> I found it impossibly hard to keep meditating on my own
Couple things to keep in mind:
1. Daily practice in some form is the real key. Just get up and do it.
2. There will be ups and downs, high and lows in meditation.
3. Vipassana is a pretty austere form of meditation. You are directly confronting the mind with little outside aid or warmup. Other forms of meditation leverage breathing techniques, concentration techniques and other practices that gradually bring the mind into submission, making the no-thought part somewhat more easy to achieve. Search around or shoot me an email if you want to know some other approaches.
Regarding the austerity of breathing: I've found that not forcing the eyes closed does the trick. It is far easier for my mind to wander, at first, with my eyes closed. With eyes open, but relaxed enough to close on their own (and they usually do) I get a constant reminder that I'm meditating not just day dreaming.
(And, if you read the Satipatanasutta you'll notice that the Buddha never instructs the meditator to close their eyes. :)
I was referring more along the lines of pranayamas, mantras and other techniques that drive the mind into submission. The mind will be completely stunned after 10-20 mins. Look into any tradition be it buddhist, yoga, tantra etc and you find some other options.
These techniques must put pressure on some deep, otherwise unconscious levels of the mind, and then produce responses closer to the "hardware" level. I'd love to see more research done in this area.
(Note: I don't practice Vipassana, but different, yet overall somewhat similar, techniques of a school of yoga - and I mean yoga in the traditional sense, not the bastardized "female yuppie gymnastics".)
My practice has definitely had its ups and downs over the years. In my experience the most significant contributor to a strong, consistent practice is to regularly sit with other people. Like weekly, or a few times per week if possible.
Glad to see some talk of meditation here on HN — I've always felt that programmer-types would dig Vipassana. Buddha was a hacker.
I meditated for a few months back in 2006 and it was fantastic. I, too, have trouble maintaining it. What other sorts of practices would you recommend?