Vipassana Meditation Technique: Everything You Need To Know

vipassana meditation
Paul harrison  
Paul Harrison [Private Meditation Coach]

In this guide, we will look at how to do Vipassana meditation technique at home. We’ll cover the Vipassana meditation script and its benefits.  If youve never done this before you will be surprised by how easy and effective it is.

As a meditation teacher, I personally use this method for twenty minutes every single day. And it is also one of my favourite methods that I teach in my online meditation lessons. Spiritually speaking, it is a vital method on the pathway to enlightenment. 

From my personal experience and my experience teaching this method, I can say that it seriously helps with health and happiness. Because it gives insight into the mind, it helps us control thoughts and feelings.  Honestly, before I started doing Vipassana my mind was a mess and I had the worst thoughts.

Some people learn Vipassana meditation at retreats. However, in my experience, it is better to do Vipassana at home. When you practise Vipassana meditation at home you gain insight into your mind in your day-to-day life.  

So what is Vipassana?

Vipassana meditation (“Vipassana Bhavana”) is a wonderful Buddhist meditation used for improving our ability to perceive reality clearly.

The word Vipassana is the Pali word for “clear seeing” or “insight”.  Becauase Im a “word nerd” Ill mention that Vipassana is acrually two words joined together.  “Vi”, which means “In a special way”, and “Passana”, which means to perceive. So, the meaning of Vipassana Bhavana is to clearly see things as they are.            

Yup, it’s about seeing clearly. 

When you practise Vipassana, you gain insight into the workings of the mind. Thats why this is one of the fundamental Buddhist meditations, alongside Samatha [READ: Samatha Meditation Technique].

 

How To Do Vipassana Meditation Technique At Home (Script)

how to do vipassana meditation
how to do vipassana meditation

In my opinion, it is best to do Vipassana at home because then you will gain insight into how your mind works in the place you are every day: home, which is far more valuable than doing it at a retreat.

Buddha said that it is best to do Vipassana meditation technique in a forest, sitting with the legs crossed in Lotus position. However, you can practice Vipassana meditation at home. Of course, your space should be relaxing and free of distractions. You want to feel peaceful and positive when you do it.

You can do it sitting in a chair. However, you should have good posture. 

When you do Vipassana at home you should be somewhere quiet and comfortable.

You can learn more about sitting positions in my guide to Zen

Script For Vipassana Meditation At Home

  1. As with most types of meditation, vipassana should be practised properly. Follow this Vipassana meditation script carefully. 
  2. Sit comfortably. Buddha said we should do Vipassana meditation technique with the legs crossed. But many people, like me, cannot sit comfortably in that position (I have a leg injury). No sweat. Just sit comfortably with your back erect but not stiff.  Sayadaw U Pandita [a master of Vipassanā] tells us that good posture improves focus. You might also like to put your hands in Gyan mudra. To do this, let your fingers extend out. Curl your index fingers and thumbs so they touch at the base. Place your hands on your thighs with the palms facing upwards.  
  3. Close your eyes
  4. Breathe in and focus on your abdomen. Do not attempt to control your breathing. Breathe in a relaxed manner. In the Satipatthana Sutta, Buddha specifically says that we must begin with mindful breathing before continuing. The breath serves as what Thich Nhat Hanh calls an “anchor”. When we focus on the breath, we stop ourselves from daydreaming and we calm the “Monkey Mind”.  
  5. As you breathe, focus on the sensation of the breath in your body. 
  6. Focus on the rise and fall of your abdomen.
  7. Become aware of the entire breathing process. Take twenty-five relaxing mindful breaths in this way.
  8. Reach down with your mind and feel the sensations arising in your abdomen. Concentrate on the breath in the abdomen. Breathe in and out with both body and mind. Body leads and mind follows mindfully.
  9. 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.
  10. You might struggle to maintain focus. I used to when I was just getting into meditation. And hey, thats fine. Sometimes it’d hard to focus for extended periods. 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.
  11. If your mind creates thoughts, simply tell yourself, “I am thinking” and concentrate on breathing.
  12. 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. Remember, when you’re learning how to do Vipassana meditation technique, don’t rush.
  13. 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. Again, this is narural so dont worry. 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 sensation, return your focus to your breathing.
  14. 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.”
  15. 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.
  16. There is a specific way to end Vipassana meditation technique. When you finish Vipassana, don’t just open your eyes and snap back to normality. Instead, 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.
  17. You can continue to practice Vipassana meditation 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.
  18. For even more insight, practice Shambhavi Mudra.
How To Do Vipassana Meditation At Home

Why You Should Practice Vipassana Meditation Technique At Home

Many people make a huge mistake when meditating: They practise at retreats.

You are far better off learning how to do Vipassana meditation technique at home.

Why?  Because most of the stimuli that affect you are at home.

  • Loud voices
  • Your neighbours
  • If you’re in the city, the constant noise
  • Smells
  • The kids

Vipassana meditation technique teaches us to be less reactive to those stimuli. But to train the mind effectively, we must meditate where those things occur.

Buddha did not isolate himself in a beautiful hall where there were no distractions and no unpleasantness. He sat in the forest, in the village, even around death. Only by exploring his mind in these everyday environments could he liberate himself.

Today we want to be free from the negative aspects of home, work, and, you know, life. If you want to truly liberate your mind, meditate in your everyday life.  

