Insight meditation is a powerful tool!
It will help you to gain a greater understanding of your mind and to cultivate a compassionate acceptance of all things as they are. The teachings, or Dharma, of the Buddha advocate the use of insight meditation, or Vipassana, to achieve a greater depth of clarity and wisdom.
The great part is that you do not need to be familiar with the Buddha’s Dharma in order to reap the benefits of this powerful practice. You can breathe a sigh of relief! You are able to dive straight into the practice without conducting hours of research beforehand.
First, let’s clear up some common misunderstandings. Many people incorrectly assume that the aim of Vipassana meditation is to adopt a certain set of beliefs. Nothing could be less true. The whole point of this type of meditation is to practice mindfulness.
The outcomes should be a sense of calm and insight, which are developed by sustained attention and reflection, respectively. Although this type of meditation is practiced in Buddhism, it does not mean that it can’t be practiced in the context of other belief systems.
Insight meditation is about gaining insight into the nature of your mind.
The emphasis is on enjoying a direct and vital experience. The practice and resultant insight are not linked to theories or opinions. There is something empowering about knowing something for certain, without any room for doubt. You will gain an understanding of things as they are. The key to mindfulness is to develop an awareness of the way things are, but with a sense of loving kindness and compassion rather than judgment.
In order for you to fully immerse yourself in insight meditation, you need to practice it in the appropriate setting. You should be in a place of quiet and calm, devoid of any distractions. A room or space that has light and fresh air is particularly effective as the effect is one of brightening and clearing. If you can, sitting outdoors under a tree is ideal.
For Insight Meditation to work best, be in a place, physically and emotionally, where you can devote your full attention and awareness to the meditative practice.
Practice insight meditation when you don’t feel preoccupied by other things that have to get done in that moment. Although it’s great to feel calm beforehand, practicing this meditation when you are not totally calm is just as beneficial.
If you are feeling agitated or ‘out of sorts’ before you begin the process start here:
- Sit quietly.
- Close your eyes. Ideally you use eye covers.
- Focus your attention on your breathing. Focus solely on the inhalation of air through your nose and exhalation through your mouth.
- As you breathe in, count to 5 and notice any thoughts as they come and go. You do not need to respond to your thoughts in any way; just observe them without judgement.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth, counting to 5. Again, observe your thoughts without judgement. Allow the body to relax into the quiet rhythm of your breath.
The fundamental foundation of Vipassana is practicing sustained attention. The technique that is traditionally used for this is developing an awareness of your body. And we are not talking about the self-conscious awareness of one’s body that seems to plague modern society. You can put the mirror away! The art of sustained attention is usually attained whilst sitting or walking. At first, try to cultivate this in a sitting position.
1. Sit quietly with your legs crossed. Your back should be erect, perpendicular to the floor, but not too stiff. If you have back problems you can adopt a different sitting posture or even use a chair. If you are able to sit upright without additional support, you will find that this will energize your meditation practice.
There are several techniques that you can use to develop an awareness of your body. Find a posture and position that energizes you. If you start to daydream or feel drowsy, you are not going to enjoy the true benefits of insight meditation. Mindfulness is about becoming awake, not falling asleep. As calming as meditation can be, this is not the time to have a nap and catch up on those forty winks.
2. Close your eyes and focus your attention on your belly. Breathe normally and naturally. Notice how your belly expands as you inhale, and contracts as you exhale. Notice all the sensations that accompany the rising and falling of your belly.
3. Other body sensations might become predominant. If this happens, focus on these sensations with the same non-judgemental observation. Give a label to these sensations such as “warmth”, “hardness”, “pressure”, etc.
Once you have settled into the meditative practice, it is natural that your sustained attention will lead to reflection. At first you will experience contemplation. This is the stage when you will get to know and become familiar with your mind in meditation.
4. Your attitude should be one of accepting inquiry and curiosity as you become acquainted with your own mind.
5. It is natural that your mind will start to wander. Focusing your attention back on the rhythm of your breath is another great way to induce a mindful state during meditation. Mindfulness is a sustained inquiry. It is also one of the major keystones of insight meditation.
Then the magic happens! Practicing Vipassana meditation will provide you with personal insights. You will gain a better understanding of your personality and habits. Again, it is not about being critical. Insight meditation emphasizes the importance of patience, forgiveness and tolerance. It is about developing goodwill, not just towards others but towards yourself as well.
6. When you are ready to come out of your meditative state, note your intention to open your eyes. Then slowly open them, focusing on all the sensations. Slowly get up, maintaining your focus on your changing posture and body sensations until you are upright and walking.
The seemingly simple practice of focusing on your breath can be a powerful means by which you can spread kindness and goodwill, starting with yourself and then moving onto others. This kind of meditation is useful in that it can calm you down at the beginning of a meditation practice. But it can also be used to penetrate deep into your heart and yield more powerful healing.
The aim of insight meditation is always to empower you to heal and connect with your spirit. It is not uncommon for those unfamiliar with meditation to feel somewhat uncertain, overwhelmed, or even intimidated by the idea. The best way around this is to participate in guided meditation sessions led by someone who can guide you throughout the process. Places like the Insight Meditation Centre and the Insight Meditation Society (links?) are perfect examples of community-based centers where you can learn all about insight meditation.
Remember, the practice of meditation is something that you learn and develop over time. Devote yourself willingly to this practice, and you will discover insight and an inner calm and peace that will filter into all aspects of your life.
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Author: Esateys Stuchiner
Esateys (pronounced Ee sáh teez) is an International Life Transformational Speaker, Author, Master Facilitator, Life Coach and Expert in the Human condition. She is a Nationally and Board Certified Nurse Practitioner. For over 30 years, she has practiced, taught and lectured extensively in the allopathic and alternative medicine field.
Esateys is known for her groundbreaking work in the areas of personal empowerment and health restoration using mindset and inner connection as the catalyst for all change.
Esateys describes herself as the ‘Architect of the New You’ and has dedicated her life and professional career to helping her clients create “New Beginnings” by facilitating self empowerment, economic freedom and restored health.
For more information, go to esateys.com.