Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana Meditation

vipassana

Vipassana is translated by some Buddhist teachers as “insight meditation”.  This is a practice that is common in both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism (in Sanskrit it is written as vipashyana) and is a practice that is consistent with the teachings of the Buddha.

Etymology

The word vipassana consists of two components, the pref-fix “vi-“ which means “ through” and the word passana means “to see” or “to perceive”.  So when you put the two together you get a translation of “to see through” to “see into” the nature of the self and of reality itself.

History

Vipassana wasn’t always widely taught in the Theravada tradition, and was reintroduced by Theravadan Buddhist monks Ledi Sayadaw and Mogok Sayadaw in the late 19th century who described it as “mindfulness of breathing and thoughts, feeling, and actions which are used to gain insight into the true nature of reality”.  It was also taught and popularized by Satya Narayan Goenka and Mahasi Sayadaw.

Contemporary teachers of vipassana include Tara Brach, Joseph Goldstein, Gil Fronsdal, Sharon Salzberg, Ruth Denison and Jack Kornfield.  Basically Vipassana is where the whole “mindfulness” trend has its origin.

How to Practice Vipassana Meditation

  1. Sit comfortably in a cross legged position (if you are unable to do this for whatever reason, then sit in a chair)
  2. Sit straight but not unnaturally straight, in a balanced position
  3. Close your eyes and repeat to yourself “May I be happy and free from suffering”
  4. Focus your awareness on feeling your breath moving in and out of your nose
  5. Now mentally note “breathing in” and “breathing out” with every breath

At this point you’ll find that various sensations and thoughts arise in our body-mind.  Let them go, let them arise and pass away naturally.  Don’t push anything away and try not to cling to anything.vipassana

  1. Move your attention to other parts of your body beginning with the navel, and pay attention to any tension in your body and breath into that area exploring the tightness, gently dissolving the tension
  2. Thoughts and sensations arise. Notice them, acknowledge them, but don’t identify with them, let them rise and pass away kind of like bubbles.  Then return your attention to your breathing.  Breathe evenly, don’t force it.
  3. Remain mindful of your body. Some muscles will tense up, and it’s important that you allow this to happen while breathing into it and visualizing that the tension is beginning to dissolve with every breath.

You can do this practice for as long as you’d like and it’s a great opportunity to see for yourself how everything is impermanent, constantly arising and passing away and arising again.

These instructions constitute a basic Vipassana meditation practice and I’ve also included a few videos if you prefer to follow allow with a guided meditation.

Conclusion

Vipassana meditation is a great practice for stress relief, concentration improvement, and for one’s health in general.  This practice is the basis of most modern mindfulness meditation practices that you find out there on the market.  I do this meditation as part of my daily practice, especially in the morning and it helps me deal with both physical and mental symptoms that might arise.


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10 Responses to Vipassana Meditation

  1. Rodney says:

    Thank you for your post on Vipassana mediation. It is good to learn about how people try to relive stress etc.

    You say this is a great practice for stress relief, concentration improvement, and for one’s health in general. How different is this from yoga?

    Also, I am assuming this mediation has a spiritual basis, right? Can you elaborate? Thanks.

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Rodney,
      Yoga is the art of mixing movement with breath and the practitioner gains body awareness that way and not really about self-inquiry. The meditation certainly does have a spiritual basis in Buddhism and when we can treat ourselves with compassion during this meditation then we are more likely to be more compassionate to others. I hope that answers your question.

  2. Matt says:

    Very interesting and very informative – thank you! It’s great to learn something new especially when it has to do with anything spiritual 🙂 I was actually wondering the same thing as Rodney – What’s the difference between Vipassana & Yoga? Thanks again! I’ll be sharing this with my mother who is very into this sort of thing.

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Matt,
      Thanks for the comment! Vipassana is an insight meditation practice while yoga involves adopting various poses called asanas. Both involve being aware of the body but in different ways.

  3. Jose says:

    Hey thanks for this article, it’s very informative and useful. I was wondering if instead of meditating sitting down I could do it laying down on the bed, or is it too relaxing that it’ll cause me to fall asleep. I always meditate laying down and was wondering if it’s the right way or if I should do it in a sitting position?
    Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Jose,
      It is generally advised to do your meditation in a sitting position, otherwise you might fall asleep if you lay down on your back. I find that I’m more aware of the tension in my body when I’m sitting up. When I’m laying down, I tend to get absorbed in my own thoughts and lose contact with my body.

  4. King of Rage says:

    Someone just recommended that I start doing meditation. I never meditated before so I’m glad that I found your site! As I was reading the instructions, I was thinking “I should record my voice and read these out loud” then I scroll down and see the videos. Good job! Now I can just put that on repeat.

    I can’t wait to see how I feel after trying this out. Thanks for posting!

  5. Bimmerguy says:

    My wife and I engage in Yoga and Meditation on a regular basis. However, I have never heard of Vipassana Meditation. This looks like something very interesting that I’d like to try out. I’ve printed out the instructions listed on your page and will go through them with my wife over the weekend. Thank you for exposing me to this new type of meditation!

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