Naikan Therapy:Self Reflection for a New World

by Tess on September 22, 2010


I’ve recently ran across a type of Japanese therapy called Naikan developed by Yoshimoto Ishin (1916-1988). An anthropologist, David Reynolds, began studying Naikan in the 1960s and introduced the practice to America

Naikan literally means “inside looking” and is a structured method of daily self-reflection.

 It’s an opportunity to become aware of what you give each day, what you receive each day, and any pain or problems you’ve caused others. 

I’ve found this method one of many antidotes for living in the midst of chaos, financial ruin, a failed housing market, job loss and other catastrophes and devastation. 

There is a collective fear, a powerful force, that cast it’s shadow on our daily living.

There is a tendency to blame others or wait for someone outside of ourselves to “fix things” or lead the way. 

Congressional candidates, political parties and special-interest groups have spent more than $139 million on TV ads to influence November's federal elections. These ads are filled with misinformation, deception and condemnation. Clearly these candidates don't have our solutions.

It was Einstein who said we can’t fix the solution on the same level it was created. 

“The New Earth,” Echart Tolle writes about will be created by individuals taking 100% responsibility for the solution.

I’ve found practicing Naikan allows me to be aware of life’s blessings, develop mindfulness, and live in a state of gratitude and appreciation in the midst of external chaos. My awareness has become part of the solution I offer. 

There are 3 questions for reflection: 

What have I received today? 

What have I given today? 

What trouble or pain have I caused today? 

My answers:

What have I received today?

Today, I received cool weather for my morning run, a cup of coffee, a compliment from a neighbor, and fruits and vegetables at the store. I received loving kindness from hubs, phone calls from two daughters and a thank you card in the mail. I received an understanding email, an invitation, the wisdom of a study group.

“There is no way I can anticipate all the good things that are going to happen today.”  -Brian Narelle

What have I given today?

I gave hugs and kisses to hubs, laughter to some friends, words of encouragement to my sister and girlfriend. I gave a brainstorming session to an unemployed neighbor. I offered payers for the planet, blessings to family and friends and sent 4 CDs to a friend. 

What pain or trouble have I caused today?

I let a neighbor down because I didn’t hire her as planned. She was counting on the income. 

When I practice Naikan I become aware of how much I receive including an enormous amount of love from my family and friends. It’s easy to see how life supports me. 

I notice times I’ve held back. There are times I could given more…a touch, a smile or kind word.

I see how I can bring  balance to  my giving and receiving.

Instead of focusing on the “crazy driver” or the person who rejected me, I become more aware of the pain and trouble I've cause others. 

If I overreact, arrive late for an appointment, or fail to notice and help someone who is in need I’ve caused pain. 

I see opportunities to make amends. I can immediately correct my errors.

Naikan moves me out of self pity, struggle, and a constant desire for more.

I go within, I take responsibility. As I own my part and take back my power I become the  peace and love needed to create the new world.

Lori from "Jane Be Nimble" has a great post on storytelling and a whole lot of link love going on.

A group of bloggers are celebrating Barbara Swafford from Blogging Without a Blog today. Barbara is our teacher, her blog the classroom. Her blog was where I first felt a sense of community online. Thank you Barbara!

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    { 41 comments… read them below or add one }

    Eduard - People Skills Decoded September 22, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Interesting… Naikan sounds very introspective (and introspection is something I’ve very fond of) and very structured. I like it when something has steps to follow.


    Evita September 22, 2010 at 9:14 am

    I love this Tess! I have never heard of Naikan before and it seems to be coming to me through you at a perfect time.

    One thing I have found on this spiritual journey is that when we master certain aspects of ourselves, we tend to neglect time for ourselves for deeper introspection. But it catches up with us and throws us off of our feet a little (can you tell I am speaking from personal experience :) LOL

    So this sounds like a wonderful method and one that I hope we all here don’t just read about, but if it truly resonates with us, one that we actually practice.
    .-= Evita´s last post…A Spiritual Growth Guide- From Trying to Just Being =-.


    Brenda September 22, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Dearest Tess,

    Wonderful tool for mindful living. Naikin encompasses so many of my highest values: clarity and reflection, gratitude, loving-kindness, generousity of spirit and commited action.

