loving kindness

With the COVID virus, shootings, loss of jobs, and closure of local businesses, these are truly difficult times. So many are dealing with losses of loved ones to their own physical capabilities due to age or illness. The ongoing dramatic events and societal changes have left many of us that the rug is being pulled out from under us. We have lost what we called our everyday reality. Frustration arises when we notice how the conditions we face are not what we designed and not what we wanted. No wonder so many of us are feeling overwhelmed. How do we live with feelings of loss, anxiety, and just being overwhelmed?

Notice the Sensations

The first step is to notice how our feelings are always arising and ceasing. If we take a moment to notice the sensations that they cause in the body, we shift our attention to impacts instead of internal dialogue. It is the internal dialogue that leads to judging a situation and often before we have all the information. An example of how to avoid the judgment trip is to notice when experiencing along with an emotion, the tightening of muscles in our gut. We can notice the sensation and given that it is associated with a particular feeding, we might tell ourselves, “I know this sensation.” After noticing the tension in the shoulders, clenching hands, or other condition in our body, we can simply breathe in and as we breathe out, can send loving-kindness to that spot.

With such a practice we can experience what we are feeling instead of letting it carry us away. We can listen to our bodies. Then with a few deep breaths, we can send loving-kindness to places where we hold tension. Noticing the feelings as sensations and dealing with the sensations takes us out of our head.

Ask Questions

However, there are those times when our emotions are so strong, they grab hold of our thoughts and lead us around. In such situations, we are no longer using logic as a resource and allowing our emotions to lead us into labeling. We find ourselves calling feelings, actions, and ideas as good or bad. Such labeling may pull us into blaming and shaming self or others. At that point, our attention is only on our feelings and judgments. Even in the midst of such turmoil, we still can make a choice.

We can stop and assess whether we want to follow through on the actions we are contemplating. To do so we want to listen to advisors other than just our emotions. Doing so, we begin listening to our intellect, our body, and our spirit as well as our emotions. Many advisors give us the opportunity to assess how we are feeling and the causes of some of our conditions. Instead of judging the feelings or emotions we are experiencing, we can notice them, and then using input from an analytical mind and a sensing body, we can ask ourselves, “Does this (name of emotion or feeling being experienced) help or cause harm to me and others? Doing so we can consciously place our attention on thoughts, feelings, and actions that are beneficial instead of harmful.

By asking questions, we can take a break from the internal dialogue led by destructive emotions such as anger or fear. It only takes a few seconds to ask ourselves if we are feeling challenged or threatened. During the moment of contemplating the question, “Am I feeling challenged?” we can use our thoughts to assess how we want to respond. Sometimes, we might determine that we are being threatened. In such situations, the best course of action might be to leave the situation or do nothing. Other times we might notice that we are playing a tape from experiences we had in a prior lifetime. In such cases, we may want to discuss with others around us what they see happening. Asking questions of self and others around us gives us views to consider in addition to the feelings and body sensations we are experiencing.

Choose How to Respond

Anxiety in these pandemic times is not the problem. Anxiety is a normal human condition. A typical one is how we respond to inter-office communications. I had one recently where I wanted to fire off a response to a fellow employee. I wrote up my response. Then I went and had some coffee. After sitting down and looking at my email, I decided it was to the point but would not change anyone’s opinion. Also, it would further an ongoing debate. I deleted and never sent the email. I even then found a way to thank the fellow employee for something he was doing that I did appreciate. What I was able to remember was that I do have a choice about how I respond to my frustrations, anger, etc. Sometimes, I can even find a way to respond with kindness.

Find moments in your day to respond with calm pleasure …. unless you prefer otherwise.


During these times, many of us are feeling a bit lost, if not confused.  We listen to stories or watch videos of events that stop us cold. As we watch events such as those with George Floyd or the police officers killed at the capitol, we realize how easily events in life can rise up and destroy. How can we feel calm again? How do we get through the day, when so much of life is beyond our control?

What we might try is accepting. Accepting doesn’t mean you have to like or approve of what’s happening. It is more of an exercise of exploring or noticing what is happening. Such an approach includes accepting who we are instead of getting in a dialogue with our own projections. Doing so we notice when anger and confusion rise up. We understand they might carry us in directions we do not want to go.  When we find ourselves sitting up at night wondering and replaying our worries and fears, we do have options.

