How to do it
If you’re interested in trying Vipassana meditation at home, follow these steps:
- Set aside 10 to 15 minutes to practice. It’s recommended that you do Vipassana when you first wake up in the morning.
- Choose a quiet area with little to no distractions. An empty room or a secluded spot outside are great choices.
- Sit on the ground. Cross your legs in a comfortable position. Engage your core, straighten your back, and relax your body.
- Close your eyes and breathe normally. Focus on your natural breath and what you feel.
- Be mindful of each inhale and exhale. Observe your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without reacting or judging.
- If you become distracted, simply observe the distraction and return to your breath.
- Aim to do this for at least 5 to 10 minutes when you first start. As you get used to this practice, work up to 15 minutes or longer of Vipassana meditation.
Tips for beginners
If you’re new to Vipassana, consider these beginner tips for getting the most out of your practice:
- For step-by-step guidance, listen to a Vipassana meditation recording. You can find free guided Vipassana meditations on YouTube.
- Attend a Vipassana meditation course for personalized guidance. Yoga studios and spiritual centers often offer Vipassana classes.
- Set a timer during your first few sessions. You can slowly increase the time as you become more comfortable with the practice.
- To limit distractions, turn off your phone and tell other people in your household that you’ll be meditating.
- Be patient, especially if you’re new to meditation. It takes time and practice to learn how to meditate and to start reaping the rewards.
Vipassana is an ancient mindfulness meditation technique. It involves observing your thoughts and emotions as they are, without judging or dwelling on them.
Though more studies are needed, research that’s been done to date has found that Vipassana can reduce stress and anxiety, which may have benefits for substance use. It may also promote brain plasticity.
To get started with Vipassana, begin with 5- to 10-minute sessions in a quiet space. Slowly increase this to 15 minutes or longer as you get used to doing this form of meditation. You can also listen to audio recordings or attend a class for guided meditations.
1. Choose your mantra.
A mantra is a word or phrase that you silently repeat to yourself during meditation. The purpose of the mantra is to give you something to put your attention on other than your thoughts. You may use any phrase you like. Some people like to use words like “Peace” or “Love”. You may wish to use the So Hum mantra, a commonly used Sanskrit mantra, which translates to “I am.” I like using the So Hum mantra because it is not in my native English language and does not trigger associative thoughts.
2. Find a comfortable place to sit.
It’s best to find a quiet location where you won’t be disturbed. There is no need to sit cross-legged on the floor unless that is comfortable for you. You can sit on a chair or sofa or on the floor with your back against a wall. You may support yourself with cushions, pillows, or blankets. The goal is to sit as upright as possible while still remaining comfortable. We all have different anatomies and you want your meditation experience to be enjoyable, so make your comfort a priority. Lying on your back is usually not recommended because most people fall asleep in this position, but you can try it if sitting is uncomfortable for you. Meditation can be practiced anywhere, as long as you’re comfortable.
3. Gently close your eyes and begin by taking some deep breaths.
Try taking a few cleansing breaths by inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling out of your mouth. After a few cleansing breaths, continue breathing at a normal relaxed pace through your nose with your lips gently closed.
4. Begin repeating your mantra silently to yourself without moving your tongue or lips.
The repetition of your mantra is soft, gentle, and relaxed. There is no need to force it. The mantra does not need to correlate with the breath, though some people prefer to do so. For example, if using So Hum as your mantra, you could silently repeat So on your inhalation and Hum on your exhalation. As your meditation continues, allow the breath to fall away into its own rhythm. The repetition of your mantra should be almost effortless. Sometimes it is helpful to imagine that rather than repeating the mantra to yourself, you are actually listening to it being whispered in your ear.
5. Do not try and stop your thoughts or empty your mind.
As you continue with this meditative process, you will inevitably find that you drift away from the mantra. It is human nature and normal for the mind to wander. Do not try and stop your thoughts or “empty your mind.” Whenever you become aware that your attention has drifted away from your mantra to thoughts or any other distractions while meditating, simply return to silently repeating the mantra.