    Thank you for exposing us to the beauty in the world! Thank you for giving us new ways to think about things and new ways to bring light into the world!

    I am forever grateful that our paths crossed. And I love interacting with all your blog friends!

    So much love is sent your way!

    .-= Brenda´s last post…Open to Joy- Wonder and Delight with Joy Holland =-.


    Tess September 22, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Thanks for stopping by… I as well like steps to follow. It organizes my ADHD brain;)
    I added this to my other morning practices and It’s a good fit. Just an example of how many ways there are to grow!

    I think of you as one of my mentors it’s makes me smile when I can give you something in return for your support and wisdom.

    I’m amazed at how I continue to find and make good friends with other bloggers. To think you live close to my daughter gives me hope we’ll meet in person someday soon. Thanks for the visit!


    The Exception September 22, 2010 at 9:43 am

    This is right up my alley as I venture into a new workshop next week and open myself up to discovering more of… me! I love that it involves awareness of gifts received, gifts given, and an awareness of our place in the world as well as the place of those around us.
    Thank you Tess – and Lori’s post is great too.


    Jenny Ann Fraser September 22, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Thank you for this Tess!
    I have never heard of it before but it looks like a perfect next step in my own spiritual journey. For that, I am grateful!
    .-= Jenny Ann Fraser´s last post…Finding Love =-.


    Stacey September 22, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Thank you for this practice! I have not heard of it before, and I look forward to using it. It sounds like a great way to become more concious and aware in each thing that we do. I love to learn new things like this!

    Keep shining bright!
    .-= Stacey´s last post…North Cascades Day 3 =-.


    Jay Schryer September 22, 2010 at 11:06 am

    This is beautiful, Tess! Like Evita, I had never heard of this before, but it seems to be finding me at just the right time. I’m looking forward to putting this in action today. I think it’ll be a powerful tool to use in my journey. Thank you so much for sharing this!
    .-= Jay Schryer´s last post…It’s OK =-.


    Keith September 22, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Hello Tess,

    I must admit that I have never heard of Naikan before now. I am liking this a lot and I am going to read up on it as well! Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Naikan sounds like a very useful method of doing mental/spititual house cleaning every day. By looking at what I have put out to the world this day, and also looking at what I have received, perhaps this will prevent “stuff” from accumulating and causing problems later. Also this seems like a good way to promote growth, by reflecting on what I am putting out into the world.

    I love the advice of Evita, that we actually practice and not just read!

    Thanks again for sharing this Tess! :-)


    Aileen September 22, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Tess, I really love this! I was not familiar with Naikan – thank you for sharing it. I like the simplicity of asking those three questions for self reflection. Mindfulness and self reflection don’t really need to be complicated, although it’s common to make them so.

    Thank you for sharing this!
    .-= Aileen´s last post…Dance is Like a Box of Chocolates =-.


    Karl Staib - Work Happy Now September 22, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    I’ve never heard of Naikan before. I like how it made you focus on the larger picture. We are affected by others and have an affect on others. This two way street is important to remember. We can’t go blindly through life only taking what we want. When we balance out the giving and taking we create harmony.

    Great stuff Tess!


    Joy September 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Tess,
    I ditto Keith’s comment..*grin* he said it like I meant to…
    I have never heard of Naikan therapy, but I do take stock daily in a similar manner..I add whom shall I forgive (including myself)…such release in forgiveness..makes room for all else…


    Tess September 22, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    A workshop for you…woot woot! That’s fantastic. I’ve never regretted taking the time or spending money on my personal growth. I’m sure you’ll have a great time.
    Have fun, relax and enjoy.

    It’s definitely worth a try. It’s like a little personal inventory filled with insights in how I affect the world around me.

    It’s so fun to learn something fresh and new. It simple and profound but aren’t all good things;)

    Yeah I haven’t seen you here for a while. I’m happy to see you get a take away!
    Woot woot!

    Yes knowledge doesn’t mean change, taking action does. Even if you start out once or twice a week it’s worthwhile.
    Like you said stuff doesn’t build up.

    Yes I think our ego will use everything against us and that’s how it gets complicated. As I practice spiritual principles I’m centered more and more.

    Yes harmony that’s a great word for it and something I want a part of. Thanks for commenting and good luck on your new venture.

