Naikan - Introspection
  1. What have I received from a specific person?
  2. What have I given, what have I done for this person?
  3. What troubles and difficulties have I caused this person?
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What is Naikan?


Naikan is a method of self-reflection to explore one's inner self. "NAIKAN" is a Japanese word and means "inside looking" or "introspection". Naikan combines three elements:
The power of silence
A quiet place enables you to concentrate and to feel pure consciousness. You go into silence and meditation where you explore your own path of life. And you (re)discover your inner self.
Clearing your inner space
The three questions of Naikan broaden your view of reality. You are able to find peace with what happened in the past. You will discover your possibilities and freedom of action in the present and the future.
Respectful guidance
Naikan guides do not judge or push. They listen carefully and give individual support to each participant.
In Naikan you explore your own life, structuring your memories:
  • You focus on a specific person (mother, father, siblings, partner, children, work associates...). You can also reflect yourself in relation to a specific topic (profession, health...).
  • You focus on a specific period of your life, following your own biography (when you were 0 to 6 years old, then your age from 6 to 10, and so on until today).
  • You examine your memories asking the three questions of Naikan.

Three questions are the key

Naikan reflection is based on three questions:
1. What have I received from ................................?
2. What have I given, what have I done for ................................?
3. What troubles and difficulties have I caused ................................?
Focusing on your relationship with someone else and the three questions of Naikan enables you to develop a more holistic, realistic view of your conduct. As a result you will perceive and appreciate the give-and-take that occurs in everyday life. How do you usually start Naikan?
At first you examine your relationship with your mother. You look at the years when you were 0 to 6 years old, your first memories slowly come up. Looking at those memories you are asking the three questions of Naikan:
1. What has my mother done for me during that period of time? What have I received from her?
2. What have I done for my mother during that period of time? What have I given to her?
3. What troubles and difficulties have I caused my mother in that period of time?
In a Naikan retreat you have about one or two hours to think about that. Then a Naikan guide will come to your place for a short interview. Next is the time when you were 6 to 10 years old, still focusing on your mother. Again you have a short interview with the Naikan guide. Next period is your age from 10 to 14 years, and so on, until today (or the day she died).
Next you examine your relationship with your father, again in periods from your first memory until today. Then you can choose e.g. siblings, grandparents, partner, children, work associates, friends, topics... for your Naikan reflection.

 A Naikan retreat usually is one week long.
"You cannot create experience. You must undergo it." - Alfred Lord Tennyson
Through Naikan you rediscover the treasures you carry inside.

What is the aim of Naikan?

All Naikan participants report that Naikan practice made them feel rich, relaxed and peaceful.
They are surprised and full of joy because they rediscovered many positive and supportive experiences. The aim of Naikan is to widen your perspective. Naikan helps to see yourself, others and everything that surrounds you in a more realistic and complete way. Some effects of Naikan are:
  • Training of mindfulness
  • Find peace with things that happened in the past
  • Understand and overcome negative feelings and reactions
  • Behave in a more constructive manner
  • Discover new possibilities
  • Understand others better
  • Have warmer relationships
  • Develop trust in oneself and in others
  • Take more responsibility in life
  • Freedom of action
  • Happiness

The result is the discovery of your inner self and a clearer life meaning. Each human being is unique.
That's why the effects of Naikan are always a very individual experience.
Naikan teaches us to see the world as it is and not as we might wish it to be.


Who guides Naikan?

Naikan guides give you support with all their

What are the tasks of a Naikan guide?


First of all Naikan guides provide and maintain a quiet setting that allows Naikan participants to do their introspection without disturbance. They provide a room for Naikan, a daily structure, meals etc.

Secondly they give you support during your process of introspection. Each human being is unique, that's why every person diserves individual guidance. The Naikan guide will come to see you for a short interview about eight or ten times a day. During a retreat Naikan guides are here for you day and night.

Every 60 to 90 minutes a Naikan guide comes to see you for a 5 to 10 minute interview.
The Naikan guide asks, "What person and what period have you examined?"
The Naikan participants answers, "I examined my relationship with ..... when I was ..... years old. 1) I received ..... from her, 2) I have done ..... for her, 3) I caused her difficulties by ....."
The Naikan guide says, "Thank you very much. Next, please reflect on your relationship with ..... when your were ..... years old."
Naikan participants give a few examples of what they found asking the three questions of Naikan. If required Naikan guides give support. Of course everything will be kept confidential.

At the beginning the Naikan interview may appear unusual because Naikan guides just listen. They do neither judge nor criticise nor say bravo nor push. They just listen with all their attention, with full awareness, with heart and soul.

Whatever comes up is accepted as it is.


About Naikan guide Johanna Schuh

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