You’ve been here for five full days and you’ve done over 70 hours of self-reflection. You’ve witnessed your life, not as a smooth full-length film, but in bits and pieces of video – a mosaic of how you’ve lived and conducted yourself in relation to others. This final stretch is perhaps the most important part of the retreat. Even though you’re tired, you are now deeply immersed in the process. You have a greater capacity to reflect on your life during this time than ever before.
You have some choices of who to reflect on, but you’ll also be getting assigned exercises to close out the final 24 hours.
One of those exercises is to select a difficult period in your life and to examine that period through the lens of Naikan reflection. It could be a time you were seriously ill, a relationship breakup, or even something more traumatic.
There’s also an exercise that asks you to do Naikan reflection on an accomplishment. Another asks you to reflect on your relationship to the environment. What have I received from the environment? What have I given? And what troubles and difficulties have I caused the environment? If we all reflected on these questions regularly, what difference might there be in our society’s relationship to the planet?
In the bathroom, you notice a quote on the dresser next to the clean towels. It’s from Dzigar Kongtrul, a Tibetan Buddhis teacher who is considered to be Pema Chodron’s personal teacher. The quote says:
“We are imprisoned in this pain by a sense of self-importance. Self-importance is an underlying clinging we have to ‘I,I,I, Me, Me, Me, Mine, Mine, Mine.’ This colors all of our experience. It takes courage to go beyond self-importance to see who we really are – but this is our path.”
Five days ago you might have simply read the quote like a mild breeze passing though the leaves of an aspen. But today, with your heightened awareness and sensitivity, it touches you deeply. It does take courage to go beyond self-importance. You’ve already started down that path.
When the retreat ends, you go outside for a walk. The apple blossoms are in full bloom. The sun is beaming down on you. The unmowed grass in the yard is smiling at you. The birds are singing in three part harmony. You hear a bell. Time for the final meal – time to share a meal with everyone who has been present here for the past week, each on their own unique journey. You sit down to a stack of homemade mango-walnut pancakes, fruit, tofu, coffee and more. You have a chance to speak now. You are invited to say something about the week. What will you say? How do you express your experience in words?
Gregg Krech Author, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-reflection (2002)| Author, A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness (2004, 2011)| Author, A Finger Pointing to the Moon (2000)| Editor, Thirty Thousand Days: A Journal for Purposeful Living (1993-Present)| Director, ToDo Institute (Vermont) (1992-Pr......