(Mindfulness or Insight) Meditation
Vipassana, which means to see things
as they really are, is one of India's
most ancient techniques of meditation.
It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha
more than 2500 years ago and was taught
by him as a universal remedy for universal
This guide is to help getting started
on the path to meditation. This article
talks about the basics.
in Plain English
By Ven. Henepola
There are many forms of meditation.
Most major religions practice some
form of meditation, whether it be
prayer or some kind of procedure.
Vipassana meditation is one type.
This style of meditation is one of
Asia's most ancient techniques of
meditation. Teachers with the vipassana
movement teach forms of samantha and
vipassana meditation consistent with
Buddhist meditation as taught by the
Buddha. One need not convert to Buddhism
to practice these styles of meditation.
Vipassana can be best described as
“a clear awareness of what is
happening as it happens.” By
using the tool of concentration, you
use your awareness to chip away at
illusions and find the living light
There are two main sects within Buddhist
meditation, Mahayana and Theravada.
One of the most widely known Mahayana
types is Zen meditation, which is
well known in the United States. I
will be discussing Vipassana which
is the Theravada practice.
Anyone who thinks they will sit down,
meditate , and begin to benefit from
it immediately will be sadly disappointed.
To get the benefits of meditating
will take time and energy, along with
discipline and determination. What
do you expect to get out of meditating?
I can explain it in two words.....
Happiness and Peace
Instead of material things like a
new car or a lot of money in the bank
which are nice to have, happiness
and peace are something you cannot
buy. Instead of superficial objects,
we begin to realize the deeper and
spiritual aspects of life.
By meditating you will see yourself
exactly as you are now. By meditating
you will purify your mind. To arrive
at this point is a difficult task.
You will know when you have reached
that point. It is rewarding and worth
the effort. 
What is meditation?
Meditation is a mental practice which
can be varied depending on the culture.
In Vipassana concentration is highly
valued, but what is stressed even
more is awareness. The aim is to develop
awareness using concentration as a
tool. This type of meditation will
take a long time to master. By gradually
developing mindfulness or awareness
we will turn our attention to aspects
of our own existence. As the awareness
is developed what is learned is how
to listen to our thoughts without
getting caught up in them. 
The proper attitude is needed to become
successful in meditation.
1. Don’t expect anything - Do
not expect results to happen quickly.
As more time is spent at this you
will begin to grasp reality as it
2. Don’t strain – A calm
and steady effort will do much more
than trying to go about this aggressively.
3. Don’t rush - Sit like time
doesn’t matter. It takes patience
and time to learn things of value.
4. Don’t cling and don’t
reject – Observe everything
mindfully whether they are good or
bad images. Stay comfortable with
whatever comes to your mind.
5. Let go – Go with the flow
of your thoughts.
6. Accept everything that arises –
Accept all feelings as they come and
go, the good and the bad.
7. Be gentle with yourself –
Once you accept who you are, you can
begin the process of who you will
8. Investigate yourself – Let
your experience become the guide to
9. View all problems as challenges
– if you see a problem use it
as an opportunity to grow.
10. Don’t ponder – Mindfulness
will purify the mind naturally by
concentrating on awareness.
11. Don’t dwell on contrasts
– dwelling on the differences
in people is not a good practice.
Do not compare yourself to others,
we are all different. Instead of comparing
differences notice the similarities.
To begin practicing mindfulness you
will need to give undivided attention
to your breathing. Your goal should
be reach all of the noble and wholesome
qualities in your subconscious mind.
For a person just beginning meditation
twenty minutes is a reasonable time
to start with. As time goes on your
sitting time can increase. Once you
do sit stay in the same position for
the length of time that you have determined.
Your position may become uncomfortable
after a while but do not switch positions.
What will happen is the new position
will become uncomfortable and then
it will be shifting and moving to
another position. You will never reach
a deep level of concentration this
way. So the best thing to do is, stay
in the same position no matter how
uncomfortable you become.
Once the sitting position to be used
is in place it is time to close your
eyes and sit motionless. As you sit
quietly, body motionless and your
undivided attention is focused on
the object of your meditation, you
will begin to experience the joy of
meditation. Our mind is like a turbulent
sea. With all of the silt and other
matter floating around in the turbulence
it is difficult to see through. As
the water settles into calmness the
silt will drop to the bottom and your
mind will become clear. By sitting
quietly and focusing your mind you
can think much clearer.
