One last way to release our root causes of stress and dis-ease is Vipassana meditation. I’m putting this in because although it is more of a meditation technique, it also uses the breath to sharpen the mind. And I've also had the most experience with this technique. The word Vipassana means “to see things as they really are.” It is the logical process of mental refinement through self-observation. It has been practiced for 2,500 years mainly in India. As the teacher SN Goenka puts it, It eradicates the craving, aversion, and ignorance which are responsible for all our miseries. Those who practice it remove, little by little, the root causes of their suffering and steadily emerge from their former tensions to lead happy, healthy, productive lives. It allows us to experience the feeling of impermanence in our own body by becoming aware of our bodily sensations without reacting to them with craving or aversion. When we are met with unexpected sensations or experiences in our everyday lives, we are better prepared to experience them with a healthy level of perspective and equanimity. How does it work?
It all starts with the breath. Breathing is one of the only functions that is controlled by both the autonomic and somatic nervous systems. In other words, our brains can subconsciously breathe for us (autonomic) or we can decide to breathe or hold our breath whenever we want to (somatic). This is why breath is so important in meditations. It acts as the bridge between our conscious mind and our subconscious mind. As you learn the meditation, you end up focusing on subtler and subtler sensations throughout your body, and as you go through this process, these internal miseries and impurities of the mind start to release from your subconscious. For example, during one of my mediations, I had brought my attention to my back and I started to get really hot. By the end of the meditation my shirt was soaked in sweat (these are temperature-controlled rooms constantly set to a nice mild temp). Why did I get so hot? This internal stuff usually comes out in some physical form, hot, cold, pain, itchiness, tingling… Someone else told me that they just started crying during their meditation because some deep emotion had come up. By the end of the ten days, I felt lighter, my mind was still, and I was able to focus incredibly well on the conversations I was having with people, fully engaged, with no wandering mind, which is what normally happens with me. If this sounds like something you want to try, I highly recommend it, there are retreat centers located around the world, and are all donation based.
I would teach you here, but there is no way you would get the same benefit and understanding of it without doing the retreat and learning from the master himself, S.N. Goenka. But I will show you the Anapana meditation which is the warm-up to Vipassana technique. Anapana means observation of natural, normal respiration, as it comes in and as it goes out. It is easy to learn, an objective and scientific technique that helps develop concentration of the mind.
Anapana Meditation / Breathwork (by S.N. Goenka)
Sit comfortably in any position that suits you. Keep your back and your neck straight, Keep your eyes gently closed. Remove your glasses if you wear glasses. Keep your mouth gently closed. And focus your entire attention on the area at the entrance of the nostrils. Remain aware of every breath coming in, and every breath going out. Natural breath, normal breath as it is, as it is. If the breath is long, it is long, if short it is short, left nostril, right nostril, both nostrils. Just remain aware as it is…
Remain alert, attentive, vigilant. Constantly aware of the breath. Incoming, outgoing, incoming, outgoing breath. Keep your attention steadfastly fixed on this area. The entrance of the nostrils. Like a gatekeeper, like a watchman. Aware of every breath entering the nostrils. Aware of every breath moving out of the nostrils. Alert, attentive, vigilant. Incoming breath, outgoing breath. Natural breath. Pure breath, nothing but breath.