The Opare Institute

Vipassana Meditation Technique: Tried and tested

Three ladies meditating


Anxiety disorders have skyrocketed in the 21st century. According to a news release by the World Health Organization (WHO), the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a 25 percent increase in global anxiety disorders and depression rates (World Health Organisation, 2022). Health corporations and agencies worldwide are calling on governments to prioritize the mental health of their populations. More importantly, individuals have started taking it upon themselves to safeguard their mental health. Various techniques have been put to use to achieve the optimal mental health possible. Some of these techniques include yoga, mindful meditation, therapy, and both internal and external exercise, just to mention a few common examples.

A wild mind can be our own worst enemy, but a tamed mind can be our ultimate redemption from life’s miseries. Vipassana training teaches that stress, anxiety, and depression stem from the constant oscillation of the mind between the past and the future. Only on rare occasions will the mind focus on the present exactly as it is.

For the past two years, I have gone through a fair share of the typical mind torture manifested as intense severe anxiety attacks. In July 2022, I decided it was time to put an end to it or at the very least take back some sort of control of my mind. Otherwise, all hell was about to break loose. At this point, I had heard nothing but good things about a meditation technique known as Vipassana. Vipassana means to see things as they really are. The method teaches us to develop deep mindfulness and self-awareness.

If practiced correctly and with a pure mind, regular meditation has proven to be a game changer for many. The late S.N. Goenka, the founder of Vipassana training teaches that meditation originated in ancient India 2500 years ago. It has since been adopted by people around the world. One may choose from the many meditation techniques, but this article shines a light on the Vipassana technique. I have actively practiced Vipassana meditation daily since completing the 10-day Vipassana meditation training given in Meru Kenya this year. Regular practice (morning and evening for about an hour) has enabled me to reach a new level of inner peace. It has also brought me to the realization that the present is what is real and matters most. The past and the future are simply illusions of the mind.

About the vipassana training course

The unique characteristic of this technique is its demand for experiential training which is the main driver of its true mastery by learners. Various centers have been set up around the world to facilitate onsite training. There are a total of 234 centers spread across continents including Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania, South America, and North America (Vipassana Meditation, n.d.). Additionally, virtual training is also offered using audio and video resources. These centers are solely built and run by the donations of students who have seen and tasted the fruits of vipassana.

S. N. Goenka maintains, the Vipassana meditation technique was originally taught by the Buddha who passed it down to his followers and many generations of teachers. Now before you check out or start crucifying it, this technique is NOT a religious Buddhist ritual. Its operating principles are in perfect line with the universal truth of the existence of suffering. S. N. Goenka teaches that suffering roots in the mind which is poisoned by societal norms and pressure for all to be almost always perfect in all the fundamental aspects of life.

S.N. Goenka has personally trained and appointed many more teachers to help spread the teachings worldwide. The training is accomplished through a continuous 10-day course at the center of one’s choice. Applications to attend the course are made on the dhamma website by filling out a form which is used by the management team to assess and determine the applicant’s suitability. If accepted, subsequent communication about the course is provided via electronic mail.

Courses are offered free of charge. Students are provided with clean sanitary accommodations, tasty vegetarian meals, and other resources needed to complete the course. In case you are thinking about it, this however does not in any shape or form imply it is a vacation. This is because it calls for hard work and is therefore only for those who are committed and ready to sit all day for ten days to train their mind.

Only upon successful completion of the course, are donations accepted. From my own experience, by the last day, the urge to donate builds up quite strongly. The abundance of peace and harmony within me was so tremendous that I knew I had to help someone else experience it.


On the day of arrival, students complete a registration form and agree (by signature) to adhere to the set rules as communicated beforehand. After a light evening meal, the students are briefed on the use of the facility, the schedule, the rules of engagement, the facilitators, and the servers, among others.

Emphasis is put on five specific precepts which students are required to follow for the duration of the training:

  1. Abstain from killing any being
  2. Abstain from stealing
  3. Abstain from all sexual activities
  4. Abstain from telling lies
  5. Abstain from all intoxicants such as alcohol and other drugs
The most important rule is the requirement to observe noble silence. This means that students are prohibited from communicating with each other, verbally or through gestures as soon as the course begins and for the duration of the training. This is strictly enforced to ensure some level of observance of some of the above precepts such as refraining from telling lies. No electronic devices, reading, and writing material are allowed during the course. Therefore, ALL students must hand in any of these and other valuables to the management for safekeeping until the last day of the course. Each day, important information is posted on the available notice boards that all students can access. A very loud (and might I say annoying) gong is used as to permit the students to know the time. A few clocks are also placed strategically in common areas.

When entering the meditation hall, each student is provided with a meditation cushion on which they will sit during meditation sessions throughout the course. The meditation hall is kept clean at all times as no shoes are allowed beyond the entrance. Strict segregation of the sexes is enforced. Since no interaction is allowed between male and female students, a demarcation is created where the males sit on one side of the hall and the females on the other.