We can use the same mental techniques that left us tired and spent to open our hearts and reclaim peace. The time we used creating a Plan B for bad and horrible outcomes, can also be used to generate a Plan A – for the acceptable and inspirational possibilities. Worst-case scenarios are so powerful because we KNOW what can create the worst case. We then use that ‘what’ to visualize the horrible outcomes. That is why dwelling on such fears can be so powerful. Fears are emotions and often arise from dwelling on thoughts and emotions.

We can use the same approach to visualize a best-case or even a good-case scenario. Of course, we cannot bring those killed back to life. However, we can think thoughts or take actions that put a smile on our face or another’s. We can reach out with calls or volunteer time to support those impacted by the deaths. We can use our time to connect with life instead of dwelling on fears that keep us locked up inside our emotions and thoughts.

You can make this shift by contemplating something positive you KNOW can happen. You might visualize how a colorful card inspires a relative or friend you haven’t been in touch to give you a call.  Maybe you make a donation to a relief fund or attend a vigil to warm your heart. The practice is shifting the focus to accepting what is and then working with that. 

Although you cannot bring someone back from the dead, you can send a card of sympathy or make a donation to charity in someone’s name.

By accepting and working with what is, we practice noticing and connecting. We make conscious choices about where we direct our thoughts. We choose how to collaborate with events in our lives. When in the midst of what feels like chaos, we can use our thoughts, words, and deeds to engage in ways that add peace, if only for a moment. 



Peace is Attainable

Peace can be elusive in these pandemic times.  The news reports that the United States will have tens of millions of vaccine doses to distribute this winter. And yet, anxiety and worry settle back down around us. When will the vaccines be available? Who will get them? How much does the storage equipment cost?  But did we take time to celebrate the scientists that created the vaccines or those brave souls that volunteered for the vaccine trials that we might be safe? Instead, our attention went back to frustration or the politics of wearing masks, hand sanitizing, and social distancing.

How do we find peace of mind in the midst of all this anxiety? I suggest two techniques. One is remembering interconnectedness and the second is practicing gratitude. 


Interconnectedness is key because in actuality we exist because of it. We just think we are independent and separate.  Our biological mother and father made us who we are and passed on their DNA which combined to become ours.   We cannot hide from our DNA. Science is even explaining how the bond between nature and nurture travels through time.  As explained by scientists for the past ten years, the effects of trauma can be passed on in the genes.  As Andy Coghlan explained in New Scientist, “genes chemically silenced by stress during life have been shown to remain silenced in eggs and sperm, allowing the effect to be passed down to the next generation.

The good news is the behavioral traits in our genes are only a predisposition, not a life sentence. We can and do change as we age. Even “hotheads”, those quick to anger, can change. Such behaviors, even if passed down in the genes can be changed. We can transform reflexive behavior like anger into a practice that relieves stress and anxiety.


Practicing gratitude helps us relieve anxiety. Everything we encounter can be used to further our gratitude practice. Being grateful for our friends and even physical objects can help us transform our inner anxiety. Reach out and touch a desk or even our coffee cups when the news or people around us start dragging us down. Take a moment to ask, who made this computer, the desk, or the coffee and appreciate their efforts. 

Questions For Reflection

One form of gratitude practice is Naikan, or reflecting inward. Naikan is a Japanese word that means “looking inside” and refers to a practice of self-reflection based on three questions: 

  • What did I receive? 
  • What did I give? 
  • What troubles and difficulties did I cause?  

Reflecting on our response to these questions will give us a deeper appreciation of the world around us. As Gregg Krech, Executive Director of the ToDo Institute, explains in his book: Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection, “We hurry through our day giving little attention to all the ‘little’ things we are receiving. But are these things really little? … They only seem so because, while we are being supported, our attention is elsewhere.” Habitually, our attention may drift to what we lack or dislike. We may become judgemental. Yet, with these simple questions, we return our attention to what we have received from others and awaken to our dependency on others. 

Naikan’s three questions are used as a self-reflection exercise to help us remember some of the people, things, and places involved in simple events.  For example, purchasing vegetables at the grocery caused me to just sit back and reflect. After a few moments, I was overwhelmed by all the beings and people who had made such a simple event possible.

Practice Gratitude

Sitting with gratitude will put a smile on your face. Being physically isolated does not mean you are alone. Appreciate your connections. Reach out and call a friend or relative. You might even send a note to a loved one.  You might leave a card on the door of a neighbor.  Thank those who help you live your life such as grocery store clerks and the drivers who pick up your garbage. Expressing your gratitude to your pets, whether a cat, dog or another animal will be richly rewarded. Even plants respond to kindness.  Watch a wilted one perk up when you water it!

