“During the bombing raids of World
War II, 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.’” (from Sleeping with
Bread: Holding What Gives You Life
by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn
and Matthew Linn)
Each day, the authors of this story practice various forms
of the Examen. The Examen is a practice that was developed by Ignatius of
Loyola and the Jesuits. Most of the time, the authors of this story do the
Examen work together. It is a good way to build relationship and receive
support from each other. The Examen is predicated on the reality that each day
carries with it the potential for one or both of the following: consolation
“Consolation” is the experience of feeling close to God or
others. “Desolation” is the experience of feeling far away. In a simple form of
the Examen you could simply ask yourself at the end of the day:
did I feel closest to God and when did I feel furthest away?”
Then, in your review, thank God for the times of consolation
and ask for God’s help with the times of desolation.
Alternatively, you could consider one of these pairings they
include in their book:
For what am I most/least grateful?
When did I feel the most alive? When did I feel life draining out of
When did I have the greatest/least sense of belonging to self, others,
When was I happiest/saddest?
What was today’s high/low point?
What was invigorating? What was challenging?
Though it is important to consider both the positive and
negative, sometimes you may just need to pay attention to the positive. For
example, you may want to review your day with this question:
“When did I give/receive the most love?”
Though this is a practice you could use by
yourself, it is also great to practice with others. I invite you to consider
using this regularly. Don’t make it long...Here is how you could approach it:
1. Decide if you’d like to do a consolation/desolation
pairing or solely consider consolation. If you are doing this with others and one
person does not feel like doing the pair, simply focus on the consolation part.
3. Light a candle and use it as a visual focus to quiet your
heart and mind. Put your hand on your heart for some brief moments as a gesture
that you are bringing your heart to the process. Take some moments to reflect
silently. Search for your consolation. If you are doing the pair, search for
4. Share with each other your consolation and desolation. If
you are listening, do not advise, critique or interpret what you have heard.
Simply listen. If you feel compelled to comment or notice something, keep your
words brief and positive…accepting.
5. When you are finished, take a very brief time to
pray…giving thanks for consolation and asking God’s help for desolation.
That’s it. Don’t make it a long, drawn-out thing. Just keep
it simple and short.
If you are a parent, keep in mind that this is a simple,
doable exercise children can appreciate as well. Do it together as a family.
The authors of the book have even had their neighbors join in. It’s a great
community building exercise.
I wanted to invite you to practice this because it is a
non-threatening way of daily sharing your authentic self with each other
without being too “heavy” and raising arguments. It’s a good way to listen to
God and each other, to see what God is doing…accepting and appreciating that.
Basically, it’s a way to notice what is life-giving to you, holding the bread
that helps you rest in God.
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. Thank you for reading.