Author Topic: Recently attended Goenka course and having doubts about his technique  (Read 1911 times)

Ja192827

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I recently  participated in a ten day Goenka retreat and am not sure if I want to continue with his technique or just stick with what I was doing before:anapana, (focusing on the breath).  Here's why:

1) After a while, I find it mentally exhausting trying to decide how long I should dwell on certain body parts, and how much area of a certain body part I should focus on.  And after scanning my body 2-3 times, it gets very monotonous and frustrating.  The decision fatigue I experience and the boredom deplete my willpower, and about 20 minutes into my hour sits, my monkey mind takes over with a vengeance.  I like the simplicity of focusing on my breath. But when I breathe, I barely can notice my abdomen contracting or expanding, or the air coming out of my nose, so it is difficult to concentrate.

3) I heard from other meditators that it can sometimes take years(in one instance, 20 yrs) before one feels the pleasant, or vibrating sensations.  Knowing that it could take years is pretty discouraging.  It seems that all the time one would invest up until that point would otherwise have been more productive with anapana.  Seems to me that Goenka's technique is not productive until the good sensations are felt.

4)Goenka teaches that the main benefit of his technique is that by learning to not crave the pleasant sensations and not experiencing aversion to uncomfortable sensations during meditation, this is the best way to learn equanimity.  I have a bad bad back and knees, so I have no choice but to sit in a chair to meditate.  It seems that in order to attain the full benefits of his technique, one would need to experience a certain amount of discomfort while meditating.  So if I attempt to sit, I will experience pain off the cushion, and this affects my job performace.  It also occurred to me that why can't we practice equanimity independent of meditation?  There are many pleasant and unpleasant sensations which we experience on a daily basis off the cushion which we could practice avoiding craving and aversion on.

Regardless of my concerns, there is a small desire to practice Goenka's technique, after speaking with so many enthusiastic returned participants. About 50% of the participants were returning, so Goenka must be doing something right.  Plus, if I did continue with his technique, his center is close to me and affordable, so it seems doing a retreat yearly would be of good benefit.  But if I practiced only anapana, it seems the retreat would not really be geared toward me, so unless I practice his technique, future retreats would not benefit me.

I was hoping to get anyone's thoughts on my concerns.  I am hoping someone can make the case for continuing with the practice, but it would also be helpful to read those opposed to his technique.  I read the article critiquing Goenka's technique by Harmanjit Singh, and I find it hard to take his article seriously, as Mr Singh seems opposed to meditation altogether, basically stating that a wandering mind is beneficial.  Thanks in advance.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2016, 05:50:46 PM by Ja192827 »

Teej

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Re: Recently attended Goenka course and having doubts about his technique
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2016, 05:44:05 PM »
Hello,

I hope you are well. As Goenka said, the goal of vipassana is to be liberated from craving and aversion -- which means not to look in any future event to find yourself. After some time of meditation, practitioners will learn to observe any labeling experience as good and bad.

A mature meditator will eventually go past that. The very mental labeling of the mind causes dukkhas, and vipassana will help you to go beyond labeling of forms in whatever situation and form they arise. That very fact is liberation from misery, and knowing that is happiness.

I am also a newbie to this path, but I believe we have to go beyond the craving for pleasant situations constantly because IT WILL NEVER ARRIVE. Every sensation or material is fleeting and ephemeral, going through birth and death. So even if you are meditating for 30 + years, those pleasant situations may grow and perhaps come easily, but will never stay the same way in the end. Your equanimity is.

With warmth,
TJ
« Last Edit: September 27, 2016, 05:49:17 PM by Teej »

rogp99

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Re: Recently attended Goenka course and having doubts about his technique
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2016, 06:51:24 PM »
Some good points can be made from that critique:
- There are more, well, therapies, pointed out by Buddha.
- You can learn it without all those jargons.
- Vipassana is not that ancient.

But hypoxia? Really?
« Last Edit: September 27, 2016, 07:16:47 PM by rogp99 »

Laurent

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Re: Recently attended Goenka course and having doubts about his technique
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2016, 11:44:22 PM »
I recently  participated in a ten day Goenka retreat and am not sure if I want to continue with his technique or just stick with what I was doing before:anapana, (focusing on the breath).  Here's why:

1) After a while, I find it mentally exhausting trying to decide how long I should dwell on certain body parts, and how much area of a certain body part I should focus on.  And after scanning my body 2-3 times, it gets very monotonous and frustrating.  The decision fatigue I experience and the boredom deplete my willpower, and about 20 minutes into my hour sits, my monkey mind takes over with a vengeance.  I like the simplicity of focusing on my breath. But when I breathe, I barely can notice my abdomen contracting or expanding, or the air coming out of my nose, so it is difficult to concentrate.

3) I heard from other meditators that it can sometimes take years(in one instance, 20 yrs) before one feels the pleasant, or vibrating sensations.  Knowing that it could take years is pretty discouraging.  It seems that all the time one would invest up until that point would otherwise have been more productive with anapana.  Seems to me that Goenka's technique is not productive until the good sensations are felt.

