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Vipassana Meditation for Busy Individuals: How to Cultivate Awareness in Daily Life

Welcome to Just Another Day, a wellness podcast presented by Yudae, and we're excited to have you here. This series is called Mindful Meds where we help enhance your mental wellness through mindfulness practice designed around busy lives. If you enjoy this show, the best way to support is to like, subscribe, and share with a friend.

Mindful Meds for busy individuals. Learn how to cultivate awareness using an ancient technique from a scripture called "The Satipatthana Sutta".

It's Just Another Day for Vipassana

We can all agree that we're all just “too busy” these days. In fact, most Americans, if given the choice, would wish for more hours in a day. There is no time to relax, to pick up a new hobby, take the car to the mechanic, or enjoy time with the kids. We are all overflowing with business and commitments. This might be a unique problem we face here in America, and perhaps one which can be seen as a luxury.

One of my favorites mindfulness authors, Dr Goldstein published a piece titled "Busy Life, No Self" which directly addresses the issues of modern day life. In it, he offers advice on how individuals can cultivate mindfulness practices despite how busy we can all be. Although I recommend you to read the full article, in todays episode I will offer a summary of this protocol, a Mindful Med guide to Vipassana, and a daily practice guide for you to utilize moving forward.

Mindfulness, which we have discussed before, is the practice of keeping something in mind. Dr. Goldstein exposes his readers to a type of meditation practice called Vipassana, (Vipassanā) originally referenced in The Satipatthana Sutta.

The Satipatthana Sutta (SatipaT-AAna Soota) is a foundational teaching in Buddhist meditation and mindfulness practices. It outlines four areas of focus or "foundations of mindfulness" that one can use to cultivate insight and awareness:

1. Mindfulness of the body (kaya) kaya

2. Mindfulness of feelings or sensations (vedana) vedana

3. Mindfulness of mind or mental states (citta) kee-tah

4. Mindfulness of mental objects or phenomena (dhamma) d/HMma

Vipassana, which means "insight" or "clear-seeing," is a form of Buddhist meditation that emphasizes the practice of mindfulness and aims to cultivate a deep, direct understanding of the nature of the mind and the world surrounding.

By practicing the foundations of mindfulness outlined in the Satipatthana Sutta, a meditator can develop the clarity and awareness necessary to see things as they truly are and gain insight into the impermanent, unsatisfactory, and selfless nature of all phenomena. It is a simple, yet often difficult practice, shown to increase satisfaction, decrease stress, and increase focus over time.

Starting Vipassana

Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your head and back aligned. Begin by closing your eyes and relaxing your shoulders. Bring your attention to your eyes...and then your eyelids, allowing them to feel heavy and planted.

Next, bring your attention to your forehead and allow yourself to release any tension you may find. Be present in this moment, and the relaxation of the muscles of your face to share in their relaxation, and spread to your neck and traps.

Allow your shoulders to fall, letting your hands and arms be pulled down, as if gravity had magically become stronger. Allow this focus on relaxation to naturally move into an attention and focus on the body as a whole.

Bring notice to the vibrational energy within yourself. Begin to feel your body vibrate and hum, and sit with this feeling for a moment. Ground yourself in this feeling, and slowly, when ready, allow yourself to bring attention to just your breathing.

As you take your first consciously unconscious inhale, recognize this breath entering the body, but do not think about it - simply feel it. And as you exhale, recognize this breath exiting the body, but do not think about it - simply feel it.

Continue in this way for some time on your own, feel free to pause this here and take some additional time to bring mindful attention to your breath. Allowing yourself to feel every inhale and exhale without judgement or intention. Spend some time here alone before moving on to the next stage of Vipassana.

We will now begin to shift our attention to mindful intention. Inhaling once more, recognize this breath as sensitivity entering the body. At the top of the inhale, find a home for that sensitivity, giving it a place in what already was. As you exhale, recognize this breath as sensitivity leaving the body, and feel the sensations which come with emptiness.

Your mind may naturally wanders, as you try to think about the words being said. Try to bring the focus back to the breath, and regain the stillness that is the simple act of "being".

On your next inhale, recognize this breath as calmness entering the body. Find a home for this calmness. Allow this calmness to find space in a place that already was. And as you exhale, recognize this breath as calmness leaving the body. And again, feel the sensations which come from emptiness.

You may begin to feel a sensation of singularity, a natural push and pull of the breath as it enters and exits the body. It is almost as if the breath is a wave of energy, both in you and outside of you, freely acting in its own purpose without constraint or confliction. A uniqueness which comes not from what one believes, but what one is.

Feel free to repeat this session as many times as you feel necessary, and I encourage all of you to do try it at least once more, because although this may sound simple as audio, the most difficult thing to be is still.

But as we wrap up our session, and as you begin to regain your conscious thoughts, you may remain in the meditative position you chose to begin with, as I tell you this story from the Satipatthana Sutta. The full translation can be found here.

In a small town of the Kurus called Kammasadhamma, the Blessed One [the Buddha] addressed the monks, “Monks.” he said.

“Lord,” the monks responded to him.

“This is the direct path for the purification of beings," Buddha began "for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and distress, for the attainment of the right method, and for the realization of unbinding—in other words, the four establishments of mindfulness. "

"Which four?", he asked rhetorically. “There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in and of itself—ardent, alert, and mindful—subduing greed and distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings . . . mind . . . mental qualities in and of themselves—ardent, alert, and mindful—subduing greed and distress with reference to the world."

“There is the case where a monk—having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building—sits down [legs crossed], holding his body erect and setting mindfulness to the fore. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.

“In this way he remains focused internally on the body in and of itself, or externally on the body in and of itself, or both internally and externally on the body in and of itself. Or he remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to the body, on the phenomenon of passing away with regard to the body, or on the phenomenon of origination and passing away with regard to the body. Or his mindfulness that ‘There is a body’ is maintained to the extent of knowledge and remembrance. And he remains independent, [unheld by] anything in the world. This is how a monk remains focused on the body in and of itself."

The Satipatthana Sutta continues on as Buddha describes how a monk may bring focus to the remaining 3 areas of mindfulness. To read the rest of the translation click here.

This article will cover: vipassana, the Satipatthana Sutta, and provide a 3 step protocol to get the best out of your Vipassana practice.

Bringing it back to the beginning of the episode, I mentioned Dr. Goldstein and his studies on Vipassana. Dr. Goldstein teaches the concept of anatta, or "no-self," as central to the meditation practice of Vipassana. You may have noticed the words "in and of itself" being said a lot in the previous excerpt, and that is for a reason.

Goldstein explains there is no inherently existing self. He goes on to explain that a mistaken view of the "self" can be more detrimental than even greed or hatred. But by incorporating these mindfulness practices in our daily lives, it is possible to learn to see beyond the illusion of "self" and create a more peaceful and grounded existence. It is an opportunity to escape the chaos of the busy life and cultivate a deeper sense of awareness and presence within yourself, and those around you.

In this next exercise, I'll describe a Vipassana protocol outlined by Dr. Goldstein. It is a nine-minute-a-day mindfulness practice which involves three short meditations, each lasting about three minutes, and targeting three aspects of experience which tend to give rise to a mistaken sense of Self.

The Yudae Mindful Meds protocol recommends one 15-minute meditation practice daily, or at a minimum, 1 practice session per week. These sessions should be scheduled on the same day of the week, at the same time of day, and consistently completed for 30 days before increases or changing frequency or duration.

When starting a new practice, begin with shorter durations. There is no minimum, as long as paired with intention. Feel free to take notes or pause at any point. This is for you to utilize however you see fit, and if you enjoy it, please like this episode and share with a friend.

Session 1: Who hears who?

The first session can be done at any time of day but for most that will happen in the hours of the morning.

