By Steve Cochrane
Have You Reached For Your Phone in the Last 6 1/2 Minutes?
I tried. I really did. After reading recently a study that people reach for their smartphones every 6 1/2 minutes, or approximately 150 times a day, I determined not to do it!* But as many reading this have learned, reaching for it again seemed inevitable. Living a life that masters time and obligations rather than being a slave to them has never been easy. But has it gotten more difficult now? With the advent of a 24/7 global communication world, particularized in smartphones at our fingertips, an argument could be made that it is harder than ever to live integrated, soul-enriching lives.
Often the answer for us as Christian leaders seems to be to find one more tool for our over-stressed lives. The problem is the tools are also often accessed on the smartphone! When my family gave me one for Christmas this year, I noticed an app called Coach Me. There were many apps on everything from exercise programs to scheduling helps. There were even 750 personal coaches available for hire to chat with via message or phone call! There is nothing inherently wrong with having a program like Coach Me. I have even used a simple exercise program from this app. But it can become another tool on a smartphone that takes up even more of our 24/7 connected life. I’m sure you can cite other tools you’ve used or heard of with a similar nature.
But is there another way than trying to find external coaches or apps to help us manage more and more? I think there is. It is to cultivate something quite different in our lives. Something called “self-awareness”. To quote a book title of one of my favorite authors, it is “To Know as We are Known”.** As we live in revelatory truth of being loved by Father God, we are able to live in the light of self-awareness. This has been an important part of my journey towards more wholeness in life and leadership. Being self-aware enables us to know why we are reaching toward the smartphone or overpacking our schedules. It enables us to ask key questions of ourselves in partnership with the Holy Spirit. Painful questions. Questions we love to avoid!
How do we become more self-aware?
Throughout Christian history, probably originating in the monastic rhythms of the desert in the 2-3rd centuries in Egypt, Syria and Mesopotamia, a form of question-asking called the Examen was used. This spiritual practice/discipline has taken many forms in later centuries with different questions, but is focused towards instilling a self-awareness in the user. Self-awareness practiced as a regular discipline, whether daily, weekly, or even monthly, allows the hidden (or not so hidden!) desires, motivations and resistances to God’s Spirit to be revealed.
Creating Balance through Self-Awareness
Here is one version of Examen questions I have used for several years, grouped around four “movements” in our lives.
Recollection and Thanksgiving
- For what things, today, am I most grateful?
- Where did I experience life, peace, honesty, courage, etc.?
Attentiveness to God’s Action
- In what ways did You invite me to experience Your love and to see You at work in my life today?
Honesty about My Choices
- Where did I notice my choices to receive and respond to You?
- What signs of avoidance or resistance to Your invitation do I sense?
- What choices or habits have been keeping me from living in the freedom of Your love?
Trust in God’s Loving Initiative
- It ends with a prayer: Gracious Spirit, I open my heart to You. Teach me to trust You to lead me into greater freedom and love as You live in me tomorrow. Amen.
I encourage you to practice the Examen, either in this form or another. It has helped to make me more aware of my inner motives and resistances. It has helped to clear clutter from my inner space. My prayer is that similar and greater things will happen to you.
Editor’s Note: Ironically, you can find a helpful app for the Examen on your smart phone. Try searching for “Examen” and enjoy using modern technology to help you reflect, create more balance in your life, and develop even more self awareness!
* According to the Huffington Post, quoted in Ariana Huffington’s book Thrive. See my blog post on this, The Antidote to 24/7 Connectivity, at stevecochrane823.com
** Parker Palmer is a wonderful writer and educator from Quaker background. I highly recommend this title and others such as The Courage to Teach.