Author Topic: Expierences at Goenka Retreat  (Read 10209 times)

p340

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Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« on: September 18, 2015, 04:28:06 PM »
Well, i finally got the time to post my story here. Of course, what i will tell you is highly subjective. But with saying that beforehand, and underlining that your experience may greatly differ, i will tell the story just like i felt it happen to me.

If you want to visit a Goenka retreat - this Text will invole "Spoilers" and Goenka himself wants you to come to his retreats unprimed. So decide carefully if you want to read any further!

After approx. 6 month of regular meditation on my own (15-60 minutes daily) i wanted to give Goenka a try. I assumed that the "harsh" style may not be my way of working, i like Ajahn Brahms very compassionate and self-loving style. I listened to a lot of Dhamma Talks by him. But i went anyway, cause, you know - i wanted to try.

I had very diffcult weeks beforehand, and the 7 hour drive wasn't helping either to get me relaxed. But when i finally arrived there i was determinated. I really, really wanted to work on my meditation, and so i didn't talk to my 3 roommated, while they shared some "small talk": "How long can you sit in full lotus? After 1 hour my legs.." And so on. I just tried to relax and not focus on their communication and comparing.

Day 1: The first evening begins with a 45-60 minutes Anapanasati (watching the breath) and i was thrilled by meditating in this big hall (100 men, 100 women seperated on each side) with all this people. I wasn't the only one who wasn't able to sit in any kind of lotus by far. Many people did sit on mountains of pillows. So no super pro-meditator-buddhas everywhere i was a little afraid of.. Nonetheless i concentrated primarly on myself. I really loved the silence part of it and ignored all the communication tests of other meditators.

Day 2&3: We were instructed to narrow down the focus of our Anapansati from full nasal area to just a spot on the upper lip. While doing this some things happened to me. First: pain. I had immense back pain. In most of the meditations, after 30 minutes i came to a point near screaming loudly or fainting. I interviewd the teacher about it but he told me this was normal and i should just be equanimous, which i tried. I used this interview to tell him about another weird process. My sight was getting really really bad. I'm a little shortsighted by nature, but i begin to see double a little bit. With or without glasses. He wasn't to sure about it and asked me to keep him posted about that topic. The third thing that happened that when i watched the tip of my nose long enough it would start desintegrating and somehow the pieces would begin to float away from me. I just watched that happen and proceeded with my practice.

Day 4: Vipassana day includes the teaching of body scanning in a obligatory 2 hour sitting. Somehow i managed to get through these 2 hours and all the immense pain. My sight got worse. After seeing the teacher for a second time he agrees to give me a chair, because i nearly cannot work on the technique properly while having to manage the pain. I sleep very, very bad. The others talk in their sleep sometimes.

Day 5-6: The body scanning is really hard, but i'm developing this skill fast enough to get along with Goenkas teachings. The pain is the only thing i work with the last 20 minutes of a sitting, especially in the evenings. But i try to remain equanimous, equanimous, equanimous. Sometimes my head is above the waters of pain. I feel free. Between the meditations, i walk in the nature. There are some blissfull moments, when i lie in the sun and wind touches my skin.. I cannot describe these experiences properly. Sadly i cannot see clouds and forests in their full beauty because of my seeing double..
I start eating a little less, i became very sensitive to my body and cannot stand the feeling of my stomach processing food.
In the body scans i have very string "uniformed sensations", i can feel my heart beat in every location of my body.

Day 7: I begin to appreciate the pain. It lets me practice equanimity. Equanimity is key to liberation. I begin to understand the path. I don't eat much. I primarly rest and meditate, nothing else seems important.
In the evening Goenka tells us to do the bodyscanning in hole sweeps not just part by part. I'm in euphoria: this finally feels absolutly natural! I can scan my hole body up and down, down and up very easily finally allowed to do so synchronous. My attention becomes a sphere/ball which travels up and down my spine while scanning all around it. Euphoria.

Lying in bed i cannot believe how precise my attention has become. I cannot sleep. My deep attention keeps exploring my body. I scan my heart in 3D and follow the blood flow, i watch my brain and clouds of electrcity storm over it. I begin to hear my own heart beat louder and louder until it becomes a constant humming, a deep frequency. There are points in my body pulsating. Above my head the pulse is the strongest, then my heart. I realize this might be chakras, which i never experienced and so never really believed in.. I check third eye location, it pulsated strongly and so the other points are "awake", just the root chakra, the base chakra isn't there. I use my attention to dig, which i learned moments before. By keeping my attention on a location i can "dig" deeper into it.
I'm digging into the assumed location of the root chakra, i'm scraping. All this while liing in bed silently with my 3 roomates and lights switched off. Suddenly there is a click. Flames of orgasmic euphoria wander up my body from the base of my spine. I begin to hallucinate immediatly. I see fractals, archetypal pictures (a chicken eating a snake in slowmotion), faces of people in heavy emotion i don't know but have the feeling to know them. There is energy pulsing through me, the frequency that started with my heart beat is so loud, it fills my entire universe. It's me. This frequency. It's love. Love is pulsating through this body, which is ling there paralyzed by bliss.
When i realize where i am i try to calm down. But thats not possible. As soon as i close my eyes i hallucinate. The constant sound i hear starts to freak me out in contrast to the normality my roommates seem to lie in.. I leave the room, sleep won't come. So i walk. I walk around and get frightened. I recognize my thought patterns have become compulsive. They go around in loops.

