There are hundreds of spiritual and cultural practices that have been called “meditation.” But the most popular and well-studied form is called vipassana, or insight meditation.
The quality of mind cultivated in vipassana is called mindfulness. This means being intimately aware of each moment with a sense of openness and non-judgment.
It’s a way to rest your mind in the ocean of present experience.
Research shows that this form of meditation can help ease stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. It can restore a deeper sense of focus. And it may even strengthen your ability to be compassionate towards others.
It doesn’t require believing anything in particular. It only requires patience and regular practice.
Just like learning to play the guitar or write computer code, you get the most out of it when you practice everyday.
Sit in a chair or on the floor with your legs crossed. Be upright yet relaxed. Close your eyes, and keep your back fairly straight but relax your shoulders. Soften the muscles in your face, and let your lower jaw hang just slightly loose. Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
2. Watch the breath
Begin by focusing your attention on the breath. Watch its full duration: the inhale, the tiny pause between breaths, the exhale. Don’t try to control it. Instead, let the breath flow in and out like waves in the ocean.
3. Open your awareness
As you watch the breath, gradually become aware of other impressions of consciousness: sounds, sights, physical sensations, and even thoughts themselves. All of these things are floating about in your awareness. When something comes up, such as a thought, emotion, or strong sensation, simply notice it.
4. Notice when you get lost in thought
Most people discover that when they try to focus on the breath, they very quickly find themselves caught up in thought. You might suddenly be replaying some conversation you had earlier in the day, regretting what you said, or planning for some conversation you’re going to have in the future. You might be thinking about a big project at work, or what you’re going to wear to the party this weekend. Or you may notice your internal voice complaining about a general feeling of restless or sleepiness. When this happens, notice it the way you notice pictures on your Instagram feed. You can choose to pause and look at one, or you can let it go.
5. Return to the breath
Whenever you find yourself caught up in thought, return your attention to the breath and the physical sensations of the body. Each time you do this, you strengthen your mind’s ability to be present.
One more tip: Listen to recorded meditation instructions.