Introduction & Practice: Insight Meditation, Mindfulness:
I often hear these questions from my students;
- What is the best method for Meditation?
- How do I sit in silence, when my thoughts are running around so fast?
- How long does it take to achieve Nirvana / Enlightenment? 21 days, 2 months, 1 year?
- Doesn't it feel like a waste of my time? I am still stressed / anxious/ exhausted
- Maybe I can always do it tomorrow / next week / next year?
Sounds familiar, right? How about changing these myths about Mindfulness today?
Practicing Meditation & developing Mindfulness in our life today is a valuable tool to living in the present. We are often preoccupied with thoughts about the past or the future or with fantasies. While sometimes such preoccupations may be innocent and harmless, more often they contribute to stress, fear and suffering. Mindfulness practice is learning how to overcome preoccupation so that we can see clearly what is happening in our lived experience of the present. In doing so, we find greater clarity, trust, and integrity.
Insight / Vipassana Meditation is one of the central teachings of the Buddha. It has continued as a living practice for 2500 years. At the heart of Insight Meditation is the core practice of Mindfulness - the cultivation of clear, stable and non-judgemental awareness.
I have practiced this method for the past 15 years, with guidance from Jack Kornfield.
My teaching is based on this ancient, but proven technique of developing Mindfulness.
Its purpose is to strengthen mindfulness (Sati), our capacity to experience "things as they are" directly, without the filter of discursive thinking, evaluation or habitual reactivity.
It consists of bringing a natural and clear attention to whatever occurs in the present moment.
As we learn to be alertly and calmly present with our meditation, a deeper intimacy with ourselves and with the world will arise. As we cultivate our ability to remain mindful without interfering, judging, avoiding or clinging to our direct experience, wellsprings of insight and wisdom have a chance to surface. At some point, we joyfully realize that our unobstructed awareness of this very moment is our freedom. Delightfully, mindfulness becomes both the means and the end of insight practice.
Benefits of Meditation
Obtain quiet or inner peace
Have a respite from the pace of daily life
Collect and unify the mind
Clear the mind of emotional turmoil
Feel and experience the truth of “the way things are” for yourself
Learn loving-kindness and compassion for yourself and others
Understand and learn how to practice forgiveness
Insight Meditation Instructions
- To begin, select a quiet time and place. Be seated on a cushion or chair, taking an erect yet relaxed posture. Close your eyes gently and begin by bringing a full, present attention to whatever you feel within you and around you. Let your mind be spacious and your heart be kind and soft.
- As you sit, feel the sensations of your body. Then notice what sounds and feelings, thoughts and expectations are present. Allow them all to come and go, to rise and fall like the waves of the ocean. Be aware of the waves and rest seated in the midst of them.
- In the center of all these waves, feel your breathing, your life-breath. Let your attention feel the in-and-out breathing wherever you notice it, as coolness or tingling in the nose or throat, as a rising and falling of your chest or abdomen. Relax and softly rest your attention on each breath, feeling the movement in a steady, easy way. Let all other sounds and sensations, thoughts and feelings continue to come and go like waves in the background.
- After a few breaths, your attention may be carried away by one of the waves of thoughts or memories, by body sensations or sounds. Whenever you notice you have been carried away for a time, acknowledge the wave that has done so by softly giving it a name such as “planning,” “remembering,” “itching,” “restlessness.” Then let it pass and gently return to the breath. Some waves will take a long time to pass, others will be short. Certain thoughts or feelings will be painful, others will be pleasurable. Whatever they are, let them be.
- At some sittings, you will be able to return to your breath easily. At times in your meditation, you will mostly be aware of body sensations or of plans or thoughts. Either way is fine. No matter what you experience, be aware of it, let it come and go, and rest at ease in the midst of it all. After you have sat for 10, 20 or 30 minutes in this way, open your eyes , breathe softly and look around you before you get up.
- Then as you move, try to allow the same spirit of awareness to go with you into the activities of your day.
The art of meditation is simple but not always easy.
It thrives on practice and a kind and spacious heart.
If you do this simple practice of sitting and awareness every day, you will gradually grow in centeredness and understanding
Hope to see you in class.
(Adapted from Buddha’s Little Instruction Book by Jack Kornfield, Bantam, 1994.)