"What just happened? You cannot stop thinking about this. Is this psychosis? Calm down. I cannot calm down. I'm compulsive. What just happened? Why did i scrape up the root chakra. Will i be the one guy that goes crazy in this retreat? I don't want to go to a mental hospital. They will send me to a mental hospital. Calm down. Is this psychosis? ...."

At one point, i was standing outside, watching over the fields. Then i heard a sound of a burning object travling very fast through the air right behind me. Hallucination or not, i doubt my mental health. I'm in panic. I stroll around the area, because i feel endless energy and while in movement i calm down a little. As soon as i stop i hear the frequency again. I pull my mind through the most difficult night in my life and to the first interview possiblity with the teacher in the morning.

Day 8: After telling him, and emotionally asking if i will come out unharmed out if this situation he tells me to try meditating again and to come see him after lunch. He has no idea what my experiences might be or what caused them. I try meditation and equanimity does indeed help me while meditating. But this balancing effect dissapears after 1 hour without meditation and the frequency comes back. I realize that this place and especially this teacher will be of no help. I haven't slept in over 30 hours (after not very good or longs nights before either) and am absolutly sure to not be able to sleep this night either. "Sleeping it off" after lunch didn't work either, closing the eyes just starts it all over again.

So i tell him that it may be time for me to call someone and arrange a alternative. This was a very hard decision for me. I nearly cried. I really, really wanted to stay in the retreat until the end. I enjoyed the working. I wanted to do this. So, my final test seemed to be letting go of all that and just do what seemed to be the healthiest thing for me. After a short discussion, he allowed my phone call and we came to terms that i will me picked up by friends (if they are able to pull of an all nighter drive in midweek). As i leave the actual meditation silence areas and talk to some assistant in a "normal" room, i'm sure, i am 100% hallucinating the whole time. My sight phenomenon makes the eyes of people wobble.. I'm very soft. I must have seemed like a guy who thinks he's jesus, very soft and loving while talking.

I call my ex, who is more experienced in yoga and things like that than me, and she explains that this might have been a kundalini awakening. You may google that if you're interested, many of the symptoms match my state. I guess what western psychology named psychosis indian heritage names kundalini awakening. To address my experience i use both, cause it felt like both on the way through. But i am grateful for the helpful and positive way of looking at it with the indian perspective! I wasn't just crazy.

The only really sad thing that happened was my leaving the center. The teacher talked to his "very experienced" female counterpart, and because she hadn't ever heard of any case like this, it cannot be possible. I must have used a different technique and never really practiced vipassana. They just wanted me to be gone, so that i'm not a responsibility.

Being in this vulnerable state (even without hallucinations, a vipassana retreat makes you very sensitive) it was overwhelming to get accused of lying. I felt sorry for the whole process to end that way and was sad about the actions of the teacher.

Day 9 Aftermath: My friends pick me up. I tell them my weird story. I'm still awake. My sight gets better in the evening. Everyday live confuses me but i get grounded by some heavier food and talking some of the things i felt off of me. After 70 hours awake a fall asleep in my bed. After 2 days my sight is back to normal, my mind is calmed down.

This is my story. I like to hear your thoughts on it. Don't spare your honesty ;)

p340

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2015, 03:11:48 PM »
P.S.: The reactions of the teacher are very bad. After talking to my sister who visited a Goenka Retreat in India i can assume that. The indian teacher were aware of the possibility that things like that happen and even told the meditators about it. For them it is normal that of 100 people 2-3 react in that or a compareable way. they had coping mechanisms and did not make the meditators feel "sick".

After talking to someone who studied in Nepal and worked for the german embassy over there it seems to be very common. The embassy usually has to care for 3-4 people every few month that went to vipassana retreats and then stray through the countryside and cities in a stage of psychosis.

For a self entitiles meditation teacher, that teaches over 100 people in a special technique it doesn't seem very adequate not to know that. And to have no mechanisms to help. But even worse, to give the meditator the feeling of being "wrong"... Thats just not appropriate. He even told me that i will be blacklisted and not allowed another course in that same situation..

Summary: I would recommend trying Goenkas Retreat, but not recommend the two german teachers that guided my course. Maybe joining an older center in India leads to more experienced personell around. Fell free to ask about everything.

Matthew

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2015, 09:21:47 PM »
Hi p340,

Thank you for sharing your experience. You have obviously experienced a difficult retreat with inadequate guidance. To be accused of lying shows they could not even take responsibility for the consequences of their inadequacies. Dealing with a Kundalini opening is not so hard: you just stop doing what made it happen, you ground yourself completely in the breath, body, the now, now, now ... after a while everything calms down.

