by Carolyn Cooper
The retrospective examination is a practice, like the meditation Snowroadexercise, that helps me know myself better.
It is a flashback at the end of the day showing me what I have done and where I have been, not only in the outer world, but in my inner world too. It makes me aware of dimensions of myself that are often hidden from me.
I sit down, close my eyes and retrace in my mind’s eye all the happenings of the day, beginning from the moment I sit down to do the exercise to the moment when I awakened in the morning. The whole day is reviewed rapidly, in not more than three or four minutes.
When I first practiced the retrospective examination, I focused on recalling events, activities and places. Later, I began to pay attention to my actions, words, tone of voice and general demeanor and to the thoughts and feelings passing through me as well. The exercise provides me with useful information. If I see behavior or an attitude that I think it would be wise to change, I take note of it but do not linger over it. I can meditate and work on it the next day.
This practice requires that I review the day dispassionately. Sometimes I struggle to not be drawn into judging what I see or into reliving the emotions I felt. The effort to be detached is very important because it reminds me that I am not just those actions, thoughts and feelings that the video plays back to me. I am certainly responsible for them and later I will work to improve them. However, there is a dimension of my being that extends beyond them and is free to observe honestly, serenely and compassionately.
After I have reviewed the day rapidly and dispassionately, I can lay it to rest. It is over, and now it’s time to sleep.