Our examen teaches us, above all, to live in the present. Our days typically unfurl in frenzied preoccupation with the next meeting to attend, errands to be done, dinner to be prepared, and a hundred other tasks that crowd an efficient day. The monk Thich Nhat Hanh points out that we humans are great at planning and willing to sacrifice today to save for cars and houses tomorrow, “But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.” So he exhorts us to the Buddhist practice of mindfulness, being fully and consciously aware (or mindful) of the present moment. The examen, by briefly pulling us out of our daily maelstrom, can help reorient us to the present. When we get it right, as Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, “Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity.”
Learn from the past; envision the future; live in the present. It’s a challenging life model to master, but the examen helps us do so.
—Excerpted from Heroic Living by Chris Lowney