The mind must be kept focused on the
present moment. Our mind is like a
giant television with things passing
through every moment. We need to slow
our mind from wandering from moment
to moment. To keep the mind from wandering
we must think of an object that is
always around at the present moment.
What easier thing to focus on than
our breath. Every moment of the day
we breath. It is very easy to focus
on the breath. Try breathing slowly
and deeply, letting the breath flow
in and out freely. Notice the feeling
of the breath, going in, and back
out, in and out. Do you notice the
brief pause before inhaling and exhaling?
It may never have been noticeable
before, but when you are mindful you
become aware of the pause between
the inhale and the exhale.
Most people inhale and exhale very
short when the mind is not calm. Try
to make your breaths long with a pause
at the inhalation and exhalation.
As you are concentrating on your breathing
in and out slowly, you will find your
mind wandering. You may be thinking
of experiences from the past, or what
movie you want to watch tonight. When
you notice this happening, and you
are no longer concentrating on your
breathing, bring your mind back to
the breath. This is normal and happens
to everyone. Just notice in passing
that your mind is wandering and bring
it back to your breath. As you become
more experienced this will happen
less and less. It happens to everyone.
Below are some methods for the practice
For a person just starting out a good
way to focus on the breath is by counting.
1. As you are slowly filling your
lungs with air count “one, one
one….until the lungs are full.
Notice the pause before you exhale.
On the exhale count “two, two,
two until your lungs are empty. Notice
the pause before you inhale again.
Keep your mind focused on the breath.
2. The second way is to count from
one to ten rapidly while inhaling
and the same while exhaling. Again
keep your mind focused on the breath.
3. The third method is to take a long
deep breath and count “one”,
exhale slowly and count “two”.
Breath in again and count “three”,
exhale slowly and count “four”.
Count up to ten this way. Then count
backward from “ten” to
4. The last way is to inhale and exhale
and count “one”. Do the
same up to “ten”.
Through my personal experience when
beginning I had the best results using
the fourth method described here.
Try them all and see what works best
As soon as you find that your minded
is locked at a certain point in your
breathing, where the inhaling breath
and exhaling breath touch, (I use
the tip of the nostril), concentrate
on that point. Once your breathing
becomes so natural that you don’t
notice your inhaling and exhaling
it is time you could stop counting.
The counting is a big help in training
the mind on concentration. After some
practice the inhaling, pause, exhaling,
pause will seem like one continuous
breath. I focus on where my breath
leaves my nostrils.
As your practice continues and you
are not aware of your in and out breathing
and your body and mind may become
very light and you may get the sensation
of floating. At this point you may
not even realize you are breathing.
At this point become mindful and bring
yourself back to concentrating on
your nostrils. As this practice is
continued notice a sensation of sign
which is the third object of your
meditation. It could be almost anything,
from a star, to a mountain top, a
cloud or even the moon or the sun.
Most times my sign object is the ocean.
As I breath in the waves are coming
in. As my breath goes goes out the
waves are receding, just like my breath
is going in and out.
In Insight or Mindfulness meditation
you must realize that everything in
your experience happens for one moment
and passes on. Just as you notice
how the feeling of your breath is
the physical part and the mental part
would be the consciousness of feeling
and consciousness of sign. While noticing
them, you will see how they are changing
all of the time. You will have different
types of sensations in your body.
Notice them and then let the thought
pass. Notice the changing moments,
but notice that you can only concentrate
on the present moment. Momentary concentration
is the mind uniting with the present
moment. As these moments appear and
disappear, let your mind keep pace
with these thoughts. It is important
not to cling to them, just allow them
to disappear. Do not try to stop your
mind at a certain moment, the mind
will not be held, and you become frustrated.
With progression all moments awake
can become a concentrated moment.
As you move deeper into meditation,
the dislike of unpleasant thoughts
and the wants of pleasant thoughts
will be replaced by insight into impermanence
and selflessness. With this knowledge
you will be on your way to become
a more peaceful and calm person. As
your mind and breath become united
with the expansion and contraction
of our lungs and abdomen we are in
The mind will not always stay with
the breath. We will experience different
states with memories and emotions
and mental formations. When those
states rise, focus on them one at
a time, and then let them fade away.