For the first three-minutes, simply sit and listen to sounds, in whatever surroundings you find yourself, whether it be a busy cafe or your quite bedroom, and open yourself up to the awareness of various sounds. Allow yourself to feel the sound. Be the sound. Relax into the sound.

And as you relax into this spatial awareness, pose the following question to yourself:

"Can I perceive the origin of these sounds?" Where do they come from? Is it something, or someone? Am I involved in these sounds? Or am I simply aware of them? Take a moment to ask yourself these questions, and feel free to pause here to do so.

Notice that there is no sound within your control. None outside of your own breathing. Further, there is no "I" to be perceiving these sounds at all. It is true there are parts of the ear which receive external stimulus, and that your brain interprets this stimulus as "sound", which we, as humans, then combine with past experience and current context to insert meaning to what we heard...but there is no "I" in the sound that is perceived. It would have existed in the same way had you not been there at all. Just the same, it simply exists, as do you.

This exercise is a reminder to focus on the present moment and to recognize that the self is simply an illusion.

So, to recap,

Three-minute exercise

Listen to Sounds

Try to find what's perceiving them

Explore the experience of not being able to find "I" behind the perception of sound

Session 2: Breaking Ties

Ok, so let's say you find yourself in your office working, or on a lunch break, maybe you're just getting out of class. Now would be a perfect time to practice.

For this three-minute exercise you will focus on loosening the identification with the body while in motion. To start, go for a walk somewhere you feel safe and comfortable. As you walk, take notice of the sensations in space, including pressure, motion, and lightness. Approximately 60% of you is made of water. H2O. A single molecule of water, bound to another all traveling in chaotic organization through various veins, vessels, and arteries to ensure your survival.

Bring your attention to this part of your body. Try to feel the molecules inside you. All the water. All the liquid. Imagine this liquid, this water, contains an energy of its own. Imagine that this energy was so redient, it could be seen externally. Almost as if you were glowing. It is by acknowledging this fluidity, it is possible to gain a deeper understanding of the body and its role in the present moment.

So, to recap,

Start a walk in a safe area

Take notice of the sensations in space

Imagine the body as a fluid energy field

This exercise is a powerful tool for releasing the mind from the illusion of the solidity of the physical being. Incorporating these exercises into your daily mindfulness practice can lead to a greater sense of detachment from the physical self, and a deeper understanding of the impermanence of life.

Session 3: As The Thought Arises

For the final 3-minute session, sit comfortably and pay close attention as thoughts arise. Think of it as a newly arrived package just waiting to be opened. Only this package wasn't meant for you. Bring your attention and focus to this thought, and allow it to pass back into the nothing of which it came.

Our thoughts generating other thoughts, many of which are trivial and selfish, primarily centered around ourselves. The process of observing the fleeting nature of our thoughts can help weaken our attachment to them and help reduce our identification with our ideas. We can begin to see that there is hardly anything there, just a brief and insubstantial bit of information unable to make a difference without the conscious action of the body.

So, to recap,

Sit comfortably

Pay close attention to thoughts as they arise

Focus on it

Notice it disappear and a new thought arriving

This exercise can be very illuminating, particularly if you have not been accustomed to paying close attention to your thoughts. By incorporating this practice into your daily routine, you can deepen your understanding of mindfulness and experience its transformative power.

Overall, each of these practices are tools for your mental toolbelt. And just like we practice physical movement by working out and exercising every day, our brain and cognition require the same dedicated attention and focus. Ironically enough, if the thought of having to fit yet another thing into your day is the first thought in mind, release this thought and take action.

As always, I hope you enjoyed this episode. You will find a link to the FREE downloadable Mindful Meds journal below. If you liked listening to this episode, and/or learned something new, please leave us a like, subscribe, and share with a friend. A little goes a long way, and we're here for you. Enjoy the rest of your day, and make every day a Yudae. Wellness is what we do.

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