The world can be an incredibly stressful place; with so much going on, so many pressures placed upon us and working five or even more days a week. And, that’s before you factor in anything like politics, the economy or if you have kids. It’s kind of amazing that more people don’t just curl up into a ball and shudder for most of their day. Because of all of this pressure and potential stress, more people are looking for ways to relax and clear their minds, especially if it’s drug- and chemical-free. One of the things that may be able to help your relieve stress, anxiety, and depression is Vipassana meditation (or mindful meditation).
In this article, we will take a look at Vipassana meditation, how it is performed, how the Vipassana meditation technique may be able to help you relieve stress and anxiety, and anything you may need to know before trying this at home.
What Is Vipassana or Mindful Meditation?
So, are you curious as to what is Vipassana meditation and how to do Vipassana meditation techniques? Vipassana or mindful meditation is a type of meditation that has been practiced for over 2,000 years. The practice was taken up by Siddharta Gautama, also known as Buddha. Gautama felt that the Vipassana meditation technique was a way not only to wash away suffering and the problems that the world would thrust upon the individual, but to also become more in touch with the here and now, as well as mindfulness. Think of it as kind of a cleanse for the soul.
Vipassana meditation gained popularity due to the work of Satya Narayan Goenka. He brought the practice to public prominence when he began teaching it to others who were to teach the method around the world. If you want to learn this method of meditation, you need to take a 10-day course at a Vipassana center. The course involves a strict code of discipline that requires the participants abstain from sex, drugs, alcohol, lying, theft, and killing during those 10 days. The meditation periods during these courses can last up to 14 hours.
But, how does all of this help with depression and anxiety?
Vipassana Meditation Could Fight Anxiety and Depression
So we’ve gone over what Vipassana meditation is, and how you go about learning the meditation method, as well as the code of discipline that’s involved in the courses. But, how does the meditation help with stress? Can it help with depression and anxiety? To get the answers to these questions, you have to take a look at how Vipassana meditation works.
The whole focus of Vipassana meditation is the self and mindfulness—being mindful of you and not reacting to what is happening or happened to you. During the training, you learn some basic ideas that form the core of mindful meditation.
1. Pay attention to your thoughts
During this process, especially during the long meditation days, many thoughts will enter your mind. Pay attention to your thoughts. Observe them but don’t necessarily react to them.
This technique allows you to practice a certain amount of discipline. If you can watch your thoughts without reacting to them, then your thoughts can’t rule over you, which is a very helpful discipline if you suffer from depression and anxiety.
2. Face the bad
During the meditation, many bad thoughts or issues will come to the surface. For the most part, we tend to run from these thoughts or over-think them, and in doing so, can cause, pain, anxiety, and depression. Here, you face those bad thoughts head on to examine them, process them, and hopefully, learn to let them go.
3. Live in the now
One of the hardest parts of Vipassana meditation, especially for anyone who suffers from any mental health issues like depression and anxiety, is to live life now. Don’t look too much forward, forget about the past, and look to today. As much as it sounds like something Yoda might spout off in Star Wars, many people find their depression and anxiety issues are triggered by thinking too much about what might happen. Vipassana meditation teaches you just to be here in the present moment.
There are other things this mindful meditation can teach you if you let it, but the above are the basics that you will learn during the 10-day course. There are a few side effects and drawbacks that you may want to think about so that you’re well prepared when you start practicing this type of meditation.
The Side Effects of Meditation
Meditation is a great thing for helping to relieve your stresses. You can meditate almost anywhere after you learn the techniques. It doesn’t cost anything, and it may help you with some mental issues that have been plaguing you for years. Unfortunately, it’s in the last part where you may find some side effects.
As we previously noted, part of the experience of mindful meditation is to let your thoughts go and be mindful of them, which could mean some bad and horrible thoughts and even memories might rise to the surface. Some might be thoughts you actively know about, while others may be things you had forgotten about in your consciousness, but may still be hanging around in your subconscious. If you have gotten a handle on being able to separate yourself from these thoughts, being able to examine them but not letting the thoughts define you, this is useful.
You can examine these issues and ultimately let them go. But, if you haven’t learned how to be mindful of your thoughts, this can sometimes be disturbing. And, it could even be traumatic depending on what is brought to the surface. It is a part of the process, and ultimately, it can be good for you.
There is also a physical drawback. While eventually, you will get used to the actual physical pose of meditation, when you are first learning, sitting in the same position for many hours can be a grueling physical test. Even simple things like itches are to be ignored, so it can take your body some time to get used to it.
Mindful Meditation Can Help!
Vipassana meditation can be a great help for some people who suffer from depression and anxiety. For some, they may find that once they have the techniques down, that they will suffer from fewer anxiety attacks and bouts of depression. For others, they may still need medication, but this may help get relief from some of the triggers that may set them off. Depression and anxiety are complicated things, but mediation may be able to help you deal with them.
Ferreras, J., “What Is Vipassana Meditation?” The Huffington Post, February 17, 2015; http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/02/17/vipassana-meditation_n_6665822.html.
Krans, B., “Study: Meditation’s Effects Similar to Pills for Depression,” Healthline, January 6, 2014; http://www.healthline.com/health-news/mental-meditation-as-effective-as-medication-for-depression-010614#1.
“How Do You Meditate?” Stress-Free Tomorrow; http://www.stressfreetomorrow.com/meditation/vipassana_meditation.html.
“Vipassana for Anxiety,” NobleChatter, September 14, 2015; http://www.noblechatter.org/post/vipassana-for-anxiety/.