- Moves the practitioner from extroversion to introversion.
- Allows us to experience the present state of the mind – sensations, emotions and thoughts.
- Provides the opportunity to practice discriminating the self (awareness) from the objects that arise within it.
- Offers the opportunity to experience the reflection of the self in a still mind, whereby the student can extract the knowledge or truth of self, from the experience of the reflection of self.
1. Find a quiet place.
2. Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight yet relaxed. A straight spine allows energy to flow more freely through the body, just like water flowing through a hose without kinks.
Many students practice a variation of the lotus (cross legged) posture on a cushion. Others use a Zen posture, sitting with knees bent, shins to the earth, with a cushion underneath the buttocks and between the legs. In both cases, have the sits bones slightly higher than the knees, shins and feet to relieve back tension. If you like, just sit in a chair with back straight. Choose a position that allows you to be comfortable and alert.
3. Breathe naturally and focus attention on the sensation of the air entering and leaving the nostrils (the object in this case is the breath).
4. Now move your attention to the feet, spending time with each major body part, up to the crown of the head. Take a few breath cycles in each area. Say to yourself, welcoming on the in-breath and softening on the out-breath. Simply relax and welcome what is present without trying to control or change anything.
5. Return your attention to the base of then nose. At first, place 100% of your attention on the object of the practice (breath, candle, or mantra). In time, move from object to subject, from the breath or object to awareness (presence or being) itself. This transition is supported by noticing the space, emptiness, or silence that grows with practice.
Vipassana (Buddhist Insight) Meditation, thought to have been taught by the Buddha, is extremely powerful in that it greatly helps with the process of dis-identification with sensation, emotion and thought. Our identification with sensation, emotion, and thought is one of the main causes of suffering. For many of us, sensation, emotion and thought are like great mountains that capture our attention and hypnotize us. With practice, that which was once a mountain, becomes a grain of sand.
In the first stage of Vipassana, we focus on the sensation of breath, as it passes in and out of the nostrils. When body sensation, emotion or thought arise, they are noted, “sensing, feeling or thinking,” and attention is returned to the breath.
With Vipassana, we hold the attitude of loving-kindness towards our experience. As Jack Kornfield shared, “the mind is like a puppy that wants to run and play.” We simply pick up the puppy with gentleness and place him down in our lap. This is returning to the breath.
In the second stage of Vipassana, when a sensation, emotion or thought becomes more powerful than our ability to return comfortably to the anchor/breath, we then change anchors. For example, if we feel great fear, we notice where we are experiencing the fear, possibly in the throat, chest or solar plexus. We then bring attention to the fear and breathe, holding the space with love and kindness. We relinquish all story of mind and welcome and soften around all that arises. In time, the emotion will dissolve, though it might intensify for a time, and then we can return to the breath/anchor.
A tool that can often help during stage two, is to ask the question, what do I have to believe, in order to sustain this emotion? In most cases the answer to this questions is simply not true and we can release it with love.
In the third stage of Vipassana, we transfer attention from the breath to the silence and emptiness that surrounds and infuses it. The space between and around sensation, emotion or thought is like the blue sky through which the clouds pass.
When first learning to practice, we focus all our attention on an object such as breath or mantra. In time we soften this attention and transition from object (breath or mantra) to subject (awareness itself).
Conclusion: Meditation moves our attention from extroversion (the external world of objects) to introversion (the internal world of subtle objects). It can be a helpful form of contemplation or self inquiry. It can support us in neutralizing our binding fears and desires as we remain open and unattached to all that arises.
If you find meditation too difficult, it’s often because your vasana (karmic) load is too heavy. Vasanas are the binding likes and dislikes, desires and fears, based on past action. Consider the metaphor of a person in a boat being rocked by giant waves (vasanas). How could you possibly contemplate upon something as subtle as the reflection of the self in meditation if you are being rocked by your past karma. What to do? Practice Karma Yoga. This is the place to begin if you find sitting in meditation practice to be too difficult.