What is Meditation?

Meditation is the practice of focusing the mind and attention on a specific and deliberate object, feeling, sense or thought. The practice trains the practitioner to achieve mental clarity, stability and emotional wellbeing through a greater awareness and appreciation of the world around them, and a deeper understanding of our own thoughts and feelings.

Meditation practices can be found across dozens of religions and cultures, the earliest of which are recorded in the Upanishads, but also hold a important position in Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism and philosophies that require inner reflection such as Stoicism.

In our own modern world Mediation has been used to improve anything from mental health, workplace wellbeing, sports performance, sleep, and stress management.

In Buddhism there are two main types of meditation. They differ from one another but are both ways to observe the quality of our consciousness in real time through awareness. These two core practices of mediation are Vipassana and Samatha.

What is Vipassana?

Vipassana is believed to be the oldest of the Buddhist meditation techniques, taken directly from Saipatthana Sutta, or the Foundations of Mindfuless, a text credited to the Buddha himself. Vipassana is to see things as they really are. It can be translated as insight, or wisdom and is the ability for one to view exactly what is happening as it happens, free from the prejudice, bias, and warping that many of us tend to project onto what we see.

In Vipassana meditation the practitioner’s attention are directed to examine specific elements of their awareness, and over time learn to observe more and more of their own existence in the present moment.

This can be one or more of the following:

  • Listening to the world around you

  • Observing feelings in the body

  • Focusing on your breath

  • Observing the coming and going of thoughts and feelings

Through Vipassana meditation the practitioner develops the ability to heighten their senses and observe the world around them objectively, free from judgement. More importantly we learn to observe our own thoughts and emotions objectively without reactionary feelings of guilt, anxiety, anger, jealousy, loss or other negative emotions.

Through Vipassana meditation practitioners have reported feelings of security, self awareness, a better understanding of themselves and others, and reductions in stress.

Vipassana in practice:

In its simplest form Vipassana meditation teaches us to focus on our breathing, or the physical sensations of the body. Over time, as we become more comfortable with the practice we can move from focusing on the breath to focusing on the coming and going of thoughts and feelings that come and go in the moment. In this way Vipassana meditation helps us develop a greater understanding of ourselves and our inner world.

In a similar way to many other meditation practices, Vipassana meditation is best begun in a familiar, quiet place, free from noise and distractions.

To begin, focus on the breath, use it to anchor your awareness. Some people will focus on the rising and falling of the chest, some will focus on the feeling of the air through the nose, find whichever works for you. As long as you can focus your awareness there’s no right or wrong.

Over time this breathing will calm your mind and draw is into a more focused meditative state in which we are better able to shed the noise and chatter of our mind and observe the world around us objectively.

If you make this into a daily habit and put time and effort into developing the practice you may even find yourself entering into a similar state outside of a formal mediation practice as you go through daily life.

As with all meditation practices, we will inevitable get distracted. We just accept it and begin again with another breath.

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