Author Topic: Questions/Issues after Goenka-style retreat  (Read 776 times)


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Questions/Issues after Goenka-style retreat
« on: March 11, 2019, 04:03:08 PM »
Hello all,

I attended a Goenka-style Vipassana retreat from which I returned about a week ago and am now looking to return to meditation as my main spiritual practice.

I was impressed with the effects of the retreat but it left me with some questions. The retreat brought up a lot of deep-rooted emotions, mostly a bunch of fear.  I have definitely noticed an improvement in my equanimity that is playing out positively in daily life, but I also found that the fear and anxiety persisted quite intensely after returning. I decided that, rather than powering through as is my tendency, to do some more calming meditation (watching the breath, the entirety of the breath rather than Goenka anapana) and to remain equanimous with the emotions as they surface at all times. This has helped to calm down.

However, I am a bit unsure as whether to proceed with this particular meditation technique. When I began experiencing the surfacing of this fear and anxiety during the retreat, I asked the AT whether I should stay with the awareness of the surfacing emotion and its associated sensations, or to continue with the scan. He told me to continue with the scan, but this somehow seems a bit counterintuitive to me, especially in light of Goenka talking about how focusing on something other than a negative thought or feeling only brings peace to the surface level of the mind, a mere distraction. I returned to doing the body-scanning this morning, and it left me feeling fairly calm and balanced, especially after concluding with some metta bhavana.

However, another issue I have with the technique is the lack of mindfulness of thought. From what I understand, the Buddha talked about FOUR domains of mindfulness - the body, sensations, thoughts and mind-states. It also just feels somewhat unnatural to me to be focused only on the body and sensations. Especially during the high arousal I experienced when these emotions were coming to the surface, during the retreat. My mind was racing accordingly. When we began learning the vipassana technique, I had a tendency to respond to these thoughts with irritation, attempting to push them away. Eventually I came to realise that I needed to just let the mind run its course and all I needed to do was stay aware of the sensations and remain equanimous. I have found that my mind can be quite active even when I am aware of the sensations in the body while scanning. However, it feels rather counterintuitive to not be mindful of these thoughts as well.

I was hoping I could get some advice from experienced meditators here. I understand that Goenka's technique and/or his retreats are subject of some controversy around here. I have also seen that there are plenty of practitioners around here though.

Much love,



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Re: Questions/Issues after Goenka-style retreat
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2019, 01:50:15 PM »
Hi Jamie,

Lets see if this could works for you.

But be remind that meditation( vipassana here) is just like any other skill or exercise, need great determinations and constant practises, as long as years. And depend what you looking for in meditations. A 2 weeks or 10 days retreat at any centre, without daily practises after that, will not yield result. And initially the only result you should expecting is, able to quickly stable your mind quick and go into calmness during meditation. But once you finished it, you are the same you, the equanimity is gone, thats that. Only seasoned and successful meditators are able to apply the same feel of calmness experienced in meditation in their daily life. They detect their emotion, feels and thoughts fast due to the ability to be very mindfulness every moment, and do them away.

Even if you experienced calmness or deep aborptions in one of the few practises, the next one might be inability to reach calmness at all. Sometimes u feel restless, sometime u feel frustrated. This is normal.

This is what i do depend on my mental state during meditation.

1. I scan from head to abdominal and back to head and repeat for several times until the focus is inward the body rather outside the atmosphere. Like 10 counts or 20 counts.
2. Then i focus on my abdominal, when i breathe in, i watch my tummy falls and i make a mental note " falling". Then as i breathed out my tummy rise , i make a mental note" rising". This will be the basis for the rest of the time.

3.  During #2, thoughts sometimes arised non stop, i focus on my solar plexus, and make mental note  " thinking" repeadtedly until thoughts subsided.
     When irritation arised, focus on solar plexus too, make mental note " irritation" repeatedly until it subsided.
    And do the same for all sensation and feeling( anxiety, fear etc)
4. For bodily sensation like itches, pain, numb and so on, focus on the affected area, and make mental note repeatedly until it goes away.
5. During the process of making this mental notes, at the same time, you should also applying the 4 foundation of mindfulness, is the thought, feeling or sensations,  neutral, wholesome( good) or unwholesome( no good)?
 Oh it is good, let it go, oh it is no good, let it go. See how the mind react to it, but let it go with the breath.

When you are skillful at the above, you will see the details of the sensation, thoughts and feelings, how it arises and where does it arises from, and see it subsided. Yes, you need to be mindful of what happened inside your mind and body and let it go with the said method.

A Mind Unshaken, when touches by worldy matter, sorrowless, secure and dustless, this is the ultimate great blessing~ Mangala Sutta


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Re: Questions/Issues after Goenka-style retreat
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2019, 06:34:08 PM »
Hi Jamie,

Try having a read of the Shamatha/Calm-abiding instruction linked on the forum homepage. You may find a less-pressured technique allows you to be mindful of the emotion without being overcome by it.

It is important to anchor mindfulness in the sensations of breathing, yet there is still room to be aware of, and investigate, other arising phenomena.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~


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