The Beautiful Trap

Three simple questions form the basis of an increasingly popular practice: What have you recieved? What have you given? How have you harmed?

John Kain

Lance Letscher

How to do Naikan Practice at Home

What and Why: Naikan practice offers us an opportunity to see ourselves through the eyes of others, cultivate gratitude, and develop a realistic awareness of the interconnectedness of all life. It is a wonderful complement to other methods of Buddhist practice.

Where: Choose a quiet place with few distractions. Sit on a meditation cushion or comfortable chair.

When: Daily Naikan reflection is focused on everyone who has played a role in your life during the previous day. It is best done just before bedtime, for twenty to thirty minutes. Traditional Naikan reflection, which focuses on a specific person, can be done any time, for forty-five minutes to an hour.

How: Three questions provide the structure for Naikan practice. For traditional Naikan, the object of your reflection can be anyone who has played a meaningful role in your life: your mother, father, sibling, spouse, teacher, colleague, child, friend, and so on. For daily practice, the object is more general. The three questions are:

1. What have I received from others?
2. What have I given to others?
3. What troubles and difficulties have I caused others?

Avoid reflecting on the entire duration of your relationship with someone, unless you’ve only known that person for a few months. Instead, reflect on your relationship in increments of months or years. The time frame for your practice must be established before beginning. Spend half the time on the first two questions and half the time on the third question.

Many people choose to write about their Naikan reflection, or share it with someone else. Writing can help you stay focused and provides a useful written record of your reflections. Sharing your Naikan reflection with someone else is called mensetsu in Japanese. The listener should simply be attentive, and should not offer any comments or advice. Mensetsu should conclude with an offering of thanks for the privilege of listening.

—Gregg Krech, founder of the ToDo Institute

Images: ©Lance Letscher /McMurtry Gallery

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