After they have faded away it is time
to focus on the breath again. Think
of your breath as home base, and your
memories and emotions as a small trip
from home, and then returning back
home. All of your trips will be taken
in the mind itself.
Every time you take a journey and
return to the breath you will become
more mindful of the occurrences that
went on and gain deeper insight into
impermanence and selflessness. You
will come to a realization of the
complexities of the mind and body.
Posture and Clothing
The practice of meditation is very
refined because it has been practiced
for several thousand years. There
are several practices to help master
the skill of Mindfulness meditation.
There are several reasons for using
various postures. By providing a stable
feeling for your body you won’t
need to concern yourself with fatigue
and balance. This will allow you to
better concentrate on meditation.
By remaining immobile your mind will
be able to concentrate on being tranquil.
You also want to be able to sit for
an extended period of time without
having to endure pain of muscular
tension and falling asleep. The best
position is with your back straight
and your head in line with the rest
of your body. Sit straight, but in
a relaxed manor with the rest of the
body in a loose and relaxed manor.
You need to be comfortable enough
to sit without moving for your entire
meditation period. Sitting with a
straight back will take practice but
is very important. This type of stance
will give you mental alertness, while
slouching can cause drowsiness. It
is important to use a chair or pillow
when sitting. Too much pain will keep
you from concentrating.
Your clothes that are worn for meditation
should be something loose and soft.
Pants that are made for anybody should
be loose and thin or made with an
elastic material. For women a long
loose skirt would work fine. Robes
are a good choice. Don’t wear
shoes and if you are wearing tight
socks or stockings take them off too.
There are several different ways to
fold your legs when sitting.
American Style is done by tucking
the right foot under the left knee
and the left foot under the right
The Burmese style is done by putting
both legs parallel to each other with
your legs flat on the floor.
The half lotus is done by having both
knees touch the floor with one leg
and foot lying flat along the calf
of the other leg.
The full lotus is both knees touching
the floor and the legs are crossed
at the calf. The left foot is on the
right thigh and the right foot is
on the left thigh.
With the postures mentioned here,
your hands will rest on your lap cupped
together with the palms of your hands
pointed upwards. Relax your whole
body and keep your chin up. I close
my eyes but they can be left open.
If sitting on the floor will not work
because of physical limitations a
chair will work. I use a chair because
of knee surgery in the past and I
am unable to sit on the floor. Do
whatever works for you. It is best
to use a chair that has a straight
back with no arms. Sit with your feet
flat on the floor.
While in one of these sitting positions
you want to remain still and relaxed,
but stay alert. 
How to use your mind while
There are many different things to
focus on while meditating. I have
found that by focusing on the breath
first and then note other phenomena
such as your body against the cushion,
or the feeling of one leg against
the other as they arise while meditating.
The main reason we focus on a specific
thing is to become aware. As the mind
wanders we go back to the breath,
and become aware of our breathing.
If we let the mind wander without
going back to our breathing, which
I call home base, one thought will
lead to another. Fifteen minutes later
you realize that the time was spent
in a fantasy daydream or thoughts
about work. There is a big difference
of being aware of the thought, and
thinking the thought. When you are
aware of the thought you let it pass
and go back to the breath. When you
are thinking the thought it is easy
to become engulfed in it and a lot
of time will pass before you are aware
of it. As you are in deep concentration
the thought process will slow down
but awareness will speed up.
Think of your mind as a wild animal.
Go in the woods and capture a wild
animal. Then take the animal and tie
him to a post. The animal will howl
and pull at the rope. This may go
on for some time. After the animal
decides it is no use to fight against
the rope. Eventually he will calm
down. Once he settles down you can
begin to give him water and something
to eat. Eventually he mind will be
trained. The mind is like the animal.
It must be tamed. By taming your mind
your concentration will improve and
in the process you will become more
So why do we try using something as
mundane as breathing? The breath is
common to every living creature. It
is cheap and available. It is always
there for us. If you think about it
for a moment breath is like life itself.
It is in a constant state of change.
It moves in cycles, just like life:
breath in, breath out. Breath is not
even noticed unless you look for and
tune into it. That is why it works
so well for meditating.
