Vipassana or Insight meditation, is a meditation carried out to study the self–the practices that revolve around teaching insight, are about noticing yourself–this is mindfulness. Samatha meditation is to practice peacefulness through mantras or other ways and Metta is to practice kindness and compassion, through practices that help us to feel those emotions.
Many meditators compete over meditation. Just last week, someone called me (who does not actually meditate) and told me that the only real meditation is Samatha!. Among the meditation/spiritual community, competition can come up! “how many retreats did you do? This religion is better than that!” or “I dismissed this because it was too hippy!.” Over the years I have heard many comments that stem from ignorance.
You see, the fact is that all three aspects of meditation belong together. To get to the highest level–total stillness, you have to practice bringing all three together. Initially one may overcome the other. If there is Metta, without insight, then you simply increase vulnerability and open the heart, which is wonderful–but without a true understanding of yourself, you may want the world to change and fall in line with what you want! That does not happen, then there is grief. If there is Samatha without insight, then your peace shifts the moment you are disturbed in the external world–blame can be a repeating pattern–one may look for easy solutions–see if people only followed the code of conduct, we’d never have problems!. If Vipassana or self-examination is practiced, without peace, then when you see things you don’t like about yourself, you will lose the peace and try to change yourself. Therefore all three aspects of meditation are necessary parts of the journey for a skilled meditator.
There are as many meditations as there are people who sit down to meditate. Every time your practice will be slightly different. It is you who meditates, and the method really is secondary to you in the moment. You change from moment to moment. No two meditations can be the same. Never ever give up. It can take x years to get to the level where you can do Vipassana! another y years before you can do Samatha, and maybe finding Compassion takes another z years or days!. But eventually, if you persist you can find enlightenment. Enlightenment means that you never go back to the karmic pattern, thus avoiding pain and suffering. You become compassion, peace and wisdom aka love, as some call it.
It is good to imagine that the three aspects of meditation are like 3 companions on your journey of life. One will give peace, the other compassion and the third will give insight. You are never alone when you meditate, you will always have these three very wise companions.
Then the question is how do you monitor your progress?. If meditation works you have a smile. The little edges of your lips are turned up-just like Buddha’s statue. Meditation is about feeling it. It is not intellectual. You feel it. Peace is an emotion, not a thought. Compassion is a feeling, not a thought. Insight is a skill of feeling what is lying between the thoughts. In meditation it is about disappearing your perceptions into what is being examined. In deep states, breath goes, inside-outside goes and thoughts leave. You lose yourself, You vanish. Truly you become a loser:) and to lose yourself is an act of vulnerability and great courage. When you enlighten, you lose everything. This is very true. In my journey of meditation, I find that every year I lose those things that were so important before and I become less.
It is the opposite of what society teaches. Society teaches us to become more. To have more. To be better than others. Whereas meditation is the opposite, we lose ourselves and find what is truly happy making. Happiness and suffering coexist, so the idea of heaven after all the suffering makes little sense. Imagine day after day of absolute heaven, it is incredibly boring. Suffering is part of life. For sure it comes from a sense of I, but that sense of I is so important to have an experience of living. Thus it is part of life, and the practice of meditation is to let go of the suffering and over time, what used to cause suffering does not cause suffering. Our sense of who we are changes and we start to live in full presence of the moment. Meditation is not about reward or punishment, but about training your mind to see what is true. Therefore meditation is not about being brainwashed and numbing the mind, but instead it is about mastering feelings and emotions. It develops it emotional strength. People who meditate become liberated from suffering and start to serve humanity. It may take years, until they are able to resolve all the karma, but eventually they realize the power of the mind and let go of the conditioning that leads to suffering.