Naikan - Introspection
  1. What have I received from a specific person?
  2. What have I given, what have I done for this person?
  3. What troubles and difficulties have I caused this person?
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Why practice Naikan?


The motivation to practice Naikan is very individual.
Here are some reasons why people attend a Naikan retreat:

  • Understand oneself better
  • Understand others better
  • Find a solution to a difficult situation (e.g. problems with partnership, difficult working situation, illness...)
  • Prepare for a new situation (e.g. new job, marriage, moving to another town, retirement...)
  • Have a close look on one's conduct of life with regard to one's spiritual or religious belief
  • Wish to change something in one's life in order to find happiness

Naikan requires your active participation. A Naikan retreat is no entertainment programme. There is no doctrine. It's all about you finding your own truth. Naikan is for people of every age.

Multi-dimensional effects of Naikan


  • Naikan is a method to explore your inner self. You will discover treasures deep inside of you. Naikan helps to understand yourself and others better.
  • Naikan helps to find peace with things that happened in the past. Based on this, you will find new ways to live your life in happiness.
  • Naikan helps to develop inner peace under any adverse circumstances.

Self-healing and therapeutic effects

  • If you are struggling with a problem (e.g. in your partnership, in your working situation, illness, etc.), Naikan can give you support.
  • Exploring the past and looking at things through the lense of the three questions, Naikan often opens new perspectives to the problem you are dealing with.
  • Naikan has therapeutic effects, that's why it's seen and applied as psychotherapy in Japan. As we understand Naikan and psychotherapy in Europe, Naikan cannot be considered as psychotherapy. Naikan lies on the borderline between psychotherapy and spirituality.

Self-realization and spirituality

  • Through Naikan you can get in touch with your spirituality.
  • Although Naikan has its roots in Buddhism, Naikan has no religious content. Whatever is your religion, Naikan can deepen your belief.
  • No path of self-realization can exist without finding and developing one's potentials. Naikan is a tool to have a close look on your attitudes, thoughts and actions. Naikan shows how your spirituality or religion influences your everyday life.

Naikan guides see Naikan as a way of life. Being aware of what you are doing, verifying your actions asking the three questions of Naikan, in every moment.

Only condition required to practice Naikan is the ability to clearly distinguish memory and reality from fantasy and fiction. For this reason Naikan is inappropriate for people suffering from perceptual disorder, psychosis, dementia.


Is prior knowledge or experience required?


The Naikan practice requires your willingness and ability to spend a lot of time alone, devoting yourself to your memories and introspection. You address your own life story and thereby focus on one caregiver or one topic. You allocate the memories to the 3 Naikan questions.

The 3 Naikan questions are the methodical tools:

  1. What has [person X] done for me? What have I received?
  2. What have I done for [person X]? What have I given?
  3. What difficulties have I caused [person X]?

The Naikan conversations give your day a certain structure. As a Naikan guide, I support you, above all, through active listening. Anything that comes up or shows up, is allowed.

Do you already have some experience with meditation or longer silent seminars?

If you meditate or have taken part in a silent seminar spanning over a few days (e.g. mindfulness practice, Zen, Vipassana, fasting week, spiritual exercises...), then you’ve already experienced the fact that thoughts and feelings come and go, that life can sometimes get boring, that the mind wanders... you will experience the same thing with Naikan. Then just bring your focus back to the Naikan exercise.

Meditation (e.g. breathing exercises, Zen, Vipassana, MBSR, body journeys...) is often associated with holding a certain posture. This is different with Naikan: there is no prescribed posture that you need to hold. You can sit, lie, stand, move. Anything that helps your Naikan work is fine.

The goal of meditation is to learn to observe one’s own mind and then to direct the thoughts. To this end, Naikan opts for the path of controlling one's own mind by specifying clear time frames in which memories are called up and sorted out using the three Naikan questions as the primary tool. In Naikan, the mind isn’t supposed to be emptied, but the abundance of thoughts and feelings should be perceived and directed differently than before.

Do you already have some experience with psychotherapy or coaching?

If you have experience with psychotherapy or coaching, you already know that your past and your personal experiences are very valuable. Naikan is different to coaching and many therapeutic approaches in that it is not problem- or solution-oriented. In Naikan, it’s about the wealth of experiences. Whether joyful or sad or neutral, everything that you’ve experienced forms the foundation of who you are today.

If you’ve worked with associative methods in therapy or coaching, during which you have been able to recognize links between different events or times or people, you will learn a completely different approach with Naikan. Naikan is chronological biographical work. You follow your own life path and focus on one person (or topic); one person (or topic) at a time.

Coaching and countless psychotherapy methods use the conversation to question, analyze, and explore links together. It's different with Naikan. The primary task of the Naikan guide is to listen attentively during the Naikan conversation. The guide does not comment on what has been said, it is not discussed or analyzed. The perspective that you gain from your answers to the three Naikan questions, is alright.

Please note: The prerequisite for partaking in a Naikan retreat is in any case that you have clear cognitive abilities. Naikan is not a substitute for medical or psychological care. In the case of health restrictions (e.g. taking medication or psychoactive substances that impair perception and concentration, or other physical or psychological restrictions that require special consideration), please have a preliminary discussion about it with the seminar guide.


Where do you find Naikan?

There are Naikan centers and Naikan guides in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Japan, USA, and other countries.

Naikan Retreats for everyone who would like to practice introspection:
Some of the Naikan centers you find here.

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© Johanna Schuh • Insightvoice Naikan Training Vienna