Welcome to this time of prayer.
This examen offers you a chance to look back and prayerfully reflect on your mental health journey. You might look at a week or a month, a year or a lifetime.
The prayer exercise doesn’t have to be completed in one go. Feel free to step away and come back to it as needed. If you would like to reflect on different moments in your life, you may want to set aside separate prayer times with plenty of space in between. Ideally this prayer is a relaxed one, done at your own pace, without pressure.
We would like you to take a moment before you start to think about how you will care for your mental health during and after this exercise. Your self-care plan might include preparing your listening environment with a warm blanket, comforting beverage, and tissues. It could also include breathing and grounding exercises or a plan to move your body in a meaningful way. You might also want to think of a safe person you could reach out to if anything begins to feel a little too much during this prayer time. This could be a friend, a family member, or a priest or pastor. There are also many mental health organisations with valuable resources and crisis services, such as the Samaritans in the UK, or an equivalent wherever you are in the world. You may choose to identify some of these resources in advance of engaging in the exercise. We will also make some links available in the text to accompany this audio session.
Before beginning, it’s important to remember to take this as gently as you can, remembering the deep care, love and longing God has for you. God has made you and crafted you beautifully. Resting in this knowledge is a vital part of praying in this way.
So, start by letting yourself become more still, more focussed. Maybe breathe deeply a few times or sit in a position where you feel both relaxed and alert.
As you grow more still, contemplate the truth that God is always with you, by your side at every moment, including this moment. You may want to allow that contemplation to make way for a sense of God's loving presence. Or perhaps you simply want to remain planted in the truth that regardless of how you feel, God is looking at you in love and care. Either way, take a moment and breathe here.
As you ready yourself to look back, take a moment to ask God to use this exercise to expand your awareness of the ways in which God has been with you on your journey; how God has seen you, and how you have responded to God’s presence or absence. The “work” of this prayer is God’s, rather than yours.
Once you have asked for this gift of a deepened awareness, let the period you’re looking back at unfold before your mind’s eye. This could be a particular moment, day, or season. Let whatever arises come up naturally, being gentle with whatever you notice.
Which highs and lows of your mental health journey immediately stand out? Don’t explore these emotions and memories too deeply – this is a moment to simply notice and observe.
When and where have you found yourself most fully alive?
When and where have you felt yourself most challenged in your journey with mental health?
Pick one or two of these moments, the highs and the lows, and notice more fully what was going on in you at the time. Again, become an observer without entering too deeply into what you were actually feeling – as though watching a video, or listening to a friend telling you a story.
Where were you able to find help or support? Who stood alongside you in those moments when you felt most yourself?
Who was there when you most needed a helping hand?
In the absence of a physical helping hand, perhaps there was a truth, a hope, a belief, or a memory that sustained you.
What about those times you felt isolated or alone or having to face challenges by yourself?
Times when you felt let down by those around you…or perhaps needing to grieve the support you did not receive? God cares about these moments… Take a moment to sit with whatever rises for you.
Now recall your own responses in those situations. Simply notice them, without evaluation or judgement. You are here in the presence of a God who always looks at you with compassion. Share God’s compassionate gaze as you remember these earlier milestones on your journey.
The whole journey that you have been recalling has led you to this spot, to today and to these moments of prayer. It is no coincidence that you are here, in prayer, before a God who longs to be near you.
Take a few moments before the prayer ends to thank God for whatever good things – people, events – you have brought to mind. If you are aware of anything that is lingering within you that you would like to talk to God about, take a moment to do that now.
As you move beyond this time of prayer, know that this same compassionate God goes with you. You are always free to return to this kind of prayer and ask for a deeper awareness of God’s faithful love and companionship throughout your journey.
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
Samaritans UK: https://www.samaritans.org
Premier Lifeline UK: https://www.premierlifeline.org.uk/
Samaritans USA: https://samaritanshope.org/