4)Goenka teaches that the main benefit of his technique is that by learning to not crave the pleasant sensations and not experiencing aversion to uncomfortable sensations during meditation, this is the best way to learn equanimity.  I have a bad bad back and knees, so I have no choice but to sit in a chair to meditate.  It seems that in order to attain the full benefits of his technique, one would need to experience a certain amount of discomfort while meditating.  So if I attempt to sit, I will experience pain off the cushion, and this affects my job performace.  It also occurred to me that why can't we practice equanimity independent of meditation?  There are many pleasant and unpleasant sensations which we experience on a daily basis off the cushion which we could practice avoiding craving and aversion on.

Regardless of my concerns, there is a small desire to practice Goenka's technique, after speaking with so many enthusiastic returned participants. About 50% of the participants were returning, so Goenka must be doing something right.  Plus, if I did continue with his technique, his center is close to me and affordable, so it seems doing a retreat yearly would be of good benefit.  But if I practiced only anapana, it seems the retreat would not really be geared toward me, so unless I practice his technique, future retreats would not benefit me.

I was hoping to get anyone's thoughts on my concerns.  I am hoping someone can make the case for continuing with the practice, but it would also be helpful to read those opposed to his technique.  I read the article critiquing Goenka's technique by Harmanjit Singh, and I find it hard to take his article seriously, as Mr Singh seems opposed to meditation altogether, basically stating that a wandering mind is beneficial.  Thanks in advance.

Hello,

I practice this technique for 17 years.
During this time i had period when i did not practice at all during several years, periods when i was practicing quite softly(one hour or less per day and sometimes nothing for 2-3 days, and periods when i was practising two or more hours per day).
So, i know very well beginning states, intermediate states and a little deep states with this technique.

What i can say to encourage you is that when you reach a certain depth in meditation with this technique, you don't ask yourself those questions anymore.
It produces a huge alleviation, just like if you had evacuate pus from a wound. You are not completely cured, but you feel a huge alleviation.
You feel happy and simple, tasting existence in its simple shape and bearing a lot easier what is unpleasant in life.
What i find really difficult with this technique is to continue to practice once you feel better.
The benefits from this technique are so obvious that you can simply leave because you just feel good and don't need it anymore!...
At this point, we need discipline, which is my personal main weakness.

So, you can wonder i won't say bad things about this technique while i'm aware that people meet bad issues with it.
The essential is to have made this experience of depth at least once and then you know that this shelter does exist and you can go to it (in approximately 45 minutes in my case.)
It is a clear change you feel clearly when it happens, i suppose you can call it the 1st jhana.
In my personal experience, there are subtle sensations, but not especially, the real change is HOW YOU PERCEIVE sensations. Even gross or unpleasant sensations are sensed with detachment and you don't find it invasive. They're just there, but in some way, disintegrated. This alleviation produces, of course, what you can call piti and sukha. Confort in the body and mind, joy of realisation and happiness of living better in any circumstances (which can be not clearly evaluated in the case of reclusion).
It is difficult to describe and can vary from individus and can take several aspects for one individu, but it is clear when it happens. No doubt.

I believe that other techniques have the same results, but i have never experienced such alleviation with any other. In this case, it is not like you bare patiently unpleasant sensations, but you are alleviated from them. This technique really (for me) alleviate pain here and now. I have even alleviated some back ill with this practice (after practising hard anapana during months my back were a little traumatized and this pain disappeared when i reached this depth in vipassana).The posture is not then a problem. Body is not bothered with posture problems and just relax itself as needed.

I felt all this results in my first 10 days course and i have difficulties to understand why people don't but i must recognize that.

1. How much time you should observe an area?

The importance is that your mind become calm and concerned with what you are doing. I suppose it takes time to develop this.
You can observe more generally or with details, it is not really important. What is important is stilling the mind. Slow the mind, relax it, make it cool.
I personnally find that varying ways of observing is good to counter boredom. Sometime observing general bodily sensations, sometimes part by part, sometimes quicker with less precision, sometimes slower with more focus, sometimes not observing something particular (i have sometimes the feeling of practising the 'zazen').
The important is that your mind become more and more concerned with it, trying to stick in the present time. When you take care that you just have been wandering or distracted, it is a good sign. You have to be patient, because this "turn" will happen, you don't know at what time, and you can not produce it yourself.
So, patience is mother of all virtues in dhamma.

3. Does it take years to develop a sensible state of depth with this technique?

I don't think so. I am a good exemple of it. bad mouthing, compulsive thinker, attracted by sensual pleasures, but it works great for me! Of course, we should practice a lot and regularly to reach the point of a real change. But i find that even when getting frustrated or bored, when you just apply the technique one hour, you feel some results in daily life, don't you? It is important to keep joyful, confident, believing you are making a good thing that will benefit you and others, at term.
It is not true that this technique is not effective while not feeling "subtles sensations" (i d rather say "detachment from sensations") but it is true that reaching those subtle states show a strong improvement in meditation effects.
I believe that the important thing is the mind attitude. You can get it by practising 20 years, or just being in the "right resolve" here and now, possibly with some tricks. Try to improve you thoughts, think about death, and other universal truths of life. Feel a real desire to get out of all this suffering for just a moment. When you meditate, you have the occasion of renounce everything just for a few minutes. Try it. Cultivate wisdom. Intellectual wisdom is worth it unless you have experimental wisdom.
In my opinion, the best is to read suttas. Reading regularly suttas will gradually improve resolve. The sallatha sutta should be good now.

