Scott’s Thoughts: On Naikan

“The inertia of the mind urges it to slide down the easy slope of the imagination, rather than to climb the steep slope of introspection.”

Marcel Proust

Man reflecting on a river.Clarity about our nature and our relationship to our community is not always easy to attain. So much can fog the glass we use to see who supports us and how well we support others. There may even be times when we avoid thinking too deeply about the nature of our relationships, especially when we suspect we have caused more harm than good.

Recently I came across the Japanese concept of “Naikan.” According to Wikipedia, Naikan is “is a structured method of self-reflection” which “helps people understand themselves and their relationships.” Naikan has a rather elegant and simple method for leading us towards greater self-awareness. The practice is based on these three questions:

  1. What have I received from (person x)?
  2. What have I given to (person x)?
  3. What troubles and difficulties have I caused to (person x)?

While we may like to imagine the sort of person we are, this introspective approach seems like a wise way to dig into our assumptions about ourselves and our relationships. By shifting the focus of these questions from person to person we may attain some greater sense of where we might strengthen bonds or change behaviors.

If you are up to the challenge, set aside some time soon to engage with these questions. They may just lead you towards a state of greater understanding.

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