There’s something about a new year, the way it offers opportunities for new beginnings, a fresh start, a reevaluation, a new endeavor. It gives me a sense that there is no obligation to hold onto past patterns, grudges, burdens, habits, and that this year I might truly release myself fully into God’s love and the compassion of Jesus.
Perhaps I have a short attention span or a lack of willpower, but I'm not good at New Year's resolutions. A year is too big a unit of time for me, and I give up before I've even started.
On the other hand, a day is a unit of time I can think about.
Each day might be considered a microcosm of the year.
Each new day can provide, as does each new year, an opportunity to relinquish the old and embrace the new.
Each new day is a fresh start, time filled with great potential, a bud ready to open into flower.
In this new year, I think I will fare better if I focus in each new day on relinquishing that which is not of God, and opening myself, moment by moment, to the love, mercy and transforming spirit of God.
This sense of cultivating the possibilities in each day comes about for me best when I take the time to release the day in the evening before sleeping, and when I take time to embrace the day and connect with God each morning through prayer and reflection.
The most valuable, simple and meaningful way that I have found to release the day in the evening is to practice something called the Daily Examen, which comes from Ignatius of Loyola. It is a short, easily remembered practice that can be done in 5 minutes or less, but can offer a great sense of perspective, connection with God, gratitude and calm as one approaches night.
Here is one set of instructions for the Daily Examen:
1. Light a candle and sit quietly for a moment, noticing the rhythm of your breathing.
2.Ask God to help you identify the moment today for which you are most grateful. Recall that moment in as much detail as possible. What made it so special? "For what moment today am I most grateful?"
3. Ask God to help you identify the moment today for which you are least grateful. Recall that moment. What made it so difficult? "For what moment today am I least grateful?"
4. Pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the presence of God throughout the day.
If you have a journal, you might write down any thoughts or insights that you would like to refer back to later.
I have used the daily examen many times with a group (Bible Study, end of session or deacons meeting, retreat) and, in this context, it is very meaningful to allow for a few minutes of time for participants who wish to share short responses to the process.
So....may each new day hold for you the same possibility as the new year.