Vipassana meditation is a widely used relaxation practice that can be done easily by beginners, with great results!
After years of heavy addiction, Chris Grosso found himself literally on his knees, utterly lost and broken. Grasping for life, he needed to find a new path, one that went beyond conventional religious or spiritual doctrine—one free of bullshit. Indie Spiritualist (Beyond Words Publishing, 2014) empowers readers to accept themselves as they are, in all their humanity and imperfect perfection. In this excerpt learn the basics of vipassana meditation, a simple relaxation practice that can be done by anyone and in any setting.
Vipassana MeditationBesides being asked, “What’s an Indie Spiritualist?” the second most common question I’m typically asked is “What type of meditation do you practice?”
While I personally practice many different types of meditation—never feeling like I have to stay within the confines of only one tradition—I typically respond with vipassana, as I’ve found it to be the most universally applicable form of meditation around. Any form of meditation that resonates with you—whether guided, mantra, movement, and so forth—will definitely be of benefit.
I adore meditation because there are countless ways to meditate, with no particular style being any better than another. It’s all about what resonates with you. You can find many free guided meditations online by searching Google or YouTube, as well as by visiting your local library. Most meditation practices are to spirituality what Bob Ross was to painting—very laid back and go with the flow. And while your practice may not provide you with happy little trees, it will over time create a greater sense of peace, clarity, and serenity in your life, and that’s sorta like happy little trees, right?
Through years of drug addiction, I did considerable damage to myself, resulting in heavy bouts of depression and anxiety. For years, I relied on antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications to keep me in a somewhat balanced state, but after cultivating a dedicated meditation practice I eventually found myself at a place where, under doctor supervision, I was able to taper off the medication and no longer needed it.
Let me make it perfectly clear, however, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking prescribed medication for conditions like anxiety, depression, and so forth. I recognize that they were very necessary in my life at that time, as I was very chemically off-balance. There is nothing unspiritual about taking prescribed medication when needed, because our own mental and emotional well-being must come first before we can truly help others.
Whether we are on medication or not, meditation practices will certainly help us to not only cultivate more calm in our lives, but also to handle things like stress, anxiety, and depression in gentler ways. For the benefit of those who are new to meditation, I’m providing these simple guided instructions for the practice of vipassana.
A Guided Vipassana MeditationThere’s no shortage of “spiritual positions” suggested for meditative practices, but really, as long as you keep your spine straight, without being overly tense or rigid in your posture, you’ll be fine. You can sit with your legs crossed in half or full lotus position, sit upright in a chair with your feet on the ground, or lie down flat on your back (before lying down, however, be mindful of whether or not you’re tired, as it can be easy to fall asleep during meditation).
As far as mudra (hand) positions go, put them wherever feels right to you. You can place them in your lap, palms up, one on top of the other; you can place them palms down on your knees; or fuck it, you can even make those silly circle things with your fingers, which has become the quintessential consumer vision of what we’re supposed to look like while meditating. It really doesn’t matter, though. Whatever feels most comfortable for you is the right position. Once you’ve got the hands figured out, close your eyes.
Next, bring your awareness to your Buddha belly (or chiseled vegan abs), roughly two inches above your navel, along the vertical midline of your body. Remember that this is not an exact science, so just bring your awareness to somewhere in that area, wherever feels right for you. (Note: Bringing attention to the tip of your nose, just inside your nostrils, as you breathe in and out, is also an anchoring point in vipassana. If that feels more natural to you, go with it!)
As you bring your awareness to your belly, you’ll begin to notice that, as you breathe in, your abdomen expands, and as you breathe out it contracts. The movements of expanding and contracting are often referred to as “rising” and “falling,” and are used as anchoring points to focus on during practice.
As your abdomen expands, observe its motion from beginning to end. Then do the same as it contracts. It’s that simple. Your breath, and the rising and falling of your abdomen, happen naturally, with no conscious effort on your part, so as you bring your awareness to the rising and falling motions, they anchor you in the present moment. If you find you’re having difficulty perceiving the rising and falling movements, it may help to place your hand on your stomach to feel them more clearly.
It also helps to recognize that the rising and falling are actually separate movements. There is a moment, after the abdomen has expanded to its fullest, and just before it begins to contract, that it is completely still. Being vigilant in your awareness of this break point in the motion can be extremely helpful in keeping your concentration focused, as it keeps your awareness centered.