Earlier on, we explored in detail the importance of mindfulness and concentration and how to develop it in our everyday life. Once we are able to concentrate the mind and know how to remain mindful moment to moment, the next and final practice of meditation, which combines together concentration and meditation, is Vipassana meditation, the practice of observing reality as it really is. Today, we discuss what Vipassana is, its transcendental benefits, and how we can cultivate and practice it.
What is Vipassana Meditation?
Vipassana is a meditation technique that focuses on observing the sensations of the body to develop insight into reality as it really is. This practice was discovered 2600 years ago by the Buddha, an Enlightened being, with the aim of completely removing all forms of suffering and mental impurities, believing that by doing so, we are able to realize the eternal peace and joy of Nirvana right here and now.
The reason why one requires concentration and mindfulness to practice Vipassana is that one must utilize a highly focused mind to be mindful of all bodily sensations. Because we store our stress, past experiences, repressed memories, feelings and emotions on our body, by becoming conscious of our bodily sensations, we can learn about them, make peace with them, and penetrate the truth of their intrinsic nature.
Vipassana is a two-fold cultivation of awareness and equanimity, both equally important, like two wings of a bird. Awareness is being able to observe all the different types of sensations such as warmth, pressure, tightness, soreness, pain, itchiness, all good and bad sensations, while equanimity is the ability to maintain balance, stability, and composure of mind, without craving pleasurable sensations or having aversion towards unpleasurable ones.
What is Vipassana Meditation’s Transcendental Benefits?
The cultivation of equanimity is crucial because it allows us to remain unmoved amongst the turbulent nature of our surrounding environment. The thing is, everything we think, feel, and perceive from the outside world creates an impression on our body in the form of sensations, and when we react to external stimuli, we are in actuality responding to our own bodily sensations. By realizing this truth through experiential evidence, we regain total control of our universe by understanding that although we cannot always make peace with people and things, we have the power within to make peace with ourselves. We stop reacting to the external environment, stop complaining about unfavorable situations, and stop blaming other people. Instead, we develop awareness of our internal environment, begin observing to our own feelings, thoughts, and sensations, and take on full responsibility for how we live our lives.
The practice of Vipassana in our everyday lives will enable us to maintain full awareness of our body and mind, observing all feelings and sensations as they come and go. The equanimity we cultivate will allow us to remain composed and unmoved as positive and negative sensations arise and pass away, eventually penetrating the fundamental truth of reality that all phenomena are impermanent. Through Vipassana, we have an experiential understanding that all phenomena, good or bad, is transient in nature and so instead of reacting to everything with our habitual mind, we develop the composure that enables us time to think and respond appropriately. By taking reaction out and replacing it with responding, we give ourselves a better chance of creating positive and healthy relationships with the people around. We also decondition our destructive habits of anger, hatred, jealousy, and violence and replace them with wholesome and virtuous habits such as patience, generosity, joy, and compassion that lead to much happiness now and in the future.
How to Practice Vipassana Meditation
Vipassana meditation, like all other forms of meditation, begins with sitting down comfortably in a quiet place and maintaining a firm and erect spine. It is crucial, like in all meditation practices, to remain completely still, while silencing the mind with conscious breathing.
Once the body and mind are calm and steady, we can begin vipassana by scanning the body slowly, from top to bottom, for sensations. When we observe any type of sensation, we label it for what it is, whether it be warmth, pressure, pain, itch. We remain equanimous and unmoving towards the sensations, and then move on, continuing the scanning of our body. Every time we respond with equanimity, we are cultivating patience, tolerance and will power. For the whole duration of Vipassana meditation, we simply scan the body for sensations with our awareness and respond always with equanimity, neither craving pleasurable sensations not generating aversion towards unpleasurable ones.
It is recommended we practice vipassana meditation at least 15 minutes in the morning and evening every day so that we naturally bring it into our everyday lives. Over time, we will find that our awareness becomes sharper, to the point we can observe even the most subtle sensations and impressions, while our equanimity becomes stronger so that phenomena, good or bad, stop affecting and moving us. When we master Vipassana, we perfect our awareness and equanimity, gain complete mastery of our minds and become the master of our universe.
Vipassana Meditation Training Centers
Vipassana Meditation training centers exist all around the world, free of charge, with the sole purpose of spreading this incredible teaching to everyone. First-time practitioners begin by attending an indepth 10-day course, where you learn the fundamentals of samatha (concentration) and vipassana (insight), develop effective meditation habits, see for yourself the significance of the practice, and leave with confidence knowing how to cultivate it alone forever.
After you attend the free 10-day course, it is natural that you will want to share it with others, support the program, and ensure as many people as possible learn about Vipassana. Then you can donate money if you wish to, volunteer in the kitchen to prepare meals for other practitioners, or just share your experience with others.
For more information, please visit the Vipassana Meditation website
Vipassana Meditation and Body Sensation: Eilona Ariel at TEDxJaffa 2013
In the below short video, Eilona Ariel delivers an enlightening Ted Talk about Vipassana, in a far more articulate and encapsulating manner than what I can do. I highly recommend everyone spare 10 minutes to take a look if you are interested in the science behind Vipassana meditation and its psychological effects on our mind.
How Vipassana leads to Kindness and Happiness
When Vipassana meditation is integrated into our lives, it allows us more capacity to be kind and happy. When we start experiencing all our suffering and discomfort in the form of bodily sensations and realize how difficult they can be to deal with, we begin feeling sympathy towards others who are also going through their own struggles. The difference is that while we have a technique to manage our struggles, which is the cultivation of awareness and equanimity, not everyone understands Vipassana, and so do not know the causes of their suffering and how to manage it. When we have taken responsibility for our lives and have relinquished all blame and complain, we are in a better position to practice kindness and help others remove suffering from its roots.
The happiness that we experience from the practice is indescribable because as we liberate ourselves from suffering, joy and happiness naturally flow into our lives. Peace is merely the absence of suffering and is the highest form of happiness because it is pure and unconditioned. When we practice Vipassana, the causes of suffering are removed at its roots, and so the peaceful quality of our inherent nature inevitably resurfaces. By practicing Vipassana, we are on the path to Enlightenment, which means becoming the best version of ourself we can be.
May we all realize the importance of this transcendental meditation practice, experience all the supernatural benefits for ourselves, and then share it with everyone around so we can all live together in joy and peace.
Thanks for reading 😊