    Yes forgiveness makes room for all good things. I also love the ripple of love it leaves in it’s tracks.


    Sandra Lee September 22, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Tess, What a beautiful daily practice. I’m glad it’s been so powerful for you.
    I too believe in the power of looking inwardly for transforming our inner and outer woes. Thank you for sharing this simple method. All my love to you.
    .-= Sandra Lee´s last post…Sunday reflection- the dreamlike qualities of life =-.


    suzen September 22, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Hi Tess! This is brilliant – love it! I think the beauty of it is in the balance. Thanks so much for sharing this! It is very “you”! :)


    Lori September 22, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Hi Tess,
    I feel moved reading this, like your community here, I’m new to Naikan, too. I’m definitely ready for this message. Thank you!

    Wow, when I read this, I think, “Yes, yes, yes, that’s soo Tess.” You oooze love and compassion and, like I continue to proclaim from the mountain tops, I’ve learned so much about those things since we’ve met. I can easily say that there’s rarely a day that goes by where you don’t, in some way or other, do something that positively impacts me. So, thanks for that.

    Once again, I’m getting a lesson about receiving — I think I’m learning I need to start listening to this message. ;)
    I really like this, “As I own my part and take back my power I become the peace and love needed to create the new world.”

    Lovely post, Tess (i.e., The Bridge). I have a feeling this is one of those posts that I’ll think about over and over.
    P.S. Thanks for the link love — you sweet lovely wise woman. I love you!
    .-= Lori´s last post…Be a Storyteller Shaman Start a Ripple =-.


    Lance September 22, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks so much for the introduction to Naikan self reflection. I love the three questions that this practice focuses on – and how meaningful they are to just growing a deeper connection from a place deep within.
    .-= Lance´s last post…Life- Do It Now =-.


    Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord September 22, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Tess, this is totally new for me – I’d never heard of this practice before your post. Thank you! You’ve given me the gift of knowledge, and I gratefully receive it!

    I know I cause pain and needless suffering to myself and others each day. A simple “mal” thought can do it, and I’m working on forgiving myself when it happens, but also on mindfully steering myself toward love.

    You reflect back to me the goodness in the world – the goodness inherent in all sentient beings. ( * bow * ) Namaste, powerful friend!

    Loving you lots,
    .-= Megan “JoyGirl!” Bord´s last post…3 Food “Musts” from Evita Ochel- Holistic Nutritionist =-.


    Little Lessons Under the Big Sky September 22, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    I just ran across your blog from my friend Betsy at Zen Mama. I absolutely love it!
    What a wonderful post! Naikan is new to me as well, but I definitely practice daily reflection. I like the added part of “what pain or trouble have I caused today.” Although it is not something I like to reflect on (I am used to keeping a gratitude journal) I can see how necessary and wonderful it would be to add that in….something I will start doing. I can imagine it makes you even more aware of areas in your life you can change for the better.
    Thank you and I look forward to browsing around your site a bit more:)
    .-= Little Lessons Under the Big Sky´s last post…FALLING =-.


    Angela Artemis September 22, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Hi Tess,
    I’ve never heard of this, but it sounds wonderful. I believe anything we can do that makes us mindful of how we live our lives and how we affect others is useful for our spiritual growth. I love how you mention you let your friend down because you didn’t hire her and she was counting on the income. That’s true honesty! Thank you for sharing this beautiful practice with us!
    .-= Angela Artemis´s last post…Change Your Life – Teach What You Most Need to Learn =-.


    Alex Yong September 22, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Hi Tess,

    Naikan is new to me and thanks for sharing. I believe this therapy is good for self-reflection. Sometimes we tend to forget who ourselves really are.

    I love your three questions for reflection. I think rephrasing the the first question to “What have I been blessed today?” is better as when a person is too focused on receiving, he/she may forget about giving. But with blessings, we tend to give thanks, appreciate, and value whatever we received. And hence the habit of giving comes naturally and with sincerity from the heart, and this is what matters most in giving.


    Hilary September 22, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Hi Tess .. thanks for bringing such a wonderful new (for me) practice to our attention .. and your description for the therapy is so well presented .. wonderful to know about .. and one I will definitely build in to my life .. thank you .. Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last post…Spreading the idea- hearing the words- seeing the movement the power of video =-.


