Insight Meditation (aka Vipassana): The What, Why, How & The Difference from Secular Mindfulness

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I practice and teach a style of Buddhist meditation called Vipassana (aka Insight Meditation).

Many people have heard of the transformational eight week course, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which has helped make mindfulness meditation a household term.  What many people don’t know is that it’s mostly just a secularization of Vipassana meditation.

However, even though they initially seem to be the same thing, there is also a big difference between the two.

I sometimes joke that if the Buddha were a 21st century dharma teacher, he would describe Vipassana Meditation as Mindfulness-Based Wisdom Cultivation (MBWC).

The rest of this post will explore what is meant by MBWC, and will answer the following questions:

1) What is Vipassana meditation?
2) Why are we shifting our basic perceptions?
3) What are we shifting our basic perceptions towards?
4) How do we actually, tangibly, realistically, make this happen?

5) What is core difference between Secular Mindfulness and Vipassana Meditation?
6) What is the quickest, most efficient way to really learn Vipassana?

Continue reading

Mindfulness Meditation & Sleepiness: Three Ways To Work With It

yawning-1895561_1920 EDITED SQUAREOne of the most common challenges for new meditators is getting sleepy, or actually falling asleep while meditating. 

When students ask me what to do about this, the first thing I usually say is that meditation is like a mirror. 

If we’re falling asleep while meditating, this usually means something about our lifestyle is causing it.  Maybe we have poor sleep habits, we’re overworking ourselves, have a hyperactive mind or lots of stress, our diet or exercise habits are imbalanced, etc.  Just like looking in the mirror, noticing these things is powerful information we can use to make real changes.

However, even if we did everything right, we’re likely to have some days when we’re sleepy.  So what to do during meditation when this happens?  There are three basic options. Continue reading

Is it Best to Have Eyes Open or Closed while Meditating?


I’ve spent several thousand hours doing both of these approaches, and I can definitively say that one isn’t better than the other.  Some of my most profound meditative experiences came with eyes open, and others with eyes closed.

Like most things, they each have their own advantages and disadvantages.  Here’s some brief reflections:

The primary advantage of eyes closed

By removing visual stimuli, a whole layer of ‘potential’ distraction is removed.  This makes it easier for many folks to stay aware.  This extra ease applies to all styles of meditation, but especially for concentration-centered practices.

The primary advantage of eyes open

It teaches us we don’t have to be sitting still with eyes closed to have a meditative mind.  We slowly learn that visual stimuli aren’t actually a distraction.  They are just another thing to be aware of, and can actually be an aid to awareness!  The major takeaway of this style is that it makes it easier to be aware in daily life (because, of course, we have our eyes open all day long!). Continue reading

On Becoming Vegan – Why I Did It, Why I’m Sticking With It, And How I Stay Healthy

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The following essay on veganism is a personal sharing, and is more about expressing my own sincerity journey than it is about evangelizing a particular ideology. 

I don’t judge people who eat meat or animal products.  I also don’t have a problem sharing a kitchen or a meal with those who have different dietary habits.  My basic life philosophy is that the best way to impart change is to dare to be radically myself, discover my own integrity, and to give others the space to do the same.

May this reflection be helpful in some way, fellow journeyer!


For a variety of reasons, I became a vegetarian in 2009.  Although, as the years passed, only one of those reasons really stuck: I couldn’t justify the killing of another living being when there were plenty of other ways to get easily & fully nourished.

However, I never thought too much about becoming vegan.  Using animal byproducts wasn’t outright killing living beings, I thought, so what’s the big deal? Continue reading

A Rough Guide to Eating Meditation — For Beginning and Advanced Meditators

luis-reynoso-514780-unsplashThere are two basic ways to practice eating meditation.


The first is about being mindful of your sensory experience.

Before the food even goes into your mouth, you take a moment to really look at it.  You put your nose to it, and smell its various fragrances.  Maybe you even feel it in your hands. Continue reading

A Rough Guide to Walking Meditation — For Beginning and Advanced Meditators

There are a million different ways to practice walking meditation.  But all of them are rooted in the basics of mindfulness: being aware with a curious & equanimous attitude.

What follows is a way of practicing walking meditation that I’ve found particularly helpful, both for “beginning” and “advanced” meditators.

I like to think of this practice in terms of layers.  Each one is a perfectly great practice on its own, though they can also all work together (sort of like how different instruments can create beautiful sounds by themselves, but can also mesh with other instruments to create a “song”). Continue reading

Three Types of Gratitude — And Practices To Develop Each One

Developing gratitude can be very powerful for brightening spells of depression, and for making the good times even sweeter.  In reality, it’s one of the key inner qualities a person can develop if they are interested in happiness.

In today’s post, I’ll share a way I think about different types of gratitude, and practices I do to cultivate each one.  Here’s the three types:


aaron-burden-133364-unsplash1. Past Happenings

As the name suggests, these refer to tangible experiences that have already happened.  They could be experiences from long-ago, like the vacation spot we went to as a child, or things more recent, like the vacation we took last month.

Although, one important principle to know is that proximity is power

In other words, the most powerful past-happening-gratitudes are usually the ones that have occurred more recently.  In turn, here’s a fairly common daily practice that I’ve found extremely beneficial: Continue reading

What To Do When You Can’t Fall Asleep


Not being able to fall asleep is a really common experience.  It can happen at the beginning of the night, during the middle of the night, or even at nap time.  Here’s my no-nonsense guide on how to expedite the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep.

The first important thing to understand is that if the mind is tired, it will naturally fall asleep once it’s sufficiently relaxed.

So how to get the mind sufficiently relaxed? Continue reading

Six Important Things to Know after a Major Insight (Part 6 of 6)



We’ve just had a significant insight, and now life feels “different.”

Whether it’s a psychological or meditative insight isn’t terribly important, because whatever it was, it has left a noticeable residue.

Maybe we’re glowing and beaming.  Maybe it has more of a sobering and cool feel.  Although, whatever the residue, the question on the mind is often,

What now?

Here’s a list of six things I wish I would’ve known a decade ago.  They help navigate the transition space from the old-us to the new-us.

Continue reading

How to Attain Insight & Wisdom in Three Steps (Part 5 of 6)


The Buddhist tradition uses a three-step model for the development of insight/wisdom.  While it could be applied to nearly anything, we’re mostly interested in how it applies to the three meditative truths: inconstancy, not-self and dukkha.

Although, to bring it down to earth, imagine we really dislike cold weather.  Whenever it drops below zero, we automatically become tense, agitated and grumpy.

In other words, our experience is of “dukkha”—the pain of wanting things to be other than they are.

However, after walking through the three steps detailed below, we learn to be in frigidly cold weather without getting tense or resistant.  And, in turn, we actually feel a deep capacity to stay relaxed and engaged, not just during cold weather, but during just about all unpleasant life situations. Continue reading