Your sense they wanted rid of you as to not be responsible shows lack of compassion, skilful means and right intention. This could have damaged someone severely. No wonder people are found wandering around psychotic. It's exactly the sort of thing that can happen when a technique is bastardised and those "leading" cannot teach yet press buttons on DVD's and give stock answers to the usual questions, whilst blaming the other for anything out of their experience. Long have I had concerns about the variability of Goenka centres and teachers - and the fundamental shifts from Buddha's techniques that make such experiences inevitable.

Ground yourself. It'll be cool: you seem to have retained an awareness of what happened and over time will process it.

Matthew
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p340

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2015, 09:15:08 AM »
Yes, i am fine now! Somehow the emotions of this event are still being processed when i begin to meditate sometimes, but thats okay. Thank you for your thoughts and words. Honestly i do think that such a center is a wonderful idea and for my part the teachings where fine (but i'm sure there are others that "work" as well). My critic aims on the guidance, or better the lack of guidance. So, if someone asks me if he should do such a Goenka retreat, i tell them that it is an very interesting and unique experience worth trying, but that they will maybe deal with very, very difficult psychological processes on their own. For very sensitive persons i would formulate a clear warning. If techniques usually work very well and fast on you. Don't do it unless you are already very experienced.

Although i'm sad that a beautiful process like this kundalini awakening had to be followed by a crisis, i'm very proud of myself for managing it through all the wild waters. I'm okay with having experienced all this.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2015, 09:21:55 AM by p340 »

2cdod

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2015, 02:03:08 PM »
I can also relate to your experience. Didn't had psychosis state and hallucinations as you, but last year's retreat I awoke a very difficult sensation that was never ending, sitting or not that makes my thinking pattern full of anxiety. I asked the teacher if that was normal several time, and he didn't manage to reassure me. Just "stock answer" to my questions, as Matthew said.

I felt that if the teacher has been more experienced, it could have been of a great help for me to stay equanonimous. When you're oversensitive in the middle of a retreat, with concerns for your mental health and you feel that the teacher won't be able to help you, that can feed the anxiety a lot.

Quote
Honestly i do think that such a center is a wonderful idea and for my part the teachings where fine (but i'm sure there are others that "work" as well). My critic aims on the guidance, or better the lack of guidance

I agree totally. :)


gasteria

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2015, 07:28:33 PM »
I can imagine how frightening it has been for you to have such a uncontrollable emotional and mental experience without any guidance. I have been at 10 days Goenka retreat and fortunately I haven't experienced these kind of problems. I was mostly sleepy because their strict almost military regime did not allow me to get enough sleep. Because of this problem I will probably never be back there. Although I do not want to diminish benefits that I gained from participation in the meditation sessions. I became more thoughtful, more spiritual and I meditate ever since. I would recommend to participate in Goenka retreat at least once in the lifetime to anyone.

I am glad that this horrible experience is over for you. Some people might not have been that lucky though. I think most of the teachers at Goenka centers are volunteers that dedicate their vacation time to participate in the retreat. They are not full time teachers. I might be wrong about it but from what I was told the centers are run entirely by volunteers.

I have read Jack Kornfield's book, "A Path with Heart". The author describes similar experiences for some of the meditation students during retreats. There was one case of a student that forced himself to meditate for 24 hours. After he finished he was totally out of control and without ability to sleep. They guided him out of this state and after two or three days he was OK again. The author strongly advises to absolutely have an experienced teacher to venture into this uncharted territory. Maybe you could identify yourself with some of the stories and see what can be done about it.

I did not finish this book because description of different higher levels of consciousness really scared me. I don't think I want to be there and I would not put my state of mind into the hands of the even most experienced teacher. Just being peaceful and happy is good enough for me.

Pacific Flow

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2015, 11:02:24 AM »
The missing ability of the teachers or DJ's at the Goenka courses to deal with those kind of things is one of the biggest problems there. Maybe they should opt to teach less people, and therefore prepare the teachers better for ALL things possibly happening. If that is even possible? Maybe something to discuss there.
Some of the teachers are able to deal with it and guide you through these kinds of tourbulance safely, others aren't able to or even worse not willing to even acknowledge it at all. So as an unexperienced meditator it becomes a lottery in that regard, which it shouldn't be!
I was lucky to have a very skillfull teacher at a german Goenka centre during my first retreats, and i really feel for those who aren't that lucky. I believe this needs to change because it is clearly dangerous.
Nowadays i don't even talk to the teachers anymore. I just use the centers as an almost perfect infrastructure to do my thing.

p340

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2015, 12:33:50 PM »
Thank you for all your kind words and sympathy! I can assure you, when i look back i predominantly see the good parts about the experience: the intense perception of "being love" stuck with me and i guess will be with me in future. So did my strength to manage such a situation without harming me or others.

@Gasteria: As for the teachers being volunteers.. That doesn't reduce responsibility in my opinion. I'm giving end-of-life care as a volunteer. Just imagine how extensive irresponsibilities could be in this area. As a honest person i have to ask my self: am i able to fill that position - volunteer or not.

Not knowing about the risks of the Goenka retreats what anybody who googles it for 10 minutes can find out, while sitting above as the teacher... Presumptuous may be the right word..  The longer we talk about it, the more it startles me...

P.S.: I just ordered the book you mentioned ;) Will have a look (:
« Last Edit: September 23, 2015, 12:37:42 PM by p340 »

dhammagirl

Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2015, 05:57:40 PM »
Wow, that sounds truly terrifying.  I've sat 4 Goenka retreats, and have found the "teachers" to generally be less than helpful.  They seem to just have a set of stock answers, and when I have had a meeting, I usually wasn't really satisfied with the interaction.   I will be sitting my 5th retreat next month, and will be doing like Pacific Flow:
"Nowadays i don't even talk to the teachers anymore. I just use the centers as an almost perfect infrastructure to do my thing."

I'm curious to see how that will work for me as I've been finding myself having difficulty with the body scanning, and am just focusing on the breath to increase my concentration and stillness to, hopefully, lead to jhana.

Quardamon

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2015, 07:09:43 PM »
Thank you for your story. Thank you so much indeed. You say you want to hear thoughts on it. OK. Here we go:

I pull my mind through the most difficult night in my life
I love this sentence. The picture of not allowing your mind to lead you, as your mind is upset and cannot organise itself at this moment. Like you say yourself:
I recognize my thought patterns have become compulsive. They go around in loops.     . . .   
"What just happened?     . . .    Calm down. Is this psychosis? ...."

Years ago, I got a body energy manipulation, that we in Dutch name with the English term "healing". The manipulator claimed to be working with kundalini. The night after that healing I felt like thoughts and images came at high speed to my third eye. I sensed, that I simply should focus like on the horizon. Not give attention to any thought or picture in articular. I managed to do so. I sensed, that if I would give attention to any such thought or picture, I would be torn from my position and be washed with that thought or picture, probably going crazy in the process. It lasted only a few minutes. It was not even difficult - I just had to stay clear and precise.

I see two more gems in your story, that to me seem not to come from reasoning, but as insight:
I realize that this place and especially this teacher will be of no help.
So, my final test seemed to be letting go of all that and just do what seemed to be the healthiest thing for me.

On a totally different vein:
The teacher talked to his "very experienced" female counterpart,    . . .   
It is funny, that his decision was wiser before he talked to her.

   it was overwhelming to get accused of lying.
Of course that was overwhelming. I am sorry to hear that that happened to you.

And at last I want to say from your story: Having friends is a wonderful resource.

p340

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2015, 01:26:05 AM »
Quardamon, i really want to thank you for your honest and attentive reply! It is late (in germany), so i will not respond in detail now ;).

Thank you too dhammagirl, thanks to all the replies.

VipassanaXYZ

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2015, 07:17:45 AM »
Hello p340

You worked hard at the retreat. You were meditating and were progressing really well.

At the retreat, with so many others meditating, the atmosphere is charged and yes, you could perhaps achieve more and one does place the trust and surrenders oneself to reach out for more.

Meditations is not like other qualifications that rests on skills alone and that's why it is so hard to wrap our heads around the concepts and make these ideas tangible and standardized. The teacher for meditation is also rare, the capacity of a teacher is so rare that there is celebration in multiple world systems when a Buddha is born.

Though today the times are conducive to meditation, capable teachers are very difficult to find.

My most useful information/learnings have come from interpersonal exchanges and the most important stuff is simply not available online. It lies in experiential qualities. 

In meditation, quality of the teacher is important, quality of meditation too is important. Progression of things is from a sound base of morality. Morality leading to deep contentment, leading to samadhi that leads to wisdom. Samadhi without the base of morality is not right Samadhi. Morality is something that one may take for granted and not fully understand, the understanding itself ripens with the help of concentration and wisdom and one starts knowing for oneself the deeper aspects of morality.

Morality is a very technical thing in meditation, and with experience you will know its deeper connections with equanimity. It becomes the pillar, the refuge the default state of the mind.

With this strength, you move gently, to face the demons, as they arise.

Train like a warrior would, make the base strong, make the practise strong before you wake the demons and call them all out for the battle. No comparison or competing against oneself.

When you become better at this it feels as easy as eating, taking in your plate what you can manage to digest.

Now, I will talk about more about one of the aspects of preparation: the protection, the parittas
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paritta

Facing demons and darkness is going to be part of the journey. The jatakas (stories from the time of the Buddha) have numerous instances of meditators facing difficult situations. Most of it will sound like mumbo jumbo to people who live lives set in a template and who know little outside their artificial environments. Where things have been made overeasy after generations of technological and industrial advancements.

The comfort of material things would have been preferable and good if it could be there at the time of death transition too. The hardiness from the qualities of wisdom, morality and concentrations are the things that are useful at such a crucial time and no technology can reach us there. That's why so many of us meditate.

