IInsight meditation, or vipassana, has been practiced since the time of the Buddha, 2500 years ago. It originates in one of the three great streams of Buddhism, called the Theravadn tradition. Theravada is practiced primarily in Thailand, Burma, India, Sri Lanka, and other parts of Southeast Asia. The other two streams are Mahayana, practiced mainly in China, Japan and Korea, and Vajrayana, practiced mainly in Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a generation of young Americans discovered insight meditation and brought it home. As taught and practiced at New York Insight, insight meditation has little cultural overlay and is accessible to people of all religions. For a brief history of NYI, click here.
Insight meditation is a way to develop wisdom and compassion. The core of the practice is the cultivation of mindfulness. Mindfulness is like a mirror that reflects the mind and body from moment to moment, without judgments, projections or distortions. As we learn to live in the present moment, and see things as they are, the hold of negativity is weakened, and we begin to cultivate a peacefulness in the mind and an openness of heart.
From this perspective, our relationship to the stresses of contemporary life can shift. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the many physical and emotional benefits that derive from meditation practice.
The foundations of the practice include sitting meditation, in which we learn to acquire steadiness of the mind and the ability to see deeply into the truth of our experience; walking meditation, in which we develop a greater awareness of our bodies in the present moment; and mindfulness in daily life, the art of conscious living. Lovingkindness (Metta) meditation is a component of the practice that enables us to open our heart to ourselves and others, and to recognize our connection to all of life.
For basic information on how to meditate, click here.