Naikan – The lost art of self-reflection

bamboo -qrius.jpeg

Source: Qrius


I was going to Marseille for the SpaceOps conference – attending a workshop on smallsats and meeting other young space professionals.

I was staying at Toyoko-Inn in Marseille, which had recently opened about a week ago. The thing about Toyoko-Inn is that it is a consistent, efficient and cozy place to stay. I have stayed with them in Tokyo and Osaka and so knew what to expect. In the grounds they have a rock zen garden and have created a sense of peace in a way that is so seemly easy. You have images of Mount Fuji, subtlety draped in the background.

As I entered the room, I see a shelf with a few books. I did not think much of it, just thought it would be interesting to read when I have a moment. Then suddenly, one evening I had an itch to read the book, ‘Naikan- self reflection, happiness and Success’, written by Mr. Norimasa Nishida and translated by Mr. Peter MacMillan. I started and could not stop, I read the whole book in one sitting, and I believe it was coming 4am when I finished reading it.

It then occurred to me, it was no coincidence; I came to stay in Toyoko Inn. I am a vipassana meditator, and a few years ago, I needed to find my purpose on earth. I needed to understand what was going around me. In the book, Naikan seems to be a very simple and practical approach.

Ask what others have done for you, what you have done for others and what problems have you given others. The 3 step process sounds too good to be true.

So I tried it in my meditation and it is the 3rd question that is most revealing. I have sat 10 day silent meditations with Vipassana and it is about scanning the body and noticing sensations, noticing what arises. Naikan, however, is a very directed approach to asking you about your relationships – starting with your mother, then father, family and colleagues. I felt the guilt upon realising there were so many things I did not appreciate; in the same way the author and translators discover themselves.

Then I saw the mission. The idea that Toyoko Inn is not just a place for people to stay, and particular busy business people, but rather it could also be a sanctuary for people to self-reflect.

I pondered on that, on how true there are very few hotels that offer that or at least, even have a mission on that.

According to Mr. Nishida, he encourages all his employees to practice Naikan, and gives stories of how businesses excel upon such self-reflection.

In organisations that I am part of, including law organisations, I encourage mindfulness, particularly with the younger generation. What pressures that are imposed by former or established seniors, establishments and society are like invisible rocks that weigh us down.

It is not until we notice that these rocks are self-imposed and that we can slowly take them off our shoulders can we live freely. Not too long ago, I was reading Mortimer’s book, ‘Clinging on to the wreckage.’ His book was of humor, life and his father’s journey of becoming blind, yet persisting as a judge with all the help from his mother.

He talks of his own journey, of growing up, of his writings and ideas, and the title, ‘Clinging onto the wreckage,’ makes me think of how we have a tendency to do that. To cling onto things that no longer serve us, to think of things that have long past and suffer in our own decisions which of course, like spilt milk, cannot be recovered.


Since practising vipassana meditation, I have noticed interesting happenings, like this one.

It is opening the door to one’s consciousness and connecting with other like-minded beings. This urge for collective consciousness is important, because it tackles the challenges of a ‘success, modern, society’ by the core – depression, suicide, cancer, heart and mental problems.


It is also significant, that it is written by an author from Japan, acknowledging the growth and challenges to Japan’s economic success and continued challenges. We cannot deny that Japan and South Korea are the two countries in North East Asia with the highest suicide rate.

If it were true, that we are all connected, then the pain is shared and it is ways like Naikan that can help our corporate warriors as one may say, to survive and thrive on this journey.

I am excited to learn more about Naikan and see how I can use this practice to share with fellow lawyers and also entrepreneurs.




Published by ArtofLiving2080

NewSpace Legal Futurist. Strategist. Speaker. Poet. Writer.

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