The Technique

An appointed assistant teacher sits at the front and guides the students through an audio recording by the teacher, the late S. N. Goenka. These include chanting, some of which students respond to, especially at the end of each group sitting. By the end of the 10 days, the most repeated phrases such as aniccã stick with you as you go home like they did many of us. Translating the most used language is provided for courses in countries where other languages are common. For example, in Kenya, the translated audio is prerecorded in Kiswahili and played right after the one in English. Students can sit in whatever position they are comfortable in for the duration of a particular sitting. Quiet movements to change posture or take a short break are allowed.

During the first three days, students are guided to practice anapana which sets the foundation for vipassana. In the anapana technique, students are directed to focus all their attention on their breath as it comes in and goes out. The aim is to create awareness of sensations occurring only around the nostril area. Some of the common sensations experienced include itching, pain, cold, heat, numbing, pulsing, and tingling, among others. It is key that one does not focus on finding these specific sensations as they are unique to each individual. A sensation can be anything felt on the surface of one’s skin or as deep as inside the body organs.

The goal is to only observe these sensations without generating new feelings of craving or aversion towards them. Most people tend to develop a craving for pleasant sensations and an aversion to unpleasant ones. By not giving these sensations any kind of attention in terms of reaction – such as scratching to end an itch, one is getting rid of the old stock of sañkhāra (s) (loosely translated as formations of the mind) that sit (s) deeply in the mind.

On the fourth day, the heat starts to burn a little harder as the real practice of vipassana begins. In the formal vipassana meditation technique, students move their entire attention through each inch of the body paying close attention to the sensations that arise and fall. Sequentially moving from the tip of the head to the sole of the feet and vice versa, one notices the sensations at each point and promptly moves on to the next. In some instances, there will be no sensations at certain points of the body. This is not a call for worry. It is advised to spend a few more minutes at these points looking out for any sensations that may arise. Even the touch of the garment is considered a sensation. This process is repeated in sequence for the entire meditation session.

Students are encouraged to work diligently and patiently keeping in mind the law of impermanence (called aniccā). This is to mean that these sensations arise only to pass. Therefore, they require no reaction but acceptance of their reality. Vipassana maintains that to do otherwise will only lead to suffering and mystery.

I have found this to be a universal truth. Everything that happens is impermanent. The truth is that each one’s reality keeps changing by the second. S.N. Goenka teaches that those who grasp this concept are liberated. On the other hand, those who don’t and instead get attached to their present situations become miserable because they will either keep craving for the pleasant ones or avert the unpleasant ones.

To give context to the training done during the day, discourses are provided at the end of each day in the form of a video presented by S. N. Goenka. His extensive knowledge of the subject and life, in general, makes the whole course a lot more worth the time and effort. If you enjoy a little bit of humor while you learn, you will enjoy these discourses.

The icing on the cake is the free availability of all the course material to all the students once they have completed the course. A mobile application is also available for free download on both the Apple Store and Google Play Store.

Pros and Cons

There is not an ounce of doubt that the training method is not for the faint of heart. It tries all the patience and endurance you have got. By the second day, every inch of your body will be screaming at you to pack up and run out of this hell. For me, it was my back and derriere that had just had enough of the long hours of sitting, back and neck straight, with nothing to rest my back on. However, you quickly call yourself for a small meeting to remind yourself that you signed up for a reason. And since you went through the trouble of getting to the facility, you might as well just finish it. So, you keep going; before you know it, it is the fifth day.

Between the fifth and tenth day, one becomes much more confident in their ability to learn and achieve the goal of meditation. By this time, students start to become masters of equanimity as they practice the vipassana technique. The concept of equanimity which means to maintain calmness as one experiences sensations, whether pleasant or pleasant, is probably the most important aspect of the technique. The teacher makes a point to see that students understand its significance by reiterating it in all meditation session introductions. His intonation alone kickstarts a good measure of equanimity among the students.

By the tenth day, the smiles on everybody’s faces tell it all. The rule of noble silence comes to an end except during meditation sessions. Questions we had all been silently asking within ourselves finally get answered. It was fun getting to know more about fellow students and their experiences. One thing that stood out was that most of us were glad they stayed and put in the work. This could very well be the life-changing opportunity they had been awaiting. The peace, joy, and harmony that one derives from this newly acquired asset are what will keep most of us going back for more (practice and service) to ensure that millions if not billions of people have a taste of the pie.


Peace, just like happiness, is a choice that each one of us has to make for ourselves. So be it if it means sitting on a cushion and paying attention to your bodily sensations. Either way, find your means and make it happen for yourself. Aniccã! Aniccã! Aniccã! Be happy.
Disclaimer: By no means possible does this article exhaust all there is to know about the meditation technique. It is merely a simple introduction to the subject to spur more interest for those interested to find out more. Happy reading!

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