Author Topic: Goenka Retreat Experience  (Read 8120 times)

rideforever

Goenka Retreat Experience
« on: December 23, 2010, 01:42:12 PM »
(I left on Day 1)

This was a retreat in the UK at the East Anglia centre 'Hilltops' on 20.12.10, the Course Leader was 'Donald' and the Dhamma Teacher was an American man 'Richie' perhaps - although I think he had a non English name.

The first day, Day 0, was largely non-eventful, we arrived and waited and saw to our rooms.  The first gathering was in the dining where the Coure Leader read out the rules etc... He hadn't prepared it and kept stopping and starting and saying this didn't apply to us, and this doesn't apply to us, etc... etc... (most of the rules didn't apply to us) and it was quite a non-event as a speech goes.

What I did notice was a vast amount of noise coming from the kitchen where the old students were chatting away about Christmas and noisily working in there slamming cupboards, banging dishes, charging about etc...

At the end of Day 0 we moved in to Noble Silence after listening to a taped teaching from Goenka.

Well the noise was just terrible after Goenka's talk.  The old students were audible from within the Dhamma Hall and from the lobby (also used as a meditation area) chatting away in a continuous drone from the old students' (facilitators) areas.

The next morning I was in the Dhamma Hall at 9am, after breakfast, just me and another new student meditating in this break period, when suddenly the door slammed open and the Dhamma Teacher rushed in and started noisily moving things about.  Following him the Course Leader came in and started calling out to the Dhamma Teacher across the Hall (the Hall with students meditation in it during Noble Silence !).  It was hard to believe actually - this was the Dhamma Teacher and Course Leader.  

This carried on, and finally I spoke out to the Course Leader expressing to him the noise he was making, reminding him of Noble Silence, and indicating also that there was an audible chatter coming in from the facilitators (old students) from next door.  He walked up to me and started defending the noise 'they have to make that noise to prepare food', and 'the old studetns are not meditating, they are here for you' etc... (which is very strange to me because normally the facilitators are working meditatively and have their own program - not here.)  Anyway after trying to justify the noise he very condescendingly looked into my eyes and said he couldn't answer my question over and over.  ... ?

Later I was in the lobby with many of the new students meditating at about 10am, and the facilitators and Course Leader were audibly having many discussions in the lobby - some hushed, and some not hushed.  And this Course Leader Donald would regularly walk up to students who were meditating in the lobby and interrupt them by bending over and talking into their ear !  I kid you not.  You after appreciate these were new students practicing what they were taught last night and being disturbed from their practice by the Course Leader.

Anyway, at 11am I summoned the courage and asked to leave and was told to see the Dhamma Teacher - I did.  I got a good impression from him and I told him that I would stay for a further day to see how it would go - at which he gave me a wide mouthed grin - which I didn't think was appropriate actually.

The noise continued and after a few hours I realised that : these people have nothing to teach except mindlessness.  And although perhaps having a massive breakdown realising that even in a Dhamma Centre just unbelievable mindlessness exists could have value, there was nothing to trust here, and I needed some trust to do that work.

So I left at 2pm the same day.  On the way out I look through the glazed door marked 'No Entry' to see the Dhamma Teacher surfing the internet on a laptop.  Remember : this is an intensive retreat conducted in silence where all phones, electronic equipment and wallets are handed in to storage ... and the Dhamma Teacher is on the internet ????

Also the facilities.  Well we came out a long way (7hrs on the train) to the furthest reaches of East Anglia to a lovely outdoorsy centre in the middle of a forest.  But the student were not allowed to go into the forest ... and were restricted to the car park by a blue rope marking the boundary.  ... so what was the point of coming so far to be in a car park ??

The Course Leader called me a cab and walked out with my valuables in a clear bag held between thumb and forefinger aloft like they smelt bad, and when I took them he turned his back and walked away.  (I wonder if he was trying to show me that he knew how to be silent ?)




Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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Re: Goenka Retreat Experience
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2010, 03:48:47 PM »
That is one messed up centre. Clearly they were not keeping to their own rules and as you say could teach mindlessness. Glad you took the decision to leave when you did - not the right place for you, rideforever - and a wise decision on your part.

M
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

kidnovice

  • Member
    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: Goenka Retreat Experience
« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2010, 03:14:32 AM »
Wow, RF. That sounds like a seriously MESSED UP center.

I've never observed anything like what you experienced at the goenka centers that i have seen (two in California, and one in India), but it's not hard to imagine. I've definitely noticed some variation in the quality of teachers (or assistant teachers), but nothing too crazy.

But then it's kind of like a franchise; all it takes is some incompetent (or new) management, some untrained volunteers, and you've got the perfect storm. Considering everyone's unpaid, issues are sure to arise somewhere, sometime.

I think I'm lucky to be near a center that is very well run. Anyway, I hope that you are able to find additional opportunities to go on retreat. There must be many centers in England (and not just goenka ones), so best of luck.

Thanks for sharing,
KN
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

rideforever

Re: Goenka Retreat Experience
« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2010, 08:52:11 AM »
It took a lot of courage (despair) to leave actually, I suppose it was for the best.  I am at home now struggling to practice amongst the distractions of my bed which is right next to me (there is nowhere else to sit), and my flatmates.  I managed 4 x 45 min sessions yesterday, but they weren't of particularly high quality.

I will try to do a retreat in January now, maybe with the FWBO.


Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Goenka Retreat Experience
« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2010, 10:22:10 AM »
rideforever,

I would suggest you consider checking out "The Barn" on the Sharpham Estate in Devon. They do one week retreats. Mornings are noble silence + one whole day, three meditation sessions per day. In the morning you do some mindful work in the gardens (where most of the food comes from).

In the afternoon you are free to meditate, walk in the beautiful nature or do as you will. It's a very good place to start retreat practice. Meals are eaten with the two hosts and other meditators round a big table, everyone takes a turn at cooking and they have meditation teachers come in and do talks a couple of times during the week.

http://www.sharphamtrust.org/barn/



« Last Edit: December 24, 2010, 10:26:57 AM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

yazid

Re: Goenka Retreat Experience
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2010, 10:45:48 AM »
Hey there man, was this the East Anglia facility or Dhamma Dipa?
I had a wonderful retreat experience at Dhamma Dipa (Hereford), and although I do not practice according to Goenka's instructions anymore (I find Mahasi-style better for me at the moment), I still highly recommend Goenka centres for their intensity, they have their own downsides (technique-wise, dogma-wise, etc), but, as the Buddha said:
"Let not one seek others’ faults, things left done and undone by others, but one's own deeds done and undone." Dhammapada Verse 50.

"Easily seen are others' faults, hard indeed to see are one's own. Like chaff one winnows others' faults, but one's own (faults) one hides, as a crafty fowler conceals himself by camouflage." Dhammapada Verse 252.

"He who sees others' faults, and is ever irritable, the corruptions of such a one grow. He s far from the destruction of corruptions." Dhammapada Verse 253.

So if you think you made the right choice by leaving, so be it. But realize that a meditator who is well intent on awakening should not concentrate one's attention on others faults (Noise they are making, etc) but should put all of one's attention into one's own mind processes. There's always things we don't like going on outside, and that shouldn't stop us from observing our own mind's reactions to those events (is the annoyance one experiences from someone else making noise inherent in that noise? or is it a creation of one's own mind?).

Good luck and practice well.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2010, 10:52:44 AM by yazid »

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Goenka Retreat Experience
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2010, 11:10:22 AM »
(I left on Day 1)

This was a retreat in the UK at the East Anglia centre 'Hilltops' .....

Hey there man, was this the East Anglia facility or Dhamma Dipa?

....
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

yazid

Re: Goenka Retreat Experience
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2010, 11:13:09 AM »
Right, Matthew.
I actually saw that after posting but it was too late to edit the post.

rideforever

Re: Goenka Retreat Experience
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2010, 11:59:42 AM »
Hey Yazid.   Yeah, I know.  I didn't feel that I could do it there and staying there and telling myself that I should be able to do it ... didn't feel smart - I am just hurting myself if I do that. 

It's like walking up to an abuser and surrendering yourself to them.  I have a lot of old trauma so it feels like that. 

If I look back at the places that I have been able to work, they were places with : some slender containment/trust/holding, serious places, and places with few rules.  And it has only been in those places that anything has happened.

-------------

Matthew, thank you so much for the recommendation, I appreciate it.  I just called them up but they are booked until 16th Jan, so I have booked a place at Vajraloka (FWBO).  I went to an FWBO retreat last year and liked it (even if it is too positive and maternal for me, it is at least cared for).


Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Goenka Retreat Experience
« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2010, 12:44:39 PM »
rf,

More than welcome. I think being cared for is very important for you at this stage in  your process so the FWBO sounds a wiser choice than a Goenka retreat.

The Barn is quite special - worth considering for your next retreat. The Sharpham Estate is beautiful and you have free access - also to anything happening at Sharpham College while you are there.

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

maybeiam

  • Member
  • Nature is a beautiful peace to be
Re: Goenka Retreat Experience
« Reply #10 on: December 25, 2010, 01:56:26 PM »
thank you so much for such sharing,
makes mee feel good that theres such places to go to be with myself into a retreat like this and to not be stuck in the Goenka ones , those which my mind already took them as a torture
Bless you

chintan

  • Maun
  • Member
    • Vipassana - Goenka
Re: Goenka Retreat Experience
« Reply #11 on: December 25, 2010, 02:21:50 PM »
Hearing your experience RF it makes me so much grateful for my experience. I went to center at Dharamshala - Dhamma Shikhara. The place is near perfect.. the volunteers were so caring.. could not hear a sound through out the retreat except the bells / morning bhajans (which were played during the breakfast time) and sounds of nature..

My dad / aunt and a friend have also gone there after that.. and all have had good experiences..

Highly recommended to anyone who is looking to do a retreat in India..

With Metta..

Lokuttara

  • Member
  • Trekking the hills of dhamma
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Re: Goenka Retreat Experience
« Reply #12 on: December 26, 2010, 02:36:44 AM »
Hearing your experience RF it makes me so much grateful for my experience. I went to center at Dharamshala - Dhamma Shikhara. The place is near perfect.. the volunteers were so caring.. could not hear a sound through out the retreat except the bells / morning bhajans (which were played during the breakfast time) and sounds of nature..

My dad / aunt and a friend have also gone there after that.. and all have had good experiences..

Highly recommended to anyone who is looking to do a retreat in India..

With Metta..


Thank you so much for sharing that. I'm going to India in February for a few months and I will probably do a course at that centre in the beautiful himalayas!

Every centre is different, because every course manager is different, every teacher is different, and the servers are always different. Anicca :)
"One may be surrounded by great beauty, by mountains and fields and rivers, but unless one is alive to it all one might just as well be dead." Krishnamurti

 

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