vipassana craziness

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

vipassana craziness

Postby seahorse » Sun Dec 09, 2012 1:09 am

Hello all,
I left a 10 Goenka retreat today after only making it to day 3. I'm so disappointed. It was a 3 day trip to my own personal hell.
Sila was fine, I had no bother with that. The difficulty was cultivating Samadhi. I was dismayed to find my mind thrashing about like a fish thrown on dry land, and as sessions progressed to 'sleeping volcano' day I found myself in the midst of an increasingly turbulent emotional storm - the ferocity and intensity knocked me off my feet. I also heard voices. The wonderful AT was initially adamant that this was a good sign - proof that Anapanna was doing its work and bringing the gross level impurities to the surface.
It became clear however that by the end of day 3, all concentration of the mind was lost through this storm. The AT advised that without being able to observe sensation I would find it very difficult to move to the actual Vipassana method the following day. So I left.
I observed some interesting things whilst at the centre, but overall feel the hugely intensive schedule was too much and that maybe Vipassana is a bit too hardcore for me right now. I came into contact with something very frightening and I freaked out.
Is such a full on response normal or unusual on these courses? Does anyone know of anywhere I could learn Vipassana on a slightly more flexible schedule or is the only effective way this very intense method?
Thankful for any advice.
Death sweeps away those who spend their lives gathering flowers
- Dhammapada 47

The only true freedom is freedom from the heart's desires;
And the only true happiness this way lies...
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby Ben » Sun Dec 09, 2012 1:45 am

Hi Seahorse,

Its completely ok. A lot of people have left part way through a course for very similar reasons. I have witnessed it myself serving on courses as well as sitting on courses since the mid-1980s. I've even left part way through a long course myself after some decades of practice and attending retreats.
Right now is probably not the right time for you to attempt a ten-day course. Maybe a bit further down the track if you are still interested.
with metta,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby nibbuti » Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:00 am

Hi seahorse. I've never done the formal Goenka retreat because Anapanasati as taught by the Buddha feels most natural to me, but your reaction is pretty normal either way. If I were you I'd make sure to get enough sleep + detox (from gross/sexual activity, unhealthy foods, caffeeine, alcohol etc), to ground your body and mind before doing serious meditation, or else your time is better spend going to the beach, sauna or on the running track.

:toilet:
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby James the Giant » Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:05 am

Wow, sounds like you had an intense time. Yep, the Goenka courses are full-on, almost any other retreat will be easier and more relaxed pace. But, saying that, pretty much all meditation courses involve long hours of meditation. Some may just have 7 or 8 hours, instead of the 10 or 11 of the Goenka ones.
Don't feel too bad about having to leave. I ran away in the middle of my second 10-day course! And a few years later I came back and tried again, and finished successfully.

One good thing that came out of this for you, is that now you know your mind is unruly, out of control. It's a wild animal. Most people don't ever realise that, they think they're the boss, HA!

I see you are in Yorkshire... I don't know of any particular retreat centres near you, but the Ajahn Chah monasteries run very good meditation courses, (mostly by donation too) and there are quite a few monasteries in the UK. You'd need to contact them by email... http://forestsangha.org/monasteries/ They don't have a convenient centralised website listing course dates, etc.
They have monks running the retreats, so they try to work through problems and tailor the method to fit you, instead of presenting just one way like the Goenka people do. Goenka's Vipassana is great, and it suits a lot of people perfectly, but there are just so many people going through their beginners courses that there's no flexibility to change the standardised technique to fit an individual.

Good luck and best wishes!
Oh, and if you are still feeling weird and turbulent today, I recommend eating a lot of heavy food, and maybe doing something really physical, to bring you back down from whatever headspace the last three days put you in.
:namaste:
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Dec 09, 2012 3:13 am

Hi Fran/seahorse,

As others have said, don't feel like a failure. I've only done one Goenka retreat, in 2007, (my usual practice is Mahasi-style) and I found it quite tough going, but very worthwhile. If I handn't done a several short retreats before that I would have found it extremely difficult.

As James says, there are alternatives, such as the Ajahn Chah ForestSangha, Mahasi-based teachers, and so on. The positive side of the Goenka organisation is that it delivers a consistent, programme, and the retreats are very well organised and strict (I like that --- it keeps away [or at least suppresses] those who want to pontificate...). The downside is that there is no flexibility to modify the programme in case of difficulties. So, if you are able to stick with it, it's great (I'd do another retreat if I didn't have access to local monastic instruction). If you can't, then you don't have much choice other than leaving. (I guess the alternative is to stay and not really follow the instructions, but that seems a little pointless. If I go on a retreat I like to commit myself to following the teacher for the duration.)

It's different if you are in a small group, and a more flexible programme. My local teachers would simply switch instructions (from Mahasi-style vipassana to Metta in the case I'm thinking of) if a student was overwhelmed with difficulties.

:anjali:
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby DAWN » Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:14 am

Keep your sens doors guarded, and it's better to practice a little every day rather a lot once a year.

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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby seahorse » Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:56 am

Thank you, everyone, for these helpful and insightful replies. This board really is of high quality.

Ben, your words give me much reassurance - I am grateful.

Nibbuti, that's wise advice indeed. I have most of that in check but could certainly do with dropping the caffeine and certain foods. I will begin a conscious detox as of today, thanks.

James, I will be sure to investigate. Your compassionate response has much of use to me, and I will ensure I eat grounding food today too...I am indeed feeling kinda weird. You're the second person who has suggested the Ajahn Chah monastery to me so I will do my homework!

Mikenz66, absolutely spot on there with everything you say. Shorter retreats may be a good idea for me in the next few years. Good advice.