The way to use the breath for meditating
is to find it. As you breath in and
out try to notice where the sensation
of - the breath is in your nose. I
notice it just inside the tip of my
nose. Once you have found out where
that point is, fix your attention
on it as you breathe. Stay focused
as you are breathing. It is similar
to a person sawing wood. As the saw
move up and down you stay focused
on the point of contact with the wood.
If you were to watch the saw move
up and down it would be very hard
to concentrate. It is the same with
the breath, focus on the point of
Breathing can seem uncomplicated until
you start to actually think about
it. There are long breaths, short
breaths, deep and shallow breath,
smooth breath and ragged breath. As
you study your breath you will notice
how it is constantly moving but repeating
itself. As I reach deeper states of
meditation I notice my breath slows
down. In the beginning you will notice
how you will become easily distracted.
Just return to focusing on the breath
and after awhile you will find you
are distracted less. Try to avoid
the thinking mind. But also avoid
the sinking mind. That is when your
mind is not aware, you are floating
in a kind of dreamless sleep.
After a well-done session you will
feel refreshed and full of energy.
I meditate in the morning so I am
in a good mood, full of energy and
ready for the day ahead. I think of
my meditation as a little vacation
I take to prepare for my daily living.
Set a time for Meditation
It is a good idea to get into a habit
of meditating at a certain time every
day. I am a creature of habit. I get
up early in the morning and start
the day out with a nice relaxing shower.
That way I have a clean and refreshed
feeling when I meditate. Then I will
do a couple of light stretching exercises.
I sit in the same chair and usually
start at the same time each day. It
is usually still dark outside, and
if I would start later I make sure
I am sitting in a darkened room. You
will become very relaxed sitting in
the same spot every day. I have tried
a different spot and chair, but because
I associate my normal spot with tranquility
I realized it is best to sit in the
same spot if possible, because I reach
deeper states of meditation faster.
I have a bell set with a timer so
I will know when my session is up.
When I hear the bells ring I get off
the chair and feel ready for the day
ahead of me. It is a good feeling.
I normally meditate 45 minutes every
morning. If I have a particularly
stressful day I will meditate at night,
but as a rule I meditate once a day.
For a beginner 20 minutes is a good
starting point. Sit as long as you
can, but don’t overdo it. It
is no good to keep meditating if you
are sitting in pain. It is alright
to peek at your watch to time your
session. But if that is happening
every two minutes you are not doing
yourself any good. You will find that
every time you look at the time you
will lose your concentration, and
you may never reach a deep stage of
meditation. That is why bells or a
chime set to the time you want to
sit is a good idea. I never need to
look at a clock because I will know
my time is up when the bell rings.
It is a very soft bell so I do not
get jolted out of a deep meditation.
I sit in a chair because I am physical
unable to sit in a lotus position
so I don’t have a problem with
my legs going to sleep. According
to what I read, numbness of the legs
is nothing to get concerned about.
It is just a nerve pinch. Just observe
it and stay calm. After practice your
body will become used to it. If you
are considering not meditating anymore
because of this issue I would sit
in a chair. Just remember to keep
your legs flat on the ground and sit
You will find that drowsiness can
be a problem while meditating. When
meditating it is quite normal for
your body to become relaxed and very
calm. When this does happen become
aware and concentrate on the drowsiness.
If this does not work because you
were working hard all day or just
had a large meal this is something
to try. Take a deep breath and hold
for as long as you can. Then slowly
breath out. Repeat until the drowsiness
retreats, and you can return to your
You may also run into the inability
to concentrate. It may be conflicts
that arose during the day. Or it may
have been a great movie that you just
saw. Try to get any thoughts that
keep running through your head well
thought out before meditating. Try
to empty your mind first.
Beginners may also try too hard. When
I started meditating I didn’t
know what to expect. I thought there
would be big results very soon. I
was wrong. I started to get discouraged
but I know that many of the books
I read that it takes more time than
most beginners realized so I kept
at it. I also noticed that I would
be watching the clock a lot, waiting
for the time to be up. I was counting
my breathes at the time and I would
look at the clock to see my breathings
was staying the same every two minutes
or so. I finally got to the point
of not counting the breathes I took.
