Naikan is a Japanese word which means "inside looking" or "introspection." It is a structured method of self-reflection that helps us to look at ourselves, our relationships, and our actions from a new perspective. Reflecting on our lives through the lens of Naikan often transforms long held but inaccurate beliefs about our lives. In turn this perspective will often give rise to feelings of gratitude, indebtedness, and responsibility.
The following description appears in the book Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection by Greg Krech.
Naikan was developed in Japan in the 1940's by Ishin Yashimoto, a devout Buddhist of the Pure Land (Jodo Shinshu) sect. His strong religious spirit led him to practice mishirabe, an arduous and difficult method of meditation and self-reflection. Wishing to make such introspection available to others, he developed Naikan as a method that could be more widely practiced.
Naikan broadens our view of reality. It's as if, standing on top of a mountain, we shift from a zoom lens to a wide-angle lens. Now we can appreciate the broader panorama - our former perspective still included, but accompanied by much that had been hidden. And that which was hidden makes the view extraordinary.
Naikan's profound impact resulted in its use in other areas of Japanese society. Today, there are about 40 Naikan centers in Japan, and Naikan is used in mental health counseling, addiction treatment, rehabilitation of prisoners, schools, and business.
Naikan is simple to learn. It is based on three basic questions:
- What have I received?
- What have I given?
- What troubles and difficulties have I caused?
Used creatively these questions can shed light on the hidden aspects of our relationship to all things; on the fundamental nature of how we view our life. Ultimately Naikan is a dedication to the truth. Not the self-centered interpretation of what we believe, but a search for the actual events of our lives as they might be experienced by those around us. This truth, though sometimes daunting, is also liberating.
When it's time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived.
- Henry David Thoreau