 

My Favorite Benefits of Vipassana Meditation Technique 

I’ve definitely found many benefits of Vipassana meditation technique. I personally find it inspiring how one little exercise like this can do us so much good.

 

Health 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 meditation at home (instead of at a retreat), you will learn to be less reactive in everyday life (see below)
  • Take control of your emotions

Spiritual benefits of Vipassana meditation technique

If you’re spiritual like me, you might want to know that spiritual benefits of Vipassana.

For starters, it is the best meditation for gaining insight into the true nature of reality. 

When we practise Vipassana meditation technique daily we gradually awaken.  

Plus, when you learn how to do Vipassana meditation at home, you will notice what’s going on inside your mind while you’re living your everyday life. And you’ll become less reactive to things that usually disturb you.

 

Seeing inside your own mind

One of my favorite things about Vipassana meditation technique is that it creates insight into the true nature of reality.

The process of observing and labelling helps the mind differentiate between reality and mental phenomena. This, in turn, helps to teach you that your thoughts are not real. Plus, it puts you in touch with the true nature of your own reality.

When you are just starting to learn how to do Vipassana meditation technique, you may be surprised by what you observe in your own mind.

Continue observing phenomena throughout the day. For instance, if you are going for a walk, walk in Zen fashion, being mindfully aware of the process of moving.

When you continually practice Vipassana meditation technique you’ll gain deep insight into the true nature of reality. Ultimately, it is a big step on the path to enlightenment. So if you’re just srarting out, feel excited about what this method can do for you.

Background Info On Buddhist Vipassana Meditation Technique

History of Vipassana Meditation Technique

I’m a bit of a history nerd and I love studying the history of meditation. 

Vipassana has an interesting history.

Vipassana meditation technique started back in the 6th Century. Mahayana Buddhism was expanding through the East from India to Southeast Asia. Meditation was developing quickly, and many new techniques were created.

Vipassana teacher S.N.Goenka tells us:

“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 neighbouring kingdoms (including what has become Myanmar in modern times), thereby spreading both the practice and the words of the Buddha. [2]

The practice has advanced over the years. What we call Vipassana today is based on teachings from the 1800s when Theravada Buddhism went through a great rejuvenation.

“After about 500 years the practice of Vipassana had disappeared from India,” says Goenka. “Fortunately, it was maintained by a continuous chain of teachers in the neighbouring country of Myanmar (Burma) until the present day.”

There has been a lineage through which the method has been taught. Currently one of the leading teachers is Mr S.N. Goenka, who was taught by  Sayagyi U Ba Khin.  Goenka teaches ten-day Vipassana retreats that require dedication and commitment.

 

Vipassana VS Samatha

Some of my students get confused about the difference between Vipassana and Samatha, the two main Buddhist techniques. 

Vipassana is about perceiving reality clearly via the senses. Conversely, Buddhist monk Bhante Henepola Gunaratana says that Samatha is about focusing the mind on one thing to produce inner stillness. So, the difference is that Vipassana is sensory perception, and Samatha is concentration. 

I recommend practising both Vipassana meditation and Samatha meditation.

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

 

Vipassana meditation technique is all about cultivating insight.

When you practice Vipassana meditation you are creating 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): We all feel Dukkha. It is the idea that life doesn’t give us what we want and that everything is always changing. Because we never experience complete satisfaction, we always feel Dukkha.  
  • Anatta (No soul): This is the idea that there is no fixed soul, no fixed sense of self. We are always changing.  
  • Anicca (Impermanence): This is simply the observation that everything is always changing.  

Ultimately, Vipassana meditation technique is about seeing reality

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

I personally like the explanation given by Henepola Gunaratana. He said that Vipassana is about “Looking into something with clarity and precision, seeing each component as distinct and separate”.

Think about it like this. At any given time, you have different thoughts, sensations, and feelings flowing through your mind. However, most of the time, you are likely too distracted to perceive these thoughts clearly. And so, they go on while you are largely unconscious of them. 

By practising Vipassana meditation we see thoughts, sensations, and feelings for what they are, for their sensory experiences. This gives us power over them, so we are less reactive, less emotional, and more in control.

So get practising, and feel excited about all the wonders this meditation can do for you.

 

SOURCES: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3174711/ 

1: [Szekeres RA, Wertheim EH. Evaluation of Vipassana Meditation Course Effects on Subjective Stress, Well-being, Self-kindness and Mindfulness in a Community Sample: Post-course and 6-month Outcomes. Stress Health. 2015 Dec;31(5):373-81. doi: 10.1002/smi.2562. Epub 2014 Feb 11. PMID: 24515781.]

2: Yang, CC., Barrós-Loscertales, A., Li, M. et al. Alterations in Brain Structure and Amplitude of Low-frequency after 8 weeks of Mindfulness Meditation Training in Meditation-Naïve Subjects. Sci Rep 9, 10977 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-47470-4]

3: A study of the effect of Vipassana meditation on Psychological Well Being of employees and impact of demographic factors on meditation outcome. Lardone, A., Liparoti, et. al 2018. Mindfulness Meditation Is Related to Long-Lasting Changes in Hippocampal Functional Topology during Resting State: A Magnetoencephalography Study. Neural plasticity, 2018, 5340717. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/5340717] 

4: Garland, E. L., & Howard, M. O. (2018). Mindfulness-based treatment of addiction: current state of the field and envisioning the next wave of research. Addiction science & clinical practice, 13(1), 14. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13722-018-0115-3]

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. "My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation" - Paul Harrison

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