When I returned from my two-month sabbatical in September of 2020, I brought with me a variation of an ancient spiritual practice known as the daily examen. In broad terms, the daily examen is a practice that helps individuals reflect on their day and identify the ways in which God was present in one’s life.
The simplified form of the exercise I brought back asked people to begin gatherings by identifying a “rose” and a “thorn” that they had experienced since we were last together. The “rose” was a positive thing (or blessing) that they had experienced while the “thorn” was a discouraging experience they had experienced.
The exercise was helpful for several months. Recently, however, I noticed that the exercise was no longer helpful.
Since the process of re-entry began in earnest here in Los Angeles in mid-June, I’ve noticed that many people were INCREDIBLY focused on themselves. They rarely stop and factor in the needs of others. I suppose this is understandable since we didn’t get to interact with others much while the shelter-at-home orders were in effect. So using a well-intentioned spiritual exercise that kept the focus on themselves was counterproductive, to say the least.
Last week, I spent a good deal of time wondering how I could break that obsessive focus on self. One way I thought I could do that was to tweak that spiritual exercise – and transform it from “Roses and Thorns” to “Roses and Roots”.
What do I mean by “rose” and “root” in this new model?
A “rose” is a blessing that someone extended to you. A “root” is a blessing – or gift – you extended to another. I call the blessings you extend to another a “root” since connecting with others can keep us grounded.
My goal in implementing this model is to move folks away from a sense of entitlement toward a spirit of gratitude. My hope is that folks in our community will spend less time thinking about themselves – and more time thinking of others. What a gift it can be to head into one’s day continually looking for blessings!
Will the exercise work?
It’s too early to tell. Of course, you could help me test out the model by implementing it for yourself and seeing if the increased focus on blessings shifts the quality of your days. 😊