Take a moment to breathe in and breathe out, notice some objects around you, and be grateful for all the causes and conditions that made your moment possible.  In that precious moment, enjoy peace.


Self Reflection

  • “Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
Elder Kindness

During this pandemic with such a focus on ‘distancing’, how do we connect?  How do we build relationships when society tells us, do not touch, do not sing, and most of all do not hug? Although at times it feels as though the world is falling apart, my experience has shown me that in the midst of chaos, compassion still flows. 

In these stressful times, it is easy to become trapped by our own judgments. When looking for our expectations, we can miss Compassion when it arrives in strange and wondrous forms. A technique for stepping outside the spiral of ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ thinking is curiosity. Being curious helps keep the heart open. It is in those moments of an exploring mind-heart that  Compassion sneaks in. Although it may not be in the form or shape we expect, it arrives. It can do so even in everyday interactions as it did for me recently.

Wanting to visit relatives dealing with terminal conditions despite the pandemic, I booked flights and a rental car with some trepidation. The day before departure I realized that a midsized car was not going to provide the room needed for us to drive two elders with their health aide, a wheelchair,  and a walker. The blow to me was the matter-of-fact voice of the car rental agent explaining to me that because I had paid through a travel service, I would have to go back online, cancel and reserve a new vehicle as well as pay change fees. 

As I dejectedly said, “OK”,  the agent asked why I needed to switch vehicles. His question led to a discussion about the sadness that goes with the appreciation of being able to make one last in-person visit to a loved one. We connected as he said, “I know what you are going through because I’m experiencing it too.”  He ended our call by telling me not to make any calls or go online. He told me to show up and expect a minivan waiting for us. Compassion had arrived in the form of a young man working at a rental car agency. Being open with my sadness had led to a connection with kindness.

Staying open is a way to receive and share kindness. Take a moment to step outside and breathe. Notice the trees or some plants. Thank them for breathing out oxygen for you. When at the grocery store, you might stand in the florist department. For a moment experience the array of colors shared by the flowers. Thank the clerks for setting out beauty for shoppers to enjoy. Notice their smiling eyes. We can sense smiles and share gratitude even with masks.

As David Reynolds explains in his Playing Ball on Running Water, “We have nothing but now. That moment and this reality are all that is presented to us for action.” What many Moritist and Gestalt therapists explain is that our actions influence our world. I relearned at recent courses at the Boulder Psychotherapy Institute, how to notice our crazy thoughts and fears instead of acting on them. Making conscious choices we move with purpose to create constructive change in our lives. With open hears we can set aside fears and welcome in the kindness of strangers. We can breathe in the beauty of living beings surrounding us. By doing so, we connect with Compassion.

Zen stones with flower

Carol O’Dowd, MPA, M.Div., CAS, Psychotherapist and Spiritual Counselor
Certified Mindfulness Instructor
Prajna Healing Arts, Inc.

rose with thorns

Longchenpa, a Tibetan teacher holds up for us a challenging path for living in his poem, Meditation on Afflictions. He captures how the challenges we face are truly gifts that guide us to liberation and happiness. His poem asks us to connect with Wisdom-Compassion flowing constantly in our lives, even in strange and wondrous ways.  I hope you enjoy his poem and the translation for ‘Dharma is ‘Truth’.  – Carol


Assailed by afflictions, we discover Dharma and find the way to liberation.  

    Thank you, evil forces!

When sorrows invade the mind, we discover Dharma and find lasting happiness.

    Thank you sorrows!

Through harm caused by spirits, we discover Dharma and find fearlessness. 

    Thank you ghosts and demons!

Through people’s hate, we discover Dharma and find benefits and happiness. 

    Thank you, those who hate us! 

Through cruel adversity, we discover Truth and find the unchanging way. 

    Thank you, adversity! 

Through being impelled to by others, we discover Dharma and find the essential meaning. 

    Thank you, all who drive us on! 

We dedicate our merit to you all, to repay your kindness. 

  – Longchen Rabjampa

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Watching the protests on the news carried me back in time to my protest days in the 70s and the inspiration I gained from Martin Luther King. His teaching, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” is so relevant for these heartbreaking times.

In times of extreme stress, we feel lost and do not know what to do. Although counter-intuitive, when under such pressure is when we need to practice compassion for self and others. Breathing sustains life, but we feel threatened by a killer virus lurking in the air, and the fear of suffocation by those tasked with protecting us. Take a deep breath.

Now is the time to care for self and others. Doing so, we will not fall victim to the anger and violence that hatred spews.

Now is the time to remember we are all human beings doing the best we can, and that includes you and me. As Nelson Mandela so beautifully explained, “No one is born hating another.”  In the memory of George Floyd, we cannot allow hatred and fear to drive our actions. We cannot allow ourselves to be reduced to the kind of cruel behavior that killed him. Instead, we can practice opening open our hearts by welcoming others without labeling or judging.

Oddly enough, it is not a matter of looking for goodness. Goodness can be a judgment that drives our anxiety up when we don’t find it. An alternative is to focus on the question, “what will do no harm?” In stressful situations, that is not an easy task. Yet, as horrific as the killing of George Floyd is, we can honor his life by taking up the challenge to generate solutions instead of more anxiety and fear. We need to look for ways to help, not harm. The problem is that solutions are found by working with those we label as different from us.

As a young war protestor in the early ’70s serving in student government, I got to know many in law enforcement who were truly good people. Several student groups backed by national organizations organized a large rally at our university. I was surprised to learn that many campus security officers feared the potential for violence, as were many of the students. As a student government representative, I helped campus security negotiate a deal with local and state police. If the protestors stayed on campus property and marched on only half of the public street next to the campus, the police would let the event proceed. After negotiating with protest organizers, the march was allowed to continue.

The time was the 70’s, the place was the South, and I was a short white woman 20 years of age. That meant I was just a girl. Yet, I was the one who organized some young men in student government and a few in the criminal justice department who had plans to go into law enforcement. We spaced ourselves out and walked down the centerline of the street as the marching occurred. We yelled at, pleaded with, and pulled on protestors to keep them on the ‘campus’ side. When police officers saw something that caused them to want to approach the protestors, we held up our hands with a firm, “Wait!” and then handled the matter for them. Despite being surrounded by hundreds of people, I remember the march as a lonely one. I and the few men I had gathered to help, walked alone. We walked in an open expanse of the street between protestors who held signs and shouted words of anger on one side and police officers lined up with batons in hand, guns on hips, and hints of fear in their eyes.

As the march ended, dusk had arrived, and student protestors were walking back to their quarters to celebrate getting their speeches in the press. The police began strolling back to cars and vans. Having thanked my crew of march organizers, I turned to walk back to the dorm. Suddenly I found myself surrounded by the head of campus security and several local police officers. Looking up into the faces of these tall and big men, the campus security officer said to me, “Miss, these men would like to speak with you.” All I could think was, “Oh no. What now?” One of the officers stepped out in front of the others, took his cap off, and put in under his arm. As he stated in a firm voice, “Thank you.” the other officers began nodding their heads at me as well. I was truly touched. 

After telling them I was glad I could help, I added a comment about how together we had made sure no one was hurt. Everyone broke into big smiles. During that brief moment, no one was a girl, no one was a cop, and no one was campus security. Instead, we all were grateful human beings happy that we had done no harm.

We all can contribute to peace by not adding to the anger and hatred. Each of us can take responsibility for sharing compassion, and being responsible means being able to respond. We can use a few moments to play with a grandchild, send loving-kindness to all involved in a problematic situation, share a card or take a break from the news to enjoy the sunshine on our face. We all can respond with an open heart. We can reduce our anxiety by shifting our focus to doing no harm. Then might even enjoy a moment by engaging in a random act of kindness on an unsuspecting stranger.    

AcceptingAccepting – A Practice for Managing Anxiety 

How often have you listened to someone tell you, “Just accept ‘it.’ It is what it is.” If the ‘it’ is something painful or even horrible to you, how helpful is such advice? No wonder the result from such information often adds to the feeling of being trapped or overwhelmed by anxiety. The “It” becomes something solid and in control of us as we are frozen by contemplating how to live with it.  For many, the message is to accept that you cannot work, you cannot go out with friends, or for some, your loved one is sick or dying. 

When such conditions are labeled as It, they generate stress and anxiety. In response to all the fear associated with the pandemic, the World Health Organization has created a new diagnosis code for Anxiety Disorder. It designates Code F41.9 as “an unspecified anxiety disorder which is often characterized by anxious feelings or fears often accompanied by physical symptoms associated with anxiety.” The American Medical Association for 2020 uses the ICD-10-CM Diagnosis Code F06.4 for anxiety that goes with medical conditions. 

