What is Vipashyana Meditation?

The Vipashyana aspect of the Formless Meditation practice comes in as we begin to wonder what our experience actually is in itself. We do this by wondering what is the mind, what is a thought or a feeling, what is a sensation, what is the space of awareness in which all this happens, who am I, who is it that knows all this, what is knowing and so on.

Wondering here doesn’t mean looking for a pat answer or an intellectual theory. It means generating a sense of wonder. When we wonder about something we let it be as it is and appreciate its nature in the immediacy of our experience.

We know what we are wondering about directly without words, although words can point to the experience and they often bubble up from it. Sometimes as we wonder we do use a few words, but wondering is not about giving oneself a verbal answer.

It is a kind of exploration and process of discovery that happens in our immediate experience, bringing it to life and suffusing it with new significance.

This wondering typically takes the form of deep questioning. For example, you might ask yourself from time to time, what does ‘space of awareness’ mean? Is space in the mind or is the mind in space? Insight or understanding begins with a simple sense of movement towards what is fundamentally true.

We are drawn towards it by a kind of homing instinct. It is an instinctive or intuitive sense of the rightness, truth and even beauty associated with that. Perhaps the words goodness and well-being come to mind, although sometimes what feels right is sometimes the opposite of what we might normally regard as a good feeling. Maybe aliveness is a good word for what it is we home in on.

It is not an opinion about what ‘feels right’, but a deep sense of having found something of ultimate value, even if only momentarily. As we open our hearts and as we gain a shift in perspective, that homing instinct becomes an understanding that dawns on us. It seeps, sometimes even floods, in and can change our whole perspective.

Insight is associated with a kind of opening movement that we can use to steer ourselves along. It is a natural movement within our awareness. It is like scratching an itch. We home in on it and know it when we hit it, but we have no idea how we do that. As we hit the right spot something happens.

The way understanding comes to us is rather like that. We do not manufacture it and we cannot control it. It is just there and we discover it. Vipashyana meditation is both the wondering and questioning, as well as the dawning understanding or realisation.

It is important to deepen and expand your experience and understanding of space and openness in meditation.  The space that is being referred to is nothing other than awareness itself. If it were other than awareness, the question would be how awareness could become aware of it.

This takes a great deal of pondering about.

Lama Shenpen Hookham

The above excerpt is from the Heart of Meditation book  which can be bought on Amazon, or is sent to you when you join Lama Shenpen’s Living the Awakened Heart Training, which starts with the six week Heart of Meditation course which is designed for complete beginners and those who wish to take their meditation practice deeper.

The Living the Awakened Heart Training is a structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme. The training, which is open to all, brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more and how to join at www.ahs.org.uk/training

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