I found I did not look at the clock
nearly as much. I felt I was making
progress. Once I set a soft bell to
a timer and I stop clock watching
my quality of meditation increased
greatly. I noticed that I was starting
to feel refreshed and happy after
a session. I was ready to take on
the rigors of the day. I think I was
practicing about six months and I
reached a point where I could truthfully
say my meditating had reached a point
that I envisioned when I started.
Iwas still advancing after that but
not at as quick of a pace, and I am
still advancing, even after over two
years of daily meditation. So what
I would like to say to all beginners
reading this. Don’t give up,
keep trying and one day you will come
to the realization that it was worth
the hard effort you put into it. Any
person who has been meditating a long
time, will say the road is hard and
it will take time and practice. 
Mindfulness is when you become aware
of the moment. It is the awareness
that is experienced just as you focus
your mind or see something. It is
the moment when you look at a cloud
or a tree, before your mind says to
you “it is a tree, or it is
a cloud”. Mindfulness is so
fleeting it is almost unobservable.
Meditating trains us to prolong the
moment of awareness. Once this point
is reached it will change your whole
outlook on life and daily living.
Think of mindfulness as present time
awareness. Memory is when you are
remembering a good movie you saw recently.
When you are aware of remembering
the movie, that is mindfulness. When
you say to yourself, “I am remembering,”
that is thinking. It is actually difficult
to define mindfulness in words because
it is so basic and simple. Sometimes
the simple things in life are the
hardest to explain.
I have a fairly long drive to my workplace
every day. Before I started meditating
I would be thinking about, things
that needed to be taken care of at
work, what move I watched last night
or other things going on in my life.
I would never notice the moment. My
mind was a flurry of passing thoughts.
As my meditations progressed I slowly
became mindful on my drive. I would
see the clouds, the trees, other cars.
I would just become aware of them
and move on to the next object. I
would still let other thoughts flow
into my head though. As I progressed
with my meditation my periods of awareness
increased. I still have other thoughts
floating through my head on my drive
but my awareness keeps increasing.
After my morning meditation and my
peaceful drive in the morning I am
ready for my tasks of the day. It
seems like on my ride home at the
end of the day I am not as mindful
as my morning ride, because I have
a lot of thoughts about the events
of the day. I am working on improving
mindfulness on my ride home. 
If you are interested in ordering
a book meditation book, this is what
I consider my Top 5. Here are the
links to Amazon Books. My favorite
would have to be Midfulness In Plain
English. it is written for the average
person to read and get a good understanding
into the basics of meditation.
1. Mindfulness in Plain English
I have been meditating for several
years now and have built up a small
library of books on the subject. When
friends ask me about meditation I
dig around in all the books with great
covers and reach for "Mindfulness
In Plain English" every time.
2. Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English
If you advance into deeper meditation,
this is essential reading.
The focus here is on the Jhanas, those
meditative states of profound stillness
and concentration in which the mind
becomes fully immersed and absorbed
in the chosen object of attention.
Using the Jhanas to guide readers
along the path to joy, happiness,
equanimity, and one-pointedness, the
author provides all of the instruction
necessary to utilize meditation as
a tool for building a more fulfilling
3. Breath By Breath
This is another good book. Rosenberg's
approach to meditation and Buddhism
comes without the baggage of superstition
and folklore that attach themselves
to some books on these topics. Rosenberg
offers not only basic instruction,
but a path for advancing one's practice
through the various contemplative
4. Insight Meditation - A
Step by Step Course
This is a good book that also comes
with 2 CD's. While you use these CD's
to really get in touch with the truth
of your life, the workbook is a nice
way to affirm what you are finding
in your meditation.
5. Meditation for Beginners
Jack Kornfield is a perfect teacher
of meditation, especially for Westerners
because he approaches it in a non-sectarian
way. The program starts with the most
basic form of meditation on the breath,
and leads through ever slightly more
subtle forms of Vipassana Meditation.
1.Mindfulness in Plain English
Meditation, Why Bother?
2.Mindfulness in Plain English
3.Mindfulness in Plain English
4.Mindfulness in Plain English
What To Do With Your Body
5.Mindfulness in Plain English
What To Do With Your Mind
6.Mindfulness in Plain English
Setting A Time For Meditation
7.Mindfulness in Plain English