Each day I marvel at what I learn from life and how I am lead in certain directions. Since I am attempting to craft my life by writing these days, I have only my schedule that dictates. This may sound like a life-long dream for some, children grown, quiet house that stays clean, only responsibility is to self and dog. I can honestly tell you it is often lonely and I miss those crazy over scheduled days. However, one cannot live in the past, and I am not going there so I choose to live in this moment. That in and of it self is liberating. I live in the now and in this now of today I have been guided toward an ancient Japanese word, Naikan. This word means “inside looking” or “introspection”. A more poetic translation is “seeing oneself with the mind’s eye”. It is a structured method of self-reflection that helps us to understand ourselves, our relationships and the fundamental nature of human existence. Naikan was developed by Yoshimoto Ishin, a devout Buddhist of the Jodo Shinshu sect in Japan. His strong religious spirit led him to practice mishirabe, an arduous and difficult method of meditation. Wishing to make such introspection available to others, he developed Naikan as a method that could be more widely practiced.
What is Naikan you ask and how do you practice it? It is based on three simple questions:
- What have I received from ___________?
- What have I given to __________________?
- What troubles and difficulties have I given to _____________?
These questions provide a foundation for reflecting on relationships with others such as parents, friends, teachers, siblings, work associates, children, and partners.
The simplest practice of Naikan reflection requires 20-30 minutes before bedtime. Sitting in a quiet place, without distraction, write down the answer to the three questions in relation to the day’s events. What did you receive from others today? What did you give to others today? What troubles and difficulties did you cause others today? It is important to be specific rather than general.
I love this idea of writing each day as a simple act of release. Research indicates that by holding back thoughts and feelings can place people at risk for both major and minor diseases. Confession, by writing or talking, can neutralize many of the problems of inhibition. Since I am just beginning my journey as a certified instructor of Journal to the Self®this straightforward act of Naikan struck me as a powerful tool for healing. I have an opportunity to attend a one-day session in early November and after attending I will report back on the healing benefits. However, right now I believe we could all sit down and follow these 3 basic steps to find some inner healing. We all to often perceive what we think people have done to offend us during our day, but how about looking at it from the other perspective and leaving that piece out? This is where some real healing can begin, when we see where situations might be our responsibility. Life is a gift, and today the gift that came to me was this method of healing the inner self, for therein lies all of our freedom.
There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self. ~ Aldous Huxley