I recently had the opportunity to drive from South Carolina to Phoenix and as we took the major highways 2 things became very evident. 1) the towns all looked the same, and 2) I am not a huge fan of GPS.
As we crossed state lines there were very few distinguishing markers from one town to the next. Each mall had the same stores, state after state. To be honest, it made me a bit sad. As for GPS, it kept automatically figuring out what the fastest not the best route would be. Even if I set the course I wanted, it would often reroute for one that was faster. All of this led to the view of similarity from town to town.
It wasn’t until I went off the major highways and explored some other routes, ignoring GPS (which happily recalculated), that the uniqueness of location came through. This can be the story of our lives as well. I can remember reading back over old journals and seeing that the things I was thinking about dealing with three years ago were the same at the time of the reading. Really?? How long am I going to stay on that super highway of the same thoughts and habits over and over again??
The trick to changing one’s life is to be willing to take a route not explored before. It takes time and intention. One of the best ways I know of reading the road map of your life is to practice the Examen. This prayer practice was put together by Ignatius of Loyola as part of the Spiritual Exercises in the 1500’s. Today, many personal improvement and business leaders recommend some form of self-examination each day.
Here is the simple version taken from ignatianspirituality.com. Traditionally this is done twice a day. Once in the evening and once at noon. You can play around with the when; just try it for a few weeks and see what you notice.
Become aware of God’s presence.
Review the day with gratitude.
Pay attention to your emotions.
Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
Look toward tomorrow.
If you would like to explore the Examen you may want to check out the summer group focused on the Spiritual Exercises.
Are you speeding down a highway of sameness being led by automatic thoughts and habits? Try the Examen and explore the side roads and find the unique beauty that is you.