Considering the past 24 hours, reflect on these three questions:
- What have I received?
- What have I given?
- What troubles have I caused?
Naikan on an accomplishment:
Select a significant accomplishment from your past such as graduating from college, starting a business, running a marathon, learning a skill that you use today, etc. Reflect on that accomplishment using these slightly adapted versions of the three questions:
What did you receive as you worked towards your accomplishment?
What did your accomplishment do for others?
What kinds of troubles and difficulties did you cause others while working toward your accomplishment?
Moment by Moment
Not “I have to, but I get to.”
We all tend to indulge in negative mental chatter, and sometimes that spills over into complaining out loud. Often, these complaints center around the idea, “I have to…” I have to make dinner, I have to mow the lawn, I have to run an errand, and so on. For a day, try this very powerful little exercise: Every time you find yourself about to complain, “I have to…” either internally or out loud, change it to “I get to.” When you do so, reflect on how it might be a gift to have a lawn to mow, to have a family to cook for, kids to pick up from school, a job to do, etc.
Gratitude for Objects
Notice as you go through a day what objects support you. In some Zen communities, we bow to our cushions before and after we sit, because the cushion literally is the seat of our practice. It makes our meditation more comfortable, insulates our backsides from the cold floor, and so on. Take a segment of the day—even from the time you wake up and the time you get to work, for instance—and see how many objects have supported you, from the toilet and the coffeemaker to your car, traffic lights, and so on. Bow to them, at least inwardly.
Reflection on the environment/Nature
Do Naikan reflection on nature for the past week, using the three questions. Make as comprehensive a list as possible.
Life Isn’t Fair
Sometimes life isn’t fair: We put in the work, but someone else gets the reward. We deserve one thing and get another. We make a plan, and circumstances render it undoable, and so on. But sometimes life is unfair in ways that benefit us. Have you ever gotten something nice that you didn’t deserve? Ever deserve an unpleasant consequence and through luck or mercy, get off the hook? Today, see if you can find ways life’s unfairness has worked for you instead of against you.