To experience the benefits of practicing Vipassana meditation at home it must be done correctly. This involves the proper Vipassana practice technique, sufficient self preparation and a conducive home environment.
To acquire the most benefits from home meditation, practitioners must not neglect any of these elements. Ideally, you want to simulate the same environment that would be found at a Vipassana meditation retreat. Fortunately, this is not difficult to accomplish.
Practice Vipassana Meditation at Home in 4 Easy Steps
Step #1 – Self Preparation to Practice Vipassana
The first step is to make yourself clean and comfortable. When you come home from the outside world you have unintentionally brought the outside world with you. The noise, sweat, dirt and distractions are unavoidable and now it is time to remove them.
Therefore, the first thing to do is to take a hot bath/shower to get clean and comfortable. Additionally, put on some loose fitting clothes that will allow you to sit cross legged without discomfort.
Step #2 – Adequate Space to Practice Vipassana
Your next objective is to find a quiet location in your home to practice Vipassana meditation. Most likely, this may be your own bedroom or attic. It is important to minimize all potential sensory distractions such as smell, noise and bright light.
It is helpful if you have a small space dedicated to meditation practice. For example, a small meditation corner or room with a properly placed Buddha statue, incense, candles and/or other elements of a Buddhist altar. However, it is not absolutely necessary to use an altar. Although they are easy and inexpensive to set up if you wish to do so.
Step # 3 Proper Position to Practice Vipassana
The next step is to sit down cross legged in the space that you have chosen. It is very important to maintain good posture. Therefore, keep your back straight, neck straight and keep your buttocks level on the floor (do not lean from side to side). Try and visualize the meditation posture of the Buddha statue.
Next, place your hands in the Dhyana (meditation) position. This is done by placing your hands on your lap, palms facing upwards with the right hand on top of the left hand and thumb tips touching to form a small triangle.
Step #4 Mental Preparations to Practice Vipassana
The next important preparatory step is to calm your mind and become focused. Mahasi Sayadaw teaches us that to obtain the benefits of Vipassana meditation practitioners must become mentally detached. Therefore, we need to do two things 1) propagate “Loving-Kindness” and 2) “contemplate the body, part by part.”
Propagate Lovingkindness (Metta Meditation) – wish yourself peace and well being, then do the same for your friends and family and all other living beings. Wish every sentient being on earth to be free from danger, ignorance and ill will. Do this for a few minutes. As a result, the stress that has been built up during the day is negated and this will help you to focus clearly.
Contemplate the Body – Now start with your toes and think about each body part working your way up to the hair on top of your head. Start by thinking of your toenails, then all the bones, your organs, skin, cells and so on. How significant are they? Remember that they are constantly changing from moment to moment. Hair falls out, skin cells constantly die and are replaced. Bones break and become brittle with age, day by day.
For example, we take great care of our hair when we wash it, dry it, comb it but when we cut it do we save it? Of course not! The point of this mental exercise is to become detached from this type of vanity (craving). Additionally, one should realize the impermanent nature of our body. Now we can better concentrate on the cultivation of the mind.
Practice Vipassana Meditation with Correct Focus
To stimulate and enhance concentration while we practice Vipassana it is important to have a center of focus. Different types of meditation have different points of focus such as feelings, mental state and also physical sensations. To properly practice Vipassana meditation we focus on all of these things.
However, we take the rising and falling of the abdomen with each breath as the primary focus point. With each inhalation your abdomen rises and with each exhalation your abdomen falls. It is import to breath naturally and note each inhalation as “rising” and each “exhalation” as falling.
Other phenomenon (mentioned above) will arise and you should note and observe them but then always return to focus on the rising and falling motion of the abdomen.
Natural Breathing to Practice Vipassana
Proper focus requires that we maintain a completely natural state of breathing at all times. It is a common mistake for beginners to unconsciously adjust your natural breathing rhythm. However, this is not the proper technique and all breathing must remain 100% natural.
Follow the natural rising and falling of your abdomen, when you breath in think rising and when you breath out think falling. The rising and falling of your abdomen is your main focus throughout the entire Vipassana meditation experience.
Practice Vipassana with Distractions
Outside Noises and Smell – Unfortunately, there will always be distractions regardless if you are meditating at home or a Vipassana meditation retreat. Therefore, we must properly adjust to the outside interference such as noise, smell and other distractions. Simply note and observe these phenomenon and then return your focus to the rising and falling of the abdomen.
Pain – this is a common distraction, especially for beginners. Fortunately, this is completely normal and with time most of the physical discomfort will become much less distracting. However, in the beginning after 10 or 20 minutes your feet may get numb or possibly your back aches. The pain should be noted and observed similar to other distractions. Then go back to the natural focus of attention – the rising and falling of the abdomen.
If the pain becomes unbearable it is OK to adjust your posture slightly but be mindful of the shifting movements.
Mental wandering – be careful to note any occurrence of mental wandering. It is completely natural to experience mental drifting. When your mind starts dwelling on work or another issue, note it and observe it and then return to the rising and falling of the abdomen.
Noting and observing how your mind and body react to these distractions is very important. This mental noting benefits Vipassana meditation immensely. In fact, this is the whole point of the concentration exercise is for your mind to become detached from these unimportant things. Remember the true laws of nature in the previous post? We must contain and control these cravings to change what we have no control over!
A Brief Summary
To practicing Vipassana meditation in your own home is simply a matter of following these basic steps. As a result, you will see improved concentration levels at work and in other areas of your life. Additionally, you may choose to attend a Vipassana meditation retreat in the future and now you are better prepared.
Of course everyone has heard the cliche that success in life is 90% mental. Unfortunately, most people still focus all of their attention on physical exercise and completely neglect what is most important for their well being. Therefore, practice Vipassana a few times a week and you will be better prepared mentally for all the challenges that lie ahead!
Meditation Course for Beginners by Sayadaw U Pannananda