What Is Vipassana?



Vipassanā (insight)

Vipassana Definition

Vipassana is a type of meditation which is different to other styles because it does not have a point of focus except for the turning of the mind.

Passana can be translated as perceiving. When put together with Vi the meaning roughly translates to “in a special way”. Vipassana is often translated as “Insight” meditation.

Anyone can practice Vipassana although it has a rigorous ten-day retreat induction program.

The modern Vipassana method is associated with Goenka.

a group of people meditating

Vipassana Deep Dive

Meditation is a form of focus that can produce relaxation, inner peace and mindfulness. Within Buddhism, there are two primary types of mediation. They are called Vipassana and Samantha.

Samantha is often translated as “concentration” or “tranquility” and is about single pointed focus where the mind is not allowed to wander. The focus is generally on a prayer, a flame, or a chant. Vipassana is the other type of meditation which is associated with insight and is often referred to as mindfulness meditation.

Vipassana is the oldest meditation practice within the Buddhist tradition and is the chipping away of illusion. The method is said to have come from the Buddha and directly from the foundations of mindfulness – the Satipatthhana Sutta.

Vipassana is the cultivation of awareness of one’s own existence. You can think about it as mind training so that you become more aware of your own experience in a mindful way.

“It is attentive listening, mindful seeing and careful testing.”

The objective of Vipassana meditation is to acknowledge all that is impermanent, and all that is unsatisfactory; this leads to liberation. Ultimately the practice is non-judgmental observation of the inner self.

Through Vipassana meditation and a deep sense of mindfulness the practitioner is able to become aware of the self beyond the ego and to see life beyond its illusion.  This results in experiencing the world in a new way. It is an objective investigation into self-discovery.

Focus is needed for awareness. Breath is used as the focus and is an aid for keeping the mind in the present moment. Breath is utilized because it is an embodied tool that promotes mindfulness.  Breathing is available to everyone and is a moment-to-moment process that is tactile.

Vipassana meditation is not easy. The mind wanders and will continue to wander – that is its nature. The process is about noticing the wandering and coming back to the breath each time it wanders away. It is a retraining of the mind.

Vipassana can be helpful for quietening the mind and present moment awareness.  It can also the practitioner to accept things such as thoughts and emotions as they are.

A golden Vipassana meditation center in front of bushes and a lake
A Vipassana meditation center

What are the benefits?

Some of the reported benefits of practicing Vipassana meditation are:

  • It can reduce anxiety.
  • Increased overall well-being.
  • It can reduce stress.
  • Improves self-acceptance.
  • Promotes plasticity of the brain.
  • It can be helpful for addiction recovery.

Vipassana cannot be described. It has to be experienced.

Vipassana in your Life

The introduction to Vipassana meditation is not an easy one.  The ten-day retreat silent retreat is not for the faint-hearted as it requires a minimum of ten hours of meditation per day!  If you’re not quite ready for that then why not get started at home using the following:

  • Carve out around 10 minutes during the morning for your practice.
  • Make sure your environment is free of distractions.
  • Sit in a cross-legged position or on a chain but make sure that your back is straight.
  • Relax the body as much as possible
  • Without altering your breath, become aware of it.  The inhale and the exhale.
  • Stay with the breath for a few minutes
  • Then become aware of your thoughts.  Notice any sensations. Try not to react and just notice without judgment.
  • If you become distracted, return to the breath.
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Sarah is a Brighton-based yoga teacher and teacher trainer with a passion for teaching self-inquiry and rest.

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