Insight Meditation: Unlocking Your Awareness
There are many forms of meditation that all seek to in some way transform your awareness. Insight meditation specifically, focuses on the senses, and how becoming more attuned to them can allow one to understand themselves and the nature of reality.
It is thought to be, according to many sages, the general form of meditation practice taught by the Buddha himself, as it upholds and stays true to the core tenets of Buddhism.
Insight meditation, also known as Vipassana, is a way of truly unlocking the awareness. It increases your capacity to comprehend all sensation, thereby increasing your ability to “take in” the world and find meaning in it. This brings peace of mind, increased intelligence, and a sense of belonging in the world.
The Core of Advanced Meditation
Here at Digital Sages I am aiming to include as much teachings on useful meditation practices as possible. This is because meditation itself is one of the most useful skills you can learn, one of the best activities you can partake in. The more solid information, the better.
Insight meditation strips away some of the more advanced material on quieting the mind and breathwork that I have covered in other articles, such as our instructions on guided meditation.
If you want to begin practicing meditation, this is the ideal place to start. Vipassana is meditation distilled into its most basic form.
The primary key of insight meditation is to focus on the rising and falling of your abdomen, or core, as you are breathing. Nothing fancy to start, no visualization. It is here, in the subtly of the breath, will you find your awareness.
This is the core of all advanced meditation practices. Becoming attuned to your breathing, and sharpening your mind.
Breath is used as the focal point. Use it to hone your thoughts.
How to Perform Insight Meditation
Here I will go over the basics for anyone interested in insight meditation. This can be performed by anyone, even those with no prior experience meditating.
- Begin by sitting in the lotus position, or with crossed legs, in a place free of distraction.
- Make sure that your back is straight and that your clothing isn’t in the way.
- Simply begin breathing naturally and evenly. You want to make sure that you are breathing fully, so that your abdomen rises and falls with each breath.
- Train your awareness to the sensations of your breath. Take note of what you are feeling. The only thoughts on your mind should be the way your breathing feels.
- If your thoughts begin to stray, do not let it wander. Sternly but gently pull your awareness back to your breathing.
- As you do this, you will open up your awareness to more sensations. The scope of your breathing will become more known to you, and you will be able to focus better.
- The goal here is clarity of mind and awareness of the body. Both of these will come in time the longer you practice this meditation.
- Progress will occur only after prolonged ability to focus on the breath. You want to envelop yourself in the feeling, always staying in rhythm with your breathing.
That is all there is to it. Greater awareness is within anyone’s reach, you just have to take the time to clear your mind.
Insight meditation is nothing if not simple. Don’t complicate your meditation at this point with fancy poses, advanced yoga, breath holding, mantras, or anything else. You have all the tools you need already. It’s all in the breath.
You might find that your mind wanders often, and sometimes when it does, it is for a prolonged period of time before you are able to catch it.
Don’t feel discouraged. This is common, especially for people who don’t spend enough time practicing mindfulness.
The only remedy for this is continued training with insight meditation, as it is the foundation for all meditation to come.
It might seem like at first that you don’t make any progress. However, that is the nature of meditation. It is not and never has been a “quick fix.”
The power of meditation rests in its ability to slowly deconstruct the bad mental habits we’ve acquired over the years and instill strength and the ability to focus.
Once you begin to be able to focus your thoughts, and discourage your mind from wandering, you will find yourself on the road to self-mastery.
It is at this point that awareness sets in. When you can direct the mind to focus on what you want, instead of the mind directing you, it becomes a very powerful tool.
Further Meditation Tips for Greater Awareness
Body alignment is one of the most important aspects of meditation, and not enough teachers talk about it in the beginning for fear of complicating things.
However, you should know that the way you sit, and your posture in general, can greatly affect your meditation, as well as your general health.
First of all, if your back is not straight, your lungs are not going to be able to fill to their max capacity. This will not only hinder your breath, but the deep rise and fall of the abdomen will be less noticeable and therefore less effective as a focal tool.
Spinal alignment is a huge sign of overall health. Buddhists and other sages from all over the world know that this is due mostly in part because of the energy centers that line the length of the body along the spine, but did you know that there are actually far more physical elements to health related to spinal alignment?
Poor posture is directly related to poor health later in life. Everything from chronic headaches, to poor blood circulation, and of course to the scourge of old age, lower back pain, can all be traced to poor posture.
You have to get used to aligning the spine. This is one of the biggest tips for getting the most out of your meditation and becoming a more aware individual in general.
So when you are practicing insight meditation, as you focus on the breath, it is important that every once in awhile you take stock of some of the rest of your body. Is your back aligned? Are your shoulders straight? Are you clenching your jaw or fists?
Relax your muscles when meditating. Nothing should be tight, clenched, or set too hard. Sit naturally, but always keep in mind your posture.
This is part of the side-benefits of meditation. Mental clarity is what many of us seek, but once you get in the habit of better posture and deep breathing, you’ll see many other areas of your life improve.
This is all part of cultivating greater awareness. It’s the holistic union of mind and body.