Using the three questions, go deeper into the details.
When we work with this for a while, we can get complacent with it, repeating things automatically, etc. To go a little deeper into the details, we have to look a little deeper. Be especially careful to look at the trouble you cause for others. On Saturday, for example, I gave pizza to over 20 inmates. In so doing, however, I also caused a delivery driver to have to go out of her usual way, and I wasn’t outside the gate yet watching for her when we got to the parking lot, so she had to hunt around for me. There are several other ways I caused trouble during the course of giving a day of dharma talks and a religious “feast” to a group of inmates.
Do Naikan on a parent.
Choose one of your parents, and answer the three questions about the first nine years of your life. Don’t forget to calculate how many dirty diapers were changed, meals provided, and so on—and life itself, of course.
Naikan on a Difficult Situation
Do the Naikan reflection about a difficult situation you experienced. If it was a long period (like my auto accident, which I have mentioned in meetings—it took months to recover) narrow it down to three months or so. What did you receive from others in order to meet the challenge? What did you give others in the process? What troubles and difficulties did you cause others during the period?
Moment by Moment
Support from what you cannot see:
Spend a day noticing and listing the ways you are supported by things you can’t see. We constantly receive benefits from things we don’t actually see—oxygen, for example. Then there’s all the hidden infrastructure that supports us: We see the water coming out of the faucet or the light coming on when we turn the switch, but not all the other people and objects that make that possible.
Maxim: “Gratitude disappears in the shadow of entitlement”
Sometimes in Japanese Psychology we work with a maxim. Try this one: During the course of the day, see how the sense of entitlement arises in your life. Notice where and when—at work, do you feel entitled to certain treatment, for instance. How does that influence the gratitude you feel?
Calculating for Life
You can extend Naikan on a Parent to continue these calculations, trying to get as close as possible in your estimates. Deal with the period from birth to adulthood, reflecting on the numbers and the people who were involved in providing this care and support for you when you were young:
- How many dirty diapers were changed for you from birth until you stopped wearing diapers?
- How many meals were prepared for you?
- How many loads of laundry were done for you?
- How many times was a hot bath or shower made available to you?