Until recently I have struggled with understanding how the awareness examen worked. It has always felt for me like the parts didn’t flow together well. I considered the possibility that I was just not suited to this form, (not everyone takes to every form of prayer) but it is such a foundational mode of prayer that I could not let it go.
I love to create alliterative mnemonics for spiritual practices to help me remember how they work and when I finally changed words of the examen to make it more memorable it started to click. The words I came up with were: Request, Review, Respond, Resolve. Request God’s presence, Review your day, Respond to what God shows you, and Resolve to do better tomorrow. I realized after working with that schema for a while that Review and Respond are more in dialogue than I had originally understood, so there are actually only three movements in the awareness examen as I perceive it now: Request, Reflect (review and respond), and Resolve. And then I translated those Rs to Ns because I use Rs to talk about Lectio Divina (I’ll save that for another post). (did I mention how I love alliterative mnemonics for practices?)
So now the three movements of the awareness examen for me are three Ns: Name, Notice, Next. You Name your need and yearning to be present to God’s presence and your desire to share the examen with God. You Notice what happened in your day by reviewing the events of your day noticing where you sensed God’s presence and where you didn’t. You are in conversation with God as you do your noticing. And you conclude by considering what happens Next – you look toward tomorrow and think about how to do better, resolve to notice more, etc. Since adopting the 3 Ns schema the awareness examen has become a far richer experience for me.
The more one practices the awareness examen the more tuned-in to God’s presence one is during their days, which means they will be more aware of God’s nudgings, which means they will be more fully in that state of ongoing discernment that we desire. That is certainly how it works for me.