    Mark Roberts Fairies September 23, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post here with us, I have never heard of Naikan before. Great share!


    Alex Blackwell September 23, 2010 at 3:44 am

    Three powerful questions Tess.
    I will take your lead and approach each day with this outlook. For me, it is all about balance. When one area of my life is receiving too much focus,then the areas seem not so comfortable.



    rob white September 23, 2010 at 7:08 am

    That’s a beautiful exercise, Tess. Simple and powerful. I make it a point to give daily appreciations for the many blessings around me. I like the idea of reflecting on the pain we may have caused others… it is a great opportunity to really ponder the infinite extent of our relationships. Thanks for sharing this.


    Cathy Krizik September 23, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Thank you. This is just what I’ve been looking for. I have a strong spiritual practice that I’ve been doing for 10+ years in the mornings. For years now I have tried to develop some sort of practice at the end of the day but nothing has clicked. These three questions are beautiful in their simplicity and clarity. They are reflective by nature so perfect for an evening practice so I’m going to give it a try. But, I don’t want to end the day on a potentially sad note so I’m going to add a fourth question, “What could I do differently tomorrow?”.

    I”m relatively new to your blog and have been enjoying it. Thank you for your consciousness and willingness to share.


    Betsy at Zen Mama September 23, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Thanks for a great post Tess! I’d like to read more about Naikan. I love the three questions. I’ll add one more thing your second questions: you give great support to Zen Mama! Thanks…I appreciate it!!


    Josh September 23, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Wow Tess, this is beautiful. Naikan is a very powerful tool. I always say how quick people are to look out the window, but never look in the mirror. If you practice this daily, there is no way you could fall into that trap.


    Patty - Why Not Start Now? September 23, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Hi Tess – Thanks so much for sharing Naikan and your experience with it. I’ve never heard of it before! What I especially like about it is its combination of simplicity and depth. It goes right to the core, but when I sit with the questions in this moment I also get a sense of ease/simplicity that releases stress and worry. Thanks!
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last post…Dreaming and Awakening =-.


    Patricia September 23, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    I never knew the name of this technique before – thank you; now I can look it up again and work it. I taught with a Japanese Professor one year at school and she taught our 1st year students this form of reflection and taught me an couples anger management system I call Pillow Talk….

    I am so happy you shared this today…I needed to find it again and renew…

    Good words honoring Barbara too….those are great reflections too
    Thank you


    Jannie Funster September 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    TESS!!!! you are SO AWESOME.

    I always feel so smiling and great at your posts!

    What have I given today?

    Shoot — I’ll have to come back and tell you.

    Kelly is about to arrive here at the library with my car-pool friend mom, and I’ll enjoy catching up with my Sweet Pea.

    Then you again in a little bit!
    .-= Jannie Funster´s last post…When I Think Of Barbara Swafford… =-.


    Tess September 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Sandra Lee
    We’ll be soul sisters from here on out. How about that!

    Yes the beauty is in the balance. The last question forces me to look at harming people. Even negative thoughts about someone is harmful.

    OK I’m gulping trying to take in all this love. Thanks so much for your support and laughter. Just simple stuff I’m passing along to those I love and care about.

    Yes your welcome Lance I tell you I think about you all the time and that marathon training. You’re awesome;)

    Joy Girl
    Yes I think we harm ourselves more than anyone else. A sad thought hey?
    This practice will make you and I sparkle and shine!

    Thanks for checking us out over here. I’m grateful and appreciative of your interest and willingness to join us in our love fest!

    Yes I’m all about being authentic. It gives others permission to be the same. Sharing my stuff helps them tell on themselves. And we all grow further together.

    I give you permission to make it fit your needs in what ever way you wish. Not that you needed it! Thanks for sharing your insights with us today.

    You are kind and wise and just being you…blesses the world.

    Your welcome!

    Yes isn’t that the truth. And I don’t like feeling uncomfortable. LOL

    the infinite extent of our relationships…you have such a powerful way with words. Amen!

    That’s a great idea. It’s will offer a peaceful sleep.

    Your so welcome!

