How to Practice Vipassana Meditation
A big leap in the development of your meditation practice lies with vipassana meditation or, as it is sometimes called, insight meditation practice, which is going a bit further from concentrating on the breath.
The general structure of vipassana meditation practice resembles already familiar meditation practice on concentration on breathing.
At Ahimsa Meditation we invite to contemplate on nonviolence, its meaning and how it feels inside of the body. With time, this knowledge becomes more comfortable as we invite to approach it with self-acceptance and curiosity. As a result, these contemplations give way to various insights.
Everyone can deepen their vipassana meditation practice by contemplating such universal truths as impermanence, the importance of letting go of our ego and the existence of never-ending unsatisfactory feelings caused by various desires. These characteristics of our lives are universal because we all experience them. Here at Ahimsa Meditation, we invite everyone to accept them fully.
Here is our step by step guidance on vipassana meditation:
- Find a quiet place and set your alarm for an initial 10 minutes (more if you feel comfortable to start with a longer session).
- Sit cross-legged on a floor (use a mat and a cushion to level your hips with your knees), place your arms on your lap. Only sit on a firm chair if the cross-legged position is very uncomfortable. In general, your posture should be fairly relaxed but not sluggish, so you won’t meditate yourself to sleep. Full lotus is the most stable and firm posture, but you can adopt half-lotus or a simple cross-legged position too.
- Take a few really deep breaths as so other people would be likely to hear you breathing. As a result, it should make you feel relaxed fairly quickly.
- Close your eyes and start paying attention to sounds, smells, your posture, and breathing. Simply make a mental note on what you are observing. No need to judge it or dwell on it.
- Pay attention to how your body feels. Start doing so by scanning your body from top to bottom and notice how even the smallest parts of your body feel. Don’t try to change anything or judge. It’s all good, you are being attentive, that’s it.
- Move the focus of your attention to your breathing. Do not try to change it, just let it be. No judgment, please. Notice where in your body your breathing starts, how it flows and how it ends. To help you settle with this pattern, you can start counting your breaths from 1 to 10 and then revert back to 1.
- If your attention shifts to something else, notice the very fact of this happening and then gently get your mind to count the breaths again and again. These ‘jumps’ happen all the time, so be kind to yourself. The more skillful you become, the less monkey-like your mind learns to be. Yet every single time your mind gets back to counting breaths, it also gets stronger. This, in effect, gives your mind a proper training.
- When you have established a good concentration on your breathing, ask yourself what nonviolence means to you. Is it the millions of saved lives, is it your own better physical and mental health state or something else? Reflect on your thoughts, do not judge them, just contemplate as it is. Look at these questions with curiosity and acceptance. You can ride the wave of nonviolence when it is a storm in your mind, but equally, you can appreciate when your mind is still. Spend as much time as you feel comfortable contemplating peaceful and nonviolent living for yourself, your family, society and all living beings. As a result, your reflections might trigger some emotions in your body. Can you feel them as physical sensations? Note where you feel them and try to make friends with those feelings, they might be both pleasant or disturbing.
- Other important themes of contemplation include an understanding of constant impermanence, non-existence of a fixed self and suffering that arises because we cling to things and do not want to let go. Surely, these themes can further enhance our nonviolence values. We understand how interconnected we all are and how harming others we ultimately harm ourselves. This flow of change and the absence of a fixed self is clearly recognized by noticing our fleeting thoughts and emotions. Simply placing a fix note as ‘there is thinking’ or ‘there is feeling’, no need to judge it or to do anything. They will simply pass as you let go. It is all about cultivating an awareness of reality ‘as it is’.
- Continue for your set amount of time. When finished, allow your mind to rest for 30 seconds with no focus on anything at all. Above all, just observe and let it simply flow.
- Finish by making a mental note of how you feel now and open your eyes. You have just completed an insight meditation session.
Vipassana Meditation: Collect Your Insights
Some people find it useful to get a piece of paper and a pen nearby, so they can write down their insights or simply a flow of thoughts after their meditation practice. Yet this is completely optional. Obviously, such a brain ‘dump’ can sometimes help with either letting go or to develop meta-awareness.
Noting technique is very helpful for those who are just developing their vipassana practice. Every time you are being carried away from breathing by your thoughts and feelings, it is beneficial to make a mental note about it and to put a mark whether that was a feeling or thinking and whether it was positive, negative or neutral. In other words, you are not there to evaluate it, but simply be aware of an underlying feeling or thought processes.
Why Vipassana Practice by Ahimsa Meditation?
Vipassana meditation enables us to realize a very curious paradox in Buddhist psychology: the more fully we can embrace the unhappiness, the deeper and more abiding our sense of well-being. (from Mindfulness and Psychotherapy” 2nd Edition by C. Germer, R. Siegel, P. Fulton.)
In this sense, we are being on the journey for the well-being of ourselves and others through a clearer outlook on reality. Therefore, our meditation practice becomes to look like cleaning the eyes from dust.
There is no right or wrong in meditation practice and there is no aim either. It is a journey for each one of us to cultivate wholesome seeds in our minds. Quite naturally, these seeds will grow and your life becomes calm, kind, peaceful, full of gratitude and virtue.
Similarly, letting go of our ego, ‘specialness’, realizing how impermanent all things are and that we suffer from time to time, allow us to live in true freedom and at home with ourselves and others. In other words, it is a way to true nonviolence that starts from every one of you.
Obviously, the beauty of vipassana is in its simplicity. Nonviolence in the world starts with learning how to be more kind to yourself. Be selfish with allocating time for your meditation practice. Use our downloadable vipassana meditation instructions you can get from our Courses page here.
Know that by learning how to practice vipassana meditation you are working towards a bigger goal of self-improvement and self-realization. In conclusion, you can bring kindness and compassion to the world.