“A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.”
This afternoon of 31 December, 2017 is warm and sunny with the buzz of bees and butterflies flitting from flower to flower in our Blue Mountains garden. Every so often one of the chickens decides to launch into frenzied clucking, for no particular reason, and the windchimes on the porch are gently swinging.
As I enjoy the sounds of this country town, my thoughts have been with the year that is about to close, and how I want to mark the occasion. There are years that I’m glad to see the back of, years that I’m sorry to say good-bye to, but whatever the case, another year passing is always tinged with some regret of ‘another year over, another year older,’ as well as some hopeful anticipation for the year to come.
At the end of this year of 2017 I am reflecting predominantly on events and circumstances that have made this year particularly difficult. While it would be easy to say ‘good riddance to 2017, bring on 2018’ I am approaching the ending differently from my usual way of farewelling another year.
My shift in attitude is largely attributable to a book I have recently re-read called “NAIKAN; Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection” by Gregg Krech.
It is a book that fundamentally asks three questions for us to ponder when we reflect. These are:
• What have I received from……….?
• What have I given to……….÷
• What troubles and difficulties have I caused……….?
In each case the name at the end is the same. And, of course, we all have more than one person in our life of whom we can ask these questions.
The last question is the most challenging. As a Gestalt therapist I know that we all do our absolute best in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Our intentions are rarely, if ever, to inconvenience or hurt another human being, or animal. But sometimes and inadvertently we do. A very simple example is when I recently went to the local, independently run supermarket. The assistant was restocking shelves at the top of a ladder. I asked from my position on the ground where an item was. She generously came down and helped me find it. Yes, it was her job and, yes I interrupted her regardless. I am grateful for her care.
Paradoxically, as I have worked through these questions quietly and reflectively with a couple of different people in mind (the list is long over a 365 day period), I have begun to feel immense gratitude for my life, for those people who have put themselves out for me, for circumstances that could never have occurred without the world rising up to meet my needs, and how often I have taken this for granted.
And so, as we end 2017, I very genuinely wish you all the best for 2018 and in the words of the old Irish blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields.
If you are interested in reading more about Naikan, you can find information here