There are hundreds of methods of meditation, but perhaps Vipassana has a unique status; just the same way as there have been thousands of mystics, but Gautam Buddha has a uniqueness of his own. In many ways he is incomparable. In many ways he has done more for humanity than anybody else. In many ways his search for truth was more sincere, more authentic than anybody else’s.
The meaning – the literal meaning – of the word Vipassana is “to look,” and the metaphorical meaning is “to watch, to witness.” Gautam Buddha has chosen a meditation that can be called the essential meditation. All other meditations are different forms of witnessing, but witnessing is present in every kind of meditation as an essential part; it cannot be avoided. Buddha has deleted everything else and kept only the essential part – to witness. When you have become perfectly watchful of your body, mind and heart, then you cannot do anything more, then you have to wait. When perfection is complete on these three steps, the fourth step happens on its own accord as a reward. Suddenly your life force, your witnessing, enters into the very center of your being. You have come home.
Vipassana can be done in three ways.
The first is: awareness of your actions, your body, your mind, your heart. Walking, you should walk with awareness. Moving your hand, you should move with awareness, knowing perfectly that you are moving the hand. You can move it without any consciousness, like a mechanical thing…you are on a morning walk; you can go on walking without being aware of your feet. Be alert of the movements of your body. While eating, be alert to the movements that are needed for eating. Taking a shower, be alert to the coolness that is coming to you, the water falling on you and the tremendous joy of it ― just be alert. It should not go on happening in an unconscious state. And the same about your mind. Whatever thought passes on the screen of your mind, just be a watcher. Whatever emotion passes on the screen of your heart, just remain a witness ― don’t get involved, don’t get identified, don’t evaluate what is good, what is bad; that is not part of your meditation.
The second form is breathing, becoming aware of breathing. As the breath goes in, your belly starts rising up, and as the breath goes out, your belly starts settling down again. So the second method is to be aware of the belly: its rising and falling. Just the very awareness of the belly rising and falling…and the belly is very close to the life sources because the child is joined with the mother’s life through the navel. Behind the navel is his life’s source. So, when the belly rises up, it is really the life energy, the spring of life that is rising up and falling down with each breath. That too is not difficult and perhaps maybe even easier because it is a single technique. In the first, you have to be aware of the body, you have to be aware of the mind, you have to be aware of your emotions, moods. So it has three steps. The second approach has a single step: just the belly, moving up and down. And the result is the same. As you become more aware of the belly, the mind becomes silent, the heart becomes silent, and the moods disappear.
And the third is to be aware of the breath at the entrance, when the breath goes in through your nostrils. Feel it at that extreme ― the other polarity from the belly ― feel it from the nose. The breath going in gives certain coolness to your nostrils. Then the breath going out…breath going in…breath going out.
Find a reasonably comfortable and alert position to sit for 40 to 60 minutes. Back and head should be straight, eyes closed and breathing normal. Stay as still as possible, only changing position if it is really necessary. While sitting, the primary object is to be watching the rise and fall of the belly, slightly above the navel, caused by breathing in and out. It is not a concentration technique, so while watching the breath; many other things will take your attention away. Nothing is a distraction in vipassana, so when something else comes up, stop watching the breath, pay attention to whatever is happening until it’s possible to go back to your breath. This may include thoughts, feelings, judgments, body sensations, impressions from the outside world, etc. It is the process of watching that is significant, not so much what you are watching, so remember not to become identified with whatever comes up; questions or problems may just be seen as mysteries to be enjoyed!