07 January 2009

Adding to the Practice

At the taiji camp that I usually go to, Bataan opens each day with a 30 minute meditation session. He refers to his style as "Vipassana meditation", and he or one of his students always gives a brief introduction for those who haven't done it before. The interesting thing is that a quick internet search turns up all sorts of information on Vipassana, and there is little resemblance to what I have been introduced to as Vipassana meditation.

The practice that I have learned is to focus on the breath, and allow the breaths to become deeper. Then just allow the mind to be empty. Thoughts will arise. Notice them, then let them go. In the beginning, it's very easy to become distracted or fixated on a thought. When you notice, acknowledge the thought, and let it go. Trying to force a thought to go away just gives it more power.

The last time I tried adding this into my regular practice, I was ... somewhat impatient with it, to be honest. I would set a timer for whatever time I could allow (usually 5-10 minutes), then focus on my breath, to the point of counting the breaths, and, assuming that each count took one second, trying to figure out how much time was left. I didn't maintain the practice for long at that point but, honestly, I don't think it's possible to get much out of it that way. This time around, the thoughts stay empty on their own much more easily. Some do arise, and I note them, and wait for them to fade so I can return to the emptiness.

I don't know if I'll manage to continue when the semester gets going, but I hope that I can. So far, the time has passed smoothly and continuously, so that I'm surprised when the timer goes off. It's not that the time has gone quickly... it's more that it feels like there is no time. And if there's no time, how can time pass? It's a bit hard to describe the sensation.

At any rate, here is what Wikipedia has to say about Vipassana, and here is a brief summary of some of the recent research into the benefits of meditation.

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