What is Vipassana?
The meaning of Vipassana is to ‘see oneself’. This valuable, ancient practice was once used to free the Buddha and his disciples from internal pain and to fully awaken them into the present moment. As an awareness meditation, Vipassana does not involve mantras or focus on breath, making it the perfect style of meditation for everyone, from beginner through to expert.
Dating all the way back to the 10th century, after a cycle of degeneration, Vipassana was rediscovered by the Buddha over 2500 years ago, making it one of the most ancient, and sacred insight meditation techniques in the world.
Vipassana was reintroduced in Myanmar during the 18th century by Medawi, a Buddhist monk. Medawi was one of modern day Vipassana’s first practitioners and has been credited for the interest in today’s popular Vipassana movement. Another notable figure in the Vipassana movement is Satya Narayan Goenka. A Burmese- Indian teacher of Vipassana, Satya Narayan Goenka became an influential, award winning teacher in his lifetime. He has been credited for establishing many meditation centres globally and today he is looked up to as a master of Vipassana meditation.
The practice of Vipassana meditation is one of calm introspection and self-purification, using the breath to calm the mind, eradicate pain and rationalise distress. With the aim of observing an acute awareness and truth realisation, Vipassana can be freely practiced by anyone with the aim of personal awakening.
How is Vipassana practiced?
The traditional practice of Vipassana is best practiced in a quiet environment whilst adopting a comfortable crossed legged position such as half lotus or full lotus. The back should be straight, hands lying gently on the lap, with palms facing upwards.
Closing the eyes allows new practitioners to concentrate easier, but over time, concentration may out balance mindfulness, thus allowing practice to flow with the eyes open.
During the beginning of practice, the attention is shifted to the abdomen with the focus on gentle breath and the feeling of rising and falling. As the body falls into practice, thoughts should irradiate to that only of the sensation of rising and falling within the present moment.
Sessions of Vipassana can vary in length greatly, depending on individual experience and practice. It takes time to find the body and mind on an even keel with Vipassana, but once you reach it, the effects on the mind and body are invaluable
Effects of Vipassana on the mind and body
It is widely believed that benefits of practicing Vipassana to the mind and body are endless.
Regular practice helps the mind to develop a stronger sense of motivation, as well as helping it to understand truth, patience and contentment. In turn, helping us fight fatigue and allowing us to work with a greater sense of precision than were able to before. With a stronger mind we are open to recollecting memories and finding peace in them, as well being able to open our mind to memorize new things more appropriately, helping us to feel more wholesome in the present moment we are living in.
Practicing Vipassana opens the mind up to love, living in harmony, loving ourselves, offering love and accepting love from others. Kindness and compassion become the ruler of oneself and jealousy is ultimately irradiated. Living a life enlightened by awareness sets us on a journey to gratitude and appreciation and ultimately onto the path of divine happiness.
Insight meditation like Vipassana boasts relaxation qualities that help subside sleeping, anxiety, addiction and depression issues by boosting brain chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins making it a wonderful practice to aid mental health.
Insight meditation with Vipassana can help to regulate the body’s cortisol levels, easing chronic pain and rebalancing hormonal irregularities.
Learning how to use your body’s natural endorphins to aid the body and mind is one of Vipassana’s greatest natural benefits.
Why is Myanmar the best place to practice Vipassana?
The history of Vipassana hails back to an ancient Myanmar. Around the 18th century, Medawi reawakened Vipassana as a valuable meditation practice in Myanmar. The Vipassana movement was simplified and gained momentum in the 1950’s but continued to focus on the original Burmese traditions. Burmese history is littered with sacred Vipassana teachers, including that of Mogok Sayadaw and Pa Auk Sayadaw, both of whom implemented methods that have made Vipassana what it is today.
Today Myanmar treats Vipassana with the same amount of sincerity as it did all those years ago and the practice of meditation is firmly ingrained into its culture.
The opportunities to practice across this beautiful country are endless. From the stunning and tranquil beaches of Ngwe Saung, to designated mediation centres in and around the cities of Yangon and Mandalay, you will never be stuck for somewhere to practice no matter where you are in the country.
Whether you’re a beginner or a meditator of lifelong practice, Vipassana has something to offer everybody and you can rest assured, whatever your level, you will be welcomed at retreats, workshops, courses, classes and sessions alike, all across the beautiful country of Myanmar.