We live in times of great change and uncertainty. Be it events on a personal, cultural or global level, the ability to navigate these challenging times is becoming an increasingly critical skill of contemporary life. The practice of meditation develops this capacity in us by allowing us to become more intimate with the nature of our experience. Through the development of a meditative attitude and balanced awareness we have the ability to use the challenges we face as opportunities for transformation rather than isolation.
Insight Meditation is a practice which can deepen our potential for kindness and understanding. Through the development of our innate capacity to be present in each moment with an open-hearted attention to our experience, our heart and mind can awaken to a depth of peace and clarity that liberates us from the power of greed, hatred and confusion.
The practice tends to begin with a steadying of attention on the sensations of breathing and the body. From there, one can open to include more and more of one’s experience within the field of mindfulness or present-moment awareness. This enables insight into the true nature of what causes suffering and the path to its ending. Such clear-seeing fosters both wisdom and compassion.
Also known as vipassana, Insight Meditation derives from a 2500 year-old Buddhist tradition with deep and immediate relevance to life today. It is accessible and appropriate for people of any religious affiliation or none.
The purpose of Insight Meditation is not to create a system of beliefs, but rather to give guidance on how to see clearly into the nature of the mind. In this way one gains first-hand understanding of the way things are, without reliance on opinions or theories -- a direct experience, which has its own vitality. It also gives rise to the sense of deep calm that comes from knowing something for oneself, beyond any doubt.
Insight Meditation is a key factor in the path that the Buddha offered for the welfare of human beings; the only criterion is that one has to put it into practice! These pages, therefore, describe a series of meditation exercises, and practical advice on how to use them. It works best if the reader follows the guide progressively, giving each sequence of instructions a good work-out before proceeding further.
The term "Insight Meditation" (samatha-vipassana) refers to practices for the mind that develop calm (samatha) through sustained attention, and insight (vipassana) through reflection. A fundamental technique for sustaining attention is focusing awareness on the body; traditionally, this is practised while sitting or walking. The guide begins with some advice on this.
Reflection occurs quite naturally afterwards, when one is "comfortable" within the context of the meditation exercise. There will be a sense of ease and interest, and one begins to look around and become acquainted with the mind that is meditating. This "looking around" is called contemplation, a personal and direct seeing that can only be suggested by any technique. A few ideas and guidance on this come in a later section.