About Insight Meditation Practice (Vipassana)
If you are new to meditation and/or wish further information on Insight meditation, the Valley Insight teachers suggest resources listed at the bottom of this webpage.
The following description quotes and relies heavily, through paraphrasing, on a booklet called Introduction to Insight Meditation, put out for free distribution by Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in Hertfordshire, England. Amaravati Monastery is an important center for the Western tradition of the Thai Forest school of Buddhism. It is a place where Taraniya, our advisory teacher, spends retreat time.
“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 firsthand 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!”
“The term for ‘insight meditation’ in the Pali language* is ‘samatha-vipassana.‘ It refers to practices for the mind which develop calm (samatha) through sustained attention, and insight (vipassana) through what might be called nonintellectual or non-discursive reflection. A fundamental technique for sustaining attention is focusing awareness on the body; traditionally this is practiced while sitting or walking.
“Reflection occurs quite naturally as one becomes relaxed within the meditation practice. There will be a sense of ease and interest, and one becomes acquainted with the mind that is meditating. This is called contemplation, a personal and direct seeing that can only be suggested by any technique.”
“All you have to do is relax and pay attention. Everything else flows from there.” ~ Taraniya
Meditation practice, through a wise and careful training of attention, can lead to a peaceful mind and a steady, kind heart. It helps us find our way to wisdom and compassion in the midst of the stressful, complexities of our lives.
*Knowledge of Pali terms–the canonical language of Theravada Buddhism–is certainly not necessary to begin the practice of meditation. It can be a useful reference point in regard to the classical teaching as well as to many contemporary writings.
“Mindfulness is the ingenious way of turning an obstacle into an object that can be known.” –– Venerable Analayo
Making Your Practice Stronger – Meditation provides the mental training necessary to develop a stability of awareness, which Ajahn Sucitto refers to as “emotional maturity.” In these days of quick and radical change in the nature of our country’s leadership, a regular meditation practice may help us find a bit more balance in our daily life, as well as in our responses to the changes. Some of us at VIMS are making a stronger commitment to our practice––whether by establishing a daily practice or by adding time to one already well established, or by including another practice period in the day. Or even by taking a day, or part of a day regularly to be quiet and reflective––perhaps to walk in nature. As well as providing some respite to the busyness, a regular daily practice can give us insight into our behavior and that of others. Wisdom is more likely to arise from the quiet mind. If you feel you need some support with this, the VIMS teachers are recommending a free, ten-day, on-line course from Headspace. It provides good basic instructions and seems to allow you to repeat the free course as many times as you like. In addition, if you have questions about your practice, please feel free to contact one of the teachers directly, or contact us here.
The Valley Insight teachers suggest the following resources if you are new to Meditation and/or wish further info on Insight Meditation:
Tara Brach How-to-Meditate–FAQ
Basic Instruction in Meditation
U.Tejaniya. Don’t Look Down on Defilements.RightAttitude
Tricycle magazine: Vipassana Meditation by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana