Vipassana meditation is a technique that dates back many thousands of years in eastern parts of the world. However, it was only in recent times that the benefits of vipassana meditation were brought to the west by S.N Goenka.
Coming from the Buddhist tradition, Vipassana is believed to have been one of the types of meditation used by Buddha himself. Whether you are looking to improve your mental health or engage in a much more spiritual experience, vipassana is a meditation practice that will have many benefits.
In this article, we are going to explore some of the things that you can expect to take advantage of when practicing this technique.
What Is The Point Of Vipassana?
Vipassana meditation is one of the many meditation techniques used in Buddhism. While it can be used as a standalone meditation, vipassana is normally complemented by other types of meditation as the person works his or her way down the path to enlightenment.
According to Tricycle, Vipassana meditation is “a clear awareness of exactly what is happening, as it happens.” The word Vipassana directly translates to mean insight. Much like all of the other meditations found in Buddhism, Vipassana can be considered to be a mindfulness meditation practice.
This particular meditation method is similar to other types of Buddhist practice such as zen meditation in the sense that it relies on the practitioner placing their awareness on the breath. However, the end goal is typically much deeper with vipassana meditation being used to develop your insight and wisdom into the very essence of your being and life itself.
This is not a practice that is easily learned, but it can be mastered by anyone willing to put in the time it takes to understand this type of insight meditation. One of the best ways to understand these meditation sessions is to immerse yourself in the practice. Of course, you could do this by reading books on the subject or deepening your knowledge of the teachings of the Buddha; after all, he was said to have favoured vipassana meditation above all other types.
However, some people like to attend a meditation retreat where you may notice the benefits of Vipassana presenting themselves much more quickly.
In the beginning stages of learning vipassana, the student would place his or her focus on the breath coming in and out of the body from a single point in the nostril. This helps to hone your concentration and develop awareness.
Once you have spent a few days focusing on these sensations, you will then move on to other breath exercises and over the course of the practice, you will begin to experience great joy, inner peace, freedom, and ultimately enlightenment.
Can Vipassana Be Bad For You?
As a general rule of thumb, most kinds of mindfulness meditation are beneficial for us; but this doesn’t apply to all people. There are some who may find that Vipassana causes more stress and harm than it does peace and a greater sense of self.
For the most part, those who have suffered recent trauma or emotional pain may find that engaging in a course of Vipassana at a retreat or by themselves at home can take a lot out of them. With these heightened emotions, practicing Vipassana could lead to an uncomfortable emotional state and it may be best to wait until you have had time to process your thoughts before commiting to the practice.
What’s more, while it is possible to try Vipassana alone, it is preferable to go to one of the many assistant teachers at a retreat or school as they will be able to guide you through any difficulties.
In other cases, those in the west may treat Vipassana as though it is a ‘cure-all’ type of meditation and will not practice it in the way it is intended – with other meditation techniques. In Buddhism, the idea is that all kinds of meditation will compliment each other. Before you can progress to Vipassana, you must have mastered Samatha meditation.
If insight meditation is practiced alone, there is a risk that your mind may become confused and you will not experience the inner peace associated with this technique. This is the reason that you will typically see a 10 day Vipassana course or retreat so that practitioners can progress through each state of concentration and self awareness as they practice Vipassana.
What Are The Benefits of Meditating On Vipassana?
Much like any type of meditation, this practice has several benefits for your mind and your overall well being. Let’s take a look at some of these.
Quiet The Mind
The mind seems to be going non-stop every minute of every day and it can then be difficult to get a sense of which thoughts are there to serve you and which are merely responses to the world around you and can be discarded.
At the start of your Vipassana practice, you may notice that you mind becomes overwhelmed with thoughts and this is likely because it hasn’t yet been trained to be in this quiet state.
This is another reason why spending 10 days at a retreat can be very useful to those who are new to the world of Vipassana. The more you practice, the more your mind will find peace and this will lead on to the other benefits of Vipassana meditation.
