Vipassana Meditation Technique [With Script]

In this guide, you’ll learn all about Vipassana meditation, a Buddhist meditation technique that is excellent for improving mental health and wellness. Plus, I’ll share a wonderful guided meditation and script that you can use to practice Vipassana at home. I also recommend learning about Vipassana’s sister-method Samatha Meditation.

Guided Vipassana Meditation 

Guided Vipassana Meditation (Buddha Method)

Script 

  1. Sit comfortably. Buddha said we should do Vipassana with the legs crossed like in Zen meditation but this is optional. Sayadaw U Pandita [a master of Vipassanā] tells us that good posture improves focus. I like to use Gyan mudra (let your fingers extend out, curl your index fingers and thumbs so they touch at the base, hands on thigh) 
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Breathe in and focus on your abdomen. Don’t control your breathing. In the Satipatthana Sutta, Buddha specifically says that we must begin with mindful breathing before continuing. Thich Nhat Hanh calls the breath an “anchor”. When we focus on the breath, we stop ourselves from daydreaming and we calm the “Monkey Mind”.  
  4. Focus on the sensation of the breath in your body. 
  5. Focus on the rise and fall of your abdomen.
  6. Become aware of the entire breathing process. Take twenty-five relaxing mindful breaths in this way.
  7. Feel the sensations arising in your abdomen.
  8. We usually experience our breathing as a process of three steps. We breathe in, pause, and then breathe out. But the process is one and so should be the focus. Don’t think in terms of “In breath”, “Out breath”. Be mindful of the entire process as one movement. At the same time, don’t force your mind. The focus should be natural and relaxed. Rest the mind on the present moment.
  9. If your attention wanders, offer your mind support. You can do this by saying to yourself, “My breath is rising… rising. Pausing. And now falling.” Describing the movement of your breath in this way will help you to maintain focus.
  10. If your mind creates thoughts, simply tell yourself, “I am thinking” and concentrate on breathing.
  11. If your mind strays don’t judge yourself, don’t say “I’m not focusing enough.” Remember, it’s all about self-love. Though we try, it is impossible to maintain focus 100% of the time. Even the most advanced meditators experience moments when the mind strays. Simply guide the mind back to the rising and falling of your abdomen.
  12. There will be occasions when a specific noise draws your awareness. For instance, if you are sitting at home when the doorbell rings, your mind will immediately jump at the sound. This is one example of an intrusive event. This intrusive event lures the mind. We quickly lose focus and instead of focusing on breathing, we pay attention to the event. I always remind myself that such momentary distractions are normal. When this happens, mindfully observe the event and label it as a sensation. For instance, if you hear a doorbell, mindfully observe the sound and label it “Sound.” This helps your mind to recognise the nature of external stimuli. Having observed and labelled the event, return your focus to your breathing.
  13. At times you will also notice sensations that occur in the body. Perhaps you feel an itch in your legs or tingling at the back of your neck. Label these sensations by describing the way the sensation feels. If you feel a warm air moving over your wrist, for instance, mindfully observe that sensation and say, “warm movement.”
  14. Label mental phenomena like thoughts and imaginings. For instance, if you see an image in your mind, label it “Mental image.” Describe the precise reality of what you perceive. If you imagine hearing a sound, say “Imagined sound” and so on. This is really helpful. Many of us get deceived by the mind. We come to think that the things we see and hear in the mind are real. Just by saying “Mental image” or “Imagined sound” you train your mind to understand the true nature of mental phenomena.
  15. When you finish Vipassana, open your eyes gently. Tell yourself “Opening, opening.” Then, when you begin to choose what to do next, say “Intending, intending”. Then slowly and mindfully go about your day.
  16. You can continue to practice Vipassana at home for the whole day. This doesn’t mean that you have to literally continue meditating for the whole day. Rather, when going about your day, be mindful of what is going on. Do one thing at a time. When thoughts enter your mind, label them like we did above. This helps to cultivate insight and mindfulness in your everyday life. 

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Benefits of Vipassana

Benefits of Vipassana Meditation

  • Reduces stress [1]
  • Reduces anxiety [2] [
  • Increases neural plasticity [3] 
  • Helps treat addictions [4]
  • Increases concentration
  • Insight into the reality of the mind
  • Insight into samsara [the Buddhist concept of the cycle of life, existence, and death]
  • Reduces emotional reactivity
  • Reduces the effects of negative thoughts
  • Lowers personal biases
  • When you practice Vipassana at home (instead of at a retreat), you will learn to be less reactive in everyday life (see below)
  • Take control of your emotions
  • Insight: It helps the mind differentiate between reality and mental phenomena. 
About Vipassana+

About Vipassana

Vipassana started in the 6th Century when Mahayana Buddhism was expanding through the East from India to Southeast Asia.

As Vipassana teacher S.N.Goenka says, “For five centuries, Vipassana helped millions of people in India, the Buddha’s homeland. This era saw the matchless reign of the great Emperor Asoka (273-236 BCE) who united India and initiated a golden age of peace and prosperity. Asoka also sent ambassadors of Dhamma to all the neighboring kingdoms (including what has become Myanmar in modern times), thereby spreading both [Vipassana] and the words of the Buddha. [2]

Vipassana has advanced over the years.

“[Vipassana has been] maintained by a continuous chain of teachers in the neighboring country of Myanmar (Burma) until the present day,” says Goenka.

One of my personal gurus, S.N. Goenka, is the primary teacher today an leads retreats on the practice. He was taught by Sayagyi U Ba Khin.

Vipassana VS Samatha

One of my students asked me for my opinion on how this method is different to Vipassana. For me, Vipassana is investigation of the present moment via the senses. Samatha, according to Buddhist monk Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, is focusing the mind on one thing to produce inner stillness.

I recommend practising both Vipassana and Samatha.

Interestingly, the Pali Canon (Buddhist text) never mentions Vipassana as a type of meditation. Instead, it refers to Vipassana as a quality of mind.

Insight

Vipassana creates insight into true reality. Specifically, insight into anicca (impermanence), dukkha (suffering), and anatta (non-self), which are the “three marks of existence” in Theravada Buddhism. Also, sunyata, which is “emptiness” in Mahayana Buddhism. [Gunaratana, Henepola (2011), Mindfulness in plain English]

Let me explain the “three marks of existence”:

  • Dukkha (Frustration): This is basically dissatisfaction.
  • Anatta (No soul): This is the idea that there is no fixed soul.
  • Anicca (Impermanence): The observation that everything is always changing.  

Ultimately, Vipassana is about seeing true reality

To see reality, we practice paccakkha, which means “perceptible to the senses”. In other words, we see things as their sensory experience. 

Henepola Gunaratana said that Vipassana is about “Looking into something with clarity and precision, seeing each component as distinct and separate”.

By practising Vipassana we see thoughts, sensations, and feelings for what they are, for their sensory experiences. I find that this gives me power over them, so we are less reactive, less emotional, and more in control.

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations.

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