Such codes are for those with health issues, and high levels of anxiety require medical treatment. General anxiety has become a disease. Most of us would call it dis-ease when dealing with worries about friends and relatives while cooped up in our own homes listening to 24-hours-a-day news about horrific events in the world. As awful as it is to be living in a horror movie, we can change our script. We can do so by treating life as a verb, not a noun. We can practice connecting fully to life by accepting what is as-is. We can remind ourselves that conditions are constantly changing and that there is no it. 

Even your body is changing as you read this. As The New York Public Library’s Science Desk Reference (Stonesong Press, 1995) notes, “There are between 50 and 75 trillion cells in the body… Each type of cell has its life span, and when a human dies, it may take hours or days before all the cells in the body die.” In other words, being a human means, I am a dynamic process, not a static “it.” Occasionally, I look in the mirror and wonder where the young woman with brown hair went, I still prefer to experience life. 

Experiencing life means accepting all of it, not just clinging to what I want the world to be or what I think should be or what I have lost. Accepting life as is can be an exciting practice. We become an explorer, a scientist, or as I like to pretend, a surfer. Having spent time on the beaches of Bali, I use the surfer phrase for accepting. “What’s happenin’ dude?” 

To manage what is happening, I must become aware of the causes and conditions that I see in front of me. Doing so, I am forced to explore what is going on and remember that I am not all-knowing. There are so many events and conditions of which I am unaware. The only state I can control is how I respond. 

Our challenge, like the surfers, is to ride the waves of change. We can step into the day or occurrence with an open heart. We can choose how to deal with a moment. An easy way to practice accepting is to give and receive with an open heart. 

Some simple techniques include:

  • Be kind toward self by noticing frustration and fears as part of the human condition without reacting;
  • Choose what to listen to during the day. “Yep, here is all the news about the cases of and deaths due to the virus, again. I will listen to some music instead.” 
  • I’m feeling down; I will go outside and experience sunshine. (or rain, or wind by standing outside or sticking head out of the window and notice body sensations);
  • Watch a comedy before going to bed;
  • Play a puzzle or an online game that is calming; 
  • Take a walk and experience what you see, smell, hear and touch;  
  • Call a friend;
  • Read something inspiring, calming or fun; 
  • To accept change, I will (wear a mask, drop off food at a nursing home, send my grandchildren funny cards, etc.) 

The pandemic will eventually be a part of history. Let’s write our history by creating the story we want to remember. Let’s embrace these changing times by accepting what is and doing what we can to care for ourselves and others. Remember, laughter is healing for body and soul. 


Social Distancing
Healthy Friendliness

During this pandemic amidst so much angst, worry and anxiety, we are told to practice ‘social distancing’. Reflecting upon what the term means, I asked, Is the United States socially distant from Iran? My immediate response was, Of course!” Then I was asked, Is the United States socially distant from Australia? My response was an immediate, No! I do not need to see or even hear my Australian acquaintances to know they are part of my life. Yet Australia is much further away from the United States than Iran is. Iran is 6,327 miles away while Australia is 9,437 miles away from the US. How interesting that I perceive a nation ‘closer’ to the United States than one that is not as physically distant.   

During this pandemic, ‘social distancing’ has become a term for maintaining a safe physical distance. Yet the ultimate practice of social distance is isolation which for many generates stress, worry, and even depression. Prior to the virus, we knew how to socially distance someone while standing right next to them.  No wonder anxiety levels are up.

I am not suggesting to stop the critical health practice of physical distancing.  Unless we are a suited-up health professional, it is best to stay out of the range of people who are sneezing, coughing and those we know who have the virus. However, when physically distant, we do not have to remain socially distant from each other. The conditions we are facing, more than ever, require us to be socially close while protecting our health.  

I was reminded of this at 8:00 p.m. last Thursday as I stepped outside into the howls piercing the air. Shouts were being shot to the stars from homes as far as I could hear. The cries and hollering felt more like a thunderous chant, “We are here.”  I could only smile at the message of so many was bests wishes to all who could hear. Suddenly my worries of the day were carried away as I stood outside attempting to bay at the moon. As I gave it a half-hearted try with a soft shout, I joined my neighbors and those in nearby neighborhoods. All the human barking as we attempted to mimic wolves and creatures who travel at night reminded me that we are never alone, regardless of the physical distance. 

So let’s practice healthy friendliness. Let’s stay socially close to help protect each other’s health as we keep our physical distance. It makes no sense to physically be with our loved ones if we have been around people who may have been exposed to the COVID19 virus. Instead, we can call them or even stop by to wave through a window. If our loved ones are ill, we need to let them know how better we feel by just hearing their voice or seeing their face. 

