Author Topic: Questions about Goenka's vipassana technique  (Read 8752 times)


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Re: Questions about Goenka's vipassana technique
« Reply #25 on: February 19, 2016, 06:11:59 AM »
If I am allowed to express one constructive critique, it would be nice if they have a feedback system. They learn what most students are going through, then they improve and update the audio for instructions.
Journey, that is a valid point about feedback system. I am told that the instructions as well as the discourses have evolved over the decades to include feedback and suggestions from practitioners since Goenkaji first started teaching meditation. What we see now, is the resultant of all those modifications/additions done to the teaching over the years, so that at least the majority of students attending the courses can grasp the technique correctly. However, there is a limit to doing that since we all are so different with regard to how we process the information given to us from outside inside our minds. So, there is always a chance we will either miss out or misinterpret the instructions given, which is what creates the gap. It is here that the teacher presiding over the course comes in to precisely address this gap for each and every student. However, the competence of every teacher cannot be expected to be at the optimum level to do this addressing effectively, and your experience with the AT which you have described in your post above, proves that point.

It could be that there is still room for more improvement but I don't think any change is going to happen anymore. As far as I am concerned, I feel that the instructions and the discourses are more than suited for the vast number of students who attend the courses every year, so that they can grasp the technique correctly. And I understand that your opinion is different.

I talked on the 10th day with lots of students. I know many of them visualize.
This is rather unfortunate. The Teacher repeats many times during the discourses about not using any verbalization, visualization or imagination while practicing.

Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?


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Re: Questions about Goenka's vipassana technique
« Reply #26 on: February 19, 2016, 11:46:40 AM »
Hey man. I think there`s been already much valueable said, nevertheless I thought I`d add my ketchup to the fries. :-P

5. The meditation gets worse and more mechanical with increasing subsequent body scan. First scan, the mind may be silent but by 2nd or 3rd scans thoughts began to surface while scanning is going on.

First I think that meditation never "gets worse", but as it is. Noting a "bad meditation" as it is is already good meditation, as it perceives it as it is without any judgement, relaxing into the experience as good as possible, so I guess what you are saying is that your attention and your equanimity (which are the only measurement of "good/bad" meditation) are getting bad, one or the other.

In case of becoming mechanical, it is your awareness/attention; one thing you want and will learn as you progress on this technique (and I believe any other technique) is staying aware with repetitious things. The scanning of the body is no more repetitious than breathing, drinking a glass of water, brushing your teeths, or day and night for that instance. It is more a practice of staying alert -anyway-, than it is of something being repetitious, beside the fact that sensations change, so every top to bottom is different.

But the style of going up and down is not obviously- one tip that is often given is to alternate the way you move. I do this regularly; instead of taking the same route throughout the head, I start at top, go left, right, behind, front, ears and whatever I left out, then neck; another time I start front and go around to the right until I`m at the front again, scan the top, then go feel all the neck at once, and so on and so forth. This keeps you fresh and alert. I`m not sure if that´s the right approach for it becoming mechanical though - it can be!

I think alternating between anapana and vipassana more often, or generally becoming a more stable and focused mind, helps with this too. I think as soon as I could "access concentration" more easily, mechanical practice wouldn`t become any issue anymore for me, because I would easily notice whenever I am -not- attentive but -thinking- I am, so I would be aware of my unawareness, which usually isn`t the case when you go mechanical for longer periods. Also try to go more slowly, and put your attention especially towards being utterly alert and equanimous (whether it`s a sensation, subtle or dense, an area where you feel nothing, or anything else. Focus on being alert on it and move along slowly, equanimously, not even being concerned -what- you experience, but -how-; becoming mechanical seems to be more a matter of being concerned about the "what" and "that" you experience and move forward, and not the "how" - and the "how" is all that matters. So go slow and watch how - which is, attentively, alert, clear! and equanimously.

I tried not to visualize my body, but if I don't visualize then I will not feel sensation from the top of my head.

Are you being staying alert, silent and equanimous with the fact that you don`t feel any sensations of the head, and if nothing surfaces, going on without a trace of dissapointment? If you don`t feel sensations, it is maybe because this is not the case; instead of using it as a tool to enhance your "how" to practice, you focus on "what" you experience; use "what" you experience or the lack thereof always as a tool for how you practice - which is, aware, and equanimous. "Observing without judgement is the highest form of intelligence" - this is the essense of the technique. Just observe, observe, after some time go on, observe, observe. Observation is alertness and equanimity. Whatever you observe is not the object of your judging, is not the result of your expectations, or the opposite of what you wish it to be. If there is nothing, observe that - "there is no sensation on top of my head", but remain with your awareness there anyway for some time. Eventually, by staying there, silently, equanimously, attentively, which is how you are meant to practice, sensations will surface into your awareness, and if they do not, you still practiced as you were meant to practice, whether you sensed this or that or nothing at all.

Besides if you don't visualize the region, how do you know that the sensation you are feeling is coming from the top of the head and not from else where of the head. It is all there. It can be misleading to think this sensation is from the top of the head, so let me move on to the sides.

Do you know when a sensation is coming from the tips of your fingers? Can you know this without visualizing? The same way you simply -sense- it directly and hence come to know it directly that It is this or that part of the body, the same way it works with the top of the head. It is hard at the beginning, the top of the head IME being one of the hardest parts, together with the ears, and my ass, unless I sit on it and hence feel the sitting per se :-P But you will reach a point where you may laugh at how you had to visualize your ears and couldn`t even sense anything there with utmost effort on day 8, 9 on your first retreat, while now you sit here and write a comment on vipassana forums and can sense your ears and sensations there while you are typing a comment! :angel:

It is hard to break into 3 x 3 inch block. When this happens, you do end up visualizing the area. 

