A number of health problems are rooted in mental instability. Frequent bouts of anger and frustration can lead to stress and related problems. One of the most efficient ways of dealing with this instability and stress is meditation.
Vipasana is an ancient meditative technique that promises to allow a person to see the true nature of things. In Buddhist tradition, it literally translates to insight to the true reality of nature namely impermanence, suffering and the realization of non-self. It focuses on self-observation and the connection between mind and body and aims to eradicate mental impurities.
Vipasana meditation can be broken down into four stages.
Discovering Vitakka and Vicara: The first stage of Vipasana explores the connection between body and mind. This is done by concentrating on inhaling and exhaling and the feeling of air passing over the skin in front of the nose. Vitakka and vicara refer to the concentration and thought required to feel the connection between mind and body.
Disappearance of Vitakka and Vicara: In the second stage, the connection between mind and body is felt effortlessly. Thus, in this stage both vitakka and vicara fade away. This is known as anapana meditation and helps develop control over the mind.
Happiness: When a person reaches the third stage of vipasana, he stops focusing on emotions like pity, sadness, exuberance and only feels happiness. This frees the mind of negativity and hence purifies it.
Equanimity: The fourth and final stage is characterized by mindfulness and leads to clarity. At this stage, a person feels the desire for freedom and understands nature to be ever changing.
Vipasana is taught at a ten day residential program. Here, participants must adhere to a code of discipline that includes absolute silence and abstaining from any form of communication, sexual activity and substance abuse. Participants are taught the basics of the meditation technique and how to practice it but to benefit fully from it, regular meditation is necessary. Advanced vipasana students may attend 20, 30, 45 and 60-day courses to practice vipasana. An introduction to vipasana is also given to children in the form of short 3 day courses.
Ultimately, vipasana enables the practitioner to experience peace and harmony within oneself and with the rest of the world. It frees the mind from craving and hence also helps people abstain from social evils like stealing and killing. Thus, vipasana has the capacity to change minds and character and helps practitioners lead to fulfilling healthy lives.