Vipassana is also known as Insight Meditation.
Vipassana means witnessing. The beauty of Vipassana is its simplicity; it can be easily practised by almost anyone with great results. In simple words the Vipassana practice is to sit in a comfortable position and to witness your own breath and thoughts. Allocate some time for this practice and refrain from all other efforts for this duration. The focus is on paying attention to the breath as it happens in the present and not to control it. This method had been known from ancient times, but was widely known after Gautam Buddha taught it as the meditation practice for his followers. In spite of the apparent simplicity, the results are surprisingly good. Also note that although the technique sounds simple, it’s not easy for our busy minds not to wander away from paying attention only to the process of breathing in and breathing out. The Buddhist method suggests to focus attention on the breath as it raises and falls at the naval ( or just below the naval). I find this to work best with the addition of the noticing the silence and emptiness felt in the gap when the exhalation is done and the inhalation is not yet started. As one practices and becomes skilled in paying attention and becomes sensitive, one can find such points in the breath cycle where you can naturally fall into the silence. The right practice should bring one to a very relaxed state; it will come to a state where there is no effort involved, neither mental efforts of thinking or not thinking, nor any physical efforts of controlling breath or holding any difficult positions or hand signs(mudra). It will be a blissful relaxing time when you connect to the fourth and that gives you the right orientation for the rest of the day. There are times when the mind is naturally quiet, like early morning or in the evening, and these periods should be made use of.
When one deepens in the practice, many wonderful insights may appear; in a quiet mind these will appear like an epiphany or a vision that came out of nowhere. You’ll get insights into many important things in your own life. The aim of the practice is not these insights; just notice that the insight has happened but do not dwell on it or try to analyze it, just continue the practice.
There are many variations and refinements that can be applied to this simple practice. Some are related to the sitting position also known as the Asana. Generally the spine is held erect, without slumping forward or backwards. This is the comfortable position to hold for a length of time. This allows for smooth operation of body functions and causes least distractions from body. Traditionally cross legged sitting on the floor known as the lotus position is used, but a straight back chair should do equally well. There are hand gestures also that some people use; I’d rather just rest the hand on lap with the least distractions and discomforts as the guiding principle. Lying down on your back can work too, only trouble is there are more chances of you going to sleep instead of staying alert and focused on the breath.
Some practices makes use of chanting mantras, generally the TM uses this method. Chanting can be help to quieten the mind. It can set a certain “vibe” and can help to create a “set and setting” for the practice.