You will need an articulation, a very good sense, awareness and  the ability to use the human capacity developed overtime to permeate cittas (mental states) without being taken over or be harmed. To be able to choose and switch between mental states. For this, reflect on the qualities of the Buddha and other parittas until they seem to be part of you, easily recalled to the memory at will.

These parittas are easily subtler and stronger than any other mental emotions/state, and this you would know from experience as you work with the parittas.

To summarize: clean the heart of defilements using the base of morality, take it easy and gentle, it should feel like eating right feels, makes you feel healthy and strong, energises you and protects you from disease. You avoid temptations and reach a place when you actually start liking healthy food and find it conducive at the level of taste too. Same with morality ... you start recognizing the benefits and the pull of temptations has little hold over you because of experiential benefits/understanding ... comes with practise and time.

After cleaning the heart, set it ready in the triple refuge. The refuge is not a formality, it is not a lifeless thing, it is your sword and your protection. Learn to pick up and wield this sword, you have to learn to use these resources, nothing is frivolous.

You use it by reflecting (and developing neuron maps) in your mind the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma. Also learning the parittas by heart. Playing it in your mind so that it reaches deep in the subconscious and even unconscious (when it arises by itself in time of need when one feels that one is about to lose oneself). For me, in very difficult situations the parittas came up to the memory. I know of someone who was lying in sleep and nearing death (unable to move and speak) when the parittas rose to his mind by itself and the darkness that enveloped him dissipated. There have been numerous such instances.

Now, I tell you that even if you don't have the teacher, but have the teachings, and know that the verses (like the protection verses) are not lifeless material, but actually acknowledging and calling out the devas (who are there since the time of the last Buddha), the devas you have been sharing your merits of meditation with, states of energy that you can align with and come out of darker states where you are about you lose yourself, you will know what to do when you are not in your comfort zone.

Not only will you know what to do, you would also have prepared yourself and would have the comfort of mental aids to direct your attention and switch the mental state to the three refuges and come out of danger. You will also not be alone and will have devas with you, strengthening your efforts and helping you along the way. Devas are there but can only help to the extent you have developed the qualities of devas within yourself :)

What to talk of devas, even demons have turned around and helped the meditators when they saw the beautiful dhamma in them. There is a jataka story of a prince. Prince goes to a teacher and on his way back home after spending years in meditation knowingly passed through a jungle that had an impossible demon. The prince uses all his powers, arrows and all the teachings but could not move a hair of this giant demon. At last, the prince said you may eat me but you will not be able to digest me because of xyz, so I am not afraid of you. The demon was used to people scared of him and was very impressed - see this small young thing not scared of me! He helped the prince with some treasures and flew him across the forest towards his country where the prince will be well-received by his people.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2015, 05:19:32 PM by poojavassa »

Middleway

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2015, 02:05:51 PM »
Beautifully written Pooja. Thanks for this.

Kind regards,

Middleway
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Pacific Flow

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2015, 03:54:49 PM »
Indeed a very refreshing and inspiring post Pooja! Thank you 😊

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2015, 02:32:51 AM »
I also have to say that was a well constructed summation of what I find to be the wisest approach Pooja. P340 I have no experience with the Goenka tradition but it sounds like it lacks the mental foundation for practice, instead jumping right on in and having the potential to manifest in undesirable ways.

All the best for your journey.

VipassanaXYZ

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #15 on: September 26, 2015, 04:29:28 AM »
For the first time when you go there to a monastery/retreat look for a place that is quiet and conducive to meditation (preferably charged with vibration of others who have meditated and achieved results there), that the place lets you take refuge in Buddha and Dhamma in a practical and non-religious way, explains how to use the triple gems in everyday life/meditation, the place should also have parittas (chanting) that I talked about in the earlier post from people who understand the meaning and significance and can explain it to others. The place should also give GMO free food conducive to meditation, should be away from chemicals, pollution, EMF etc. 

Personally, I have found Goenka course instructions very useful. I have learnt mostly from the instructions there and then built upon it practising daily in my life. IT is our own practice that is going to help eventually.

No place is perfect, in my limited scope I found Goenka retreat a good place to practice and am going to Dhamma Sindhu in Gujarat, India for a 30-day course. This particular centre serves organic food and is 1 km inland from sea, surrounded by a desert. So not bad at all. Though I do wish there was a monastery for threvada nuns in India. Until then I am yet to learn about a place that is so accessible (free of cost) and safe and gives access to teachings with the basic practice + vegetarian food.

 I have felt neglected at Goenka Vipassana courses. The teachers didn't understand my questions or what I was going through. Some of the female teachers really cross questioned me unnecessarily, did not trust me for telling the truth. On one of the courses the French male manager appeared with a proposal (I did not even know him). During my last volunteering experience I went to clean the cells in Chennai centre and was not told it was all coated in a thick powder of very strong pesticide meant to keep the snakes and rats away - I dusted and sweeped around 40 cells - later the staff was worried and came to tell me if I fell sick I wasn't their responsibility :)
(If you want to know, your hardy Indian did not fall sick. I kept my heart charged with feeling of metta and I think to this day it was that that saved me.) There was a near death experience during one of the courses, that I will talk about later if I get time.

