SBP Blog

Excerpt Wednesday - “Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection" by Gregg Krech

Thomas Joel - Wednesday, November 16, 2016

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we thought it would be appropriate to pull a passage out of “Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection,” a book that draws from the titular tradition of Naikan ("nye-kahn"), a structured method for intensely meditating on our lives, our interconnections, and our missteps.

Through Naikan we develop a natural and profound sense of gratitude for blessings bestowed on us by others, blessings that were always there but went unnoticed. This collection of introductory essays, parables, and inspirations explains what Naikan is and how it can be applied to our daily lives.

It’s no secret that Thanksgiving can quickly devolve into heated political debates and cringy ideological divisions between family members; however, by consciously implementing the Naikan tradition, the essence of this American holiday – gratitude – can easily be delivered from the frustrating miasma of squabbling contention and discord. With this in mind, the excerpt below offers incisive and profound insights and tips on how to express and receive gratitude in a more heartfelt, active, and humble way:

To live a life of gratitude is to open our eyes to the countless ways in which we are supported by the world around us. Such a life provides less space for our suffering because our attention is more balanced. We are more often occupied with noticing what we are given, thanking those who have helped us, and repaying the world in some concrete way for what we are receiving and have received in the past. Our minds are absorbed by noticing and reflecting; our bodies are kept busy expressing and repaying. Perhaps you are more aware of repaired potholes in a road or someone opening the door for you at the store. But perhaps there are also times when you notice such things and still don’t feel grateful. What should you do when your expanded awareness still leaves you feeling upset, depressed, or resentful?

It is important to distinguish between the internal experience of gratitude (thoughts and feelings) and the expression of gratitude in the form of words, thank-you notes, services, or gifts. We may receive something and not feel grateful. It is not necessary to struggle to create such a feeling. We simply feel what we feel. Such feelings are beyond our power, and it is a misuse of effort to try to fight our feelings of ingratitude or create feelings of gratitude. Rather, we should respond with an expression of gratitude, such as a verbal thanks, a letter, or a gift. Those who have supported us deserve our attention and our thanks. Such actions are possible even where there is an absence of felt gratitude. Often it is the active acknowledgement of what we have received that stimulates true feelings of gratitude. Our efforts to reciprocate by offering a gift or service of our own may actually awaken us to the experience of gratitude. But if we “go after” such a feeling, we become preoccupied with our own comfort and pleasure. Naikan simply asks us to be aware of reality, and our gratitude is expressed because it is deserved by others.

Are we willing to examine our own lives and see how often we have failed to express gratitude for what we have received? This is dangerous territory, for it is uncomfortable to acknowledge our own gratitude. But through such an investigation we can become aware of the mechanics of ingratitude and perhaps bring more appreciation into our own life as well as the lives of others.

For more information about “Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection” or to order a copy for you or a loved one, click here.

 


Like our blog? Please share it!

Categories

Subscribe to the SBP Mailing List

New Releases

Amy’s Guide to Best Behavior in Japan


Going to Japan? This unfussy modern guide guarantees you keep it polite and get it right!

China Smart


Essential essays on all things Chinese that inform and entertain travelers, students, and anyone working or living in China

Forty-Seven Samurai


One of the most spectacular vendettas ever: the history and haiku behind the mass-suicide featured in the 2013 film 47 Ronin

Oh, Tama!


A deeply eccentric novel about lives and connections—and a cat of course—in 1980s Tokyo: witty, offbeat, and strangely profound.

