This is the first day of our spring Naikan Retreat.
If you were participating in this retreat today, you would be sitting on comfortable cushions, perhaps with a cup of hot tea or coffee, surrounded by Japanese shoji screens, while reflecting on your life. Naikan is a method of self-reflection that allows you to consider your most meaningful relationships from a new perspective, a vantage point that is revealed by the following three questions:
- What have I received?
- What have I given?
- What troubles have I caused?
You would examine these questions in relation to those who have played an important role in your life: your mother, father, siblings, partner, ex-partner, children, colleagues, teachers, best friends, and others.
And today you would be reflecting primarily on your mother (or whoever was your primary caretaker during your earliest years). Mothers are controversial beings. They bring us into this world, and proceed to keep us alive for the many years in which we are incapable of caring for ourselves. And they all do it imperfectly.
Most of us disconnect with our mother when we leave home, but most of us never really disconnect, for the way we remember our childhood years either leaves us grateful or resentful or both.
When we think back on this time we do so with the advantage of time. We see and understand things in retrospect that we wouldn’t understand the same way in the present moment.
With mother’s day on the horizon, I encourage you to take a period of time for reflection on your relationship with your mom. Examine the first 10 years of your life. Or maybe the turbulence of your high school years. You know, all too well, what it was like for you to have to deal with your mom. But a sincere effort of self-reflection turns the question around: What was it like for your mom to have you as her son or daughter?
Are you courageous enough to explore this question with genuine curiosity and an open heart?
Capture today’s reflection on your mother. We are immersed in the retreat itself right now, but are hoping to arrange an online bulletin board, in the next day or so, for those who want to share their reflections. I’ll be in touch about the status of the bulletin board — hopefully soon.