Early in the question period, Than Geoff referred in passing to insights and how they arise, triggering a question that has bothered me in the past. It seems a very basic question, for one who has been practicing vipassana ("insight") mediation for quite a number of years, but I have always been a little confused on this subject. I keep waiting for those insights to arise, but they very rarely do. So I asked Than Geoff if he'd talk a little more about this, and was surprised by his response.
Turns out, he defines "insight" much more narrowly than I would have thought. The word, to me, suggests the bolt of lightning, the epiphany, the sudden revelation of some important and hitherto unsuspected truth about myself, or the universe, or my place in it. For Than Geoff, the insight is more simple and immediate in its relevance. It's the awareness, during meditation, that the mind has wandered off and needs to be brought back; the understanding of what led it astray at that particular moment; and the determination to avoid this distraction in the future.
If I understood him right, then, insight is simply a part of the discipline of practice, a refining of the skill involved in achieving and maintaining the mind's focus and concentration. What a relief! For so long I have been judging my sits as somehow deficient in the intended result, the arrival of a sudden new piece of wisdom to clarify my understanding of the mysteries of life. The wonder is that I could have labored for so long under so great a misapprehension! And the lesson: that it always pays to ask the simplest of questions.