Tag Cloud

amys guide to bes tbehavior in japan china where igo the japan society japanese book award memoir writing larry herzberg jun hazuki four immigrants what do in japan tomoko aoyama chinese literature japanese to english walt disney education about asia eastern and western philosophy mieko kanai Japanese aesthetics amys guide to best behavior in japan Tokyo Olympics astro boy university of chicago living in japan The Colorado Review benjamin franklin award japan books hong kong anne prescott 47 samurai zen internment society osamu tezuka nova scotia min kahng osaka behavior peace symbol foreword reviews asian review of books criterion book publicity japanese travel Korea 20th century chinese literature kotaku politics and prose Japanese art japan memoir will eisner blurb peace AAS shaimsen japanese books damian flanagan diy mfa janet pocorobba china smart miyazaki guide japanese classic the silver spoon kyodo news zen monks wife' review illustration suicide donald richie film japan visitor china guide UCLA giajin Chinese history monk wife dirt and water fantasy literature japan guide chinese china What You Don’t Know, What You Need to Know— A Past & Present Guide to History, Culture, Society, Language william f sibley memoir in japan traditional swastika machiya restaurant guide Ukiyo-e japanese bath interfaith hippocampus magazine 1960s Korea WWII author eating in japan hate jing liu symbol tea garden Nikolas Bunton miswest book review student teacher tracy franz buddhist symbols the japan times Japanese holidays ancient symbols pacific rim review of books hitler symbol japanese people brad hawley stone bridge press welton gaddy book green tea foreword indies award forewrod reviews indies japan times event Anime/Manga/Comics nhk literary prize forty seven ronin Poetry Basho's Narrow Road History osamau tezuka purification janet pocrobba alan moore classic chapters lucille cara japan book translators fred schodt keanu reeves juddhism gaijin learning shamisen Chinese New Year frederik schodt Second World War reviews japanese culture Chinese culture zen monk japan trip holden caufield japan etiquette China foreword indies huffpost kyoto international book award diymfa PEN AWARD chinese comics forest gander studio ghibli japanese manners a memoir machiya restaurant gaijinpot travel etiquette mentorship in japan Art/Design understandind china through comics donald keene steve heller wife polite monks wife trip amy chavez janet pocorbba buddhism association of jewish libraries japan today foreigner in japan performance traditional japanese music stone bridge cafe a memoir of sensei and me buddhist swastika koun World War II journal seppuku learning in japan japan travel guide lions roar benjamin franklin awards fiction takuma sminkey japan culture religion japanese translation budhist swastika manga nichi bei weekly, naomi hirarahara book tour japanese books in english Christianity in Japan studying in japan holocaust zazen disney Travel expert comics the hidden writer osamu dazai sensei and me kansuke naka catcher in the rye 4k eli lieberman t.k. nakagaki how to mark gibeau book hoarding controversy classic poetry traditional japanese instrument nazi how to order in japan japanese evil world literature today manga biography Translation death tourist dazai henry kiyama book review otakuusa haibun ancient symbol japan book review Shoah bowing in japan shamisen performance Okinawan literature astrology visitor japan restaurant in the woods of memory 47 ronin Christianity announcement luke patitsas bookstore forty seven samurai comic history japanese craft 1960's Japan gaijin pot japan manners Culture china book classic literature anime World War Two the fourth string kyoto guidebook the millions tea japan behavior 15 years at studio ghibli ritual koto book blurb ex pat literature Korea photography paul mccarthy why we write podcast journal of a zen monk's wife literary review author talk non-fiction alan brill learning instruments in japan VIZ Spring Festival finalist books writing tricycle magazine book award author signing new books bird talk and other stories journal' monks wife new york events japanese business memior expat in japan shamisen asia the buddhist swastika how to travel in japan the inland sea book signing poet yukio mishima do it right and be polite the fourth string a memoir of sensei and me monk rebecca otowa namethetranslator travel literature memoir shun medoruma kyoto travel Children's Literature dark horse Chinese Astrology xu xu japanese etiquette the asian review of books pottery verticle hitler hitlers cross my year of dirt and water frederik green diary washington dc suehiro maruo hooked cross japanese music literature summer vacation japan ravel book reading china vacation buddhist priest awards doris bargen zen monk in japan book talk 2020 Olympics japan food ripe mangoes journal of a zen monks wife in japan japanese instruments japanese history kinokuniya event a shameful life michael emmerich japanese cutlure lesley university japanese instrument Spirituality author event japan custom graphic novels japan travel etiquette expat wanderlust kyoto journal poetry of consciousness steve alpert simba ningen shikkaku drinking in japan china travel nara Japanese literature leonard koren Year of the Dog oh tama danica davidson sensei center of east asian studies matcha travel to japan a mejiro novel the lion king Asian Studies hiroaki sato bushido year of zen rachel manley photography Basho classic japanese literature no longer human huffington post 2019 Japan jared cook Coming of Age Day memoir, tracy franz, zen monk, buddhist IBPA japan travel pulitzer prize black jack etiquette podcast tk nakagaki frank beyer japanese customs publishing manji kimba the white lion manners musical Children's Books buddhist zen monk wife japanese drunk traditional japanese instrumenet ibpa publishing university Language journal of a zen monk jungle emperor new york gallery awa state of belief publicity new release book reviews china history american shamisen travel manners tokyo best behavior in japan travel Japan japan vacation kris kosaka sharing a house with the never ending man Chiune Sugihara hiaku Alexandra Johnson author tour Interview gratitude in japan haiku Olympics
RSS