The Examen: Alive in the Present Moment

woman reflected in mirrorOur 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


  1. We can learn from all people – believers and nonbelievers. Buddhist don’t have to share our faith for us to glean from some of their wise practices. Perhaps taking the word Buddhist out of the reading here but leaving the word “mindfulness” would be more helpful for you? I get that. Regardless, the concept the writer is getting at is the importance of being mindful – it’s so much easier to recognize Jesus when we are.

  2. Do we really have to learn from Buddhists who do not believe in a relationship with God or an after life with God or the most basic belief that Jesus is God. Is Jesus teachings on the Kingdom of God not enough? Yes, it is hidden but we have the Holy Spirit who will make it plain to those WHO SEEK for it like a treasure. When you try to make it plain you send people on a wild goose chase to emptiness! Been there done that! It all about a relationship with Jesus in Christianity.


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