These 'practicalities' I just bore through and it was nothing when I look back! This is how I have worked. I don't know if it feels right to you all. My life has been difficult at times and am just used to wading through like a Rhino. I do not want to lose time in this precious life thinking about things I could have not helped. All I check before launching full force is my value system (that I have borrowed directly from the threvada tradition). I have come out unharmed and now come to believe that our hearts are much stronger than what we are made to believe! Deep down I believe it was the morality that has kept me so safe, I could give up all that meant anything to me in the world but did not compromise on what I thought was right. I lost jobs, family and friends. Have been confused, a lot. I persisted and was patient with my questions and the answers came with practise over the years.


I will also mention here that the teachings originated in India. Indians, even today, have an idea about some basic aspects like morality, samadhi and what is expected of you in courses like this. So, in a way I was prepared. I can understand what happens when you take this model and put it in a country where this is completely new, and you do not know if friends or family will understand what you are going through. You take a condensed boot camp like course (Goenka Vipassana) and then you get massive results, Indian social structures were open and appreciative of these changes in individuals, everyone supported you and didn't call you mad, but western 'sciences' do not know and do not acknowledge a lot of stuff and that's when you feel scared and reasonably so.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2015, 12:56:09 PM by poojavassa »

VipassanaXYZ

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #16 on: September 27, 2015, 03:42:37 PM »
Middleway, Pacific Flow - yup, my name is Pooja!

Wow you guys say that, felt good!

Vassa is the Pali word for rain, I took that as my social media surname.
Basically so that office people cant find me online :D

gasteria

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2015, 01:59:56 AM »
I just want to add my 5 cents into this discussion.

That is true that Goenka retreat is run entirely by volunteers. It is true that the teachers are not experienced and that they have only standardized responses. Goenka retreats are like franchises. They have spread all over the world and have the same program, same ideology and same schedule everywhere.

But I am not aware of any other meditation retreats that are so readily available and free of charge. I am a lay person with full time job, living in the West Coast of United States. I doubt I would be able to make a trip for few months to some distant isolated monastery with a special dedicated and experienced monk teacher.  I wish we could have meditation centers as easily available as churches are.

I might never attend another retreat but I will be meditating for the rest of my life and participate in the forums like this one, where thoughtful people do their best to be honest, helpful and supportive.

This is unfortunate that some people get hurt by this program. I hope this kind of incidents do not happen very often. I would still recommend to anyone from all walks of life to have a touch of spirituality in the form of Vipassana, like I have been lucky to experience.

I actually found out about Goenka Vipassana program from the documentary. It was about introducing this program in prisons and about enrolling inmates in the meditation retreats. Some of the people participating for 10 days in the meditation sessions were completely transformed by this experience. If you haven't heard about this documentary it   is called "The Dhamma Brothers". It touched me very deeply.

I don't want to diminish a terrible experience that P340 has gone through. But I read the book by one of the Vipassana teachers (don't remember a title from the top of my head) in which he mentioned that he started with Zen meditation. On one occasion he has been brutally bitten by the teacher for not doing the right thing. He was even surprised that his bones were not broken. So there are different meditation systems that are intentionally hurtful.   Vipassana might be most benign and loving form of meditation.

I hope P340 will continue on his path to serenity and happiness.

Finished my 5 cents.

p340

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #18 on: October 10, 2015, 11:16:59 AM »
I'm sorry but the length of some replies just overwhelmed me. I do not know how to appreciative respond to all that information. Just trust me that i read everything and felt into it.

For me something feels odd about your advice pooja! That makes it even more interesting for me, so thank you.

I needed time to feel about what you said about morality. I came to turns, that i don't agree with the part about morality. It was hard, because it sounded very compelling, somehow too easy. For me it sounded like the temptation of religion.

But i don't think that for me this thing works that way around. For me, morality springs out of love and will not be a rule i impose on myself. Another mind made prison.

If i understood you wrong, i'm sorry. Sometimes my brain has difficulties switching in english.

What i'm really interested in is the wisdom in facing difficult experiences, hence all typical dhamma talks focus on "the good sides". I will research the parittas and check if they have value for my personal journey. I read such things as gems of experience and wisdom that might be of value if i remember them at the right time ;)

At the moment, i'd say that this experience was just perfect to teach me. If something that intense would happen now to my consciousness i'd be able to just watch and stay calm much longer. There was no personal teacher involved, no special teaching, just live, just a experience i could learn from. I find that thought quite beautiful. :)

I send you love from the rainy Germany to wherever you all are!

