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By Michael Doko Hatchett
With it's roots in a deeply humble form of Buddhism, the ancient practice of Naikan Reflection is at the centre of our ability to live a meaningful and vivid life. Naikan is written self-reflection about facts not feelings. It involves the asking of three sobering questions:
* What did I received from ______?
* What have I given to _______?
* What trouble have I caused _______?
Essentially this is a process that begins a reconstruction of an overly self-focused life, trapped in a sense of entitlement; what we think we are owed.
Greg Krech, a great person in the field of Naikan, says "These questions provide a foundation for reflecting on relationships with others such as parents, friends, teachers, siblings, work associates, children, and partners. We can reflect on ourselves in relation to pets, or even objects which serve us such as cars and pianos. In each case, we search for a more realistic view of our conduct and of the give and take which has occurred in the relationship".
Regarding just the first question, it's one thing to realize what we have inside us to give, it's another thing to realize what we are given. If there is one thing this dull-witted monk has truly learnt over the years, it's that I cannot be grateful and neurotic at the same time. When I make the choice to stop and count my blessings, meaningfully and deeply, and let myself slow down to fill up with this reality, I become grate-full, instead of full of ......(can I say crap here?)
In my years as a Zen teacher I have had many people come to see me for 'dokusan' while on meditation retreats. This is a private meeting where a participant has heart to heart communication with the Teacher about their practice and insights. These are often deep and personal moments. I would like to share with you something I have been witness to maybe a hundred times. It is that when someone is in 'deep', sitting there in front of me with tears in their eyes, maybe shaking with the power of their revelation, choked up, the thing they want to say most to the world and all other beings, the only thing, the thing they have been floored and re-born by, it's nothing fancy, it is usually just this; the words of........thank-you. That's it. Just thanks. This is the moment I know a participant has met with the real point. It's when I get a tear in my eye, because this is the enlightenment that matters most. The Buddha speaks of skillful states of mind. Gratefulness is the most skillful of all. We all have the potential for it, rather than our prideful entitled ego, to be the centre of our very being.
Now for question two.....
If you would like to learn more about Naikan and the Way of Gratefulness come along to our weekend course in November (see the details below).