6 Ways to Incorporate Nai in Coaching

Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Cristina Maria Cojocariu.

6 ways Naikan can Totally Transform Your Life in the Most Simple Manner

One of the biggest problems in our modern and civilized society, so much focused on establishing connections, lies, ironically, in our lack of connection. With all the speed ahead, we get more and more separated at a profound level from people in general, from friends, from family and the saddest of all, from ourselves.

We are so eager to shift from one objective to the other, from one thing to the other, from one emotion to the other, that we forget to give ourselves time. We lack time to observe, time to feel, time to process. Afterward, it seems like the most predictable outcome that our depression, our anxieties, our loneliness, our sadness reach higher peaks than we would have ever imagined.

So, what is Naikan and how can it change your life?

Naikan is an old Japanese art of introspection, initially developed in the 40’s by Ishin Yoshimoto.  Its inspiration was to be found in the Buddhist practice.  The basis of Naikan consists of 3 very simple questions. Yet, exactly, these simple questions can be our gate – openers to all the trauma and “garbage” we have worked so much to cover and sweep under the rug. The word itself –   “Naikan” – means “to look inside”.

How it is used nowadays

In Japan, the technique is used in psychotherapy, for treating depression and addictions.In Europe, the technique is looked at as something at the border between therapy and spirituality.

There are also countries in Europe (Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Spain) which use Naikan successfully in specialised clinics and not only (even some prisons started to use the system), in order to treat drug and alcohol addictions, to offer a deeper insight in one’s mind and higher self, to treat depression.

Naikan should also be in the USA. One of the greatest miracles of Naikan is the fact that we can take huge advantages on a daily basis, without having to leave our own home or office.

What are the questions we use in Naikan?

Naikan consists of 3 main questions, applicable in a wide range of circumstances.

  1. ‘What have I received from…?’ (person/situation)

Ex.: My husband prepared my breakfast. / Somebody smiled to me. / A friend called me.

  1. ‘What have I offered to….?’ (a specific person, situation or the general overview of a period of time)

Ex: Did I smile? / Did I encourage someone today? / Did I help someone?

  1. ‘What troubles and difficulties did I cause today to….?’ (myself, other people, animals, objects)

Source: https://www.naikan.eu/english/naikan-why.html

Ex: I didn’t eat healthily, so I troubled my body. /I killed a spider instead of getting it out of the house. / I wasted food./I ignored someone who needed my attention.

The recommendation is to spend 20-30 minutes of total presence in our practice, out of which minimum 60% of the time to be dedicated to the 3rd and most uncomfortable question. The most important thing to take into account is the fact that the spotlight is on our own actions, not on what other people might or might not do. This way, we have the best chance to be entirely responsible for our own lives, our own decisions and our own choices. We realise, if we did not do that before, or if we forgot, that our reality is our creation. We are not victims, but on the contrary – we are our own almighty heroes.

Why should you use Naikan in coaching / self-coaching?

  1. It’s simple and easy to implement in your daily life – anyone can do it.
  2. It shifts and enriches your perception of things and situations easily.
  3. It does not need so much time to put into practice.
  4. The results are exponential as compared to the time/energy you invest in it.
  5. Makes you see things from perspectives you won’t have ever thought about.

You, as a coach, have one more advantage than the persons you work with, which can prove itself to be an important added value: the ability to encourage and give support to your client to explore areas which might seem frightening at a first glance, to make a step and yet another step outside of their comfort zone.

What are the options/situations to use Naikan?

You can use Naikan (for yourself or with your client) to analyse and understand at a deeper level:

  1. A day of our lives (you can have or advice your clients to have a Naikan journal)
  2. Significant events in your life (perceived either as positive or negative)
  3. Relationships with significant people in our lives (in our past or present)
  4. Any situation which needs more clarity
  5. A certain period of time (week/ month/year)
  6. Our interaction with an object or certain parts of our body

6 ways / additional exercises to incorporate Naikan in your life

  1. Spend an hour reflecting on the previous year/month of your life.
  • What were the most important gifts you have received?
  • Who made it possible?
  • How would have been your life if this would not have had been present in your life?
  1. Work on your relationships (starting with parents, partner and other significant persons which crossed your path during your “travel” here, on Earth)

Most of our trauma starts from childhood, so this is one of the most important areas to start our journey in order to heal our inner self. For working with parents or other close relatives, start with the first 9 years of your life, and then 3 year chunks. For a romantic partner analysis, if we talk about a long time, use periods of 1 year. The aim is to get an answer to: ‘What more can I do to express my gratitude and appreciation for this person?’

  1. Daily Naikan, with gratitude

After you finish your daily Naikan entry, as specified above, send a thank you note/give a thank you call to someone who made your day better (restaurant, car service, parents –  the list could be endless, should you choose to).

  1. One of your greatest accomplishments

Answer the 3 base questions of Naikan. Look closely at all the love and support and help you were given during all that time.  Try to imagine how would your life had turned up, hadn’t had been this help.

  1. The objects you use on a daily basis

We take for granted our car, house, refrigerator and forget the miraculous presents we receive all the time. Take this day to observe your cup of coffee, your bathtub, your plates. In the evening, prepare a list of all the efforts some people made so we can have a comfortable life (from growing a plant to manufacturing and delivering a product). Imagine how much more complicated your life would have been lacking all these improvements.

  1. A specific ‘Thank you’

For the next 3 days, thank everyone for the help they offer you, even the small little details. Be specific: ‘Thank you for preparing me my coffee. / Thank you for being so calm in all these situations.’ Behaving like this will keep us more aware and more present in here and now.

Restrictions on using Naikan

Naikan is not suitable for people who are not able to make a clear distinction between the facts and the imagination (we are talking about persons suffering from perception disorders, psychosis, dementia).


We are all interconnected – humans, animals, plants, objects, whether we see it or not.

‘It is the joy, appreciation, and gratitude that often attract people to Naikan. We see how much we have received from life. We see the countless ways we have been loved and cared
for. Despite our failures, life has not failed us. In spite of our mistakes, reality has supported us.’[1] Gregg Krech

Through Naikan, we obtain an unimaginable image on life, on the surroundings. We get to be amazed by all the wonders that are in our life, at a closer or wider distance. We receive the fabulous chance to understand and feel as part of the World more than ever before.

We, as coaches, have the privilege to share this and make the difference in people’s lives.

For a more detailed view on Naikan, please refer to the book ”Naikan – Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection” by Gregg Krech (published by Stone Bridge Press, 2002)

About Cristina Maria Cojocariu

Cristina is a Spiritual Life Balance Coach and Writer, on her mission journey (after over 15 years spent in a corporate environment). She strongly believes that, in order to live a fulfilled life, one needs to find the equilibrium between the pragmatic and spiritual sides of life. During the last 10 years, she passionately studied from coaching to NLP, Reiki, Silva, different sides of psychology and productivity etc. and practices coaching successfully with all the overall knowledge acquired. Her work with clients focuses mainly on finding the true self and purpose, getting to know and accept oneself better, communication, relationships and productivity. Cristina is based in Romania and she works with clients both locally and internationally.

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