When our children were very young, we began a daily practice around our dinner table called High/Lows, where we each shared what our High for the day was, and what our Low was. The Highs were those things that brought us joy or made us smile, made us feel energized, empowered, and happy. They were the things we wanted to do again the next day. The Lows, on the other hand, were the things that made us feel angry, sad, lonely, frustrated, or made our stomachs and heads hurt. The things we did NOT want to do again.
As our kids grew and we continued our daily High/Lows, their answers became deeper and more introspective. They were able to define why things gave them joy or made them angry. They were able to talk about feelings and the things they were grateful for in their day. And could choose to engage more regularly with the things they defined as Highs in their day.
There are many varieties of this daily practice: Roses and Thorns, Peaks and Pits, Loved-it/Loathed-it. And many schools and businesses are now using this regular “check-in” as a way of starting the workday, as well as for identifying and developing personal strengths.
In contemplative spiritual practice, the Daily Examen is a soul version of High/Lows. Each day, the individual quiets their soul and engages with these steps:
- 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.
Engaging with the Examen brings our day and our focus to God and allows us to see God in the midst of our day. To explore my High/Lows and notice Him there. Fr. Dennis Hamm, a theologian and university professor, calls the Daily Examen “rummaging for God.” He compares it to “going through a drawer full of stuff, feeling around, looking for something that you are sure must be there.”*
Or as Mark Thibodeaux writes, “The closer I grow to Christ, the more I want to share with him the seemingly insignificant things as well. I know that he’s there, in the midst of it all, and I long to tap into his presence right there in the mud and muck, the pencils and French fries of my complicated yet incredibly ordinary life. This is why the Examen is so awesome and powerful. It brings my nitty-gritty to God and God to my nitty-gritty.”**
And in finding His presence amid the nitty-gritties of my life, I also find strength.
ACTION: What are your High/Lows today? Can you think of a moment today when your heart felt light and full of relief or joy? How about something that brought about feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration? Where have you noticed God as you’ve “rummaged around” in your day? What would you like to say to God about your awarenesses?
*Rummaging for God: Praying Backwards through Your Day, Dennis Hamm, SJ, 1994, America Press, Inc.
**Reimagining the Ignatian Examen, Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ, 2015, Loyola Press.