How to meditate for Beginners: Vipassana – Insight Meditation

Vipassana meditation - How To Meditate for BeginnersVipassana is an ancient Buddhist meditation technique discovered by Gautama Buddha 2,500 years ago. Vipassana – means seeing through or insight meditation. The main focus of Vipassana is to know thyself and to confront true reality.

Vipassana also means to see things as they are.

Vipassana is an insight that cuts through conventional perception to perceive mind and matter as they actually are: impermanent, unsatisfactory, and impersonal. Insight meditation gradually purifies the mind, eliminating all forms of attachment. As attachment is cut away, desire and delusion are gradually diluted. The Buddha identified these two factors— desire and ignorance— as the roots of suffering. When they are finally removed, the mind will touch something permanent beyond the changing world. That “something” is the deathless, supramundane happiness, called “Nibbana” in Pali.” (Vipassana Dura Meditation Society)

Vipassana meditation is not a religion, but a tool and can be used by everybody to free you from suffering and attain awakening. Insight meditation is not an escape from the reality and everyday life. Rather, it is an ultimate confrontation with the reality and fully awakening.

So, you are ready to start doing Vipassana Meditation.

By this time you have learned or practiced one-pointedness concentration with Anapana Sati Meditation and/or Buddhist Walking meditation.

Vipassana can be divided into two stages: beginners and advanced.

Beginner Vipassana Mediation – How To:

1. Sit cross-legged or on a chair or other position comfortable for you. Make sure to keep your spine straight to allow energy flow and the right posture.

2. Start from the top of your head – also known as ‘the crown’ area and observe any sensations for a few seconds (5 seconds or 3 breaths).  You can imagine your mind as a neutral scanner that simply records all the sensations in the given area and has no internal verbal comments – thus having equanimity.

3. Continue to scan the face and back of the head for a few seconds (5 seconds or 3 breaths)

4. Continue to scan – the neck area

5. Continue to scan – the right shoulder, forearm and hand and back in reverse order

6. Continue to scan the left shoulder, forearm and hand and back in reverse order

7. Continue to scan the front torso and the back torso

8. Continue to scan the pelvic area

9. Continue to scan the right thigh, leg and foot and back in reverse

10. Continue to scan the left thigh, leg and foot and back in reverse

11. Continue to scan upwards by scanning the pelvic area (front and back)

12. Continue to scan the front and back torso

13. Continue to scan from the right hand, forearm and shoulder

14. Continue to scan from the left hand, forearm and shoulder

15. Continue to scan the neck area (front and back)

16. Continue to scan the face area and back of the head

17. Finish the scan at the top of the head (crown area).

You now have finished the full body scanning from top to bottom and back. Continue scanning several times from top to bottom and back to top (depending on your speed, you might complete 8 times per hour or so).

NOTES: During the above scanning of your body sensations area by area, make sure to keep in mind the following points:

1. You are a neutral observer and do not make one sensation more important or less important. They are simply sensations, you might itch, notice subtle sensations, pain or numbness, perspiration, etc. You are simply noticing all the sensations.

2. Thoughts would also be popping up during the meditation, simply note it as a thought and continue bringing your attention to the scanned area. Make sure not to get into describing, evaluating or trying to get rid of thoughts or have aversion towards painful or unpleasant sensations.

3. You might feel no gross sensations in certain areas, make sure to pause a few seconds and move onto another area. Do not be discouraged that you are not getting uniform sensations or any sensations at all. At all times there are sensations and might be subtle and you might be not ready to notice it yet or there might be just right amount of sensations.

4. You will realize that all the sensations rise and pass away (impermanence – anicca). Some of the sensations, i.e. numbness in the leg might be longer during one round of scanning, but eventually will pass away.

5. If you experience a pain or strong numbness and need to change the position, you can do so by doing it mindfully and noting every moment of moving the position. As you do more meditation, try to simply observe the sense of numbness.

6. Do not jump from the current area being scanned to another area since the gross sensations in the other area might be stronger. Remember, YOU are the master of your mind and not the other way around. Just simply tell yourself “I will get to those gross sensations, when I get to that area.” You will be surprised that by time you get there, the sensations might pass away and you might forget all about it.

7. If you are not able to do Vipassana and are overwhelmed by sensations, just simply take 10 deep conscious breaths to calm your mind and continue doing Vipassana.

8. The most important thing is to continue doing Vipassana diligently and not to be discouraged by temporary setbacks. At the end, little by little you will achieve equanimity and serenity.

Advanced Vipassana Meditation – How To:

If you have done 40 hours of Vipassana Beginner Meditation and you are able to have equanimity and have diligently observed all the sensations in the area in the correct order (see the Beginner Vipassana Meditation), you are ready to start Advanced Vipassana Meditation.

In this stage, you will continue to do the same steps for scanning. You would have the following focus:

1. Scan the whole area, i.e. the front torso, as one area and observe subtle and uniform sensations. Continue doing it for several meditations or until you feel that you are able to do it easily and not get distracted.

2. Scan the whole front area of the body as ONE area (Head to Toes as one big sweep) and second scan the whole back area as ONE area. Continue doing it until you feel ease with one sweep.

3. More advanced: Focus on one area in the whole body (laser focus on a small part of the body) and bring your attention there. Choose the area and bring your attention there. Continue doing it until you feel it is easy to do.

4. Bring your attention and feel as if the subtle energy goes through your whole body (it can be either horizontal or vertical) as if there are no barriers – like the wind goes through you and no sense of muscle or organs or bones. As you achieve this level, you will feel that ‘self’ becomes no self (Anatta) since nothing there and your Ego dissolves as a result. At this stage you might feel a quantum feeling of being in one place and somewhere else in the universe. All your sense of “I,” “Me”, “Mine,” a male/female, profession, status, suddenly dissolves and you are ‘one’ with the universe. Beware of your mind. At this stage, your mind can be happy and congratulate you on such an achievement and your mind will try get attached to such a feeling and try to hold on, thus Dukkha (suffering.) Simply go back and start meditation again and choose not to be attached to this accomplishment. Everything changes and you make sure to keep your focus on Vipassana meditation.

I hope that Vipassana meditation is helpful to cultivate your mind and purify your mind towards enlightenment.

With loving-kindness,

Spencer, a.k.a the Urban Monk

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