Martin Luther King – Peace on Earth

An excerpt from a Martin Luther King sermon, called Peace on Earth

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.

Did you ever stop to think that you can’t leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world? You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that’s handed to you by a Pacific islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that’s given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that’s poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that’s poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you’re desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that’s poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that’s given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker.

And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half of the world. Half the world and the two thousand generations that came before us.

Martin Luther King always gives us pause for reflection. The practice of Naikan gives us a direct opportunity to experience this inter-relatedness in our daily life. This can make all the difference.

 

 

Residential Certification Program in Japanese Psychology

The Residential Certification Program in Japanese Psychology is the most empowering, innovative and engaging program on mental wellness that you will find anywhere!

This nine-day program is a unique educational opportunity, providing training and practice in Japanese Psychology, specifically Morita Therapy and Naikan.  The curriculum of the program is broad, powerful, and relevant to both our everyday lives and our grandest dreams.  The core material, presented each morning, stimulates a rich and thought-provoking discussion amongst participants.  Afternoons include a personalized daily individual session, as well as experiential opportunities to work with the material through a wide variety of assignments, exercises and practices.  There will be time for daily meditation, self-reflection and physical exercise as well.

A strong sense of camaraderie develops within the community of participants as they embrace the material day by day, examining their lives, questioning their assumptions, and sharing responsibilities, such as preparing a meal for the group each day!

The work is profound. The days are rich.  And the experience is empowering.
CLICK HERE to learn more or to register.

This is a required program for Certification in Japanese Psychology, providing 96 credits toward certification.

Thank you!

 

Naikan Retreat: April 7-14, 2018

Photo by Linda Anderson Krech

 

Most of us live our entire lives without taking time to reflect on how we are living.

The busyness of our lives is so compelling and ongoing.  We are filled with plans, dreams and projects which keep us engaged and in motion.  All of that activity keeps our lives vibrant and interesting.

But how do we find the time and space for quiet self-reflection, if we want to want to look deeply at how we are living?   How do we press the pause button, so to speak, and reflect clearly on our lives?

A Naikan Retreat provides a rare opportunity, over the course of seven days, to examine your own unique life, using three simple questions as your guide. We will provide you with a quiet space, healthy meals, and a gentle presence as you take a guided tour through your life, discovering important truths you may have forgotten about or never noticed along the way.

What you discover, through this deep personal reflection, may inform and inspire the rest of your time on earth.  Give yourself the gift of time to explore this practice of self-reflection.

The retreat will be conducted by Gregg Krech, author of numerous books including Naikan: Gratitude, Grace & the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection and Question Your Life:  Naikan Self-Reflection and the Transformation of Our Stories.  Gregg has been conducting Naikan Retreats throughout North America for the past 20 years, as well as Certification Programs in Japanese Psychology at the ToDo Institute.

Space is limited.  Register early.

CLICK HERE for more information or to register.

Thank you!

The Way to Happiness by Three Questions – a Ted Talk

 Photo of Ohyama with permission
This Ted Talk on Naikan titled “The Way to Happiness by Three Questions” is now available on YouTube. You can watch here.
 
It is in Japanese, but English subtitles were recently added. The subtitles will appear if you click on the closed captioning button marked “cc” in the lower right side of the screen of the video.
 
The talk is by Ohyama Shinkoh, a Japanese Buddhist priest. Rev Ohyama published a Naikan book in 2012 that has sold around 10,000 copies. Its Japanese titled is Okasan ni shite moratta kotowa nandesuka, which literally translated is “What did you receive from your mother?” An English translation of the book is now being prepared.
 
As a young man Rev Ohyama did a week of intensive Naikan with Yoshimoto Ishin. It was a transformative experience that led him to leave the company he was working for and become a Buddhist priest. He offers intensive Naikan once or twice a month in Japanese and English at his temple, Rengein Tanjōji in Kumamoto, Japan. Over the past 25 years he has led 2000 people in intensive Naikan. He also offers email Naikan. You can learn more about how he understands Naikan at his temple’s website:

Christmas time with GK Chesterton

“What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.

As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation.  I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking.  I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it.  I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them.  I had not even been good – far from it.

And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. . . .  What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still.  I have merely extended the idea.

Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.

Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dollars and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking.  Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.”    G K Chesterton

This Christmas note is clearly not Naikan, yet there are elements of Naikan tucked within the sentences and the perspective that Chesterton brings to this short piece of writing. His reflection inspires me every month of the year but particularly in December during our holiday season.

I wish goodwill to all, and may we all continue to notice the wellspring of support that we receive day by day. May we also never miss the chance to be the one who lights up another’s life when their light is fading.

 

Reviewing the Day

Nine years ago, when my Granddaughter Sophie was not quite three, I had the pleasure of putting her to bed, when I would come to visit, from across the country. We would sit in the big cozy rocking chair in her room and I would ask what story she would like to hear. It was the same every evening.