6. Stop repeating the mantra.
After approximately 20 to 30 minutes, you may stop repeating your mantra and continue sitting with your eyes closed. Be sure to spend a few minutes relaxing with your eyes closed before resuming activity. You may use a timer with a very gentle, low-volume sound. Many people use their cell phones as meditation timers. You can download a meditation timer app on your smartphone or choose a soothing sound on your phone’s built-in timer. Be sure to turn the volume down very low as you don’t want to be startled out of your meditation.
If you find that 20 to 30 minutes is too long for you, start with whatever amount of time you can, and slowly build your way to 20 to 30 minutes. Even a few minutes of daily meditation is beneficial.
The benefits of meditation are greatest when practiced daily. Ideally, meditation can be done first thing in the morning upon rising and then again at the end of the day, preferably prior to dinner. I like to start my day feeling centered and balanced after my morning meditation. And I often think of my evening meditation as a “release valve,” allowing any stress or tension from my day to simply drift away.
You don’t need any instructions with guided meditation. It’s done by simply listening and following instructions provided by your mediation guide. Meditation audios are an excellent for guided meditation.
Time Required: 10 minutes daily for at least a week. Evidence suggests that mindfulness increases the more you practice it.
How to Do It
- Find a location. Find a lane that allows you to walk back and forth for 10-15 paces—a place that is relatively peaceful, where you won’t be disturbed or even observed (since a slow, formal walking meditation can look strange to people who are unfamiliar with it). You can practice walking meditation either indoors or outside in nature. The lane doesn’t have to be very long since the goal is not to reach a specific destination, just to practice a very intentional form of walking where you’re mostly retracing your steps.
- Start your steps. Walk 10-15 steps along the lane you’ve chosen, and then pause and breathe for as long as you like. When you’re ready, turn and walk back in the opposite direction to the other end of the lane, where you can pause and breathe again. Then, when you’re ready, turn once more and continue with the walk.
- The components of each step. Walking meditation involves very deliberating thinking about and doing a series of actions that you normally do automatically. Breaking these steps down in your mind may feel awkward, even ridiculous. But you should try to notice at least these four basic components of each step:a) the lifting of one foot;
b) the moving of the foot a bit forward of where you’re standing;
c) the placing of the foot on the floor, heel first;
d) the shifting of the weight of the body onto the forward leg as the back heel lifts, while the toes of that foot remain touching the floor or the ground.
Then the cycle continues, as you:
a) lift your back foot totally off the ground;
b) observe the back foot as it swings forward and lowers;
c) observe the back foot as it makes contact with the ground, heel first;
d) feel the weight shift onto that foot as the body moves forward.
- Speed. You can walk at any speed, but in Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, walking meditation is slow and involves taking small steps. Most important is that it feel natural, not exaggerated or stylized.
- Hands and arms. You can clasp your hands behind your back or in front of you, or you can just let them hang at your side—whatever feels most comfortable and natural.
- Focusing your attention. As you walk, try to focus your attention on one or more sensations that you would normally take for granted, such as your breath coming in and out of your body; the movement of your feet and legs, or their contact with the ground or floor; your head balanced on your neck and shoulders; sounds nearby or those caused by the movement of your body; or whatever your eyes take in as they focus on the world in front of you.
- What to do when your mind wanders. No matter how much you try to fix your attention on any of these sensations, your mind will inevitably wander. That’s OK—it’s perfectly natural. When you notice your mind wandering, simply try again to focus it one of those sensations.
- Integrating walking meditation into your daily life. For many people, slow, formal walking meditation is an acquired taste. But the more you practice, even for short periods of time, the more it is likely to grow on you. Keep in mind that you can also bring mindfulness to walking at any speed in your everyday life, and even to running, though of course the pace of your steps and breath will change. In fact, over time, you can try to bring the same degree of awareness to any everyday activity, experiencing the sense of presence that is available to us at every moment as our lives unfold.