Self-Reflection

Putting Naikan Into Practice: Naikan and Conflict Resolution

I invite you to consider using Naikan when you are caught up in conflict with others. It's worth a try. It may help you to make wiser decisions, ones that you will not regret, decisions that are more fair and openhearted. It may help you put yourself in the other person's shoes. The world could use a bit more of that right now.
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Thanking Mom

by Peter Smith In 1999, Peter participated in a course on Naikan reflection with the ToDo Institute. During that time he reflected on a number of his relationships, including his relationship with his mother. He wrote the following essay, describing...
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Reality Comes In Moments

As we begin to understand the transient nature of feelings we can see that labels such as neurotic, depressed, or shy cannot accurately describe a human being but only a moment of experience. Now I'm having a depressed moment, now a neurotic moment. To be told that I am a depressed person seems like an unbearable weight to carry through life. But having moments of depressed feelings is, and must be, bearable. Like a grey, dreary sky, this moment of loneliness will pass. Like a foggy morning, this moment of confusion will dissolve. Like a torrential thunderstorm, this anger approaches and departs. And it is the acceptance of my feelings and shift of attention and effort which allows these internal weather patterns to flow naturally, and at their own pace.
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Grandfather's Siberian Sacrifice

By Andy Bienkowski "The history of our grandparents is remembered not with rose petals but in the laughter and tears of their children and their children's children. It is into us that the lives of grandparents have gone. It is...
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Mother's Day: The Memories We Forget

by Gregg Krech Imagine spending several days in quiet reflection, facing a wall, and making a list of all the specific things your mother did for you as a child -- thinking about the lunches she made for you to...
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Beyond Fireworks: Celebrating our Interdependence

by Gregg Krech "If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees,...
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Living on Purpose

Many of us desire to live a more purposeful life. We want to use our time well, to put our energy towards that which truly matters, to leave behind a positive legacy. But when we step back and take...
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I Didn't Do It Alone

Just over four years ago, I participated in a weeklong Naikan retreat in Japan. There, I had a unique opportunity to review my entire life with a new perspective. "What have others given me? What have I given others? What troubles have I caused others?" With these three simple questions, for about 15 hours a day, I examined in painful detail the immeasurable support that surrounded me from the day I entered the world screaming to that week of sitting quietly behind a shoji screen. It did not take very long for me to realize...
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Beyond Fireworks: Celebrating our Interdependence

The birth of our nation is an important date to remember. But let's also acknowledge the birth of our awareness -- an awareness that our freedom is a gift. A gift that's available to us thanks to the efforts and work of countless people, past and present. Self-reflection and gratitude may not be as spectacular as fireworks. But they offer human beings a better chance at transforming our relationship with one another. And we need that now -- more than ever.
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Self-Reliance

I compared notes with one of my friends who expects everything of the universe and is disappointed when anything is less than the best, and I found that I begin at the other extreme, expecting nothing, and am always full of thanks for moderate goods.
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Attention, Obstacles and Gratitude

An excerpt from a public radio interview with author Gregg Krech about attention , obstacles and the experience of gratitude. Approximately 2 1/2 minutes....
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Naikan and Nature: A Classroom Reflection

I learned, and the students seemed to learn, from this [Naikan] exercise. A couple of students were moved to tears, not something I have seen often in Japan. Three students asked me if they could re-do their homework assignment for today to include more ideas of gratitude. Five students stayed after class and discussed ways they could become more involved in "paying back" Nature. One student, who has just been assigned as my tutee for her senior thesis, asked if she could change her topic and write, instead, about gratitude and the impact it can have on people. Another student, a member of the Student Activist group at this college, contacted her thesis advisor and asked the same thing. Two more students stopped in my office just now and said they wanted to do Naikan reflection on each of their parents. And a student who has never spoken in class unless called upon, raised his hand and shared his "nature experience." The power of reflection is amazing. I am grateful to my students for showing me this power so directly. I feel inspired.
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Walls Separate Us, But They Also Connect Us

by Les MacFarlane "There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." -- Albert Einstein The process of reflecting on our lives known as...
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The Beautiful Trap

I think of how different this process is from Zen meditation--one looking inward, one looking outward--yet how they both ultimately point to the emptiness of self. I find that Naikan repopulates my Zen practice, which has a tendency to drift into abstraction, with the specificity of my personal relationships. The treasure of sangha (one of the more difficult--because least controllable--aspects of my Buddhist practice) is revealed. Community nourishes humility, a trait that I tend to forget in my recurring myopic vision of enlightenment. Which is to say, Naikan makes me a better Zen student. Most importantly it helps me (as does Zen) to forget myself by shifting focus onto others. This makes me more aware of how I treat the people I love, and more aware of how much grace is involved in my existence. On my return I express my newfound appreciation to my mother, and it opens a door that had been shut for years. We still have our usual problems, but there's more trust involved, more honesty. I also tell Kathryn how bad I've felt about being so distant. She smiles and says I should go on more of these retreats.
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The Art of Self-Reflection

