I recently came across the Psychology of Naikan from Gregg Krech, a director of the ToDo Institute and also the author of Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection. It seemed fitting that I came across the mindset prior to the New Year, so below I want to help summarise what the heck Naikan is, the key theme's behind it and how I intend to put it to use, not just as a one off but as continous improvement tool!
What is Naikan anyway?
The premise of Naikan comes from its Japanese meaning of "inside looking" or "introspection". It combines three key elements, that of silence, of clearing your inner space and respectful guidance (that is, no judge but support for all participants). There are more things that you can read up about the practice, but to keep it succint you use the following three questions to examine your memories.
What have I received from __________ ?
What have I give, what have I done for _________ ?
What troubles/difficulties have I caused __________ ?
So what do these questions help accomplish?
The aim of asking yourself these questions is to feel relaxed and full of joy through the rediscovery of the many positive and supportive experiences that the practice presents.
Personally, I found a real intrigue in these questions as they formed a great way to retrospect on a certain period of time under varying lenses. That is, to look back at a time and pull out not just what provided me with joy, for instance, but with the exact things that were provided. This is more solid than just a simple feeling, and helps to showcase the interconnected nature of our world, as well as a deeper appreciation for all the things around us.
How could one use these questions?
While the full practice might take you away on a Naikan retreat, usually these are one month long, I thought that these questions could form as a perfect addition of a daily practice. For me, I seek to provide short but rapidly occuring loops of learning, and setting up these questions at the end of the day or the beginning of each morning helps me reflect on the last 24 hours. This reflection in turn helps to achieve two things.
Appreciation for everything that is around you and created by you
Understanding for the challenges you bring to the cosmos as a whole
The practice, at least to me, does not seem one where you whip yourself for the wrong doings you have imposed on your fellow humans, but rather a chance to observe from an alternative angle the way that you interact with the world at large and how small changes can lead to big impacts.
Do you happen to practice Naikan already? If so we would love to hear about it at the Mere Mortals, look our for a short audio/video on the topic as well in the not-too-distant future!
Mere Mortals, cheers to the last day of the year, may your 2021 be fruitful, peaceful, rich and full of meaning.