Vipassana is the practice of stillness. The stillness is symbolically expressed as the watchful, unmoving awareness that observes the coming and going of the in-breath and out-breath. The mind observes the breathing and the moments in between the in-breaths and out-breaths. It is said that the truth reveals itself in those moments. Moreover, truth reveals itself constantly if we can drop the mental chatter that obscures it. It is also known as Stillpoint Meditation as you are observing the still point, or space, between the thoughts.
“Vipassana” means clear insight into the real characteristics of body and mind, or ‘to see things as they really are’. Vipassana meditation comes from the tradition of Theravada Buddhism. It is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation and was practised by Gotama Buddha more than 2,500 years ago. The technique aims for the total eradication of negative thoughts, or mental impurities, and the resulting joy of liberation from negativity. Its purpose is healing from human suffering.
Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. You start to become aware of the thoughts that you have, the majority of which are usually negative, either about yourself or others. Initially you will be aware of the general mind chatter that is going on at the surface level of the mind, such as “I must remember to do such and such”, “Did I lock the door?”, “I must remember to put the bin out”, “Is my phone switched off?”.
As you start to relax and go deeper into meditation, other thoughts will start to come up from your subconscious mind. These are the thoughts that are usually negative in their vibration and effects and include such things as “I’ll never be able to do this”, “I can never do this as well as him/her”, or “this is a total waste of time”. When you start to meditate on where these thoughts come from, you will find that they relate to other things you have tried to do in life where you perceived you failed or weren’t good enough. It is so important to be aware of our underlying thoughts and beliefs because they condition your behaviour and the way you think about yourself and the world around you.
Letting Go of Negative Thoughts
With Vipassana Meditation you can see and actually remove the causes of suffering, which you will come to see are within yourself. Now that you have identified the negative thoughts you carry around in your subconscious, it is important to let them go. The aim is not to repress or deny the existence of negative thoughts but rather to let them come up and just dismiss them. When meditating, I often visualise a stream flowing in front of me where I deposit any negative thoughts that arise and watch them be carried away in the stream out of my consciousness. By doing this, you are starting to consciously detach from them and, in time, they will have less influence over your conscious, day-to-day behaviour.
Finding Inner Peace
As your meditation deepens, you will notice that gradually fewer and fewer thoughts arise and you will spend more time in the silent space between the thoughts. At this stage you reach the place of perfect peace and tranquillity that lies behind your own subconscious mind. You have risen above and beyond your own sense of self/ego with your personal issues and behavioural conditioning and have entered the realm of pure mind, oneness and unity that is the ultimate goal of meditation.
Regular practice of Vipassana meditation helps you to control your thoughts but, more importantly, choose your thoughts. Long term this will help you become a more positive, effective and creative individual. Remember that your thoughts create your experiences: positive thoughts with positive energy attract positive experiences and create opportunities for you to grow as an individual; negative thoughts carry a negative energy and will attract the kinds of experiences that justify your negative beliefs. This can leave you feeling ‘stuck’ in one or more areas of life or with a feeling that your life isn’t turning out as well as it should.
Regular practice can lead to greater peace, self-control and compassion for yourself and others. It eventually eliminates the cause of mental pain, purifies the mind and leads to a stable happiness that isn’t affected by your moods or outward circumstances.
Helen Shortland is a Reiki Master Teacher, Meditation Teacher and Holistic Therapist based at Little London Herbal Stores on Kings Walk in Nottingham city centre. Her website is http://helenshortland.com.
Helen is currently running a 4 week Vipassana (Stillpoint) Meditation course on Wednesday mornings (beg Wed 10th April) 10.30-11.45am which is open to all with a basic knowledge of meditation. Cost is £28 for full course or £8 for individual classes. If you wish to attend on a drop-in basis, places are still available. Each weekly class includes a relaxation exercise, a guided visualisation and Vipassana Meditation practice. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her on 07748 591690 for further information and/or to book a place.