Naikan and Synchronicity?

April 13, 2012

I have to admitt, I am chuckling! Obvioulsy today’s post is about Naikan, a method of self-reflection. In preparing to wirte, I was searching for other blogs and sites that mention Naikan. To my suprise, up popped The Huffington Post, and an article written just a few days ago. Back in the late 70’s friends used to mavel at the miracle of synchronicity: “Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance and that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner.”  HuffPo and my brain.

I came upon the idea of Naikan years ago when I was trying to figure myself out. (I am still working on that.)  It sounded and is in many ways, very simple. At first I couldn’t imagine how I would benefit…the second question in the practice actually scared me…did I even DO that to anyone, on a daily basis? I had much to learn.

Naikan is a Japanese word which means “inside looking” or “introspection”, or even “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. It broadens our view of reality.

Naikan asks, “What is really important in our life?” Not just in this moment alone, but in our life every day.

Naikan asks us to face  our” self-cherishing nature” that desperately wants us to believe that so many other things are important – why someone is giving us a hard time, why does our spouse drive us crazy sometimes,  the mother-in-law’s opinions that make us angry – all of these and so many more,  block us mentally and emotionally, obscuring that which is able to bring a deeper inner happiness.

“Naikan teaches us to hold on to what is really important thus freeing us to be in the present moment and see the beauty of the day.”

Naikan is about asking ourselves three simple questions, every day. Writing your responses to these questions in a journal helps to make a daily routine easier. Set aside a few minutes towards the end of every day, and ask yourself the following questions and see what happens.

What have I received from ________?
What have I given to _________________?
What troubles and difficulties have I caused to __________________?

(fill in the blanks with the name of a specific person, “others”, a particular situation…)

The first question invites us to see the “gift and interconnectedness of life”. This is about being aware of someone giving you a paper clip, as well as the unknown farmer who grew the coffee beans for your coffee.

The second question asks us to reverse our thinking:  “Gifts are about both receiving and giving.” This question asks us to be fully aware of  those things we give others –” not just material things but also time, attention, knowledge and many other non-tangible things. We begin to learn that we can give in so many creative ways.”

The third question is a difficult one. It requires us to confront not what others have done to us to cause us trouble, discomfort, pain, but what WE have done to cause others trouble, discomfort or pain. Naikan teaches us to take responsibility for our lives.

When we really work on this third question in relation to our entire life  we begin to gain personal integrity.  It helps us choose what aspects of life to focus on and respond to…..what is important.