Author Topic: Goenka - Belly or Nostrils ?  (Read 6411 times)

rideforever

Goenka - Belly or Nostrils ?
« on: December 08, 2010, 06:04:10 PM »
Hey

I am doing a 10 day Goenka retreat in December. 

I understand that the technique is to focus at the nostrils and with the eyes closed.  Generally I am focussing at belly with the eyes open ... I used to do the nostrils / eyes closed, but it didn't feel so embodied; both having the eyes open and focussing on the belly gives me a more present here and now embodied feeling.

So I am wondering at the retreat if I should have my eyes open and focus on the belly - I think I would prefer this.  Or if I should 'trust' the technique and just do it like Goenka wants me to.

I feel quite conflicted about it.  Meditation is personal and if you are just following instructions, well it's not anything.  However, I don't want to miss out on the technique if something magical will happen if I follow the nostrils / eyes closed approach ... and I suppose I don't want to feel like I am fighting Goenka whilst at his retreat.

But also, if I blindly follow those fixed instructions from Goenka when I have already decided how I want to meditate ... then that's not good is it.

Hmm ... not sure what do.

?


soma

Re: Goenka - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2010, 06:26:30 PM »
Whatever you decide to do - stick with it during the retreat - don't do a bit of this and then change to something different.

It is really no point in going to a certain centre and not follow instructions, it is not to please Goenka, it is for your own benefit.

It does not matter if you focus on you nose or belly but I think you are right about focusing on the belly as you say and I never heard anyone say at the retreat that you should have eyes closed or open but if you keep them open and they tell you to have them closed, you close them and make no problem of it.
Some people seem to go there with a defencive mind and are ready to get disappointed as soon as they get a chance.
You go there for you own benefit and of your own free will and it is only 10 days of your life so do not totally waste them beeing in conflict with yourself over stuff that really does not matter.
Feel the freedom in surrendering for a few days and leave conflicting ego self at home. He will be waiting for you there so no worries.

Have a good retreat  :)

budo

Re: Goenka - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2010, 08:02:43 PM »
I'm not a meditation master or anything, but in my view and from all I learned, generally I don't think it matters, the goal of meditation is letting go and then gaining insight to help understand the four noble truths, and whatever helps you get to that goal is good enough.

However, because this is a special Goenka retreat, I would do what they tell you to do, otherwise what's the point in going but to learn and do as they do? Who knows, it might be a better method.

Once you're home then you can decide to keep whatever works better.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2010, 08:04:58 PM by budo »

James the Giant

Re: Goenka - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2010, 04:59:01 AM »
It is a BAD idea to start a retreat and immediately disregard the instructions of the teacher (be they on a CD recording or in real life).
What other instructions will you then disregard, from this dishonest beginning?

Do the retreat, obey every instruction scrupulously, work hard hard hard, don't indulge in your neurotic shit, and attend every sitting. 
Once you are home you can decide what technique to use, but while on retreat do what the teacher says.

rideforever

Re: Goenka - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2010, 07:42:36 AM »
It is a BAD idea to start a retreat and immediately disregard the instructions of the teacher (be they on a CD recording or in real life).
What other instructions will you then disregard, from this dishonest beginning?

Do the retreat, obey every instruction scrupulously, work hard hard hard, don't indulge in your neurotic shit, and attend every sitting. 
Once you are home you can decide what technique to use, but while on retreat do what the teacher says.


Okay, but ... isn't the whole point to not disregard yourself - is that the basis for honesty ?

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 - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2010, 08:53:04 PM »
It is a BAD idea to start a retreat and immediately disregard the instructions of the teacher (be they on a CD recording or in real life).
What other instructions will you then disregard, from this dishonest beginning?

Do the retreat, obey every instruction scrupulously, work hard hard hard, don't indulge in your neurotic shit, and attend every sitting. 
Once you are home you can decide what technique to use, but while on retreat do what the teacher says.


Okay, but ... isn't the whole point to not disregard yourself - is that the basis for honesty ?
James the Giant is very judgemental and proscriptive in his reply. I think you can look at it this way:

Go to the retreat, do what you need to do to honour yourself, follow the routine - or even their practice during the couple of hours of compulsory attendance, practice your way in your room. Whatever. Be true to yourself, Goenka is no meditation master.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

aljoscha

Re: Goenka - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2010, 04:31:14 PM »
Hello rideforever!

