This is a quick guide to get you to the start of Vipassana Meditation. It focuses on the two components that make up Mindfulness, Focus and Stability/Momentum.
Vipassana is a type of meditation that can be performed during any mindless task, like walking for example, but generally we start by sitting comfortably and performing the breathing exercise.
1) ObserveBreathing exercise involves OBSERVING our breath. Like you see wind by seeing a flag flutter in the breeze, look at your breath the same, observe it entering and nourishing your body, you will see your chest or diaphragm raising and falling. Don’t control it. Let go of your control, just observe. Your body will continue breathing without your help.
Just Observe it, Don’t Control it
If you find anxiety influencing you, and your mind is desperately trying to grab control of your breath, it is okay, this may happen sometimes, especially when you're just starting the exercise. Just step out of your meditation and then come back and try again after a moments break. Failing is the first step to success.
2) Reach StabilityAfter some time of observing the breath, you might start observing other things in the moment, some sound for example. Once you are observing these sounds, your breath, and other elements of the present moment without effort or concentration, then you have achieved Stability. On good days this will come in a few minutes, on bad days it may not come at all. Stability comes more easily and frequently for an experienced meditator.
3) FocusOnce you’re Stable, it is time to work on Focus. This involves turning our new skills of observation inwardly. You no longer need to focus on observing, allow your mind to switch off the focus. After a few seconds, it is likely you will start to have thoughts, “this is going well”, is a popular one. Apply the same observation you did to your breath, see the effects of your thoughts, but don’t try to control them, and especially avoid engaging them. Simply notice them, observe them, and allow them to disappear.
Leave your front door and your back door open.
Allow your thoughts to come and go.
Just don’t serve them tea.
~ Shunryu Suzuki
This is actually a lot trickier than it sounds. Some of what I think are the best thoughts I’ve ever had pick this exact moment to come into my mind. Letting go of them can be a tremendous challenge. But every time you succeed in this, you are improving.
4) Keep tryingIt is natural to get lost in thought when trying to transition to increasing Focus, you may lose your Stability long before you even notice that you have fallen off of the metaphorical bike. When this happens —and it will happen!— return to the breath, allow yourself to reenter a state of Stability. Then return to improving Focus.
5) VipassanaEventually, and it won’t happen first time, you will achieve Focus and Stability. Welcome to the practice of Vipassana, you will now be in a state you have never before encountered, and it is glorious.
Have patienceFor those just starting, there is no one method that works for everyone, but there is a method out there. For novices it usually takes at least 5 sessions of more than 30 minutes before they reach a point of Stability and Focus.
Sam Harris does an excellent guided meditation if you would like to use one. The short version covers the practices discussed in this article.