Learn the “BASICS” of Insight Meditation

Larry Yang teaches the basics of a simple practice you can do right now: insight meditation.

Photo by Nick Fewings.

The term “insight meditation” comes from the Pali word Vipassana. It is the ability to see clearly and deeply into what is unfolding in our lives.

Insight practice reveals what has created our present conditions and allows us to more fully live in the present moment. This is so valuable for our ability to make conscious choices to better our lives. It is why the Buddha said that living twenty-four hours with mindfulness is more worthwhile than living a hundred years without it.

We start our Insight practice with the BASICS:

Begin with breath and body

Take a seat and notice how your body breathes itself without extra effort. No need to force your breath or to breathe in a controlled fashion. Usually, we take our breath for granted. In insight meditation, we make visible in our lives what has previously been invisible.

Allow awareness into activities

Expand your awareness into walking, movement, and eating meditation practices. Experience the sensations of simply eating a salad or piece of bread, which you might usually consume while doing other activities. While walking to the restroom at work, do so mindfully. If you have a limited or different range of motion, allow that to guide where your mindfulness needs to be, without judging anything about your experience. Know that your mindfulness is not dependent on those conditions. It can include all of your experience.

Support the sacred in your life

Whether you are secularly or spiritually minded, pay attention to how people treat each other in terms of kindness, compassion, ethics, and integrity. These values are not the monopoly of one lineage or one spiritual tradition. They’re what make us human.

Invite all of yourself into awareness

We are the products of different lives, backgrounds, families, occupations, roles, cultures, genders, orientations, physical abilities, and economic and educational experiences. Invite all your aspects and identities into your insight practice.

Cultivate continuity and consistency

Develop a daily sitting practice. Be realistic. If it feels difficult, try the Five-Five-Five method: Meditate five minutes a day, for five days a week, for five weeks. If you feel its benefit, you will naturally increase your practice time. Continuity and consistency lead to concentration, clarity, and calmness. Bring your awareness practice into your workplace, your relationships, your creative endeavors—nothing is outside of mindfulness.

Sangha and community

I advise you also to practice with others. Gather with spiritual friends, meet in weekly sitting groups, and get support through daylong retreats. If you cannot find these groups in your geographic area—get like-minded and like-hearted friends to sit with you. We never walk our spiritual path alone, and the teachings show us that we actually awaken together.

Attend to these BASICS, and the rest will follow. Each teaching leads to all of the teachings, bringing us greater freedom in our hearts and clarity in our minds.

 

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