Meditation, or bhavana, is the primary tool given by the Buddha for achieving enlightenment, or nibbana. He said that without practicing meditation, enlightenment or liberation is impossible.
The practitioner of vipassana focuses on the inhalation and exhalation of air – watching the rising and falling of the breath as it occurs. It sounds simple, but this is in fact the essence of the practice. As one gains proficiency in this form of meditatioin one learns to observe very closely every small movement of the body and mind as they occur. This keeps us in the ever-present Now where life actually takes place – rather than in the unreal past or illusory future.
One should develop the habit of setting aside time each day to sit still, follow the breath, and examine one’s transitory experience as it rises and then ceases to be. The Buddha said that meditation can be practiced sitting, standing, walking, or lying down. In other words, he urged us to develop a mindful way of living at all times, which means to abide continually in a constant state of wakeful awareness, or meditation.
The benefits of meditation are multifold. In addition to being a tremendous aid for the development of concentration, meditation is good for the health, good for reducing stress, good for maintaining an attitude of compassion and loving-kindness, and good for keeping the body and mind in balance and fully energized.