How Can I Learn More?

Two-way sign.

Methods of Japanese Psychology are very different from most traditional Western methods. This is particularly true when we consider how we can successfully make changes in our lives. From a Western viewpoint there is usually a great deal of emphasis placed on “understanding.” The ideas is often that through insight or understanding we will automatically change how we are and how we live.

Though insight and understanding are useful elements of the change process, the approach offered by Japanese methods differs in that we change how we are through “training.” To understand this we should look at the difference between Trying vs Training.

Trying vs Training

My young daughters and I are taking violin lessons using a method of instruction developed by Shinichi Suzuki. It is sometimes called Suzuki training or Talent Education. Suppose I would like to play Minuet in G by Beethoven. At this moment, if I were to take out my violin and “try” to play this piece of music it would sound awful. I have only taken ten lessons and I am working on playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. If I want to be able to play the Beethoven piece I have to train myself to play it. This involves practice - lots of practice. Regular practice. It involves making mistakes and learning from my mistakes. Ultimately I want my body to know how to play this music. In Japanese, there is a term - taiken. This means something like “body knowledge.” When we know how to do something well we don't have to think about it - our body just naturally does it. Activities like typing, swimming, driving a manual shift car, riding a bike - these are activities our bodies have learned and the knowledge of how to do them becomes grounded in our body/mind.

The biggest mistake people make in counseling/therapy is the idea that we can change without training - that trying is enough. Instead we should think of changing by training. That means practice. If you want to play the violin you learn to play by playing. If you want to learn to focus your attention more effectively you learn to work with your attention by . . . . . . working with your attention. If you want to cultivate gratitude you learn by engaging in self-reflection (Naikan).

Here are some ideas of concrete steps you can take to learn more about how to apply some of the principles of Morita and Naikan therapy to your life:

Expose yourself to the ideas

This involves reading, listening to audio programs, watching videos, or even attending a lecture or presentation. We recommend the following five resources as the best places to begin:

  1. A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness
    by Gregg Krech
  2. The Internet Library of Japanese Psychology and Purposeful Living
    sponsored by the ToDo Institute
  3. Constructive Living
    by David Reynolds
  4. Life is a Matter of Attention (Audio program on CD)
    by Gregg Krech
  5. Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection
    by Gregg Krech

Do Some of the Exercises

Most of the resources listed above include exercises in areas such as attention, self-reflection and taking action. By doing some of the exercises you can begin to get direct experience with the material.

Take a Distance Learning Program

Distance Learning Programs have the advantage of allowing you to participate in a practice program for one month based on a specific theme. There is an exercise for each day of the month and you have access to an advisor and an email based discussion group. The cost is relatively low and you don't have to travel and can integrate the exercises into your daily life. Read descriptions and view schedules for our Long-Distance Learning Programs.

Find a Teacher or Counselor

If you are fortunate to live in an area where there is someone who has been trained in Morita and Naikan therapies you may have the option of working one-on-one with someone. The ToDo Institute has been conducting certification programs for 16 years and we can provide a referral if you contact. An alternative is to work with someone long-distance - by phone and email. For referral information email us.

Participate in a Residential Program

A residential program of 7-9 days allows you to immerse yourself in learning and practicing these principles under the guidance of trained instructors. Residential programs also provide credits towards certification for those who are interested in providing counseling or help to others. Read about our residential programs.

Continued Practice and Support

Regardless of how well you know and apply these principles it is important to keep up a practice. As with yoga, meditation or martial arts, if you cease practicing you will lose your skill and competence. Our Journal, Thirty Thousand Days: A Journal for Purposeful Living, is an excellent resource for new and related information. The ToDo Institute's Internet Library of Japanese Psychology is regularly updated with new articles. Practice on your own, start or attend a support group, periodically work with an experienced teacher - most importantly, continue to strive to improve your skill, understanding and application of the material.

Use These Tools and Ideas to Help Others

The ToDo Institute's Certification Program is the most comprehensive method of training available in North America. It is both a personal and professional development program that grounds you in the material and gives you resources for working with others. Our ultimate goal is to build a better world by passing on tools that will help people live a more purposeful, mindful and meaningful life.