Author Topic: Vipassana Retreat Experience  (Read 5603 times)

Juanathon11

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Vipassana Retreat Experience
« on: August 12, 2010, 04:58:28 AM »
I've been waiting to write about this experience for about a year now, in hopes that I could get an explanation and some advice from someone with Vipassana experience...so I hope you get the chance to respond.  About a year and a half ago I left my job and started traveling around Latin America with the single goal of experiencing as much as possible and leaving my life open to whatever I encountered. On a train in Peru, I met an Australian couple that told me about their experience with Vipassana meditation in Brasil.  Always up to try something different and a little crazy, and having a strong interest in meditation (and Buddhism), I decided it would be a perfect opportunity for me.  All of my experiences up until this point with meditation had been very positive; meditating on love or kindness in Yoga class and meditating at my own free will in my room.  I had felt like I had really gotten something out of those experiences.  When I arrived to the meditation center in Vassouras, Brasil, I was excited to get started but also in a strange position in my life.  At the time, my girlfriend had just left for the states after a 3-month disappointing struggle of a travel with her and I realized that my travels were coming to end (without having put thought into what I would do next).  I knew the relationship was on its last straw, and that I wasn't in a good spot to start the course. I also thought though that it might be a good thing for me, in order to recognize my solitude or independence in a positive manner.  As the layers of distractions pealed away over the first few days of meditation I started dropping into a deep depression/craziness.  I remember feeling somewhat bi-polar by day 5 or 6 and having extreme bursts of elation amongst my depression.  I woke myself up 3 nights in a row laughing hysterically from dreams that I was having (which had never happened to me before). I dreaded the break periods between meditations because my anxiety would take off when I wasn't in meditation, concentrating.  I had a hard time sleeping at night unless I would practice meditation to keep my mind off of the anxiety.  At the depths of my depression, I felt like I was almost split between good and evil and I was trying to defend myself from my head, which was spitting out thoughts from the darkest corners of my mind.  I had experienced small bouts of depression before this, but have not necessarily had problems with it.  In other words, the emotional experience was all new to me.  I was thinking about leaving around day 7 or 8 (but I'm stubborn and never give up), and actually got to go talk to the instructor during lunch twice about not knowing if I was getting anything out of the course because I felt like I didn't know how to escape my own mental torture.  He told me to take it easy, just keep meditating, and not wonder if I'm doing the meditation right or wrong.  I made it through all 10 days and experienced some odd emotional sensations when finishing up the course.  I remember the first day we were able to talk, I felt elated talking with some of the other people at the convention.  As I continued talking with people my elation turned to ecstasy and I shared a moment with one old Brasilian guy just laughing for no reason at all (no words spoken).  At this time I started to feel so good, I had to remove myself from the situation (bc it was intense).  This was a feeling I had only felt before when using the drug ecstasy (which worried me a bit).  It felt like a bunch of serotonin was being released all at once.  The days after the meditation I felt pretty corky socially, but also extremely in tune and concentrated to everything (emotions, stimuli, etc...).  From the extreme stress of the situation, I also got sick soon after I left.  I came out of the experience not sure whether it was good or bad for me.  I sure learned a lot about my mind and suffering and a lot of things that I don't want to try to put into words.  I also have not been able to return to meditating though.  Especially the Vipassana technique, and scanning my body gives me great difficulty probably because the negativity is associated with it now.  Maybe you could shed light on some new positive meditation techniques I could use or a way I can try to break this association.  I also have debated back and forth with others, and myself whether it is good or bad to be busy and distracted from your idle self.  I did not find harmony in my idle self during those 10 days, and wonder whether it is possible for me personally to find harmony in such a way.  In addition I cherish having human interaction as a part of my life, and have a hard time remaining happy when isolated from this and my ability to express myself.  Some people try to tell me (and our mainstream) the only way to be happy is to keep yourself busy and productive (putting your energy into something) and have something you are going after or trying to achieve.  I don't want to believe this to be 100% true, but I feel most happy when I have something to put my energy into, to work on, and to create.  I also see this as reaching for something that I don't currently have and a distraction from my true essence.  The problem is that when I got the chance to experience my true essence I was at a blank slate phase of my life, where the things I had built up fell apart and I couldn't deal with the discomfort of being idle and disconnected from normal human contact.  At this point, a year later, I feel good and am working at something I am passionate about and credit that to a large part for my happiness. What do you think?  Sorry for such a long thread, but this is the first time I have written or explained the experience in full.  I welcome any comments or feedback.

