Naikan Reflection helps us to better understand ourselves and others in our various relationships.

Relationships are complicated, and it is always easier to focus on the bad parts than the good. Naikan Reflection is a form of genuine self-reflection which aims to help us understand our relationships better.

By understanding the bigger picture, we can see the nuances of a relationship. Most significantly, you may find yourself recognizing cycles of negative behavior, or having a greater respect for what others do for you.

What Is Naikan Reflection?

Naikan Reflection is a structured method of self-reflection which helps us to get a more realistic sense of our relationships with others. It was developed by Japanese businessman and devoted Jodo Shinshu Buddhist, Yoshimoto Ishin.

Those who practice it claim that it helps them to understand themselves and others with who they have relationships.

The Three Questions of Naikan Reflection

Naikan Reflection is based on three key questions which help us to reflect on our relationships with others, from friends to family, co-workers to acquaintances.

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

There is a logical fourth question in this series which is ‘What troubles and difficulties have… caused me?’ This question was purposefully ignored because of the belief that this question is responsible for too much misery in daily life.

One of the most important aspects of Naikan Reflection is that it assumes we are all naturally good at seeing an answer to this fourth question. In contrast, true knowledge comes from a little introspection.

Three Different Methods to Practice Naikan Reflection

The general method of practicing Naikan Reflection is to answer these questions in detail.

  • Examine first what you have received from others.

There are times we receive things from others without understanding the sacrifices they made or the thought they gave it. Take the time to understand this and to whom you should be grateful.

  • Next, consider what you have given to others.

We are all susceptible to self-criticism. Taking the time to understand how you are capable of helping others can change our perception of ourselves.

As a result, this is a valuable tool because it helps to boost self-esteem and change our mindset. When we see the good in what we have done without making a conscious effort, we can see the good we are capable of in the future.

  • The final question is not the easiest to answer.

We never like to point fingers at ourselves; doing so can be difficult. Yet, we must understand the hardships we have caused others to truly be introspective. When we see what difficulties we have caused others, we can begin to understand and even repair those relationships.

There are three main ways Naikan Reflection can be practiced, so you can find the right method for you.

Daily Naikan (Nichijo Naikan)

Daily Naikan Reflection takes only 20 to 30 minutes before falling asleep. Sit in a quiet place and minimize distractions. Consider the three questions of Naikan and answer them in relation to the events of the day.

Try to be as specific as you can rather than generalize about ‘receiving food’ or ‘gave assistance.’ It may seem trivial, but it is important to recognize what you should be grateful for and what you offer others.

This method is the simplest. It also keeps the self-reflection we do present in our daily lives.

Naikan Reflection on a Person

Naikan Reflection can be done in reference to a specific person. This method takes a little longer because it focuses on the entire relationship, beginning to end. Start with how you met, and slowly work your way through the ups and downs of the relationship chronologically.

Naikan Reflection on a person gives us greater insight and respect for a particular person. You may focus on a few weeks, or a few years, giving yourself a detailed account of hard times with the gift of hindsight.

You will be able to see how the relationship has strengthened or may be weakened. However, you will be able to see the situation as a whole.

A Naikan Retreat (Schuchu Naikan)

Naikan Retreats can be a scheduled event, or it can be something you venture to do alone. Taking yourself away for a set amount of time to a quiet and secluded place can be mind-opening.

Venture to a peaceful and private spot and give yourself nothing to do but reflect. View your life chronologically and assess all of your relationships in turn.

This is the most intense version of self-reflection and it can take some time to work up to this. However, those who take part in such retreats have profound and life-changing experiences. What is important is that you are sincere and committed to the experience.

Why self-reflection is important

Self-reflection is deeply entrenched in many of the world’s spiritual cultures. There are many different methods of self-reflection which can help open your mind to all that life is.

Naikan Reflection is simply one of many of these methods, but it helps us to form closer bonds through the understanding of our relationships.

Most importantly, practicing this reflection helps us to recognize the importance of others and the positive impact we can have in the lives of others.



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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Ryu

    I think it his article brings up a much needed point. All too often a relationship sours and deteriorates because one or both refuse to stop their bickering long enough to truly understand why the relationship is deteriorating.

    I seen this happen with my parents, they were so wrapped up in verbally sniping one another that they refused to think about how they were contributing to the problem and chose to blame the other for being the sole cause of the breakup. In short there was a absence of introspection.

    I see so many people who are more concerned with trying to find “faults” in others while at the same time not appreciating the decency and patience of the other.
    A relationship takes time and work and, introspection on ones own attitudes and this is something that needs to be taught in school; teach people to look at themselves and how they conduct their behavior rather than always blaming someone else.

    People need to hear things like this.

  2. Jocelyn

    Hear Ye!! Hear Ye!! Love this….thank you for a lesson learned once again

  3. Joanne

    One thing I remember hearing about Naikan is the belief that you can never do enough for your parents. They gave so much. Even the not so good ones.

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