Thank you all for your words and concern.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2015, 11:19:08 AM by p340 »

p340

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #19 on: November 16, 2015, 12:05:44 AM »
Hey, i want to update this thread, for many reasons. First i want to thank Pooja. I was reading her reply several times. And in some parts, there is a tone in it that causes some irritation in me. But a particular part has been and is very helpful for me:


You will need an articulation, a very good sense, awareness and  the ability to use the human capacity developed overtime to permeate cittas (mental states) without being taken over or be harmed. To be able to choose and switch between mental states. For this, reflect on the qualities of the Buddha and other parittas until they seem to be part of you, easily recalled to the memory at will.

These parittas are easily subtler and stronger than any other mental emotions/state, and this you would know from experience as you work with the parittas.

To summarize: clean the heart of defilements using the base of morality, take it easy and gentle, it should feel like eating right feels, makes you feel healthy and strong, energises you and protects you from disease. You avoid temptations and reach a place when you actually start liking healthy food and find it conducive at the level of taste too. Same with morality ... you start recognizing the benefits and the pull of temptations has little hold over you because of experiential benefits/understanding ... comes with practise and time.

After cleaning the heart, set it ready in the triple refuge. The refuge is not a formality, it is not a lifeless thing, it is your sword and your protection. Learn to pick up and wield this sword, you have to learn to use these resources, nothing is frivolous.

You use it by reflecting (and developing neuron maps) in your mind the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma. Also learning the parittas by heart. Playing it in your mind so that it reaches deep in the subconscious and even unconscious (when it arises by itself in time of need when one feels that one is about to lose oneself). For me, in very difficult situations the parittas came up to the memory. I know of someone who was lying in sleep and nearing death (unable to move and speak) when the parittas rose to his mind by itself and the darkness that enveloped him dissipated. There have been numerous such instances.

Now, I tell you that even if you don't have the teacher, but have the teachings, and know that the verses (like the protection verses) are not lifeless material, but actually acknowledging and calling out the devas (who are there since the time of the last Buddha), the devas you have been sharing your merits of meditation with, states of energy that you can align with and come out of darker states where you are about you lose yourself, you will know what to do when you are not in your comfort zone.

Not only will you know what to do, you would also have prepared yourself and would have the comfort of mental aids to direct your attention and switch the mental state to the three refuges and come out of danger. You will also not be alone and will have devas with you, strengthening your efforts and helping you along the way. Devas are there but can only help to the extent you have developed the qualities of devas within yourself :)



I want to really thank you for this. I'm glad you were sharing your experiential wisdom with me. I noticed, my previous post was ungrateful. I really want to correct this. Thank you Pooja! Sometimes i need time to let advice permeate barriers in my ego. I ordered "The Book of Protection", a collection of paritta verses. Thank you for planting that resource in my life!

Secondly, i want to thank gasteria. I'm currently reading Jack Kornfields "A Path with Heart", and it was very helpful. He helps categorizing the strange or frightening things i experiencend a lot. I read the chapter called "The spititual rollercoaster: Kundalini and other side effects" first. I recommend it.

The part gasteria is talking about, is somehow a little bit funny, if you disregard for a moment that for the person it must have been very intense:

"A student who sat a three-month retreat that I taught was an overzealous young karate student seeking the extremes of spiritual intensity. Rather than follow the instructions, he decided to get enlightened as quickly as possible in his own way. In the middle of the retreat he sat down and vowed to himself not to move for an entire day and night.

After the first few hours he began to sit through sensations of fire and intense pain. He sat all afternoon, all night, and all the next morning. If one does this long enough, the pain and fire become so powerful that consciousness becomes disassociated and catapulted out of the body. There are many more gentle ways to have out-of-the-body experiences, but this happened to him very abruptly.

As he continued to sit he began to experience all sorts of altered states. When he got up after twentyfour hours, he was filled with explosive energy. He strode into the middle of the dining hall filled with one hundred silent retreatants and began
to yell and practice his karate maneuvers at triple speed. The whole room was bursting with his energy, and in the silence he could feel the fear that arose in many people around him, who were very sensitive after two months of silence. He made sounds with the movement, and his energy appeared to have flooded his third and sixth chakras. Then he said, 'When I look at each of you, I see behind you a whole trail of bodies showing your past lives.'

He was living in a very different state of consciousness, which he had attained through pushing his body to such a limit. But he could not sit still or focus for a moment. Instead, was very fearful and agitated, moving in a wild and manic state, as if he had temporarily gone crazy."

They help him by making him work in the garden, giving him heavy food etc. For me that would have been very helpful too. Digging up the garden, running 10 miles in mornings and evenings, that would have been great. They got him 'normalized' in three days. Again, i find it quite astonishing that i managed this on my own, without any piece of help of the teachers. I never "flipped out", i just politely asked to leave because i understood, that i needed different action then these provided by the center. (They did actually hurt me emotionally, instead of helping me getting grounded..)

Yap, i just wanted to share my findings about this. Maybe someone enjoys it or even finds it helpful.

At the moment, i'm not quite sure how to go on. I would love to have a good teacher, a good place, a retreat where i can experience even such things without demanding too much of the teachers. But that might be a complex for a different thread.