Morning Dew

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Re: Vipassana Retreat Experience
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2010, 10:05:45 AM »
Welcome aboard friend :)

Mindfulness meditation will bring up unresolved emotions. This sort of meditation is primarly abot facing the conditioned self as it is and that is never sweet ;)
i would suggest you to let Vipassana go and start anew with Shamatha which will naturaly lead you into Vipassana. In Shamatha you will develope calming compassion towards the conditioned self so you stop fighting it or desiering new ways to escape the self (via new meditation technique etc)

without developing compassion towards your( conditioned)self insight meditation can turn into hell :)
Our ego feels that silence can kill it and therefore will try to find other sorts of techniques which include more funny to do rituals, mantras, visualistions, sounds, clothing, hair style, new name, etc...

Sit in silence with your conditioned self and work on developing compassion for that self you think you are. Hold the ego's hand while watching it burn in the light of awareness.

Remain mindfuly relaxed

unlikelybdst

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Re: Vipassana Retreat Experience
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2010, 03:20:28 PM »
I also have not been able to return to meditating though.  Especially the Vipassana technique, and scanning my body gives me great difficulty probably because the negativity is associated with it now.  Maybe you could shed light on some new positive meditation techniques I could use or a way I can try to break this association.  I also have debated back and forth with others, and myself whether it is good or bad to be busy and distracted from your idle self.  I did not find harmony in my idle self during those 10 days, and wonder whether it is possible for me personally to find harmony in such a way.

I'm not sure if vipassana is about finding harmony per se - if done right, you'll be dealing with all of the emotions/thoughts/feelings that ego is throwing your way, which is useful for learning about your mind, but not necessarily for "feeling harmony". Eventually, if you do this for long enough, you should be able to clear the major layers of conditioning and get to some semblance of harmony. But in the beginning it's tough (I'm still in this beginning phase myself). On the other hand, sounds like you have a lot of ego "material" to work with, which means that the short-term payoff from a disciplined meditation practice could be pretty good (if done right).

As Morning Dew said, try Shamatha. Deep concentration can be very pleasant, and might even feel harmonious for the duration of the sitting. But it will also take work to get there.

I've been reading Tara Bach's "Radical Acceptance", and she talks a lot about people stumbling over major psychological obstacles during insight meditation - painful memories from childhood, fears, unresolved anger, depression etc etc. According to her, unless you are equipped to deal with it on your own, seek help from a meditation teacher or a psychotherapist. You'll know if it gets too overwhelming.

Eliminating these strong hindrances through mindfulness is probably the only way to a tranquil, harmonious self - if that's your ultimate goal. Soothing relaxing meditation only makes you feel good for a while, but doesn't really do much to get rid of those issues once and for all (but it does feel nice!)

imho.

soma

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Re: Vipassana Retreat Experience
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2010, 04:33:03 PM »
Hello Juanathon11 !

You wrote:

"I dreaded the break periods between meditations because my anxiety would take off when I wasn't in meditation, concentrating."

As both Morning Dew and unlikelybdst have suggested it seems like you have used the 'meditation' to block of your feelings, thoughts and sensations rather than facing them. Vipassana is is not about feeling good or being in harmony but being with exactly what is at the present moment, whatever arises in the present moment and not judging it as good or bad.
It is about seeing the true nature of all that arises in you rather than trying to change what arises.
The first thing you discover when you sit is that you have no control over that which arise and that it arises independent of a 'you' and therefore trying to hold on to or reject that which arise is leading to suffering because it is constantly changing.
 

Juanathon11

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Re: Vipassana Retreat Experience
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2010, 05:38:31 AM »
so how do you feel about your waking life?  do you just observe it or are you at the drivers wheel?

Juanathon11

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Re: Vipassana Retreat Experience
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2010, 04:38:29 PM »
Quote
As both Morning Dew and unlikelybdst have suggested it seems like you have used the 'meditation' to block of your feelings, thoughts and sensations rather than facing them. Vipassana is is not about feeling good or being in harmony but being with exactly what is at the present moment, whatever arises in the present moment and not judging it as good or bad.

Maybe you can shed some light on this for me then.  I know the meditation experience is unique to everything just observing whatever arises, but I wondered sometimes during meditation if I was putting too much energy into concentrating on physical sensations.  When I was concentrating hard on these sensations, the thoughts or feelings that got my anxiety going during breaks didn't arise often (only when I lost my concentration).  I didn't necessarily try to make this happen during meditation, rather it was just a result of what I was doing.  Does this mean I should adjust something I was doing in the meditation?

soma

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Re: Vipassana Retreat Experience
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2010, 04:57:50 PM »
Quote
As both Morning Dew and unlikelybdst have suggested it seems like you have used the 'meditation' to block of your feelings, thoughts and sensations rather than facing them. Vipassana is is not about feeling good or being in harmony but being with exactly what is at the present moment, whatever arises in the present moment and not judging it as good or bad.

Maybe you can shed some light on this for me then.  I know the meditation experience is unique to everything just observing whatever arises, but I wondered sometimes during meditation if I was putting too much energy into concentrating on physical sensations.  When I was concentrating hard on these sensations, the thoughts or feelings that got my anxiety going during breaks didn't arise often (only when I lost my concentration).  I didn't necessarily try to make this happen during meditation, rather it was just a result of what I was doing.  Does this mean I should adjust something I was doing in the meditation?

