What is Vipassana meditation all about?
Vipassana is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques. It was largely practiced by Siddhartha Gotama, the Buddha and his followers. However, this technique has nothing to do with any religion or sect. It is simply a process of self observation. But with the time the technique got distorted and mixed with rites and rituals, and that is the reason why nowadays some people wrongly associate it with Buddhism or Hinduism.
So how does the technique work? To answer this question, we shall have a closer look at the mind. (Is that even possible to have a look at the mind?!) Human’s mind is a pretty tricky thing. Most people know that there are two parts of the mind – conscious and unconscious (or subconscious). The common belief has it that we can analyze and track what’s happening in our conscious part, but we have no control over the subconscious level. Meanwhile, the unconscious part seems to play a much more important role in determining person’s character, habits and way of living. It is in the subconscious layer of the mind where all the impurities, deep-rooted complexes and knots are stored. Now if we are trying to analyze this subconscious part of the mind, what happens? We are analyzing unconscious part of the mind with the help of the conscious; thus the object and the tool of the research turn out to be one and the same – the mind. Well, that does not seem to work well, does it?
We have to go deeper and the technique of Vipassana allows us to do so by sharpening the mind and connecting the conscious to the so-called unconscious.
Human beings perceive reality and react to it according to the habit patterns of their mind. Past experiences, whether we like it or not, do influence our present. A seemingly new situation is always treated with the deeply ingrained habit pattern of the mind. In fact, our mind doesn’t react to situations directly – our body “reacts” first and then the mind finds the well-trodden path to deal with it. Here is how it happens.
By means of the 5 sense organs (ears, eyes, tongue, skin and nose) a human being first cognizes some object. E.g.: “Some food is in my mouth”. Then taste buds are sending signals to the mind, “It is a new taste, hmm …” – thus recognition happens – “It tastes similar to chocolate, mmm”. The 3rd step deals with the sensations of the body when something happens at the chemical level. If one loves chocolate, then pleasure hormones are released into the blood flow and a light smile touches their lips. The last but not the least – the mind reacts to the pleasant sensation with craving (or aversion if it was a negative sensation) and we smilingly take another serving of that food.
Thus, it is actually the body, not the mind that reacts first, and only after that the mind follows along its habitual patterns. Vipassana meditation technique teaches us to break the established habit pattern of the mind at the level of sensations. It becomes possible by observing body sensations during the meditation and learning not to react to them.
With continued practice, the meditation releases tension developed in everyday life and opens the knots tied by the old habit of reacting in an unbalanced way to both pleasant and unpleasant situations. It also stimulates positive creative energy for the well-being of the individual and society on the whole.
With continuous practice of the technique many psychosomatic diseases have been proven to get eradicated. It comes as no surprise that modern medicine utilizes the underlying principles of Vipassana. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is based on the idea that human’s neural pathways are shaped by experience and the way people react to those experiences.
To conclude, I must say no words would be sufficient enough to describe how it works. One has to give it a try to fully understand the technique. Vipassana allows us to observe the changing nature of body and mind and experience the universal truth of impermanence.