Naikan is a method of self-reflection developed in Japan by Yoshimoto Ishin. Its structure uses our relationships with other as the mirror in which we can see ourselves. We reflect on what we have received from others, what we have given, and what troubles we have caused. Genuine self-reflection affects so many aspects of our life—the presence of gratitude, our relationships with our loved ones, the degree of judgment we place on other's faults, our mental health, lifestyle choices, investment decisions, even our faith in a supreme being or force.
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Peasant Marey

When I came home after having met Marey, that time, I did not tell anyone about my "adventure." What kind of adventure had it been anyway? I even very quickly forgot about Marey. Later I met him seldom. I never even talked with him, about the wolf or about anything else either. Now suddenly, twenty years later, in Siberia, I recalled our meeting with such absolute clarity, down to the last detail. It means it had sunk down into my mind imperceptibly, all by itself, without my wanting this. And suddenly this meeting was recalled when it was needed. That tender, motherly smile of a poor serf was recalled, and the peasant, his signs of the cross, his nods, his "Oh well, boy, how frightened you are." And especially his thick finger dirtied with earth, with which he quietly, timidly, tenderly touched my shaking lips. Of course anybody would have cheered up a small boy, but that time in this isolated meeting it was as if something quite different took place. If I had been his own son, he could not have given me a look shining with clearer love. Who was forcing him to do it? He was a peasant serf who belonged to us, and I was his young master. Nobody would know how he comforted me, and nobody would reward him for it. Did he love little children so much? There are people like that. Our meeting took place in isolation, in an empty field, perhaps only God saw from above the deep and enlightened human feeling and delicate, almost womanly tenderness which can fill the heart of a coarse, bestially ignorant Russian peasant serf.
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Gratitude: Inspirational Thoughts and Ideas

You must learn to understand the secret of gratitude. It is more than just so-called virtue. It is revealed to you as a mysterious law of existence. In obedience to it we have to fulfill our destiny. -Albert Schweitzer
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Putting Yourself in Another Person's Shoes

If we can develop this ability to empathize it opens up many doors for us spiritually, psychologically and in our relationships with others. We are able to see ourselves more honestly and get closer to the truth about how we have lived. We are able to be more open with others about our faults and limitations and spend less energy trying to maintain an image of ourselves as always smart, kind and competent. The recognition of our own foolish and selfish acts adds a healthy dose of humility that may help counter our tendencies towards arrogance and self-righteousness. Of particular importance, we can develop healthier and more lasting relationships with others because we can sometimes "preflect" on how they may respond before we take a particular action. In situations where we are faced with ethical choices or dilemmas we can ask ourselves, "How would I like to be treated if I were in the other person's shoes?" You can see how similar this is to the Golden Rule (Do onto others as you would have them do onto you). It is very similar and very ancient. And though there are different versions and language of this principle it is a basic moral precept of nearly every religious teaching known to man.
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Ruhe vor dem Sturm (Quiet before the Storm)

The bosses of... three Japanese conglomerates are not practicing quiet sitting as a form of self-directed punishment because of some misconduct towards their colleagues or subordinates. Rather that they are followers of Naikan, which is a structured form of meditation that serves as a "consciousness for inside observation." An awakening and knowing of self and one's fellow human beings.
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Giving Thanks

I benefit (quite often, I might add) when others/things are simply doing their job. When I experience this and respond with thanks, my world changes. Try it. Go through one whole day, saying "thank you" to everything and everyone who does something that serves you in any way.
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Helping the Forgotten to Laugh: Morita and Naikan as Tools for Service and Spirituality

I was raised in a large Catholic family and as long as I can remember God has always been a part of my life. But since discovering two methods of Japanese psychology -- Morita therapy and Naikan -- I believe I am closer to experiencing true faith and establishing a more intimate relationship with God.
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Naikan and Alcohol Dependence: A Case Study

In order to quit drinking, it is not enough merely to make a firm resolve. One must possess the psychological strength to continue implementing that resolve. Since Naikan therapy is a comparatively restrictive mode of treatment, it may be conjectured that a fair amount of endurance and psychological strength is cultivated merely by going through the treatment itself. And it would seem that the energy to reform on one's own those things that one has discovered by carefully looking at the self on one's own, without receiving any preachy criticism from others, that energy in fact becomes the strength to remain sober.
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Reflections from a "Victim"

The maxim, "Examine life outside the boundaries of your own difficulties'' describes what Naikan reflection enabled me to do. During many suffering and depressed moments throughout my recovery, my attention was completely on myself. I was unaware of the tremendous support I was receiving from reality and the troubles and difficulties I was causing others.
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Failing to Make Payments

Forgotten acts of kindness from others often surface as we reflect upon our relationships. I found this to be particularly true when I did Naikan on my dad. One of the things I remembered while reflecting on my dad involved sports.
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Exploring the Link between Gratitude and Attention

[T]o cultivate gratitude, we need to develop a new habit of attention.... Through self-reflection, we can come to see everything we have, and are, as gifts. And through self-reflection we begin to train our attention to notice what we haven't noticed.
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