, we would only do it again.
      But let’s leave my chocolate bars out of this.

  2. Thanks for this new variation in doing our daily examen. Am sure it will help to taste the life of God within me in a new way. It’s wonderful. Keep it up.

  3. I agree with you Nancy; thanks for pointing out the difference, for there is a real distinction. Shaming is such a negative; it goes to the heart of who we are and is much too harsh. Yes, we need to feel sorrow for the way in which our brokeness affected us and others, but not feel guilty. Just a gentle reminder to try and live each moment more y fully open to God and His grace.

    • I didn’t mean feel guilty, I meant penance, that momentary clutch in the pit of the stomach that makes you want to hide under the bed. Guilt is different although that too is the intuition’s way (God fed) to tell us something.

  4. Thanks for this new variation in doing our daily examen. Am sure it will help to taste the life of God within me in a new way. Keep it up.

  5. Yabut some of us can feel disappointed in our precious self without feeling any hint of shame! We can be really easy on our little self that way.

  6. Asking “Where did I feel disappointed in myself?” is far healthier than asking “Where did I feel ashamed of myself?” Brene’ Brown Ph.D., LMSW is a professor (storyteller and author) at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Her research focuses on shame and its toxic influence on healthy self-esteem. If interested in her work, listen to the March 2012 TEDTalk: Listening to Shame. It is productive to ask “Where did I feel disappointed in myself? This question leads us deeper into the Examen.


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