By Matthew Solan, Experience Life
Who among us hasn’t searched for solutions on how to live a happier and healthier life? Little do we realize that in order to discover the answers, we must first learn how to ask the proper questions. Naikan (pronounced NI-KON) is a Japanese word that means “inside looking” or “introspection.” It’s also a structured method of self-questioning and self-reflection that helps stimulate a renewed sense of appreciation and insight about our circumstances.
Yoshimoto Ishin, a devout Buddhist of the Jodo Shinshu sect in Japan, developed Naikan in the 1940s. 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 experienced.
Three Easy Pieces
Naikan is quite simple. The entire practice revolves around three questions that engage strategically with your attention. Similar to logs that make up a raft, each is strong on its own but provides even more support when tied together with the others. The three questions are:
- What have I received from ______?
- What have I given to ______?
- What troubles and difficulties have I caused ______?
What’s special about these questions is that they provide a foundation for reflecting on our relationships with others. Whether it’s a parent, friend, teacher, sibling, work associate, child or partner, focusing on someone else enables you to develop a more holistic, realistic view of your conduct. It helps you appreciate the give-and-take that occurs in daily life.
Let’s take a closer look at each individual question and how they function within the practice as a whole.