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Meditation has long been touted as a way to decrease stress, make you feel more calm and resilient, strengthen the mind-body connection, and quiet a busy mind. There are more ways than ever to access and practice meditation today, and we’re going to highlight one of those meditation techniques specifically—a unique form called Vipassana meditation, or insight meditation.
The word “Vipassana” translates to “seeing things as they actually are,” which provides a huge clue as to what you can expect with this meditation technique. With roots in Indian and Buddhist meditation traditions, Vipassana meditation asks participants to be with, and observe, yourself (and the world at large) in a nonjudgmental way.
While other types of meditation techniques may rely on mantras, movement, or another component, Vipassana involves simply existing with yourself and trying not to assign value or judgment to whatever comes up as you meditate.
History and Effectiveness of Vipassana
In countries like the US, Vipassana isn’t as widely popular as some other meditation methods like mindfulness. However, Vipassana is widely practiced in other countries, is thought to be the type of meditation taught by the actual Buddha and is the foundation of all other traditions of Buddhist meditation.
Like other forms of meditation, Vipassana also seems to be effective beyond a placebo effect, with solid evidence that it can positively impact your health and well-being. In fact, studies have shown that Vipassana helps with anxiety management, increases brain plasticity, and can help combat addiction.
Step 1: Designate a Meditation Area
You’ll want a quiet, comfortable space that will allow you to sit for your entire meditation session. Ideally, this is a place you can consistently return to, but you can actually meditate anywhere if need be—even outside!
Step 2: Decide How Long You Will Meditate
A good rule of thumb for Vipassana beginners is to start with five minutes and build to longer time periods from there. Five minutes is enough to feel some benefit from meditating, while also not being an overwhelming amount of time to commit to as a true beginner.
Step 3: Find a Comfortable Meditation Position
The recommended position for Vipassana meditation is cross-legged, but people with back trouble may find that challenging or even painful. If this is the case, you can also try sitting in a chair and see if that’s more sustainable for you.
Step 4: Observe Yourself as you Breathe In and Out
It’s time to begin your meditation session! If you want to set a timer, do that now. Let thoughts float in and out of your mind during your Vipassana session, and try to let them do just that—float. Don’t react to them, assign meaning to them, or let them take you down the rabbit hole of thinking.
If you become distracted or frustrated, try to observe that just like any other thought—and then let it go and return to your breathing. Over time, re-centering yourself in your meditation will become easier.
Vipassana Fellowship offers a 10-week course throughout the year that you can join to get an introduction to meditation. You can also learn more about Vipassana by visiting the Dhamma.org website; they have a meditation app you can access to try it for yourself.
Additionally, the Dhamma.org website lists groups and classes you can join to dive deeper into this type of meditation. There may be other local groups or studios in your area that you can find through a search if you’re looking for a community around this practice.
The continued practice of working on your mind-body relationship and observing your thoughts and body without reacting to what you notice can have far-reaching positive effects in your life. You may find you become less reactive to stressors both big and small and that you are able to detach more easily from belief patterns or situations that aren’t serving you. Try it for yourself and see!
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