What is Vipassana Meditation? Vipassana, or Insight Meditation, is the ancient practice of paying close attention to sensation, including thought, in an attempt to better understand the nature of reality and more specifically, one’s own internal perception of reality. It is believed to have been re-discovered by Siddhartha Guatama, more commonly known as “The Buddha” and then passed down through the Buddhist faith for around 2500 years. Perhaps you have heard of Mindfulness Meditation? This is a very similar practice to Vipassana, if subtly different.
So then, what are the benefits of such a practice?
There’s a myriad of potential alleged benefits, which will differ from person to person due to factors such as ones personal temperament, or how committed they are to consistent practice. Every one is different, so there’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to outcome. What is for sure, is that if you practice regularly you will better understand yourself and the world around you. I can personally attest to experiencing benefits from a consistent practice. More overall calmness, less impulsivity, a better awareness of my emotions and feelings as just that, only emotions and feelings, opposed to some sort of inner emotional hurricane that sweeps me away on a whim. I find I am less reactionary, more caring, more prone to acts of altruism and now have a much better capacity for empathy. These are all just my own personal anecdotes, so take this information for what it is, but is there any science to back me up? Let’s have a look.
Vipassana Meditation has been used in prisons and recovery settings to help inmates and patients reduce recidivism and their likely-hood of relapse. After a 4-year trial that entailed regularly practising Vipassana Meditation at the King Count Jail, Seattle’s North Rehabilitation Facility reported inmates were 20% less likely to return to prison, fantastic! This is an impressive statistic, so what else can we find?
Well, researchers at the University of Washington found that inmates who participated in Vipassana Meditation programs reported less use of alcohol, marijuana, and crack cocaine. They also had improved social and psychological functioning, as well as higher optimism. This is great! Additionally, they also saw less severe psychiatric symptoms among those with mental illness.
This information is not trivial and can be life changing for many people. My hope is that it can be beneficial to you too.
You need not commit to a ten day meditation retreat, or even a thirty minute slog alone with your mind to start off with. You can start with merely taking a few deep breaths throughout the day and noticing your thoughts and emotions more. A formal practice is fantastic, and I truly believe you will benefit from it, but even the act of noticing yourself behaving in a certain way you’re not proud of and taking a moment to alter these patterns, is beneficial to yourself and all of those around you. You will thank yourself in the long term and perhaps even your loved ones will too.
Watching the flow of consciousness as it appears can also be beautiful, not only potentially therapeutic, and I believe the more you get to know yourself, the better off you will be. Give it a try. In the world of the new fifth main appendage (look around, I’m sure it’s in your hand or sitting next to you), we could all use a little more space to notice the wind blowing through the leaves, or to stop and smell the flowers more often. So give it a go sometime, sit and just feel the ground beneath your feet and examine what that really feels like. You might just enjoy yourself.
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Until next time,
M L Wood ❤