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This article offers step-by-step instructions for nine insight meditation exercises, as well as a detailed explanation of mindful eating, hints on dealing with problems such as wandering mind, sleepiness, disturbing mental images, unpleasant emotions, and more. Although these Buddhist meditation exercises come from the traditions of the Burmese teacher Mahasi Sayadaw and the Thai teacher Chao Khun Bhavanapirama Thera, you don't have to be a Buddhist to practice them. Find a place where you can sit comfortably, without interruptions, for at least ten minutes. If you meditate in the bedroom it's better to sit on the floor instead of the bed, which may cause sleepiness.
If you choose a sitting position, place your hands in your lap, palms facing upward, the right hand on top of the left. To know an object during vipassana meditation means to experience it with bare, nonverbal awareness. Here's how to use the mental noting technique with this exercise: As the abdomen expands, say the word "rising" in your mind. If you can watch your abdomen rising and falling one time, you can practice insight meditation.
Likewise, although we are aware of the foot during walking meditation, we don’t care about its corporeal mass, which only serves as a "marker" for the important part, the movement. If meditation seems very difficult or you lack self-discipline, try this strategy: decide you will meditate just one minute per day.
While observing the abdominal movements, other phenomena will sometimes intrude—thoughts, sensations of itching, pain, numbness, emotions, sounds, and so forth.
But if a secondary object hooks your attention and pulls it away, or if it causes desire or aversion to appear, you should focus on the secondary object for a moment or two, labeling it with a mental note. However, although the labeling technique is mainly for beginners, even advanced meditators benefit from using it when mindfulness and concentration are weak. The instructions for noting secondary objects apply to all the meditation exercises in this article. In the beginning your mind will often wander during meditation, spinning out thoughts about the past and future. When no thoughts or other secondary objects distract you, your attention should stay with the primary meditation object. But it should be understood that in any two consecutive moments the meditation object may be different.
For instance, if a sound pulls your attention away from the abdominal movements, switch your attention to the sound and note "hearing" for a moment or two.
Put your hand in your lap, noting "placing." Now you are back in the original meditation posture.
Note the pleasant feeling that has replaced the unpleasant one, labeling it "feeling" for one or two moments. Note the pleasant feeling that has replaced the pain, labeling it "pleasure" or "feeling" for a moment or two.
By practicing insight meditation we gradually realize there is no bodily position comfortable enough that we can always maintain it.
For more advanced meditators there is an additional method for dealing with physical pain, which is to disengage your attention from it and observe the mind itself. Generally speaking, when feelings arise during meditation they should be observed and labeled with a mental note. If an image occurs, try to focus on the primary meditation object again (such as the rising-falling motions), ignoring the image.
Insight meditators usually alternate a period of sitting with an equal period of walking meditation, especially during an intensive retreat in which vipassana is practiced many hours per day. Here we'll describe how to change from sitting to standing in a step-by-step manner, enabling you to maintain mindfulness.
Once the body is upright you should observe the standing posture for a few moments, noting "standing." This means to focus awareness on the position or shape of the body, being aware of how it feels. Whether you are standing, sitting, or lying down, apply this step-by-step technique whenever you change posture during vipassana practice.
Below are a series of drawings that illustrate the reverse process, changing from standing to sitting, in even more detail. Since mindfulness sometimes gets "bored" or slows down when observing the same object for a long time (especially during a meditation retreat), changing to another primary meditation object can help mindfulness maintain strength and continuity.
The hand motions exercise, performed while sitting or lying down, is especially useful for those who can't do the walking practice due to illness or disability. Pivoting from the elbow, slowly swing the hand and forearm inward toward the center of the body, stopping a couple of inches before touching the abdomen.
Pivoting from the elbow, swing the left hand and forearm inward toward the center of the body, stopping when a couple of inches from the abdomen. There are a couple of Pali words worth remembering, because you will hear them over and over again in discussions about vipassana meditation. Everything we've said about observing the sitting posture applies to all the other bodily postures as well. Intermediate or advanced meditators may practice this exercise for the entire meditation period, or for a few minutes before practicing the rising-falling exercise. As soon as you're aware of an emotion during meditation practice, label it with a mental note. The insight meditation method is a middle path between 1) suppressing an emotion and 2) indulging it by expressing it in words or actions, trying to feel it more deeply, or thinking about it further. After noting the emotion for one or two moments, let go of it and gently bring your attention back to the primary meditation object. Sleepiness may bother you more during an intensive meditation retreat than in your daily practice. Consciousness: for example, the condition of the mind with or without hatred, delusion, etc.
A valid object for mindfulness must be something that actually exists, and is directly perceived in the present moment.
But we should understand that during vipassana practice we won't always be able to focus on a "real" or "correct" meditation object, even if we try hard to do so.
