What Is Vipassana?

Vipassana or Insight Meditation

Vipassana is the Pali word for clear seeing or insight.  It is the meditation technique taught by the Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta and is the foundation of the mindfulness movement currently popular in the west.

Vipassana meditation in a nutshell:

Sit in an upright position, close your eyes, and pay attention to your breath.  Within about 2-3 seconds, you will realize that you are thinking about something.  Am I sitting right?  How should I breathe?  I need to buy milk at the grocery store…  Don’t worry.  You’re doing fine.  Just let go of the thoughts and go back to focusing on your breath.  Repeat the above instructions about 5 million times and you will become enlightened.  Or, so I’ve heard.

The process of insight meditation allows you to notice what comes up.  Over just a short 10- 15 minute period of watching  your breath you will see first hand just how busy your mind is and how little control you have over your thoughts and feelings.  They just keep coming up no matter how many times you go back to the breath.  The idea is to train yourself to notice what’s going on without getting caught up in it. The majority of our emotional turmoil is self-created when we become lost in thinking, whether it’s regretting the past, stewing about some current problem, or worrying about the future.  It’s easier to see the solution to a problem when you’re not caught up in the emotional drama of the situation.

Being Mindful

Vipassana meditation is a training in mindfulness.  Rather than blundering through your day lost in a whirlwind of thought and emotion, you can use the same techniques practiced during meditation to pay more attention to what’s happening, not only in your mind and body, but in the world around you.

This is especially helpful for people coping with difficult life situations such as caring for a medically fragile child.  It is easy to get caught up in mental loops of worry and self doubt.  How will I pay those medical bills?  What if my non-verbal child is bullied or abused at school?  How can I care for my ill child and still give my other children the attention they need?  Am I to blame for my child’s condition?  All the while, in your body, muscle tension is building, your blood pressure is rising and you can’t see the smiling face of the child standing right in front of you.   If you can notice these thoughts as they come up, but not get hijacked by them, you are freed to engage with life as it is happening in the moment.

Your problems are still there and those worrisome thoughts and emotions will continue to arise.  It’s how you relate to life that changes.  As the dark storm clouds and heavy winds of emotional turmoil lose some of their power, you are able to view circumstances with a calm heart and clear mind.  Of course, nobody masters this the first time they try it.  It is called a practice for a reason.  The more often you are able to just notice thoughts and emotions without getting trapped by them, the easier it becomes.


2 Responses to What Is Vipassana?

  1. Karen says:

    Excellent! I’m so happy you are blogging about this. I know the difficulties with parenting teens as you mentioned elsewhere, being their own kind of challenge. I look forward to learning with you as you post about vipassana and mindfulness and parenting. I’m not sure what the Buddhist/UU version of PTL is, but that’s what I would say, if a translation exists. I have participated in all of those communities as well. Thank you for sharing your insights. Metta.

    • Vipassana Momma says:

      Thanks, Karen. I had to look up what “PTL” stands for. I’m getting old, maybe. Parenting is an adventure. Please share your own stories when possible. Angela

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *