For how the world’s changing around us and making way for heightened stress, anxiety and worries, slowing down and regaining balance in life has become absolutely essential. Where we all wish for peace and happiness to live within us, fears, insecurities and shrouded realities have made their home instead. No wonder everybody, everywhere is always seeking eternal bliss, answers to the unknown and not losing sight of what’s true.
While most of us are busy searching for that solace in the outside world, what we must remember is that all we need to do is look within. And one of the best ways to do so is by indulging in Vipassana, a form of meditation that brings you in tune with your inner self, with who you are and lets you channel the power that lies inside you towards a deeper understanding of everything.
What is Vipassana meditation?
Vipassana, which means seeing things as they are, is one of the most ancient Buddhist meditation techniques. Also known as insight meditation, it is different from other types of meditation practises as it is a way of achieving transformation through self observation and awareness. The practice of Vipassana meditation involves observing your thoughts and emotions without any judgement for mental purification and resultant happiness and liberation. It’s a non-sectarian practice that requires you to consciously focus and control the experience until it comes as easy as breathing.
Its historical background can be traced back to years ago when Gautam Buddha rediscovered it and practised as well as taught it to everybody. Since then, Vipassana has been passed down the generations by an unbroken chain of devoted teachers. S.N. Goenka, born and raised in Burma, Myanmar is the present teacher in this chain (since 1969), who was handed over this honour by his teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin.
What are the benefits of Vipassana meditation?
Like other meditation techniques, practising Vipassana meditation has benefits too. While you can start noticing changes in the early stages of practising Vipassana as well, the real benefits only start when you commit to it long term and indulge in it persistently.
Although large-scale studies are still required to find out all the possible advantages and usefulness, following are the benefits of Vipassana meditation that have been proven it has to offer.
1. Vipassana helps in relieving stress and reducing anxiety which leads to an improved overall mental well-being of a person. It enhances mindfulness, self-kindness, self-acceptance, growth and positivity in relationships that a person has.
2. It improves focus and concentration levels because of how you’re required to consciously pay disciplined attention to stay in the present moment while doing this insight meditation.
3. Vipassana meditation also requires you to remain sitting in the same position no matter what sensations or pain you feel in different body parts or however uncomfortable your thoughts and emotions feel while practising. It requires a strong resolve to continue to meditate which leads to heightened levels of willpower, patience and tolerance in the long term.
4. For how Vipassana is an self-exploratory and observation-based journey, it also paves way for a more balanced state of mind and body where one is able to take an objective decision or action instead of a reactive one.
5. Vipassana meditators are required to observe every kind of experience, thought or emotion within themselves without any judgements. This generates a sense of compassion and kindness in them towards their own selves and others. By understanding their own actions and reactions to things, they also start to see it in others which brings peace and harmony in their relationships.
6. As stated in this small study, practising Vipassana meditation for long also potentially helps in improving the cognitive performance of the brain.
7. A benefit of Vipassana meditation that one experiences in the early stages of the practice is an improved quality of sleep and patterns.
How to start Vipassana meditation as a beginner?
To learn the basics and the technique as a beginner, one has to apply for the residential course held at the Vipassana meditation centres (over 100 across India). The course requires proper dedication and resolve, serious hard work and a prescribed Code of Discipline that one needs to follow to be able to practise the method better. It’s a ten-day course that’s free of any charges or fees (even accommodation and food) and you can apply for it here.
If this knowledge of Vipassana meditation benefits and how to do it further sparked your interest and you plan on embarking on the journey, here are a few essentials you would need. From loose-fitting modest apparel to yoga mats and comfy cushions, scroll ahead and take your pick.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: The five precepts of Vipassana that everybody must undertake for the duration of their course are— abstaining from killing any being, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from all sexual activity, abstaining from telling lies and abstaining from all intoxicants.
Answer: One can start practising Vipassana from their childhood and teen years. However, there are separate Anapana meditation courses for them to begin their journey which is the first step to Vipassana. Anapana is the practice of observing one’s breath as it comes and goes to develop concentration and focus.
Answer: Both mindfulness meditation and Vipassana are practices that aim at awareness and being present in the moment. However, Vipassana is more specific and focuses on paying attention inwards to rid the mind of all mental defilements to attain liberation.
Answer: The ten days of Vipassana meditation is essentially the course that lasts for ten days and happens at various centres. The practice of Vipassana is based on the foundation of Sila (moral conduct) which provides a basis for Samadhi (concentration) and Pañña (wisdom of insight). The training is divided into three steps. First is where the students undertake and observe the five precepts which allows the mind to calm down before going ahead with the rest of the course. The second step lasts for three and a half days where you will practise Anapana meditation which involves focusing attention on your breath. And the third and final step lasts for six and a half days where you undertake the practice of Vipassana meditation and take on the journey to yourself within.
Answer: While Vipassana benefits most people, it is not a substitute for medical or mental health related treatments. A study also shows people experiencing side effects of meditation like worsened anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis among others. Such effects might occur if the person is already suffering from a mental health condition that may resurface or become more apparent when one would sit quietly with their thoughts. Hence, Vipassana is not recommended for people with psychiatric disorders. Furthermore, anyone who is physically too weak to follow the ten-day schedule should also avoid it.