Vipassana is a Pali word that means “to see things as they really are”, and that is the goal of this Indian meditation. Because of this, Vipassana meditation is often known in English simply as “self- insight meditation”. The meditation form derives its benefits from an inward turning of the attention, which is trained to view all internal sensations with equanimity or non-judgement. Vipassana meditation then allows us increasing freedom from the uncontrolled impulses of the body and mind, state teachers such as S. R. Goenka of the Sayagyi U Ba Khin tradition. In this way, Goenka states, Vipassana meditation allows us to understand the nature of what originates and goes beyond both the body and the mind.
Vipassana meditation is said to be the meditation which the Buddha rediscovered and used to reach Nirvana. It’s not limited to any one tradition, however, and its principles may be found in Hindu schools of meditation and in contemporary spiritual works such as The Power of Now. In its purest form, Vipassana could be said to be any meditation which aims at self-insight.
Vipassana meditation schools are found worldwide, a testament to its universal appeal.
The Benefits of Vipassana Meditation
The benefits of Vipassana meditation are not just limited to those people whose personal beliefs include the concept of Nirvana. Government officials who practised Vipassana meditation were shown to have improved levels of Subjective Well Being (an established psychological measure) and Occupational Stress, according to studies that were performed in 2001 and 2002. For both metrics, greater benefits were measured in those who had spent a greater number of years practising regular Vipassana meditation.
Those who perform Vipassana regularly often report that it results in a calmer mind, more clarity of thought, more positive emotions, and a greater sense of happiness in general. As Vipassana meditation helps you focus peacefully on your surroundings, those who practise it often report getting more pleasure out of their daily experiences, even simple activities such as doing the housework.
How To Do Vipassana Meditation
In order to learn to do Vipassana meditation fully, it’s advisable to read a good book on meditation theory. Recommended books include the contemporary bestseller “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, and “True Meditation” by the Zen teacher Adyashanti.
Now that you have learnt the foundation principles of Vipassana Meditation, you can create a daily practise. Consistency in your practise of Vipassana meditation is more important than quantity. It’s advisable to find a comfortable length of time for your daily practise of Vipassana and stick with it.
As you will learn in your meditation book, your Vipassana practise should start with breath-awareness meditation to root your attention in the present moment. Rooting your attention is a practise that requires discipline as the mind has a natural tendency to go off in all directions and not to settle in the here and now.
To practise rooting your attention, choose any meditation position that is comfortable and not distracting to you, and direct your attention towards your breath. As thoughts come up, gently and firmly return your attention to your breath.
Try not to keep track of your successes and failures in thinking or not thinking as this is a sure way to get frustrated; instead, try to see consistency of practise as a success in itself. If you maintain consistency, slowly but surely you’ll notice a wide variety of benefits appear in your day-to-day life.
As your attention becomes more rooted in the here and now, you will be able to find benefit in self insight meditation. Transition in your meditation from a focus on your breath to a generalised inward focus without thinking. Feel the energy on the inside of your body and allow your attention to rest in it. As you move your attention and energy inwards, release yourself into a profound sense of allowing everything you find to be as it is. This is a deeply healing state.
A personal practise is excellent and vital in the case of Vipassana meditation, but it’s also worth looking for one of the many worldwide Vipassana retreats you can attend for free. A ten-day course allows you to go much deeper than you would in a normal day’s practise, and can be a great boost to start off a lifetime Vipassana meditation practise on the right track.
However you choose to do Vipassana meditation, its practise could become a cornerstone of your life. Its benefits have the power to affect you so deeply that you may one day wonder how you ever lived without it.