The way of focusing on objects in vipassana practice differs from that of concentration meditation, and it's important to understand the difference.
In order to have a complete foundation for mindfulness, a meditator observes both the mind and its object in each moment.


So when we say, for example, "be aware of the rising motion," what should be observed is, "knowing rising," or "the-act-of-knowing-rising." That is true for all meditation objects, not just the abdominal movements. Although not all meditation objects will have such clearly distinct phases as a single step does, we can use this example as a paradigm of how to observe other objects, too, even mental events. Please don't misunderstand: we don't mean you have to change to a different meditation object every single moment.
Most of us have seen jugglers at festivals or street fairs, and their touch-and-go skill is a perfect example of how to focus on objects in meditation. Now for the "forget it" part: as soon as a juggler catches one ball he lets it go immediately or his hand won't be free to catch the next one. In this exercise your attention switches back and forth between two primary meditation objects. For the second object, find a point on your right or left buttock where you can feel the contact of the floor.
Zen is a school of Buddhism that focuses on seated meditation (zazen) in order to see directly into the nature of reality. While sometimes zazen can be physically uncomfortable, don't force yourself and allow yourself to be injured. Sitting with a group can be a great help - find a Zen group near you - Google is your friend! Zafu (traditional Japanese meditation cushion) - alternatively, any thick stable cushion, or even a folded blanket. Meet Colie, a wikiHow editor from the US who has been part of the community for over five years. Western legs aren't really built for Full Lotus because meditation hasn't been with us from childhood and we constantly sit in positions that are bad for our posture.
Half lotus works for me, or just legs out in front, and leaning back posted on your arms.I do a lot of lying meditation too, and dont worry about falling asleep. Although vipassana is a very simple method, many aspects of meditation only become clear by actually doing it. In meditation these movements are called, respectively, "rising" and "falling." They never cease to alternate as long as you live. For example, during one rising motion you would say the word "rising" once, stretching the word out to last as long as the inhalation. If you want to meditate longer than an hour, it is best to alternate this exercise with walking meditation.
When observing the abdominal motions or any other form of bodily movement, the student should focus on the movement itself instead of on the physical body part. If a secondary object makes only a faint impression on the periphery of your awareness and does not strongly hook your attention, ignore it and continue observing the primary meditation object.
Since it is more difficult for beginners to notice when they are thinking, there's a greater chance the mind will be hooked by a thought and get carried away on a long tangent before you realize it. It doesn't matter whether a thought is good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant; the conventional meaning is irrelevant in meditation. That doesn't mean you have to observe one object exclusively for the entire meditation period. When you're aware of the pain again you realize that for those few moments of thinking about your finances, or an argument you had with a loved one, or the things you need to buy at the store, you didn't actually feel the discomfort anymore. If you are sitting, get up and practice walking meditation or do the hand motions exercise. When the sitting time is over, resist the temptation to jump up suddenly or automatically stretch your back or legs without being mindful of your movements.
The basic walking meditation exercise is similar to normal walking, only slower and more deliberate. Instead of looking around the room, keep your eyes directed straight ahead or slightly downcast toward the floor (but don't bend your neck too far forward, which may cause discomfort).
This means to focus awareness on the posture of the body as you stand (for a more detailed description of how to observe posture, see Exercise 4). By focusing on a different part of the body, however, you give mindfulness a larger repertoire of objects, just as a weightlifter trains different muscles in rotation. Here you will observe a stationary object—the sitting posture itself (strictly speaking, however, movement is still present, because the mind moves). The method is simply to observe the posture for one moment, let it go, and then immediately bring the mind back to the sitting posture again. Another way to think of it is that you focus for as long as it takes to say the word "sitting," or roughly as long as one inhalation. For example, if you realize you're angry, label the emotion "anger, anger," for one or two moments.
For example, you might repeat the word "Buddho," or another mantra (a mantra is a special word or phrase repeated aloud and focused on in concentration meditation).
In the context of vipassana meditation, some mental forms are "real," such as the intention to move the body, or a feeling of aversion or desire. Having identified the appropriate meditation objects, we need to understand precisely how to observe them. Even though we won't be able to do it clearly at first, our eventual aim during meditation should be to observe every object in this manner, knowing it with mindfulness from the instant of its arising all the way through to its ending, right in the present moment. Students sometimes get confused because we say a meditation exercise such as the sitting posture can be practiced as long as forty-five minutes.
But again, we need to understand how to focus from moment to moment during vipassana practice. If you have trouble staying still for long periods of time, do some stretches before meditating. Generaly consensus is, if you fall asleep you need the sleep more, and meditation largely happens during sleep anyways.There was a week I was so exhausted, I was taking hour naps every afternoon instead of meditating.
But as long as you have privacy you can loosen your belt, remove your jacket and footwear, and find a comfortable place to sit. Whatever pose you choose should be comfortable enough that you can maintain it without moving for at least twenty minutes (unless you're practicing for a shorter time, of course).
