What is Meditation?

meditationThink about a ten day period of meditation extending from the crack of dawn till after twilight where the end result is a way of self-transformation through self-observation, and you have Vipassana (vi posh´un na)
This is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation, rediscovered by the Buddha more than 2500 years ago and used by him to free himself from the ills of existence – the agitation, irritation and disharmony we all experience from time to time.
We become unhappy when we find someone behaving in a way that we don’t like, or when we find something happening which we don’t like.  Unwanted things happen and we create tension within.  Wanted things do not happen, some obstacle comes in the way, and again we create tension within.  Throughout life, unwanted things keep on happening and wanted things may or may not happen.  This process of reaction can make our entire mental and physical structure so tense, so full of negativity, that life becomes miserable.
So the question arises, how can we stop reacting blindly when confronted with things that we don’t like?  How can we stop creating tension and remain peaceful and harmonious?
There are those who have studied this problem and have taught that if something unwanted happens and you start to react by generating anger, fear or any negativity, then you should divert your attention to something else to deflect the mind.  Good idea; it works, on the conscious level at least.  On the surface there is a layer of peace and harmony, but in the depths of the mind –the unconscious –the negativity remains.
Vipassana is a scientific method for purifying the mind on both a conscious and an unconscious level to totally eliminate the negativity that causes distress and pain.  Vipassana meditation provides an insight that cuts through conventions to perceive mind and matter as they actually are:  impermanent, unsatisfactory and impersonal.  Seeing this truth purifies the mind, eliminating all forms of attachment.
The difficulty is that we are not aware when negativity starts.  It begins deep in the unconscious mind, and by the time it reaches the conscious level, it has gained so much strength that it overwhelms us, and we cannot observe it.   There is a solution to this problem, however.
Whenever any impurity arises in the mind, physically two things start happening simultaneously.  One is that the breath loses its normal rhythm.  We start breathing harder whenever negativity comes into the mind.  In addition, at a subtler level, a biochemical reaction starts in the body, resulting in some sensation.  Every impurity will generate some sensation or the other within the body.
This presents a practical solution.  Ordinarily, we cannot observe intangible corruptions of the mind –abstract fear, anger or passion, but with proper training and practice, it is very easy to observe respiration and body sensations, both of which are directly related to mental distortions.  Thus, by observing the respiration or the sensations, we are in fact observing mental impurities, and by acknowledging them, these impurities lose their strength and no longer overpower us as they did in the past.
In this way the technique of self-observation shows us reality in its two aspects –inner and outer.  Prior to this insight, we only looked outward, missing the inner truth.  We looked outside for the cause of our unhappiness; we blamed and tried to change the reality outside.  Being ignorant of the inner reality, we did not understand that the cause of suffering lies within, in our own blind reactions toward pleasant and unpleasant sensations.
In Vipasanna Meditation, one learns to be aware of one’s breathing and also of what is happening inside.  Whatever it is, breath or sensation, Vipasanna provides the opportunity to observe it without losing mental balance.  The observer can stop reacting and multiplying  misery.  Instead, the participant allows the disturbances to manifest and pass away.
This direct experience of our own inner reality, this technique of self observation, is a practical approach by which it is possible to free the mind of negativities.  Vipasanna Meditation may not be magical or mystical in itself, but it certainly is a universal path, the result of which might be considered a magical experience at the very least.