Although healthy friendliness requires some flexibility, the return is worth far more than the effort. It was a joy to drop off some food and drawing material for my son and grandchildren. A young friend of my grandson with whom I had a ritual greeting when I visited was ready for me. The routine was for him to run up and punch me. Being only 5 years old, I would punch him back and with laughter slowly fall to the ground. When saying hello after delivering some food to my son, my young friend stared at me through an open door, knowing I could not come inside. Watching his smile turn into a frown, I shook my fist at him and then threw him a punch. He grinned and leaning back gave a swift karate kick at me in the air.  Feigning a severe kick in the gut, I slowly fell down to the laughter of him and his parents. 

We do not need to be physically nearby to create smiles. We can send cards. We can leave gifts on a porch. After a dear friend of mine moved away from Colorado we continued our tradition. After all these years instead of the restaurant where we used to meet, we still find time to share a cup of coffee and chat over the phone instead of a restaurant table. We started the calls to stay close. 

Odd how these times demand us to stay close even while needing to be physically distant. We are being forced to accept what is as-is. Accepting what is as is involves dealing with what is happening, not giving up. It is assessing what causes and conditions are at play without an emotional story. It is a bit like the serenity prayer of Rheinhold Niebuhr asking for the “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.  

Even though we cannot change the past or control the future, we can choose our reaction to the events in motion. After taking note of conditions and circumstances, we can consciously choose how we want to respond. When uneasy or filled with anxiety we can make a choice to respond with friendliness. We can ask a smiling buddy to help by thinking of someone in our life who was always there for us. Remembering someone who stood by us or encouraged us is a way to return to a space of calm. If you can recall their face a smile, you have a smiling buddy with you in your heart. Listen to your smiling buddy and practice some friendliness.  Doing so you can, if only for a moment, relax and just be with what is. Then go about your day asking your smiling buddy how to best care for yourself and others. Then take a moment during the day to practice healthy friendliness.

 – Carol O’Dowd, MPA, M.Div. Mindfulness Instructor/Spiritual Counselor


Small Cabin In VermontSitting on the deck of a small cabin in Vermont, I watched the setting sun on my last evening helping conduct a Naikan retreat at the ToDo Institute. Listening to the crickets begin to sing, I contemplated how the self-reflections participants had shared changed them and me. Preparing for the end of the retreat, I was and remain inspired to say thank you more often for the benefits I receive. Supporting others with intense Naikan practice inspired me to be a bit quicker to share apologies for the difficulties I cause. 

Truth SpaceNaikan, when translated literally, means ‘looking inside’ and sometimes is translated as reflection. On Naikan retreats, participants use a structured process for reflecting upon their life, from birth to the present day for six days or more. Participants sit behind shoji screens that enclose enough space for a couple of cushions, an eating tray, and a notepad for about 10 hours a day practicing Naikan. The cordoned-off area is called a “hoza” or “truth space.” 


The Naikan process was developed in Japan by Ishini Ishimoto to help people leave their anxieties by focusing their attention on gifts received, gifts given and troubles caused. Naikan Self-Reflection by Norimasa Nishida describes the practice as used in different countries. It shares how a Naikan retreat can be life-changing. 


What I found fascinating was how being an interviewer could also be life-altering. Constantly asking myself, how can I support the participants and exploring how I caused difficulties, I did not have time to even contemplate who was at fault for not having tasks done. Instead, it was a practice of searching out how I could help, which is something I take back to my work. The tasks required to support the retreat participants with a constant flow of assignments, interviews and time out in nature fill my six days. 

During the six days, Gregg Krech managed to find time for staff to have a few moments for reflection.  I cherished the opportunity to create a truth space for reflection outside. A small bench surrounded by growing plants and trees set up behind the main house was a place to shift my attention from anxiety to reflection.  It was a space to notice how much of my tensions were focused on what I thought other people might think. I laughed as I realized my worries were often internal dialogues with myself. Shifting to what I received, I began noticing the myriad of causes and conditions that make a moment. It was often humbling. Standing up from my small bench, I thanked the flowers, the bees, the dragonflies and the spreading trees for sharing their beauty.  Gregg and Linda Krech have done so much to have the ToDo Institute host Naikan retreats in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Check out the schedule for Naikan classes and retreats at www.todoinstitute.org 

Todo Institute Retreat Center

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