Get To Know Yourself Better
The main purpose of Vipassana is to become liberated through self observation but this is not a state that can be attained immediately. As you embark on your journey to freedom, you will have plenty of time to observe your thought patterns and let go of your ego, you will begin to notice that you are able to gain a greater understanding of who you are.
Life can be filled with distractions and even when you try to concentrate, you can quickly find that the mind wanders.
The main part of this practice is to place your awareness on a point at the tip of the nose and focus on the sensations you feel here. However, all of the things in your mind can move your concentration away from this. When you first start the practice, this can be frustrating but as you continue the course, you will notice that your level of concentration is far improved from when you took your first Vipassana session.
As you continue to improve your concentration, you will notice that you can think much more clearly.
Improve Your Physical Health
If you decide to attend a 10 day retreat, the course won’t just place a focus on meditation alone. You will also be encouraged to alter your diet and way of life. This can have some profound benefits on your physical health.
What’s more, there have been many people who have been able to overcome addiction through the use of the Vipassana meditation technique and while this may take a lot of emotional strength, it will certainly have a deep impact on your physical health and mental well being as well as giving you a greater sense of purpose in your life.
Learn To Be Present
Quite often, we are all so focused on what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future. Not only is this not conducive to reaching enlightenment but it can also be incredibly stressful. When we focus our attention on events that may not even happen, we are allowing our thoughts to control us.
Vipassana enables you to learn to live in the present moment and focus on what is happening right now. This can be a difficult concept to grasp but once you do, you will notice how much more fulfilled you feel.
This also allows you to achieve self-liberation and it is important to remember that there is no right or wrong to this. Buddhists follow what is known as the ‘middleway’ and each person will find his or her own path by being aware of only what is in the here and now.
Achieve Inner Peace
As you go through your Vipassana practice, you may, at first, have a variety of serious attachments to things in your life such as material possessions. However, the more you engage in the practice, the more you will start to detach from these and develop a greater appreciation for all the wonderful things in the world.
As a result of this, you will feel far less stress and greater sensations of love, forgiveness and inner peace. This peace will become more apparent as you stop seeing the limitations around you and look for the good.
What Are The General Benefits Of Meditation?
While Vipassana meditation may only be one meditation technique, it can also be compared to other kinds since all meditations have their general benefits.
There is enough research and evidence to now show that a regular meditation practice can have a profound effect on your mental state and overall health. You can practice alone or with the help of a meditation app; there are many ways that you can incorporate this habit into your daily life.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at how practicing meditation can benefit you.
Since meditation requires you to be in the present moment, engaging in it can mean that your stress levels are lowered. This is because your thoughts will be focused and not hovering over aspects of your life that cause you stress. You might think of it as a time out from your thoughts and concerns.
You will gain a heightened sense of self awareness which helps you to regulate your emotions much more effectively.
There is evidence to suggest that meditating can be a viable way of improving your sleep therefore, leaving you with increased energy and an overall better sense of well being.
Meditating regularly can give you a creativity boost.
Meditating may also help you to combat mental conditions such as anxiety and depression. It can also be a great approach to your physical health since your lowered stress levels will not exacerbate any existing conditions like high blood pressure, heart problems etc.
Vipassana is a form of meditation that comes from the Buddhist tradition by was brought to the west by a man named S.N Goenka and as a result of this, there is now a Vipassana service or school in almost every major city in the world; from London to New York, Rome to Singapore and more than 78 centers in India alone!
The practice of Vipassana does take an amount of time to learn and you cannot expect to see massive changes from your first session. This is more of a progression that leads you down the road to enlightenment through self discovery, concentration and gaining inner peace. For this reason, many schools and retreats offer a ten day course based on the teachings of Mr Goenka, this gives practitioners time to develop their skills and reap the benefits associated with the practice.
Not only does Vipassana have its own set of incredibly benefits but it will also contribute to your overall well being since all forms of meditation have the ability to do this.