:)

Nicky

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #20 on: July 04, 2016, 01:20:07 PM »
....might have been a kundalini awakening.

p340

I have read your (1st post), as you requested. It is similar to my first week of meditation (although a lot more extreme). 'Kundalini release' is how I would prefer to label it; from too much mind applied to the physical body/nervous system; too much unnatural suppression (such as too much enduring pain); resulting in kundalini release & uncontrollable cathartic rapture (as I described recently on the 'Jhana' thread). 

When this happened to me, I was not in retreat but it was my first experience of meditation. I walked into a monastery as a tourist, bought a a book on Anapanasati at the door; read the book in a few hours; then started with determined practise without receiving any teachings. Since the book mentioned 'long breathing as the ideal breathing', I, for hours, was (ignorantly) practising volitional long breathing as long & deep as I could; getting more & more excited with the effort & sensations. Soon enough I was awakening in the middle of the night, with light energies, like suns, exploding in my brain, full of energy, unable to sleep.

Fortunately, it was the monsoon season in Thailand. I jumped on a bus and 5 arduous hours later, I was at a surf beach in Pukhet, with big surf, where I could body surf (exercise) off my energy. Once I calmed down, I re-read the book & started meditating in a calm way on the (deserted) beach & doing walking meditation (since I was the only tourist). I returned to the monastery & started my 1st ten day retreat, which was calm & excellent. However, there was one man for which the same happened during the retreat. The monks sent him to a building site to spend his retreat doing hard physical labour, such as mixing concrete.

For the next year, I stayed in the monastery & managed the monthly retreats for tourists. This energy release happens often enough; generally to men who exert too much mental effort in their meditation.

With metta  :)

« Last Edit: July 04, 2016, 01:22:51 PM by Nicky »

p340

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #21 on: July 04, 2016, 01:27:59 PM »
Thank you :)

Nicky

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #22 on: July 04, 2016, 01:34:47 PM »
I'm currently reading Jack Kornfields "A Path with Heart", and it was very helpful. He helps categorizing the strange or frightening things i experiencend a lot. I read the chapter called "The spititual rollercoaster: Kundalini and other side effects" first. I recommend it.

The part gasteria is talking about, is somehow a little bit funny, if you disregard for a moment that for the person it must have been very intense:

"A student who sat a three-month retreat that I taught was an overzealous young karate student seeking the extremes of spiritual intensity. Rather than follow the instructions, he decided to get enlightened as quickly as possible in his own way. In the middle of the retreat he sat down and vowed to himself not to move for an entire day and night.

After the first few hours he began to sit through sensations of fire and intense pain. He sat all afternoon, all night, and all the next morning. If one does this long enough, the pain and fire become so powerful that consciousness becomes disassociated and catapulted out of the body. There are many more gentle ways to have out-of-the-body experiences, but this happened to him very abruptly.

As he continued to sit he began to experience all sorts of altered states. When he got up after twentyfour hours, he was filled with explosive energy. He strode into the middle of the dining hall filled with one hundred silent retreatants and began to yell and practice his karate maneuvers at triple speed. The whole room was bursting with his energy, and in the silence he could feel the fear that arose in many people around him, who were very sensitive after two months of silence. He made sounds with the movement, and his energy appeared to have flooded his third and sixth chakras. Then he said, 'When I look at each of you, I see behind you a whole trail of bodies showing your past lives.'

He was living in a very different state of consciousness, which he had attained through pushing his body to such a limit. But he could not sit still or focus for a moment. Instead, was very fearful and agitated, moving in a wild and manic state, as if he had temporarily gone crazy."

They help him by making him work in the garden, giving him heavy food etc. For me that would have been very helpful too. Digging up the garden, running 10 miles in mornings and evenings, that would have been great. They got him 'normalized' in three days.

Everything quoted & written above is correct, based on my experience, as I have described & how we used to deal with it in the meditation centre.

Stop the person meditating. Put them to work doing hard labour. Send them down the bush road for a run or get them to walk up the mountain.

 :)


Nicky

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #23 on: July 04, 2016, 01:46:49 PM »
I assumed that the "harsh" style may not be my way of working, i like Ajahn Brahms very compassionate and self-loving style. I listened to a lot of Dhamma Talks by him. But i went anyway, cause, you know - i wanted to try.

Many thousand of individuals have done Goenka retreats, many multiple times, and gained great benefit for themselves. I have never tried to practise Goenka method myself. After a few initial weeks of experimenting, I have always practised a gentle meditation, Ajahn Brahm style (well, Ajahn Brahm teaches my style  ;)), making 'letting go' the object of meditation (which will naturally connect with the breathing). The retreat schedule I did for many months had alternate sitting & walking (45 minutes each), thus more moderate & gentle than Goenka. Eventually, I would sit through the walking session.

We should find a method suitable for our individual disposition.

Time for bed. Fun thread. I glad you made it through. :)

p340

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Re: Expierences at Goenka Retreat
« Reply #24 on: July 04, 2016, 02:47:39 PM »
Thank you once more ;)

 

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