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Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana is a Pali word which refers to direct insight into the impermanent nature of reality. The prefix vi- is the same as our Latin prefix dis- (to take apart) and the root paś means to see, so vipassana is often translated as insight or seeing in. However, vi- can also be used to intensify a root, which creates the additional translation of seeing deeply or seeing through.

Far from a set of beliefs or concepts about reality to accept or reject, vipassana is instead a set of strategies for directly observing how the interplay between the mind and body create a sense of a self that feels solid and unchanging. In this way, it is a method for developing a deeper awareness of the self and its relationship with the natural flow of experience. Vipassana eventually leads to insights into the nature of suffering and freedom from suffering (which is not necessarily the same as being without physical or emotional discomfort) and into the nature of satisfaction or a kind of happiness which is not dependent upon conditions (which are constantly changing).  

The practice of vipassana requires the development of skills related to paying attention and is sometimes referred to as mindfulness meditation. These are the skills of concentration, sensory clarity, and equanimity.

Concentration is the ability to attend to what is considered relevant at a given time and to let go of what is determined to be irrelevant, any time you want, for as long as you want. Concentration power is the single most universally applicable and deeply empowering skill that a human being can cultivate.

Sensory clarity refers to he ability to distinguish and keep track of the components of sensory experience as they arise in various combinations, moment-by-moment. The basic building blocks of sensory experience include physical-type sensations in the body, emotional-type sensations in the body, external visual stimuli, mental images, external sounds, and internal conversations.

Equanimity is described as a balanced state of non-interference. It can be thought of as an attitude of gentle matter-of-factness with regard to sensory experience and is a contrast to the way we consistently and unknowingly reject unpleasant things and try to hold onto pleasant things.

As we attempt to simply bring our awareness back again and again to whatever we have decided to notice, we realize how difficult it is. In this way, seeds of compassion are nurtured by the recognition of how closely the suffering of others resembles our own and how much consistent effort is required to loosen our grip on what is contributing to it. (Article by: Daron Larson)