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Vipassana Meditation: How to still the mind?

Updated: Mar 22

Focus of the month - August 2023

written by Nush

I did my first Vipassana course in India back in 2019. It was one of the most intense meditation experiences I went through. The course itself was 10 days long and we practiced from 4:30 AM onwards until 8 PM in the evening. Having shorter and longer breaks in between, the days were filled with noble silence (Mauna) and a lot of sitting. Back then I was questioning why the course had to be so strict with all its rules, but now I understand that a lot of discipline is required in order to practice this technique.

“Work diligently. Diligently. Work patiently and persistently. Patiently and persistently. And you’re bound to be successful. Bound to be successful.”

— S. N. Goenka

What is Vipassana?

Vipassana is an ancient Buddhist meditation technique that focuses on the development of insight and awareness into the nature of reality. The term „Vipassana“ comes from the Pali language and translates to „insight“ or „clear-seeing“.

It is one of the most widely practiced meditation techniques in the Buddhist tradition. The primary goal of Vipassana meditation is to gain a deep understanding of the impermanent, unsatisfied, and selfless nature of all phenomena. By cultivating mindfulness and concentration, practitioners observe the arising and passing away of thought, sensations and emotions without attachment or aversion. Through this practice, they aim to free themselves from suffering and achieve liberation (Nirvana). S. N. Goenka (1924 - 2013) was a Vipassana practitioner and brought the technique to the West. His teachings have been recorded and if you go to any Vipassana center to practice, you will hear Goenka’s recording being played. Goenka was an Indian business man, who suffered from terrible migraines. He had the money to travel around the globe and see different doctors, but none were able to cure his headache. In the early 1960s he met his Burmese meditation master Sayagyi U Ba Khin. He introduced him to Vipassana meditation and it helped him to cure his migraines. Goenka experienced a change on a physical level, but moreover on a spiritual level. He could witness how his mind became so much more calm and centered with the regular meditation practice. The technique focuses on the mindfulness of breath and bodily sensations. He emphasized the importance of observing sensations objectively without reacting to them and developing equanimity. In the 10 day course you focus solely on the breath for the first three days. To be able to practice Vipassana, the mind needs to be highly focused and sharp. Starting from the fourth day onwards, the actual technique of Vipassana is being introduced and practitioners are guided to begin with scanning the body, going part by part, tapping into the sensations and moving forward.

During these courses, participants observe noble silence, which means refraining from communication with others and maintaining a disciplined schedule of mediation and other activities. Many people have found Goenka’s Vipassana courses highly transformative and his teachings have spread widely across the globe. The 10 days courses allow you to go really deep into meditation, without any distraction from the „outside world“ - However the course is recommended to people who are stable in their minds, for people who are ready to spend a lot of time with themselves.

On another note: I’d like to share my podcast „Yoga and the City“ with our Yoga on the move community, as this might be something you like to listen to!

Further readings

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