Origin & Meaning:
Vipassana is Pali means “insight” or “clear seeing”. This is a traditional Buddhist technique dated back to 6th Century BC. Modern Vipassana-meditation is follows the Theravada Buddhist tradition and was popularized by S.N. Goenka and the Vipassana movement. The popularity of vipassana has invigorated the “mindfulness of breath” concept.
How To Do it:
There are various stages to Vipassana meditation, each stage descends you further into the abyss of the empty mind. The initial stage is “breath mindfulness”, this is done to clear the mind. Your awareness needs to be locked with your breath and you must be able to notice subtle movements in your abdomen raising and falling. You can alternatively focus on the sensation of your breath passing through your nostril and hitting your upper lips; this however requires more practice. This portion of the meditation is an example of focus attention meditation. This first act is gatehouse to the second stage.
The second stage is the development of “clear insight”. This is done by observing, not rejecting nor accepting, bodily sensations and mental phenomenons. This is done by observing the situation moment to moment. Like a gentle leaf floating through a river, so must your mind as well float through all sensations without sinking into the raging river. As you focus on your breath, you will notice other senses and perceptions lighting up with activity. Sounds, sensations in the body and emotions will raise out of this narrow sense of focus. Simply notice these occurrences and continue focusing on your breathing. The attention is always kept on the object (breathing), while other perceptions and sensations are simply background noises.
The object that is the focus on this meditation becomes the primary object. Secondary objects are all other sensations that arise from your perceptions, such as through your five senses (sound, smell, itchiness of the body etc) or thoughts the mind (thought, memory, emotion etc). If the secondary object latches on to your attention take a few seconds to recognize it. Upon recognizing the sensation, one must make a mental note of the secondary object. A mental note identifies the general theme of the the sensation but not every detail. For example, if you hear voices or a car or a ambulance, you would note it down as “hearing”. Likewise, if a unfavourable sensation overwhelms you like knee pain or back pain, note it down simply as pain. After you finish noting you must return back to the primary object, the breath. Mental noting is used so that one does not get too carried away with thought and keeps ones attention above-the-fold.
If one is successful at doing this, they will overcame the three marks of existence: impermanence (annica), unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) and emptyness of self (annata). The results raising from overcoming the marks of existence include peace, equanimity and inner freedom.
Is It For Me? :
Vipassana is a excellent form of meditation for all students of various skill sets. It allows you to ground your body and observe ones mind. The teachings for this brand of meditation is always free, but some places do ask for donations. There are no rituals or formalities associated with this tradition.