At the courses there is also a teacher/conductor of the course and maybe it is best to discuss your concerns with him.

The problem that I see is that the first few days it's all about the area around the nostrils. So you hear all those instructions all day with your subconcious mind opened up and do something else, meaning you reject them in your way. Maybe this can lead to a conflict which is even bigger than the other one. This might then also be an obstacle to letting go and enjoying the whole course.

Also in the beginning you are asked to make a commitment to yourself to follow all the instructions closely.

So without being judgmental about belly or nostrils technique, I would recommend you to talk to the teacher over there and then do what he thinks is best, otherwise you might complicate things more than you improve them.

dobe

Re: Goenka - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2010, 08:50:29 PM »
I've never been to a retreat, but I think you should follow their instructions just to see if what they say works.  Put your heart into it, unless something really seems off and it bothers you.

As far as focusing on whatever, it doesn't really matter what you focus on.  I think it just makes it easier for you to realize when you get involved in your thoughts.  When I meditate I just focus on the blackness in front of me, and maybe notice my breath or these warm sensations I get.  The goal is non distracted awareness.  Maybe ideally you want to just maintain awareness of you being aware.  I think all this focusing on stuff becomes less important the more you develop your awareness.  Simpler the better.

best of luck

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 - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2010, 05:18:55 PM »
Nicely said dobe
~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 - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2010, 10:40:33 PM »
Yes, Dobe. I have to say that your reply also really resonated with me. Well said.
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.

kidnovice

  • Member
    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: Goenka - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2010, 11:31:01 PM »
RF, Why are you going on this course? There are many other retreat centers available. Why not go elsewhere? As others have pointed out, you will enter the course with an element of dishonesty. You will be lying to get in. And you will be reminded of this fact throughout the retreat.

I don't say that to make you feel guilty, but those feelings can set the tone of your retreat, especially if its your first one. As you said...
I suppose I don't want to feel like I am fighting Goenka whilst at his retreat.

If you are confident that you can let this guilt go, then by all means, go for it. Attend the retreat, do your thing, and don't worry about it. When all is said and done, its not a big deal! Yet, even knowing that, sometimes the feelings of guilt have a way of seeping in. So, be skillful with yourself.

If I were you, I'd go honest. I was in a similar position to you when I sat my first course. At the time, I too sat with my eyes open, and I watched the breath almost exclusively at the abdomen/chest area. It was tricky to switch styles in the same way it is tricky to do anything new. But I did it, and I'm glad I did it. At some level, I did do some "fighting" with Goenka, but I followed the instructions pretty closely. It also may help you to remember that anapana is only for about 3-4 days. This means that the presence/embodied feeling that you mentioned will still be cultivated for the last 6-7 days of the course as you begin spreading your awareness through your body.

I don't want to miss out on the technique if something magical will happen if I follow the nostrils / eyes closed approach.

I don't know about anything magical, but I have noticed certain reasons for Goenka's instructions. I think the closed-eyes issue is the least significant. You will surely find it weird to close your eyes, but you will get used to it. I now completely prefer it. The only real advantage that I see to keeping your eyes open is alertness. But as you progress, alertness stops being an issue anymore. This will come sooner than you might expect. I definitely find that my awareness of my body is much more subtle and refined when my eyes are closed. But if you want your eyes open, keep 'em open!

However, I suspect that practicing anapana at the nose is more important to Goenka's technique. For one, you are not just training to quiet your mind or calm your awareness (though these certainly are the main reasons for anapana). In Goenka's system, you are also training your mind to focus on a very small area of the body. As your mind sharpens, you learn to focus on a tinier and tinier spot. This becomes a valuable tool later when you are practicing awareness throughout the body. You don't want to focus only on small areas, but you want to be able to do that sometimes. This teaches you how.

Anapana at the nose also gives you a place to focus where subtle sensations easily arise.  The gentle touch of the breath passing over the bottom lip is remarkably similar to the "breath energy/subtle vibrations" that course throughout the body. It is important that you learn to feel those sensations. Feeling the touch of the breath is quite useful for "tuning in" to those sensations.

Also, on Day3/4, there will come a transition point between anapana and vipassana. During this transition, you will be instructed to start giving importance to sensations on the upper lip. If you can sense these sensations, then you give them all your attention (as opposed to the breath). But if you can't feel these sensations, then you simply watch the breath in the same area. This allows you to keep your mind fixed on point, and continue to get concentrated, while at the same time gradually refining your awareness to become more and more subtle.

