Vipassana is an ancient meditation method that was brought to us by Gautama Buddha more than 2500 years ago. It had existed in India before Him and so He is credited with rediscovering it.
It is an observation-based, self-exploratory practice that is used to journey to the common root of mind and body. It claims to dissolve mental impurities, resulting in a balanced mind filled with love and compassion.
Vipassana is also known as insight meditation and it means ‘to see things as they really are.’ In its practice of self-observation, it leads us to clear seeing or insight, with a clear view or awareness of exactly what is happening as it happens, to us and within us.
Vipassana was taught by the Buddha as a universal remedy for universal ills, and to practice this technique we would be watching our sensations and thoughts in this practice of observation. It ties us into our overall life experience and that is what we want to focus on to become more aware.
Practicing Vipassana Meditation
This practice was handed down from the great Gautama Buddha and in the text The Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha’s original discourse on mindfulness, He suggests that we begin our meditation with the watching of the breath.
The breath is constant and ever present so in meditation it is something we can count on. Watching the breath builds focus and as you watch it it tends to calm down.
The ancient scripture tells us that, when the breath is calm, soon the mind becomes calm. If we can help the mind get into a calm, even mode and proceed in a fluid way then we have a great start on meditation.
Vipassana has its own methods but it likes to start out with the breath focus which puts us on a good track for starters.
More On Vipassana
After the breath is calm, or at least watched for awhile, we can proceed to the process of self observation. We have mentioned the observance of sensations and thoughts and a couple of methods are offered to accomplish this task.
With self observation methods the seeker is taught to observe aspects of his own existence, building both attention and concentration while looking at his own flowing life experience.
A big part of the insight focus is paying attention, which can be done with both sensations and thoughts. It is primarily done through sense observation like learning to feel acutely, to touch intently, and smell fully. We learn to observe and pay attention to these various aspects of the life experience.
We learn what is truly happening to us, around us and within us, like for the first time, With this practice we can gain insight into our true inner nature. By observing and taking note of our experiences in a fresh way we can wake up and see what life really is, both in us and around us.
Verbal Labeling in Vipassana
One technique that really sets vipassana apart is the concept of verbal labeling. This again is done with both sensations and thoughts and gives a big boost to the practice by getting a handle on our experiences.
It is built off of the 5 senses: hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, smelling.
The way it works is that, when we experience a sensation from one of the 5 senses, we then denote what the sensation is – we might hear a sound and say to ourself ‘hearing’ or ‘sound.’ Or we might see something and say ‘seeing’ or ‘sight.’
This is a form of registering our sensations and it helps our consciousness by being on top of our experiences. When we register one sensation, and then another, we build or assemble a constant stream of consciousness which can put us in ‘the zone.’ When done properly this technique can help us experience higher consciousness.
Doing this technique can help us flow in our experience, rather than getting caught up in the content. For example we might note a sense like touch with terms such as ‘hard, warm, pressure or softness.’ The labels can be your own and it is best to keep them brief so it doesn’t side track you.
Using the verbal labeling can be a fun and creative process but remember don’t get too many things going, keep it simple.
Using Verbal Labels with Thoughts
With vipassana meditation we want to gain clarity and alertness, a higher awareness of ourselves and our life experience. By using the verbal labels we can achieve an acute alertness, which assists us in gaining access to the great inner realms, the realms of the Buddhas.
Verbal labels are a nifty little technique to use for observing our thoughts.
When we are meditating and thoughts come up we don’t always want to get caught up in their content. So much of it is ‘one thought leads to this … and another leads to that … and are they connected?’ and so on. Thoughts can be many and they are not always in a perfect stream.
Verbal labels can help us with thoughts. As we observe thoughts when they come up we might notice the type of thought that it is, using terms like ‘familiar’, or ‘caring’, ‘pleasant’ or ‘judgemental.’ There are different types of thoughts and with this technique we can get better and better at learning and knowing our thoughts.
So we see that as thoughts come up we can attach a verbal label to them and then continue on in the process of observation, not bogged down by the content of the thoughts.
Using this technique can be useful with thoughts and allows us to continue with observing and the process of cultivating awareness, which is the goal of meditation.
We are trying to find a deep, clear and precise awareness, of both the body and the mind, which shows us the truth about our lives and our experiences.
If we practice this we can gain a direct awareness of the actual nature of ourselves, and our mental and physical processes.
The Goal of Meditation
When we approach meditation the goal is to calm the mind, find peace, and experience the inner depth that lies at the core of our being. Reaching this goal is the measure of success and is described as a ‘peace that never comes to an end.’
Vipassana was brought to us by the Buddha and it offers an approach with techniques to assist you in getting to the goal. To reach the goal is what Buddhists call ‘the Beyond.’
When you meditate with vipassana method you can calm the breathing and get a grip on the mind and thoughts which is the gateway to peace, eqainimity and deeper experience. Since the Buddha offered this to us then we know it can help us go all the way.
The Benefits of Vipassana Meditation
Vipassana is a sound approach to meditation and offers us tools to use in managing our life experience, and to gain peace and reap its benefits. It has some good benefits it can offer us like:
- clear seeing
- heightened awareness
- organized thoughts and mind
- balanced consciousness
- increased insight
- flowing life experience
With Vipassana, practicing this self-observation, including labeling, we become more and more aware of our movements and sensations and so get direct insight into our own inner nature. It is a direct method for cultivation of mindfulness and awareness like what the Buddha taught us a long time ago.
With meditation we can try to harness the breath and mind in order to find peace and gain insight into our own inner workings and nature. When done correctly we can grow and reap the benefits of good meditation practice.
However, dealing with breathing, mind and sensations can be a busy undertaking at times and it is possible that it can become a bit much.
If you get in the middle of something complicated or too busy and it seems a bit too much then you can always try prayer.
In prayer we bow down to a higher power and seek His grace in assisting us with the burden or load that is on our mind. Vipassana offers us an approach and methods for dealing with thoughts and sensations but if it seems to come short then don’t give up hope but remember it is also possible to pray.
The scripture tells us that the mind is a ‘bundle of thoughts’ and it is with this mind that we approach our meditation. We hope to calm it, get along with it and gain insight into ourselves and our functioning to find the deep peace that is our true nature.
Vipassana meditation technique is one approach that offers us tools and a system for labeling, managing and getting on top of our life experience so we can find peace within ourselves and experience our own fullness.
Using these tools is a sound approach and, when applied with time, can provide us a worthy meditation practice that we can build and flourish with to grow and live a life full of insight and try to reach our goal, the Buddha state!
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