You can use your own words, but the spirit of the aspiration should be something like this: "By this practice of insight meditation may I reach the end of suffering. No matter what appears, just know it with bare attention for one moment and then let it go.


The practice of mental noting helps keep the mind on the meditation object and prevents you from getting distracted. The same applies to the motion of the feet in walking meditation, the movements of the hands in Exercise 3, and so on.
Even if you move on to the other exercises you should not forget about this one, since the abdominal movements can be noted anywhere, any time. You will find, however, that once you get "over the hump" of your initial resistance and actually sit down to do it, you might sometimes want to meditate longer. When you are aware of color, note the bare sensation of seeing for a moment or two, labeling it "seeing." Don't pay attention to what the sight is an image of, or whether it's attractive or unattractive. A mental note should also be a word easily recalled so you don't have to search your mind for it. The strategy is simple: When you catch yourself thinking, silently say the mental note "thinking" for a moment or two, and then gently return your attention to the rising-falling movements (or whatever primary meditation object you were observing). When unpleasant memories arise we focus on how we were wronged, getting more and more upset. Letting go of the previous meditation object happens automatically every time we focus in the present again. As a result of meditating, you begin to see that uncomfortable bodily sensations arise much more often than you had thought.
No matter how comfortable the position is initially, we are always forced to move because of the changing nature of the physical elements. They are mental formations that arise from imagination (coupled with concentration) and have no significance. So we have only: the sitting posture (material form) and the thing that is knowing it (the mind). Emotions are valid meditation objects, too, objects of the fourth foundation of mindfulness. Sooner or later, mindfulness must learn how to handle emotional objects or we won't be able to make progress in insight.
Although for the sake of communication we can talk about observing the sitting posture for three-quarters of an hour, what we are actually doing during that time is knowing sitting for a moment and letting it go, knowing sitting and letting go, knowing and letting go, over and over again. You will need only a traditional zafu (thick cushion) and zabuton, or perhaps just a folded blanket to sit on, and a quiet place where you won't be disturbed. It started with meditating, and I kept falling asleep, but coming to much more refreshed(ofcourse meditation+sleep is more beneficial than just meditation).I also wedge a small cushion under my backside to tilt my pelvis and take the pressure away from maintaining an easily alligned posture. In all the exercises except walking meditation your eyes can be either open or closed (in walking meditation your eyes must be open).
Just this much." To let go of your resistance, worry or aversion for one moment isn't hard (and even during those times when it isn't easy, it's still possible).
Then thoughts will get stirred up—distracting, delusive thoughts about how difficult or boring meditation is.
Just keep observing the primary meditation object and ignore the thoughts, which will fall away on their own.
So even if you sit down to practice the rising-falling exercise for thirty minutes, it doesn't mean you will observe the abdominal movements during every single moment of that half-hour period. In Exercise 1, for example, we focus on the rising movement of the abdomen, and then drop it. But in the act of bringing our attention into the present again to see the falling movement, the rising motion is simultaneously forgotten. Every step has a clear beginning as you lift the heel, a middle phase as the foot travels forward, and an end as you place the foot down (these three phases segue into each other fluidly).
In other words, after observing something for one moment, mentally let it go and then move on to the next object (the "next object" might be a completely different form, or it could be the same thing again if it's still occurring, like a feeling of itchiness lasting a few minutes).
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But even if you don't end up meditating longer, keep practicing one minute every day, without exception, and your attitude will gradually change. Secondary objects will sometimes hook you, and whenever you deliberately note a secondary object you should switch all of your attention to it (even if just for that one moment). And when the body sits, the mind experiences the posture as a group of temporary sensations, different from when the body is standing or lying down. Whether good or bad in conventional terms, all objects are treated equally during meditation practice.
Soon those thoughts will force you to stand up and walk away from the cushion without having finished your meditation session. In short, a secondary object is anything you're aware of that is not the primary meditation object.
After one or two moments of noting "hearing," return your attention to the primary meditation object and forget about the sound. The moment after that we're aware of the rising movement again; as soon as it ends we forget it. Elevating the hips takes stress off the neck and back vertebrae and aligns the spine, which allows you to sit comfortably for longer periods. Be careful to follow the meditation techniques correctly so that mindfulness and concentration stay as balanced as possible. Furthermore, in between moments of knowing the sitting posture there may be times when we notice a secondary object such as a thought, a sound, or an itch, whenever those things pull our attention away. All we need to do is label the event with an appropriate mental note, such as "memory," "planning," or "imagining," and lightly bring the mind back to the main meditation object.
This is one of many aspects of meditation that only truly becomes clear with practical experience.
During a single meditation session mindfulness may jump back and forth from one object to another many times.




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