Perhaps you can shift these instructions to the abdomen. But somehow, it just doesn't quite seem the same. Its hard for me to explain. Just remember that watching the breath at the abdomen certainly has its advantages, but so does watching at the nose. You already know the advantages of the abdomen. I would take three days to see if you can't discover the advantages of something new.

Much metta, whichever choice you make. Have a fruitful retreat!
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 - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2010, 11:25:10 AM »
Hey all, thanks for the comments.

For the last few days I have been intensifying my practice and experimenting with the Goenke approach - talk is cheap after all.

Anyway, seems cool so will go with it.

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 - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2010, 11:34:51 AM »
rideforever,

Whichever approach you are working with, compassion for yourself and equanimity towards everything, are two vital keys.

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

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

rideforever

Re: Goenka - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2010, 12:51:29 AM »
Intense meditation.  Did another hour of practice today and it was extremely intense.

I managed to relinquish all control of my breathing - and the breathing continued.  Then there was a large energy discharge from my belly and hands, which I managed to moderate so it was not too big for me to deal with.  After which my breathing went quite strange like I was being pumped for breath, massive long intakes of breath, like I was recovering from a run or something.  After which some tears of joy.  After that I concluded it.  Equanimty was maintained throughout the highs and lows.

And now (1am) I am not having much luck getting to sleep.  I feel a strong sense of separation (the supernatural / void), and at every turn my breathing wants to go back in to the meditation.  But I have to work tomorrow !!!

Woah.


kidnovice

  • Member
    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: Goenka - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2010, 01:32:12 AM »
Ha. I laughed at your post because I too recently came to terms with the fact that meditation is not always about calming yourself down, and preparing for sleep Sometimes it does that. But sometimes it just doesn't. And when it doesn't... watch the f--k out!

A sleepless night is a small price to pay when you're planting deep seeds of equanimity. Keep up the inspiring work!

With metta,
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.

Crystal Palace

  • Member
  • "Move on Bhikkus, Move On" - Buddha
    • Thai Forest Tradition
Re: Goenka - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #15 on: December 14, 2010, 04:23:06 PM »
Ha. I laughed at your post because I too recently came to terms with the fact that meditation is not always about calming yourself down, and preparing for sleep Sometimes it does that. But sometimes it just doesn't. And when it doesn't... watch the f--k out!

A sleepless night is a small price to pay when you're planting deep seeds of equanimity. Keep up the inspiring work!

With metta,
KN

lol  :D

Well Said.

CP
"Abstain from unwholesome actions,
Perform wholesome actions,
Purify your mind"

Buddha

Crystal Palace

  • Member
  • "Move on Bhikkus, Move On" - Buddha
    • Thai Forest Tradition
Re: Goenka - Belly or Nostrils ?
« Reply #16 on: December 14, 2010, 04:50:49 PM »
It is a BAD idea to start a retreat and immediately disregard the instructions of the teacher (be they on a CD recording or in real life).
What other instructions will you then disregard, from this dishonest beginning?

Do the retreat, obey every instruction scrupulously, work hard hard hard, don't indulge in your neurotic shit, and attend every sitting. 
Once you are home you can decide what technique to use, but while on retreat do what the teacher says.


Actually I thought James the Giant was spot on (except for maybe the neurotic shit part) There is a specific reason Goenka uses the Anapana at the nostrils method. I remember he has answered this question in the book "The Art of Living" by William Hart. I am trying to look for that answer while I can.

But the main point is that when you are going on a Goenka retreat do as Goenka says, and then you may come back and decide whether you want to pursue it or not- or in your case make some modifications. Nobody's telling you to blindly follow what he says, but if you listen to the discourses and instructions, you will realize that Goenka explains EVERY STEP that you take in great detail. He himself says that you need to undesratnd why you are practicing the way you are practicing.

You will be told repeatedly that mixing and matching of methods is extremely dangerous. They say this from the experience of thousands of meditators. Do not disregard such valuable advice.

Give the technique a 100% and if you don't like it chuck it. But atleast give it a 100% so you have the satisfaction of knowing that the Goenka technique truly doesn't work for you.

Warmly,
CP
"Abstain from unwholesome actions,
Perform wholesome actions,
Purify your mind"

Buddha

 

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