Examen – Balance
Discipleship and any journey of faith is ultimately about keeping one’s life in balance, which creates a freedom of expression in life. When we get out of balance, we lose this sense of center and become focused on the imbalance.
Yoga has a lot to teach us about balance, but we often limit our understanding of balance to physically mean not falling over. This is indeed an important aspect of balance, but it is much bigger than this.
Matthew Sanford, Founder and Director of MindBody Solutions offers this in regard to balance:
When balance becomes a sensation, you expand in space. Balance allows for the freedom of expression. If you are off balance you can’t truly expand, because when you are off balance, conditions of safety have been violated. The sensation of balance is the equal distribution of presence throughout your body.
We can also expand our understanding of balance to how we live our life. Experiencing the physical sensation of balance – the equal distribution of presence throughout the body – is also an experience of how to live life.
Consider a few areas of life where balance is critical:
Unbalanced Balanced/Centered Unbalanced
Isolation Solitude-community Always with people
Not speaking up Silence/Speaking Chatterbox/oversharing
Always giving/manipulation Giving/Receiving Always taking from others
Not eating enough Eating/Food Gluttony-eating too much
Not working/listlessness Rest/Work/Play Always working-workaholic
Addiction Pleasure/Discomfort Self abuse
Anytime our lives take on expressions of extremes we become out of balance. This place of imbalance is not a safe space and we lose the freedom of expression of the person God created us to be. By grace and the gift of others in our life, we can return to center.
The following Prayer of Examen can be used to prayerfully come before the Lord to discern if our lives are balanced and thus moving toward the Lord, or if they are becoming out of balance and thus moving our awareness away from the Lord.
Pray for light or insight into your day or week.
Ask God to help you see clearly into the past day. To see it for what it is without judgment or condemnation.
Pray in gratitude
Be thankful for the gifts of this day. Notice the people, the events and the provision of God’s abundance in your life.
Review the day, noticing the moments of being centered and in balance as well as the moments when you were out of center or balance
Simply notice these moments for what they are without judging them or yourself either good or bad. They are past and they just are.
Examine one of the moments when you were centered and balanced.
Pray from this moment and give thanks for it. Notice what was good. How did you feel in that moment?
Examine one of the moments when you are out of balance
Pray from this moment without condemning yourself. Simply acknowledge it for what it is. Let it be. What can you learn from this moment? How did you feel? What led you to be out of balance? Are you still out of balance in this area? Confess this moment for what it is and receive God’s forgiveness? Is there anyone you need to speak with?
What can you carry into tomorrow?
What has God spoken to you about in this moment for you to grow into?
A beautiful description of a balanced life comes from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians. It describes a state of centeredness, of equanimity. Whatever one’s background, the qualities described here offer a way of living that will create balance in one’s own life and offers a way for the community to living together well.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Colossians 3:12-17 NRSV