“Nana, please tell me the story of when I “woked” up today.”

And so we reviewed the day. I told her the story of my coming into her room around 7:30 when she woke up, helping her get dressed, having breakfast, listening to music, dancing, going to the park,… we talked about each meal, each friend, and concluded with a litany of everyone who loves her. Rather like a prayer.

It was a quiet sweet time and if I missed something she immediately jumped in to correct the omission. It was amazing the detail she recalled: from colours, sounds, birds, trees, flowers, people and she was a stickler for accuracy. Her observation skills were highly developed and inspired mine. I noticed more when I was with her.

At two and a half, paying attention to the world seemed to come naturally. When I finished the story of the day, I said goodnight and tucked her in. Every night she added:

“Please sing a song from the stairs, Nana.”

And I did. Always twice.

I am sure there was no one in the world who loved my singing as much as Sophie and I treasure these memories still.

I adapted her “story time” for myself and was reminded of the wisdom to review my day before I went to sleep. So much bounty, beauty, detail and things that are mine to do along with the enormity of gifts received and my own omissions flashed across the screen of my mind. How grateful I was with the lingering memories of the day, the gentle promise to do a little better tomorrow and the reminder from a 27 month old what a useful “story” this reflection provided.

During this time of Thanksgiving, in particular, Naikan, a formal method for reviewing our day and a practice that can lead to gratitude, gives us the tools to reconsider our familiar stories, discover new ones and thus a precious opportunity to write better endings. I recommend it.

 

A Report on a Naikan Conference in Japan

This blog post will be of special interest to those who are Naikan Practitioners. With thanks to Clark Chilson.

 From July 7 to 9, 2017, I attended a joint conference of the Japan Naikan Association (JNA) and the Japan Naikan Medical Association (JNMA) held in Okayama Prefecture, Japan. It was the 40th general conference for the JNA and the 20th for the JNMA. The theme of the conference was “Finding New Ways to Develop and Spread Naikan.” There were about 150 people present, most of whom were medical professionals, psychotherapists, scholars of Naikan, or directors of Naikan Training Centers.

 

The conference started on a Friday night with a panel on establishing a certificate in Naikan for healthcare professionals. The panelists consisted of two psychiatrists, a psychologist, and a Naikan scholar. The panel presentations were followed by a general discussion on the importance of creating a certificate, the problem in Naikan of “transference” (in the psychoanalytical sense of the term), and what training should be required to certify healthcare professionals in Naikan.

The creation of a certificate program is an important development because the founder of Naikan, Yoshimoto Ishin, was skeptical about professionalizing the practice. Accordingly, many Japanese Naikan advocates were reluctant to create certificate programs. But I suspect that support for the creation of certificate programs has increased because certain professional medical boards have recently expressed concern over the use of Naikan by people who are not properly trained in it and because there are now numerous people using something they call Naikan that is different from the traditional Naikan of Yoshimoto.

During the next two days of the conference there were over 25 academic presentations on Naikan. These included studies on the use of Naikan in hospitals as part of programs to treat alcohol use disorders and eating disorders. There were also presentations on Naikan for corporate training, Naikan at hospitals in China, Naikan as it relates to human relations, and Naikan in the context of Buddhist thought and practice.

After I gave a presentation at the conference on how Naikan relates to Buddhist meditation, I met psychologists who were using Naikan in combination with mindfulness. Among these were Dr. Chieko Fujisaki (a psychologist with a medical degree) and Professor Miho Takahashi (University of Tokyo) who has published a study comparing Naikan and mindfulness.

I was also able to speak with a nurse named Daisuke Taniguchi who works at a mental hospital in Kyushu. When I met Mr. Taniguchi in the summer of 2016 we spoke about mindfulness as a possible way of preparing patients to do daily Naikan. In October 2016 he began a study in which he led patients in about 10 minutes of mindful breathing before having them do Naikan.   While some patients reported that inclusion of mindfulness led to an increase in distracting thoughts and to irritability, a much greater percentage gave a positive response. Some reported that it helped them get into Naikan quicker, that they had fewer distracting thoughts, that they felt more relaxed, and that their memories were more vivid when doing the mindfulness breathing before starting 30 minutes of Naikan.

An overall impression I got from the conference is that younger Naikan practitioners were finding new ways to offer Naikan. Notable among this new generation of practitioners are Toshiyuki Hashimoto and Shin’ya Nukui, who together recently revived “The Association for Self-Discovery” (Jiko Hakken no Kai), which promotes Naikan, primarily as a self-cultivation practice. They have a website that publishes information about Naikan activities in Japan and articles by Naikan practitioners on their understandings of and experiences with Naikan.