If you did a ten day Goenka course you were told to pay attention only to physical sensations and not your thoughts and feelings and so on, right ?
So you followed instructions which is of course a good thing to do but your thoughts, feelings and the rest is connected with your physical sensations and if you ignore them (which are the instructions in Goenka tradition) you will miss out on valuable information and therefore valuable insight.
The instructions are to see impermanence in the physical sensations whether they are nice or not so nice and thats what I meant when I said that it seemed like you were looking for an escape from what actually was your reality then - anxiety, depression and craziness instead of penetrating those feelings and see that they are arising and passing rapidly and are not really that permanent as they seem. This is vipassana, at least as I understand it, facing reality of the present moment exactly as it is and seeing whatever arises through the lens of the three characteristics, or rather, see that everything in our sensate reality bare these three characteristics - impermanence, suffering/unsatisfactoriness and not-self.
So the content of what arises is not important or interesting when doing vipassana but only that whatever arises has these characteristics.
Personally I make a mental 'note' of everything that comes up - 'thinking', 'hearing', 'smelling', 'pain', 'itching', 'wandering'(mind) and so forth as accurately as I can. 'Practical Insight Meditation is a very good book on vipassana and you can read the whole book online.


Morning Dew

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Re: Vipassana Retreat Experience
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2010, 10:04:04 PM »
Hi Juanathon11,

I couldnt find the part which concernes your trouble so please have patience and read through this article even if you did before, re-read it once again.
http://www.vipassana.com/meditation/mindfulness_in_plain_english_14.php

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
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Re: Vipassana Retreat Experience
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2010, 07:01:08 AM »
...  I came out of the experience not sure whether it was good or bad for me.  I sure learned a lot about my mind and suffering and a lot of things that I don't want to try to put into words.  I also have not been able to return to meditating though.  Especially the Vipassana technique, and scanning my body gives me great difficulty probably because the negativity is associated with it now.

Probably because it is not an efficacious technique and Goenka has got it all wrong.

Maybe you could shed light on some new positive meditation techniques I could use or a way I can try to break this association.

Yes. Read this:: http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php/topic,800.msg6556.html#msg6556

Then try it.

I also have debated back and forth with others, and myself whether it is good or bad to be busy and distracted from your idle self.  I did not find harmony in my idle self during those 10 days, and wonder whether it is possible for me personally to find harmony in such a way.

You have no "self" - this is a concept on the one hand and a collection of conditioned habits of doing, perceiving, feeling, thinking etc. which the mind winds into a story called "self" - a fabrication.

When you find yourself idle then practice meditation as described in the link above.

In addition I cherish having human interaction as a part of my life, and have a hard time remaining happy when isolated from this and my ability to express myself.

Again, you have no self.

Some people try to tell me (and our mainstream) the only way to be happy is to keep yourself busy and productive (putting your energy into something) and have something you are going after or trying to achieve.  I don't want to believe this to be 100% true, but I feel most happy when I have something to put my energy into, to work on, and to create.

This is a big lie. BIG.

When you are creating you have detached from the false sense of self (to some extent) and are doing something in the now, in the moment - it is a form of meditation. Japanese flower arranging or "Kado", "the way of the flowers" is a great example of this "meditation in action".

I also see this as reaching for something that I don't currently have and a distraction from my true essence.

True.

The problem is that when I got the chance to experience my true essence I was at a blank slate phase of my life, where the things I had built up fell apart and I couldn't deal with the discomfort of being idle and disconnected from normal human contact.

That's not very blank - that is full of conditioned pain - or "Dukkha", suffering.

At this point, a year later, I feel good and am working at something I am passionate about and credit that to a large part for my happiness.

Meditation in action again.

What do you think?  Sorry for such a long thread, but this is the first time I have written or explained the experience in full.  I welcome any comments or feedback.

I feel you are well on your way to happiness. Need to drop some ideas about who you are and actually learn to EXPERIENCE who you are (or are not) through meditation - both formal sitting as described above and mindfulness of everything you do.

Welcome to the forums.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: September 01, 2010, 07:05:33 AM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

kidnovice

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    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: Vipassana Retreat Experience
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2010, 11:47:31 PM »
Quote
so how do you feel about your waking life?  do you just observe it or are you at the drivers wheel?

If you don't take the wheel, who or what will? watch the road but take skillful actions to make sure you are getting where you want to go. And if you get lost, have an accident, or end up somewhere unexpected, try to accept it calmly, and with a smile if possible. But whatever you do, don't let go of the wheel, or try to grab some shit you don't need in the back seat. That's how accidents happen.

Oh, and don't be afraid to ask for directions. :) 

KN
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

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