What Is Vipassana Meditation?
A lot of people have heard of this practice, but many are asking themselves the same thing: What is Vipassana meditation exactly? Vipassana meditation is an easy and useful way to create a peaceful state of mind and help you see things as the way they are, which is the meaning of Vipassana. This form of meditation is the purest form and really helps free our minds from everyday struggles and stresses.
Vipassana is one of India’s oldest meditation practices, brought to life over 2000 years ago by Gotama the Buddha. Centuries after this practice became popular, this technique had vanished from India, until resurrected in 1969 by S.N. Goenka who recently died in 2013. Goenka started teaching this art in India for about 10 years until he took his teachings to many other countries all over the world. Goenka also trained Vipassana meditation teachers all around the world so that this practice will never die.
The best way to experience Vipassana is to take a ten-day course taught by an experienced instructor. During these retreats, participants are to remain silent and have no contact with the outside world. They are even encouraged not to read or write during the trip. In addition to these strict rules, participants are required to meditate for most hours of the day, usually around 13 or more hours with some small breaks in between sessions. You will be instructed on various meditation techniques prior to each day so that you can perform these techniques. These techniques revolve around being content and living in the present. Vipassana meditation teaches us to just observe our bodies and feelings and not to react to them. So while meditating, if you feel an itch on your nose, you are not supposed to react, just wait for the sensation to pass.
Vipassana meditation centers are located all around the world, many of them being in India. Some centers offer shorter courses rather than the common 10-day course. The best part about these centers are that they run on donations only so registration is completely free. Many people do not expect much since they assume they do not have much money, but the centers are usually quite beautiful. In some of our other articles, we detail some of the best centers in various locations. Also, Vipassana meditation is not affiliated with any race or religion, so all people are welcome to learn and practice this art.
Just about everyone who takes this 10-day challenge says it improved their well-being. It helps remove cravings in our life, and makes us learn to enjoy what we have or whatever the current situation is. Several studies have been done in Indian prisons regarding Vipassana meditation. These studies proved that this practice was beneficial for mental health and showed that it was a positive tool in turning criminals into more capable human beings in society.
How To Do Vipassana Meditation
So you want to know how to do Vipassana Meditation? To get the true Vipassana experience, we encourage that you go on a 10-day Vipassana retreat. However, this does not mean that you can’t benefit from what Vipassana has to offer just from your home. By following these simple instructions, you can quickly learn how to do Vipassana meditation and put your mind in a better place.
First, make sure you find a quiet, soothing place. This could either be in your home in a quiet room or outside near a tree. As long as you are comfortable, you are in a good place. Once you have found the perfect spot, make yourself comfortable. You can cross your legs in the traditional meditation position, or if that if not comfortable or you, sit any way you would like. Even laying down or sitting in a chair is acceptable, as long as you are comfortable. However, when you are sitting, try to sit up straight and not hunched over.
Now that you have found a comfortable position in a calm place, you can begin meditating. Close your eyes and begin to put your mind on your breathing. Do not control your breath, just pay attention to your natural breaths. Become aware of the feelings and sensations that arise in your body as you breathe in and out.
Your mind may begin to drift off to other thoughts. Perhaps you will think about your past, or your future. However, Vipassana meditation focuses on living in the present, so we want to acknowledge that these thoughts are happening, but then quickly bring our attention back to our breaths. This may become annoying and seem difficult, but it takes practice. With some many things going on in our lives and so many possibilities and stresses of the future, it is hard to not think about them. Vipassana emancipates our minds from these distractions and helps us learn how to enjoy the “now”.
Vipassana Meditation Technique: Focus On Your Breath
Vipassana meditation is one of the purest forms of meditation. This form of meditation brings the mind to a state where it is detached, yet aware of the thoughts that emerge. Vipassana meditation helps us see the world how it really is. To achieve this level of insight, follow this vipassana meditation technique that focuses on bringing you attention back to your breathing.
When beginning this vipassana meditation technique, it is important to understand that your setting and surroundings set the foundation. It is crucial to find a quiet and calming place, free of any distractions. The next step is to figure out your body language by choosing a way to sit. You can either sit in the “lotus position” which is the typical cross-legged meditative sitting position, or sit comfortably in a chair. You want to sit in a position that will enable you to stay in that position for a long period of time. Try to keep your back straight to make sure you are not slouching. Once seated, allow your eyes to close and let your head fall forward. Be aware of the things going on around you. For instance, your body tension or soft sounds, but do not let these things distract you, just be aware of them.
Breathing and Thinking
This vipassana meditation technique requires us to focus on your breathing. Be aware of when you are breathing in and when you are breathing out. Be aware of your chest and belly moving while you breathe. While you are thinking hard about your breathes, you should find your mind wander off and begin to think about the future or perhaps something that happened in the past. When you reach this phase, bring your attention back to your breathing. Continue to focus on the in breaths and the out breaths. A popular vipassana technique is to continue to ask yourself “Am I breathing?”. While you are in this state, you may feel an itch or a scratch. When this happens, bring your attention to that itch until it passes. Once the itch goes away, bring your attention back to your breathing. No matter where your mind goes, it is imperative to bring it back to your breath.
Although you continue to focus on your breath, you do not want to control your breath or do a breathing exercise. You want to focus on your natural breath. Focus on the way the breaths come in and go out naturally.
Observe, Don’t React
Aside from the breathing technique, another important vipassana meditation technique is to observe sensations without reacting to them. This is what we were talking about when we mentioned the itch. The itch is a sensation, and usually we react to sensations, in this case by scratching it. However, vipassana meditation teaches us to observe and take note of these sensations without reacting to them. Let your emotions, both painful and pleasurable emotions, come and go without reacting to them. You will realize that nothing is everything is temporary, and things will pass even if you do not react to them. With enough of these experiences, one can change the habit of reacting blindly.
Another benefit of practicing Vipassana meditation is it helps us learn not to react to sensations, and realize that these feelings will pass with time. For instance, if you are meditating and you feel a tickle on your foot, you will want to observe this sensation, then quickly put your mind back to your breathing. Soon enough, this sensation will drift away.
To meditate, you do not have to sit still for an hour or 30 minutes, or any set amount of time. Choose the amount of time that is right for you, even if it is only a few minutes. I began meditating only a few minutes a day and worked my time up each week. Now it is easy for me to sit still for 30 minutes or so.
Vipassana videos that you can refer to to practice the right method of the meditation.