Vipassana or Insight Meditation
The Vipassana approach focuses on noting. Noting all thoughts, sensations, movements, and all things picked up by the senses such as sounds, smells, touch etc. This dispassionate noting is done to separate the feeling of a contiguous “I” from the constant rising & falling of sensations. If we don’t note these acts of consciousness, we tend to identify them with a person or individual. We tend to think that it is “I” who is imagining, thinking, planning, knowing (or perceiving). We think that there is a person who from childhood onwards has been living and thinking. Actually, no such person exists. There’s only these acts of consciousness, this stream of consciousness
If we resonate with this vipassana or insight meditation approach, we can note each and every act of consciousness as it arises. When so noted, it just disappears as it makes room for the next constantly-changing act of consciousness. That is why, when the vipassana meditator committedly engages in continuous noting without break, he or she sees a continuous flow of consciousness that contains no “I” or ego component. In this way, they clearly get there isn’t really an ego and never was, just an end-less stream of changing sensations. It’s an amazing thing, to discover that the stream of consciousness does not need an “I” to start it or have it flow onward, and that in reality, there is no “I.” We just assigned one, because, out of lifelong conditioning, there seemed to be a separate, continuous entity experiencing all these rising & falling sensations, instead of realizing there was just the rising & falling sensations, and no continuous experiencer.
The simplest form of vipassana focuses on the rising & falling of the abdomen in relation to the breathing. You note the rising of the belly as you inhale, and the slow collapse of the belly as you exhale. You notice this continuously, without a break of even a split-second, mentally saying “rising, rising” and “falling, falling” as those occur. Your mind may wander elsewhere while you are noting the abdominal movement. This must also be noted by mentally saying “wandering, wandering.” When this has been noted once or twice, the mind stops wandering, in which case you go back to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen. If the mind reaches somewhere, note as “reaching, reaching.” Then go back to the rising and falling of the abdomen. If you imagine meeting somebody, note as “meeting, meeting.” Then back to the rising and falling. If you imagine meeting and talking to somebody, or to yourself, note as “talking, talking.” In short, whatever thought or reflection occurs should be noted. If you imagine, note as “imagining.” If you think, “thinking.” If you plan, “planning.” If you perceive, “perceiving.” If you reflect, “reflecting.” If you feel happy, “happy.” If you feel bored, “bored.” If you feel glad, “glad.” If you feel disheartened, “disheartened.” During long meditations, other sensations may arise in your body, like stiffness or heat will, or pain and tiredness. These are to be noted carefully, too. Failure to note these sensations makes you think, “I am stiff, I am feeling hot, I am in pain. I was all right a moment ago. Now I am uneasy with these unpleasant sensations.’’ The identification of these sensations with the ego is mistaken. There is really no “I” involved, only a succession of one new unpleasant sensation after another.
Moderate sensations of these kinds will disappear if one goes on noting them patiently. When concentration is good and strong, even intense sensations tend to disappear. Then it’s just being aware of the rising and falling of the abdomen.
If body sensations become unbearable, certainly you will adjust your body, and even that can be done as part of your vipassana noting. You can begin by noting your “wishing to change, wishing to change.” Then if you commence to move your legs, arms or torso to get comfortable, note “moving, moving” or shifting, shifting.” Then go back to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen. There must be no intermission in between, only contiguity between a preceding act of noting and a succeeding one.
Another deep form of noting or insight meditation, advocated by master S. N Goenka, is doing a full up & down body scan.