Open awareness is a form of “mindfulness meditation”. Here, the practitioner rests with patience as they wait for something to arise in their experience, internally or externally, noticing thoughts, images, sensations, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings in the body etc.
This is considered more difficult for a new practitioner as it is less structured than other types of mindfulness meditation such as mindfulness of breath.
A practitioner may find themselves naturally drift into this practice. This was my experience.
As with other mindfulness meditations, this helps enhance your ability. This practice helps improve your the ability of using your consciousness and your awareness in observation, or noticing. It also allows you to observe your responses or reactions occurring within your mind and body, such as liking and disliking. This also helps you observe the ever-changing, or impermanent nature, of these experiences.
The word Vipassana is Sanskrit that literally means “special, super, seeing”, also translated as “insight”. The Pali Canon describes it as one of two qualities of mind which is developed in Bhāvanā, “the training of the mind” and Samatha “mind calming”.
In the Buddhist Theravada tradition, it is defined as a practice that seeks “insight into the true nature of reality”, the three marks of existence, namely: “impermanence”, “suffering, or unsatisfactoriness”, and anattā which is “non-self”, or in the Mahayana traditions as śūnyatā which is “emptiness” and Buddha-nature.
Vipassanā practice in the Theravada tradition fell out of practice by the 10th century, but was reintroduced in Toungoo and Konbaung Burma in the 18th century, based on contemporary readings of the Satipaṭṭhāna sutta, the Visuddhimagga, and other texts.
A new tradition developed in the 19th and 20th centuries, centering on “dry insight” and downplaying samatha “mind calming”.
It became of central importance in the 20th century Vipassanā movement as developed by Ledi Sayadaw and U Vimala and popularized by Mahasi Sayadaw, V. R. Dhiravamsa, and S. N. Goenka and his vipassana centers.. It is believed that Vipassana was a practice that came from the Buddha himself.
Vipassana practices start with focusing on the breath, most often at the tip of the nose or inside the nostrils. Eventually, you open up to other experiences arising and passing, returning to the sensation of the body breathing.
Vipassana is unique in its use of mental noting where you say to yourself in your mind what is arising or passing. Ex. When you notice a sound, you note “hearing”, a thought you note “thinking”. The noting or naming physical and mental phenomena must be done without engaging the phenomenon with further conceptual thinking. By noticing the arising of physical and mental phenomena, the meditator becomes aware how “sense impressions” arise from the contact between the senses and physical and mental phenomena.
The use of noting with a thought or word makes this practice more difficult, as you must note minimally. I find it better to not use any mental words when I note experiences.