Continuing the Practice
Your seed has sprouted!
Starting the Vipassana At Home course, you planted your seed of Vipassana meditation. Everyday you watered and nurtured your seed. Now at the end of 10 days, that seed has sprouted and you begin to see little green shoots growing. You have seen the benefits of the practice and understood how to practice.
However, the little green shoot is vulnerable. To help it grow, you need to care for it. To water it daily, do build a fence around it.
Over time it will grow more resilient. It becomes stronger and is not so vulnerable to small animals coming by and eating it away.
As it grows and grows your little green shoot will eventually become a tree, and bear fruit to share with others and give shade to those around it.
I want to provide you a few recommendations on how to continue practising to ensure you continue getting the benefits of Vipassana.
Same time, same space!
Continue to meditate as part of your routine. Meditate at the same time in your schedule. For example, I always meditate after getting up and brushing my teeth, no matter what time I get up. If I have to get up earlier than usual, I adjust my sleeping time to make sure I don't miss my practice.
Meditate in the same spot every day. This spot should be free of clutter and already set up so that the barriers to starting to sit are as low as possible. Keep it clean and honour the space. Your mind will start to associate the space with calm and good vibrations.
Consistency is key. Practice everyday even if only for 10 minutes. Great if you can do 30 minutes every day, 5 minutes at some point during the day and another 5 minutes before sleeping. Can only do 10 minutes everyday? Good. Make the 10 minutes count. The more time dedicated to practice the deeper and quicker the benefits will seep in and affect your life.
What to Practice?
With me you learnt Anapana (mindfulness of breathing) and Vipassana (insight) and Metta (loving-kindness). The majority of your sits should be Anapana or Vipassana finishing up with a few minutes of Metta at the end of every sit. Some find that they like Anapana better and practice that for a few months. Some resonate more with Vipassana body-scanning.
Anapana helps to sharpen and calm the mind. Vipassana helps to generate insight and awareness. For the beginning of the journey, it is not too important which one you practice. I find Anapana helped me in periods of distress while Vipassana was better when I was more calm and clear. Some start with Anapana the first 1/3 then switch to Vipassana. Commit to a technique or predetermined combination for a sit and try not to jump inbetween techniques too much as this can just be a symptom of a restless mind. Do the technique which will help you practice.
When you sit
Become your own Guru!
I gave you a lot of different trips and techniques for Anapana and Vipassana. You are free to use any of these to help you and to play with. Use the approaches that help you develop the principles outlined in the next section.
Over time your self-awareness grows and you become wise as to what you need on any given day on any given moment as the mind is always different.
Sit down with a strong resolve every time and learn something about your mind-body every sit.
Follow these principles.
Keep in mind.
1. Observe your experience as it is. Not as you would like it to be. Don't change or influence your breathing or sensations intentionally. If it happens unintentionally, notice and let it go.
2. Sensations. Sensations are anything that you feel anywhere on or in the body. Stay with your attention within the frame of the body. Notice the sensory components of every experience you have. The inhale is made up of many different individual sensations. Each body part you scan is made up of many different individual sensations. Investigate clearly.
3. Middle Way. Find the middle way. Avoid extreme approaches to practice. Not too loose, not too tight. Effort is required. Not too little so that you're dozing off and dreaming but not so much that your hyper alert, rigid and tense like you drank 2 cups of coffee.
Develop these Qualities.
1. Concentration. The ability to concentrate on what you deem is relevant. How continuous can your attention be on your sensations without getting lost in thought/stories.
2. Clarity. The sensitivity of your attention to pick up on small fine details and components of experience and their sub-components. Can you feel the warmth/tingle/prickle of each inhale? Can you feel that the pain in your knee is just made from pressure/tingling/contraction? Zoom in to each experience. Things are not what they seem on the surface when you look carefully.
3. Equanimity. Maintaining inner balance of the mind. Not craving or moving towards what you like/want or is pleasurable. No aversion of moving away from what you don't like or is unpleasant. Complete non-reactivity and radical acceptance and surrender to what is. More on equanimity
Intensive Practice Periods
10 day Vipassana courses
Going to a full 10 day retreat offered by Dhamma.org is extremely valuable and I cannot recommend these courses enough. The environment is very supportive and taking time off to meditate for 10 days is one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself.
They help you deepen your understanding of the technique.
The practice is cumulative and momentum keeps building hour after hour day after day allowing you to go much deeper than in daily practice.
As a result, you learn much deeper insight and new perspective on your life.
The renunciation and simplicity of living a monastic life for 10 days puts everything else in your life in perspective. We don't need much.
There are also other options to practice Vipassana. If you google Vipassana centers in your country you will find some. Often there are also local Buddhist meditation centers in your nearby city whom offer guidance, group sittings and teachings. Stay connected with these communities.
Here are two ways you can "measure" your practice.
1. How do your thoughts/speech/actions change from harming yourself and others to helping yourself and others. Helping means contributing towards long-term peace, happiness and harmony.
2. How quickly do you regain the balance of your mind after you get upset? Maybe it changes from 1 day to just half the day. Then maybe just a few hours, then maybe just an hour etc...
Progress can really only be measured over months and years not days. Don't compare today's meditation to yesterday or the week before.
You can always reach out to me if you have doubts about the technique or any questions at all!