When we’re not active, we tend to fall into passivity. We watch TV after a hard day at work. We surf the internet. We look at Facebook. We read the news. We listen to music.
But there’s something very important that’s missing from a life that alternates between activity and passivity:
We spend very little time reflecting on our lives and ourselves. Because we spend so little time, we generally don’t really know how to reflect. We often consider reflection, “just thinking about things.”
But meaningful reflection on our lives is what cultivates an authentic sense of gratitude. It also cultivates healthy, loving relationships with others. And self-awareness, which includes an awareness of the impact we are having on the world around us. And spiritually, self-reflection makes us conscious of interdependence – the very foundation of life itself.
So one of our greatest challenges is to take time away from our busy lives for quiet self-reflection.
This may involve just a few minutes each day in the evening to reflect back on the day. Or it may involve an hour or so to reflect on a person with whom you have a relationship that is worth nurturing. Or it may involve sitting quietly and reflecting on a loved one who is no longer alive on their birthday or anniversary of their death.
For the past 30 years I have been conducting retreats in which participants come to our center (the ToDo Institute) and spend a week doing 100 hours of reflection – reflection on their entire lives and every meaningful relationship they have had with someone. This is called a NAIKAN retreat, a type of retreat that has been conducted in Japan and rooted in the ancient Buddhist tradition.
Our fall Naikan retreat begins on September 1st (Sunday) and I would like to invite you to join us by simply spending at least a few minutes each day to reflect on your own life. I offered an introduction to Naikan reflection for Tricycle magazine a few years ago, which is available here. And I will also be posting something daily, during our retreat, to help guide you in your own personal reflections.
So I hope you will take some time this coming week to reflect on yourself as a way of nurturing your heart, your mind, your relationships with others and to gain some awareness of who you are and how you’ve been living.