The Ignatian Daily Examen and the Stoic Art of Journaling

December 7, 2018

One who is familiar with the Daily Examen, also called the "Ignatian Examen," or simply "The Examen," won't fail to see significant similarities with some tenets of Stoic philosophy, specifically the Art of Journaling. One fundamental difference, however, is that the Ignatian Examen is rooted in the individual's relationship with God, while the Stoics were pagan philosophers and the Art of Journaling focuses on the self but including the relationship with others.

 

The website "Ignatian Spirituality" defines it: "The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience."

 

The five-steps of the Daily Examen that St. Ignatius practiced are: 1. Become aware of God’s presence.  2. Review the day with gratitude.  3. Pay attention to your emotions.  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.  5. Look toward tomorrow.

 

Stoicism, which is held by philosophers long before Christ, maintains that the best way to improve oneself is to review one's thoughts and actions. Each evening you should, like Seneca did, examine your day and your actions. As he put it, “When the light has been removed and my wife has fallen silent, aware of this habit that’s now mine, I examine my entire day and go back over what I’ve done and said, hiding nothing from myself, passing nothing by.” The question should be: Did I follow my plans for the day? Was I prepared enough? What could I do better? What have I learned that will help me tomorrow? (From The Daily Stoic -- dailystoic.com)

 

Stoicism essentially involves journaling, the writing/recording of the events and wisdom arising from the review of the day and the plans for tomorrow. That gives the review and planning focus. Most Christian spiritual directors also recommend keeping a journal, as the Stoics do. A journal can be looked back to and help further the self-improvement of the individual.

 

If the concept of God is added to the Stoic philosophy of journaling, it is like improving that pagan philosophy to make it one that comes close to the practice of the Ignatian Daily Examen, and in some way approaches authentic Christianity in that regard.

 

The practice of the Daily Examen with an accompanying journal and the Stoic Art of Journaling faithfully performed can lead to progress in one's spiritual life and at the same time to a more ordered ordinary secular life.

 

I am convinced everyone who professes Christ should try making a daily examen similar to the one recommended by St. Ignatius and see how it works in their pursuit of holiness and a happier, better-ordered life.#

 

 

 

 

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