    That’s hilarious! I’ve never heard that before. Another friend says the phone is “ringing from the inside.” LOL

    Oh I like helping you release stress and worry.

    Bring on the pillow talk exercise. I’ll love to know what it is.

    Hug Sweet Pea for me! xox


    Tony Single September 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Naikan therapy sounds deceptively simple. Surely, it couldn’t be that straight forward? I don’t feel settled unless there’s a whole tonne of supplemental audio books, powders and healing creams to go with it!

    I kid. I kid. :P

    Actually, this is the first I’ve heard of Naikan. And I actually do like the simplicity of the questions one asks oneself in this form of therapy. No fuss. No nonsense. Let’s just get to the meat and potatoes of the thing. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

    PS: Yes, Barbara rocks! :D


    Preeti @ Heart and Mind September 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm


    I did not know much about Naikan Therepy, Thanks for introducing to me!
    I love this 3 questions, I sort of do first 2, but 3rd question is also great one ask.

    Once I took a class of breathing and meditation, they asked us to one random act of kindness per day and I am trying to do that as often as I can, some days I zoom by but other days I make time to do simple things to help someone, be it trash picking, saving insects, talking to someone who I think is lonely and so on. Thanks for the inspiring message.
    .-= Preeti @ Heart and Mind´s last post…Why learning from history is cool – Part II =-.


    Tess September 23, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    LOL you’re so funny. Yeah, don’t I get the farm for a bonus.

    You’re such a wonderful example on walking your talk. Woot woot!


    ~ Bern ~ September 23, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    Perhaps giving and receiving are mirror images of each other.

    Giving is masculine and yang energy in relationship to receiving which is feminine yin energy. Both can be said to be in us at the same time.

    From this point of view, if one is receiving, something has been given. If you give something, something receives. In order to receive something, you have to ask for something. So we are giving instructions to receive new information which is lodged in all form. If we fully accept the gift, the information underlying the gift is radiated and broad-casted into the environment causing new exchange. Therefore, if we fully receive something to its essence, it is then gifted to the entire world.

    As we begin to see all reflections then as our selves, we leave separation and we are always giving and receiving in all moments as One. We then feed each other information which is then the catalyst for change because everything is fully accepted beyond exception.

    So if we fully accept info and energy and information as it arises, we simultaneously gift it to the world beyond the need for symbolic and physical gestures, so to speak. Since it is instantaneous, giving and receiving then collapse into each other into a state of perfect lubrication providing frictionless change within the system with no lapse in time.

    This practice sounds like it invites awareness upon many levels of Being Tess.


    ~ b ~ September 23, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Any delay of accepting what we receive then may cause pain in one’s self and in one’s environment. Energy is then in limbo and blocked within until fully processed and let go of. Intentions or In-tensions require satisfying so internal pressure can be released.


    Suzie Cheel September 24, 2010 at 6:18 am

    3 great questions Tess and thank you for introducing me to Naikan- I am drawn to things Japanese. This is also a wonderful way to express gratitude and achieve balance and more harmony.
    The 3rd question – what trouble or pain have I caused today hit me right between the eyes as i an hour ago was cursing at my wordpress theme, caused Des pain and made myself mad! The I opened an email and found a wonderful gift. This took away my stress, I solved my challenge and gave Des a hug.
    Thanks for the inspiration
    .-= Suzie Cheel´s last post…Luis Angel Diaz- Memory in The Cells =-.


    Tess The Bold Life September 24, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Your second comment could cause guilt for not receiving. You’re deep and I have to think about this more!

    Nothing like changing your vibes quickly is there? Just a little shift to move forward is all we need and you did it!
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last post…On the Path of Enlightenment- Expand Your Beliefs =-.


    ~ b ~ September 24, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Intentions propel us towards our goals, but they often blind us to what is directly and collectively before us. Instead of looking to accomplish something, we can perhaps call upon something to enter into union with us. We ask, and with faith, it is given and received. No tension is required. It is a part of our infinite allowance within the currency of love and the higher dimensions.


    Tess The Bold Life September 24, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Oh I like the idea…no goals…but an invitation to enter a union. It sounds so less harsh. When I first began the bold life I was going to make it all about goals. Didn’t last long;) Just so you know I’m printing this out. I’ve never thought about it before.


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