Mindfulness and Vipassana Meditation

 Mindfulness In Daily Activities

In the Noble Eightfold path, right mindfulness is the origin of right concentration. In our retreat we always exercise our mindfulness in drinking, eating, walking, washing dishes, taking showers, standing etc. We try to make good use of every activity to develop mindfulness. Like having stronger arm muscles, the more we exercise and do push-ups, the stronger the arm muscles will be. In the same manner, the more we try to be mindful, the more powerful mindfulness will be.

The accumulation of mindfulness in our daily life activities will help us to gain relaxation and concentration of the mind in sitting meditation much more easily.


Mindfuless in Meditation

After we have gained some level of mindfulness and calmness in normal activities, then we can apply this mindfulness to help our meditation.


Step 1: Body Scan Technique

After we find a suitable sitting position, we start to exercise mindfulness by exploring different parts of the sitting body.  Concentrate on different parts of the body one by one. Start from the top of the head, back of the head, ears and all the way down to the feet and Vice versa.  As we are scanning the body, we try to relax those parts of the body at the same time.  

If we find some part of the body can capture our attention more than other parts, we can concentrate onto that part for longer. For example, if we can be aware of the rising and falling of the abdomen more easily than other parts, we focus the mind there, until the other thoughts become less distracting.


In walking meditation, we can concentrate the mind on the touch of right and left feet, the swing of legs and arms, the movement of shoulders or any other parts of the body where we feel more comfortable.


We repeat this exercise of body scan technique as many times as we would like to until the mind is calm, clear and stable.


Step 2: Body Scan + Mindful Breathing

To attain the deeper level of concentration of the mind, we select the breathing technique. After we gain some level of calmness of the mind from the body scan technique, we slowly shift our attention to watch the flow of breath.


The transitional period between the body scan and mindful breathing is to be carefully noticed. We should practice both techniques for some time before we move from the body scan technique to entirely focus on the breath.


That means we keep on focusing the mind on the body part and try to focus on the breath at the same time without losing calmness of the mind. Remain in this transitional practice until we can develop the concentration of mind on both body and breathing. After this, we gradually pass the concentration of mind over to the breath, and skip the body scan.

During this changing period, if we lose mindfulness and calmness of mind, then go back to Step 1 to re-establish mindfulness, and then proceed to Step 2 slowly and patiently.


This gradual shifting of attention will allow the strength of mindfulness to expand its parameter from the simple object (the body part) to the more difficult object of meditation (the breath).



When the mind can stay longer with the breath, the mind will become calm and relaxed. However, if we face internal distraction (hindrances), which can block the mind entering into calmness, then we may apply additional techniques to overcome such obstacles.


One of the most powerful techniques to remove hindrances is the Loving-kindness (Metta) meditation. We visualize the smiling faces of people whom we love and respect, and recall the moments when they were kind to us. These people can be our parents, grandparents, teachers, good friends, the Buddha, Bodhisatva etc.


The philosophy behind this Metta technique is to introduce a sufficient level of happiness to keep the mind calm for a short time. The mind, searching for happiness, jumps around the place until it finds happy feeling. Once the mind is happy, then it will pause running around temporarily.  Loving-kindness meditation is to allow the mind think of love and kindness until we feel relaxed.



Furthermore, loving kindness can help us to overcome some level of attachment to Ego which
generates greed, hatred, worry, inertness and doubt (five hindrances). Because when we love someone, we would like them to be happy.  We always consider the benefits of others, we don’t want to harm people, and we want others to be happy. Hence the mind is already rid of selfishness, and the mind is in a wholesome state of forgiveness, gentleness, politeness and friendliness. The power of unconditional love can initially pave the way to the inner peace.


The calm mind is an obedient mind which can be guided to watch the breath more easily. In Step 3, we practice both mindful breathing and Metta meditation until the breath is clear and refined. We can skip the loving-kindness meditation whenever the mind is calm and clear, and then purely focus on the breath.


Like Step 2, the shift of attention in the transitional phase from Metta + mindful breathing to the mindful breathing is to be carefully executed. Be careful and patient to skip the visualization of smiling faces. Make sure the breath is clear and refined before we totally shift concentration of the mind to the breath. Retreat to Metta+mindful breathing any time we need.

When we can shift attention to watch the breath successfully, the mind can go deeper into concentration, and gains the one-pointedness of mind, with joy and happiness.


Step 4 Mindful Breathing + Vipassana Meditation


Vipassana means 'seeing (passana) clear (vi).'  The practice of Vipassana involves 'observing' and 'seeing'.  Where observing is the cause, seeing is the result. Sometimes we call 'seeing' as the Realization of the Universal Truth; Change, Unstable and Not-Self.  The result of realization is the Letting go of attachment which implies the Freedom / Liberation of the mind from Unhappiness (Nibbana / Nirvana).


