A New Appreciation

Naikan, the Japanese art of gratitude, helps you change your life by giving thanks


| March / April 2003


TIRED OF REHASHING your childhood in the cushy moral relativism of a therapist?s office? Try Naikan, the Japanese art of self-reflection.

Developed in the 1940s by Ishin Yoshimoto, a devout Buddhist, Naikan is the art of looking inward, and appreciating others, by making lists based on three simple questions:

What have I received from _______?

What have I given to _______?

What troubles and difficulties have I caused ________?

You might explore a relationship by filling in the blanks with one person?s name. Or you can use these simple questions to contemplate everything you?ve given and received from people over the course of a day or week. Each list you generate should be detailed, including things often taken for granted. Here are items from my three lists this morning, for example: (1.) My aunt gave me these socks two Christmases ago and now they are keeping my feet warm. The air I?m breathing keeps me alive. (2.) I made my roommate a cup of tea. Later I shared a smile and a chat with the barrista at the coffee shop. (3.) I frightened a squirrel when I backed out of the driveway.