4.

It is good to meditate in a chair. You can even meditate lying, but you should probably fall asleep.
Sometimes, when i feel tired of sitting, i just lie and it is more easy to relax the body. When i fall asleep, i just let it go and then come back later on the cushion with energy. I find it is better than watching tv or playing video games. People may be sometimes too hard with themselves. It is important to find meditation pleasant and comfortable, otherwise you will not meditate. That's just the way our mind is working. It is able to make effort, but has its limits too. We should take account of that.
Rest and sleep are very important. You are probably not aware how much you are tired and depressed.

Meditating is to learn how not to crave, but we begin this journey with a lot of craving and aversion, so it is good in my opinion to crave for meditation experiences. Also in the first steps, i find that it is more important to deal with aversion than craving. Aversion is a huge hindrance that will make you get off cushion, and craving for meditation experiences will make you meditate. The more time you meditate, also trying to improve mind attitude (intellectual wisdom), the best it is.
For craving meditation experiences, you should regard it as when you prepare for holidays. When you prepare for holidays, you are in a sense craving for holidays, but you are also here, you make what is necessary to the journey, and you go to work each day, continuing life normally. You don't become mad about going to holidays. You know it will happen in its time. In this sense, you can "crave" for meditation experiences. You know that the best way to get those experiences is to prepare them with developing patience, calm and other qualities that you are exactly now developing when you apply the technique.

Metta.






« Last Edit: September 28, 2016, 01:05:02 AM by Laurent »

TheJourney

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Re: Recently attended Goenka course and having doubts about his technique
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2016, 03:15:39 AM »
I recently  participated in a ten day Goenka retreat and am not sure if I want to continue with his technique or just stick with what I was doing before:anapana, (focusing on the breath).  Here's why:

1) After a while, I find it mentally exhausting trying to decide how long I should dwell on certain body parts, and how much area of a certain body part I should focus on.  And after scanning my body 2-3 times, it gets very monotonous and frustrating.  The decision fatigue I experience and the boredom deplete my willpower, and about 20 minutes into my hour sits, my monkey mind takes over with a vengeance.  I like the simplicity of focusing on my breath. But when I breathe, I barely can notice my abdomen contracting or expanding, or the air coming out of my nose, so it is difficult to concentrate.


I can fully relate with respect to your frustration. I experienced same thing. I would start off with a very calm mind, but 30 minutes later my mind would be very talkative. After two months, I stopped. My motto is that if it is making me miserable and is not efficiently effective, then I will try a different method.

After 3 weeks of the retreat, I saw my habits picking up again. It is hard to watch my sensation all the time when off cushion.

I went back to anapanasati solely until recently which  I added walking meditation and one 30 minutesof passive vipassana meditation to my routine.

I read a lot of dhamma related PDFs and was able to reflect on impermanence. Based on my reflection, I was able to quit TV, no radio or Cd in car even on 10 hours of driving, or read Internet unrelated to dhamma activity. I dont depend on meditation to curb my sankhara, but I do meditation as additional practice.

Anapanasati is sufficient to distance your feelings, sensations, thoughts, from your identity of "I".

You can practice by not abiding in your strongest desire and watch the sensation or the energy that arises. Experience suffering this way so you know how suffering works.

In the morning, I practice relaxing and not thinking. I watch how energy pull arises that want to grasp and have thoughts. Stay equanimous with it so that you learn how this subtle feeling arise and feel. You learn quicker this way than depend on body scan technique.

I also mental note every time I have a thought.

There are many ways to skin a cat.

Ja192827

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Re: Recently attended Goenka course and having doubts about his technique
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2016, 02:19:06 PM »
Teej: You are right; craving will always be there as long as we have a pulse.

Laurent: You offered some good advice on practicing. Up to this point, I have ignored my cravings for the benefits of meditation, as I learned that if we dont get exactly what we are expecting, we will be disappointed and might stop. At the same time, there needs to be a certain amount of carrot dangling, otherwise, whats the point in practicing if there are no benefits. I will allow myself to crave the benefits to a certain extent from now on.  And when you said that you stopped practicing, I initially wondered why. But that makes sense that we might have the tendency to think we are "permanently cured," and it might be tempting to stop.

Journey: Wow, that is some dedication. Before I sent on the retreat, I enjoyed watching murder mystery shows like 48 hrs and 20/20, and Fear the Walking Dead. The isolation of the retreat and extended meditation sessions made me sensitized to those kind of shows, so I no longer desire to watch them. I will probably watch the Walking Dead in October though. lol

Thanks for everyone's thoughts.


Matthew

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Re: Recently attended Goenka course and having doubts about his technique
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2016, 03:03:10 PM »
Do Shamatha/Anapanasati. Really, just do.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

 

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