Every conditional thing in this world is subject to change, unstable and not under our direct control. These are called the Universal characteristics. People who don't realize these characteristics, and are not willing to accept change, will attach to things they love and try to resist change. Consequently they will suffer.


The practice of Vipassana is to gently allow the mind to 'witness' the reality of body and mind in the most comfortable manner of Enlightenment.  The mind will gradually accept the change, and the mind will realize the merit of letting go of attachment without feeling hurt. The final production is the Inner Peace (Nibbana).


Observer & Objects to Be Observed

After we successfully calm down the mind from Steps 1-3, we now should feel relaxed and clear. We now learn to transform the clear mind to be 'observer', where the body (and breath), feelings, memories, thoughts and consciousness are 'objects to be observed'.



We continue to remain mindful in breathing, and anything that happens clearest to the mind, in that very present moment, we take that thing to be the first object to be observed. The observing practice is to watch the end or the finish of that object.


For example, as we are mindful of breath, we can observe the end of each breath. We can say loudly in the mind ‘END’ so that the mind will clearly focus on the finish of the breath.


Repeat observing the end of breath many more times until the mind can 'see' the changing nature of breath.


Repeat seeing the change of breath many more times until the mind can realize the unstable
 nature of breath.


Repeat realizing the unstable nature of breath until the mind can see the not-self nature of breath; the breath is not under our direct control.


Repeat realizing the not-self nature of breath many more times until the mind can see it is 'just breathing ', neither 'I' am breathing nor 'MY' breathing.


Repeat realizing 'No I & MINE' in breathing many more times until the mind realizes the fading away of attachment, the drop of attachment,  the finish of attachment, and the emergence of Freedom respectively.


The same manner of observing can be applied to feelings, memories, thoughts and consciousness. We can change the objects only after we finish observing and seeing the true nature of each object.


The Sugar Trap: Nice Feeling

In the Dependent Origination chart, the critical moment in life is ‘contact’ between the six sense doors to six sense objects; eye – forms, ear- sound, nose – smell, tongue – taste, body – tactile sensation, and the mind – thoughts. Without understanding at the time of contact, the consciousness will attach to nice feeling, and the consequence is the occurrence of unsatisfactoriness.


We don’t emphasize on focusing our mind on painful or negative feelings because nobody wants to attach to those unpleasant feelings. We all like to get rid of unhappy feeling as soon as possible.  Rather, we seriously pay attention to the pleasant feeling arising from contact.


Pleasant feeling is the key element of life. We all struggle, working, eating, exercising, shopping, emailing, etc because we want to be happy. Unfortunately, happy feeling comes and goes all the time, so we keep on searching for a new contact to restart nice feeling.  Without wisdom, if anyone tries to stop us from happiness, we will be very upset.  Human history is full of conflicts of interest, wars and suffering due to attachment to happy feelings. We fall into the sugar trap.


There is an old saying, ‘if we want a baby lion, we must go into the lion’s den.’ If we would like to break free from the trap of attachment to happy feeling, then we have to walk into that trap, be happy, and find the way out from inside.


In the safe controlled situation of meditation, the calmness of mind will produce nice and relaxed feeling naturally. The mind then becomes both the producer and the observer of that pleasant feeling.


Practice mindful breathing until the breath is refined, and pleasant feelings of joy and happiness are stronger. Remain mindful of breathing, and at the same time observe the pleasant feeling. We may not be able to detect when the nice feeling starts, it doesn’t matter. We focus on the finish of the nice feeling to realize the changing, unstable and not-self nature, which will affect letting go of attachment to pleasant feeling.


Keep on watching the happy feeling until the feeling slowly fades away and ends. Acknowledge the end of that nice feeling, even say it loudly in the mind ‘END’.

Allow the observer to pick up the message of ‘END’ many more times until the observer realizes that every nice feeling is subject to change.

Repeat the same practice until the observer is able to recognize the ‘change’ in every emergence of happy feeling. Now the mind will produce awareness; the ability to recognize the changing nature of happy feeling, right at the moment when it starts.  Follow the practice of observing discussed in the above chapter ‘How to observe’.


Now we are in the sugar trap, learning its sweet temptation, realizing its changing nature, being aware of the danger of attachment, and wisely and peacefully walking out from the trap.

After walking in & out from this sugar trap of happiness for many times, we don’t feel any more threat. We find it is not too difficult to let go of clinging to the happy feeling. The pleasant feeling is no longer a trap. We now experience a new super mundane feeling of freedom, like a drop of water on a lotus leaf.