The healing method, known as Naikan, is a close cousin of Zen. The potential of Naikan as a therapy has been unknown to the West, although the healing center of Shinkō Ōyama and other healing centers in Japan have already catered for the needs of foreign visitors, including researchers who are not familiar with Japanese culture and the language.
For most of us who grew up in the West, it is difficult to imagine that something like meditation or reflection can actually heal or alleviate human suffering like stress, depression, eating disorders and panic attacks.
Naikan is different from Zen, because it uses a room divider or partition to create seclusion for indoor meditation. Zen can be practiced in groups. The participants can see each other sitting and meditating in the same room. By contrast, in Naikan, you are alone: usually, a Naikan session takes place in a quiet room with a single participant sitting continuously for seven consecutive days. It’s a staff-assisted retreat with meals and boarding provided. Ōyama’s book is about what people go through psychologically during the seven-day retreat. It is quite an odyssey.
The practice of Naikan aims to awaken the natural healing power of the human memory. The outcome of Naikan is not determined by the participant’s background: age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, and social status do not make a difference.
The healing process is about delving into our past and rejuvenating our perception of what has happened. It encourages us to meditate on our mothers. Unless we remove all our hang-ups about our upbringing, especially as regards the relationship between us and our biological mothers, we cannot expect any positive outcomes from any therapy. This point has been recognized by the Japanese medical profession.
In Naikan, healing, including the significant reduction of emotional suffering, seems to take place, not because of what has already happened, but from the rebirth of one’s perception.
This is what Shinkō Ōyama says in his book:
“Close your eyes for a while and take three deep breaths. Picture yourself and your mother together during your childhood. Imagine a time when you were bathed in your mother’s love. It was a time when you felt protected and cared for. Try to apply this love to your everyday living.”
This is easier said than done; hence the necessity of the book.