The first generation of Naikan advocates in attendance at the conference included Dr. Takahiro Takemoto and Professor Yoshihiko Miki, who together co-founded the Japan Naikan Association in 1978. Also present were longtime scholars of Naikan such as Nobuo Tatsumi and Kayoko Murase. Among them I noticed no dissatisfaction with finding new ways to offer Naikan.  I thus suspect that over the next ten years Naikan practitioners will formulate diverse and creative ways for engaging people in Naikan.    Clark Chilson

A DOORWAY TO INTIMACY

“In Naikan, understanding ourselves and empathizing with others are actually considered as one.  In order to really empathize with others, we must reflect on and observe our own behavior.” – Norimasa Nishida

Empathy is the ability to understand the experience and feelings of another person.  This is an essential skill in human relationships and because our attention naturally gravitates toward our own experience, it provides a challenge.

Right now I am thirsty.  Now I am hot.  Now I am very worried about this particular financial situation.  Now I am disappointed because my friend cancelled our dinner date.  I don’t know what to do about my job situation.  I feel overwhelmed.  I’m tired of always cleaning up after others.

In order to have empathy we need to get past this self-centered focus and really enter the world of another person.  Things that bother them don’t bother us.  Things that give them pleasure don’t necessarily make us happy.  Things that make them anxious are easy for us to accept.  Each person in this world has a unique karmic history.  So it is a challenge to be able to enter their unique world and understand their experience.

Yet this is the foundation of intimacy.

In Naikan self-reflection, our reflection on our own behavior toward the other person is a practical method of developing empathy.  We reflect on the question,

“What troubles and difficulties did I cause to the other person?”

This means we try to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes to understand their experience.  Specifically, to understand their experience dealing with us.  What is it like for my daughter when I restrict her time watching television?  What is it like for my long-distance friend when she doesn’t hear from me for six months?  What is it like for my wife to hear me complain about doing the taxes?

Last night I was driving home on a two-lane highway after dark.  There’s no lighting on that stretch of road and I had my headlights on bright.  I noticed a car approaching me from the distance.  Suddenly I realized my “brights” were on and I switched them back to the normal beam.  About one-half second later the other driver flashed his brights at me, presumably asking me to turn off my bright headlights.  So even though I never met this person, and he was several hundred yards away, I was able to understand his experience.  I was able to see how my behavior was causing him trouble.

There have been many occasions where I didn’t notice I had my brights on until after the other driver flashed his brights at me.  Usually this was because I was lost in my own thoughts or listening to the radio.  Empathy requires a shift of attention.  A shift away from our own experience and towards the experience of the other person.

Rather than,

“What is it like for me to be married to my wife?”

The question is,

“What is it like for my wife to be married to me?”

It seems very simple.  But to do it well requires a great deal of skill, a bit of genuine curiosity and even some courage.  We need courage because we may not like the answer to this question.  It threatens our self-image.

Many people associate Naikan self-reflection with gratitude and it can be a wonderful practice to cultivate an authentic sense of appreciation for other people and what we’ve been given just to keep us alive.

But Naikan also offers the opportunity to cultivate genuine empathy, and that makes it a doorway to connection and intimacy.

Gregg Krech has been teaching and studying Japanese Psychology for 30 years.  He is the author of five books and his newest book, Question Your Life: Naikan Self-Reflection and the Transformation of our Stories, will be available in August, 2017.

Achievements

We learned about gratitude and humility – that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean…and we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.       Michelle Obama

Living in a culture where the “self-made” person is idolized, leaves little room for the gratitude and humility of which Michelle Obama writes. In fact we are eager to claim full credit for all of our efforts and achievements as we make our way through life. “Did it on my own…and so forth.”

I am curious about this narrative and I wonder if there is a method to check it out. Well, it just so happens that I do know a method. It is called Naikan and I have a simple suggestion for what you can do at home to see for yourself.

Take a piece of paper and across the top write out one of your significant achievements. Below, make a list of anyone and everyone who helped you realize that achievement. Be as thorough as you can and start all the way back to your grade one teacher who may have been the one who taught you how to read. As you reflect on your life and add to your list, do your best to recall things and people that you have come to take for granted and yet without them you may not have succeeded.  Look with fresh eyes.

Have no fear that this takes away from your efforts. You are simply expanding your view to consider the efforts of others on your behalf. Specific types of help that came your way from people who may have long since forgotten what they did for you.

This first question in the three question reflection of Naikan is important because, in this case, it can help to balance the scales of what we have achieved in our lives, “all on our own.”

Why is it even important? When we view our lives realistically we can see for ourselves how consistently we have been supported, at every turn, and this clear knowledge prompts the gratitude and humility of which Michelle Obama speaks. It gives us a chance to say thanks to those people (who are still alive) who helped us along the way and in turn to become one of those people providing a stepping stone for others.