What Is Vipassana or Insight Meditation?
A practice used as part of several retreats in Serendipity Institute
Vipassana (Insight Meditation) is the ultimate expression of Socrates’ dictum, “know thyself.” It means to see things as they really are and it is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. Vipassana is a pre-Buddhist meditation technique that was revitalized and popularized by Gautama Buddha 2,500 years ago and has been handed down, to the present day, by an unbroken chain of teachers.
The Buddha discovered that the cause of suffering can actually be erased when we see our true nature. This is a radical insight. It means that our happiness does not depend on manipulating the external world. We only have to see ourselves clearly which is a much easier proposition.
It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition it. In this self-exploratory journey, the scientific laws that operate your thoughts, feelings, judgments and sensations become clear. Through direct experience, the nature of how you grow or regress, how you produce suffering or free yourself from suffering is understood. Life has a new aroma of increased awareness, non-delusion, self-control and peace.
What are the benefits of Vipassana Meditation?
Vipassana meditation has a lot and profound benefits; specifically it helps you to:
- Slow down the rhythm that your mind and body work in your everyday life.
- Get Clarity on Your Life. You are going to have a completely different realization about what is going on in your life at the time. You will get a wisdom that will follow you as a shadow in your life. At the end of the Vipassana experience you will have a new best friend: yourself!
- Cure Yourself of Boredom. At the first steps of the meditation, you will get bored. But then you’ll find your way through the boredom to curiosity about what is happening each moment in your mind, body, and surroundings.
- Master your Body. One of the first observations you’ll make as you sit in silence is how inclined you are to avoid pain or discomfort of any kind. Learning to stay with your body discomfort has immense benefits for your everyday life. You will no longer let the discomfort control you. You will realize that you may choose how you respond to it.
- Make Friends With Your Suffering. You will learn to sit with your psychological pain. You will learn that there is no need to let your emotional pain own you; you can control it. You can take a step back, observe it from a neutral position, and breathe, knowing that it won’t stick around forever.
- Practice Mindful Eating. You learn to enjoy a meal without any distractions. Just you and your food. You realize that if you ate like this all the time, not only would you enjoy your food more, but also as a side benefit, you’d probably lose weight!
- Get a Natural High. You are going to experience this rushing, tingling, all-absorbing feeling of bliss that will overcome you at some point during the days of silence.
- Fall In Love With Planet Earth. You will be back in touch with your interconnection to this living planet. On your meditative walks you are going to find a lot of times yourself overwhelmed by the beauty of your surroundings. You will experience maybe for the first time since you were a kid that there is no barrier of thought or judgment between you and what you observe.
- Feel Love For All Beings. Practicing loving-kindness meditation, a part of vipassana meditation, you will move into a new position of radiating love and forgiving yourself; and then radiating love on your loved ones; and then radiating sweet, pure, free-flowing, vast love for all beings!
- Be Your Own Master. Whatever happens, you will survive it. And when you come out the other side, you will feel a tremendous sense of freedom. You will really know in your heart, that you are your own master. This practice is simply about you learning to tame your own wild mind. How incredibly liberating is that?
How does it work?
In any type of meditation we have to give the mind something to focus on. This “something” is called the “meditation object.” In vipassana practice the only appropriate objects are those which occur in the present moment. Sometimes we generate these objects deliberately, as the hand motions. Sometimes we merely observe what occurs naturally, such as the abdominal movements that happen when we breathe. To know an object during vipassana meditation means to experience it with bare, nonverbal awareness.
The instructions, given by the facilitator, are straightforward: observe your breath for two days and then observe your body for five. Simple, the way instructions for running a marathon can be made reductively simple: take a step or two; continue for 27 miles in a speedy fashion…
The technique is taught at residential courses as a part of Serendipity’s Silent Retreats. During the retreat you are going to learn the basics of the method practicing sufficiently breathing meditation, walking meditation and silent sitting meditation, and experiencing its beneficial results.