Comes with progress in awareness and equanimity, you simply direct your attention like you would put needles onto your body and sting. With progress, you can also do this more rapidly, so you just move along "stinging" your way forward. Start with bigger blocks if 3x3 is too small (which I always felt impossible at the beginning to do and was mind-blogged how the hell I should do that, and then from top to bottom? takes me a day at least.)

How are you all doing this vipassana? You are doing it without visualization of the body block by block? Do you get stuck when doing sweep as the front and back have different density of sensation?

You can keep on sweeping even if you sense dense sensations on some parts, just sweep along. From top to bottom or may be like "soft soft soft tense soft soft" sensations, so arms head and legs/feet are all less dense and the front and back are quite tense. Just note it (which means just sense it) and keep going anyway.

If you meant that you go down from head until the back/front and then are unable to move your attention more upward because the tense areas are so taunting of your awareness, then better move piece by piece again, part by part, if that`s the case (I think you meant the above though, but just in case.)

Vipassana is just one of many paths, but to accelerate the path one needs to apply more tools.

I think the path is the same for everyone, the path is this life, vipassana is just a technique to cope with it in the right way - it does not whatsoever say much about the path infront of you, it is more like the vehicle you use for driving, a way of how to relate to everything. Attentively and equanimously.

Vipassana is just two hours a day, so the rest of the days requires mindfulness breathing and insight meditation. Insight meditation is simply awareness of life experiencing, allowing the subconscious mind to see this so that the subconscious mind will wake up and abandon craving and delusion.

What often happens is that people generally (especially people new to goenkas style of vipassana) judge the technique teached by the way it is misunderstood by newer folk. I mean, that`s understandable, it (ones own short experience with it as well as all the other new students one sits with and shares same reference experiences with) being the only reference point of evaluation (so far). E.g. if you did not yet come beyond mechanical practice (which will eventually happen later on as well, but is less likely to be much of a disturbance or hindrance as much as it is at the beginning) and visualizing, that`s really just the kindergarden of the technique. It takes a while - a good while - to get established in any technique of meditation and get beyond kindergarden.

The most basic misunderstanding, which your last part of the post implies, is the misunderstanding of how you should practice, beside you saying "beside vipassana when sitting, I do mindfulness and insight practice"... this -is- contained within vipassana. Remember, on the ninth day, you are asked to practice even between the sittings. Never stop being aware of sensations, or going back to anapana when you become unalert and unbalanced in mind, unequanimous. Remember, there is a shield being attached to the board on that very day saying "Continuity is the key to success", and it is the only key. On your second retreat, you are asked to remain the practice up from day 0 to day 10 nonstop, unless you are in deep sleep. And fortunately, for the rest of your life if you are really to become established in (-any-, for that instance) meditation practice. Because it is a way of living, not a way of "sitting twice a day for one hour", so your sittings should be taken as a means to strengthen your daily practice throughout the day, and this moment to moment awareness/practicing as a means to strengthen your daily sittings. If you do this, regularly, for long, you will see, once you sit down to meditate on morning or evening, your mind will usually be focused just the moment you sit. This is I think called "access concentration", this is why Jhana is so important, because it is what enables you to even practice vipassana and daily mindfulness, moment to moment.

I hope this somewhat clarifies lots of your concerns and questions, as I always feel heart burdened when the technique is judged by the failures and misunderstandings of new practitioners, which should either be taken solely as learning experience (which we all go through, because meditation is a very, very delicate thing), or drop it without a trace of anything and pick up another technique. I have myself gone through so immense failures and misunderstandings by my 4th retreat and will keep on doing them, but by experiencing these extremes, you eventually will find a middle ground and the right understanding of practicing, for that is how we learn. If you`d do it perfectly within the first retreat or months, no one would believe you. :-P I wouldn`t atleast, because you wouldn`t have had enough opportunities to make enough mistakes to learn from, alright? :-) If you watch a baby trying to learn how to walk, it first learns how to lie on his stomach, then to crawl a bit, stand up, and during this process fall down atleast a thousand times. If the kid would have said "this sucks, it is not possible, how could you even do that? it`s not possible", he wouldn`t be able to run marathons by the time he turns 18. In the same way try to look at meditation, you will want to learn it for a live long. What is a month in a lifetime? It`s something you will learn for years, and never fully perfectionate, as perfection means that you will stop learning. For that instance, only death is perfect - but not even that we know. That`s a good attitude to start with though, because many think by doing a 10 day retreat they "should be able to meditate", I mean, they invested a full 10 days! Go invest a full 10 days in a "how to play the piano" course.. and see how all these new students complain about the teacher for them not being able to play Mozart after having invested " a full 10 days". Hell, you need to keep practicing, daily, for the rest of your life. :-)

It`s also good you cut out TV etc., but don`t attach too much to the path and make a big identity out of it. Having a big spiritual ego is worser than the usual wordly ego`s and attachments, because it tends to set you "above them all". Just some advice with heart, as this is surely a common pitfall for many "spiritual seekers", whatever that implies.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2016, 11:57:40 AM by Attachless »
to be or not to be - one hardly notices the subtlety


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