Dawn, you are right. Perhaps I should stop trying to 'run the London Marathon' without having sufficient daily training.

Gratitude and metta, you're all stars :thumbsup:
Death sweeps away those who spend their lives gathering flowers
- Dhammapada 47

The only true freedom is freedom from the heart's desires;
And the only true happiness this way lies...
- Matt Johnson, The The
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby Anagarika » Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:19 am

It may also be true that the Goenka style marathon vipassana sessions are not altogether the right approach for most people. I discussed one time with a senior Thai Bhikkhu the Goenka retreats, and he was not in favor of them at all. The feeling was that they were not consistent with the teachings of Buddha, and could create unhealthy patterns vs. the step by step approach that the Buddha taught. You might do better to get some instruction from a senior Vipassana teacher or Bhikkhu on S/V meditation or jhana practice.

The beauty of what Buddha taught was freedom from suffering, not the creation of more unnecessary suffering. The Goenka retreats may be marathons for the sake of marathon practice; some may benefit, and many may not. My feeling is that the approach taught in traditional samatha-vipassana will yield you good results, without feeling that you didn't complete the unrealistic and perhaps punishing 26 miles of the marathon. You left after three days? No worries. Come back to Samatha-Vipasaana as the Buddha taught it.
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Dec 10, 2012 5:42 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:. . . Come back to Samatha-Vipasaana as the Buddha taught it.
And exactly how did the Buddha teach it? A ten day course, while hard work, is not a marathon.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby Anagarika » Mon Dec 10, 2012 5:56 am

tiltbillings wrote:
BuddhaSoup wrote:. . . Come back to Samatha-Vipasaana as the Buddha taught it.
And exactly how did the Buddha teach it? A ten day course, while hard work, is not a marathon.


My suggestion was only that the Satipattana Sutta and Anapanasati Sutta, for example, express these teachings on meditation. That the OP might find benefit from learning meditation that does not require what I would consider a marathon (or to be more fair, a half-marathon) of sitting.

There are some huge fans of the Goenka method. I get that. There was a nice documentary on the use of Goenka methods on a prison population in India, that reduced recidivism. Obviously, there is merit in the Goenka approach for some.
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Dec 10, 2012 6:16 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
BuddhaSoup wrote:. . . Come back to Samatha-Vipasaana as the Buddha taught it.
And exactly how did the Buddha teach it? A ten day course, while hard work, is not a marathon.


My suggestion was only that the Satipattana Sutta and Anapanasati Sutta, for example, express these teachings on meditation. That the OP might find benefit from learning meditation that does not require what I would consider a marathon (or to be more fair, a half-marathon) of sitting.
That would be your consideration, but there is something to be said for getting a taste of practice that comes from an intensive retreat that one is not likely to get otherwise. Also, while a short intensive retreat may not be for everybody, the Goenka practice is certainly inline with what the Buddha taught.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby Mr Man » Mon Dec 10, 2012 7:58 am

tiltbillings wrote: the Goenka practice is certainly inline with what the Buddha taught.

It is presented within the context of what the Buddha taught but the "technique" and format? The Goenka practice is not main stream Theravada.
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Dec 10, 2012 8:24 am

Mr Man wrote:
tiltbillings wrote: the Goenka practice is certainly inline with what the Buddha taught.

It is presented within the context of what the Buddha taught but the "technique" and format? The Goenka practice is not main stream Theravada.
And what exactly is mainstream Theravada? Who is a good represntative it?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby DAWN » Mon Dec 10, 2012 8:57 am

I am agree with Buddha Soap,

Peoples have to be informed about particularities of Goenka (semi-marathon) method. And after, they can take their own choice.
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:01 am

DAWN wrote:I am agree with Buddha Soap,

Peoples have to be informed about particularities of Goenka (semi-marathon) method. And after, they can take their own choice.
There is no surprise with these retreats. The schedules are made known before participating in them, and there is plenty of information on the Web, so there is no excuse not to be informed. Also, this is not a marathon method, semi or otherwise.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby Mr Man » Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:06 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Mr Man wrote:
tiltbillings wrote: the Goenka practice is certainly inline with what the Buddha taught.

It is presented within the context of what the Buddha taught but the "technique" and format? The Goenka practice is not main stream Theravada.
And what exactly is mainstream Theravada? Who is a good represntative it?

Well no doubt there will be some variation in opinion here but to me it would have a strong conection to monasticism.
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby Ben » Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:10 am

Mr Man wrote:The Goenka practice is not main stream Theravada.


Says who?

In Myanmar it is considered garden-variety Theravada. Identical to U Ba Khin's presentation and teaching, and very close to Mingun Sayadaw's teaching.
And there are very many teachers offering intensive residential courses of meditation, some of whom, make a 10-day course under the guidance of SN Goenka pale in austerity in comparison.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:13 am

Mr Man wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:And what exactly is mainstream Theravada? Who is a good represntative it?

Well no doubt there will be some variation in opinion here but to me it would have a strong conection to monasticism.
Because Geonka is not a monastic, it is not in line with Theravada, not in line with the Buddha's teachings?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby cooran » Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:16 am

I've done many 10+ day Retreats from different traditions, including Goenka, Mahasi, Loving-Kindness, Dzogchen, Mahayana .... all are difficult if one practices diligently.
All are rewarding if one 'stays the distance' and has daily contact with the Buddhist Teacher.

with metta
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Re: vipassana craziness

Postby DAWN » Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:20 am

tiltbillings wrote:
DAWN wrote:I am agree with Buddha Soap,

Peoples have to be informed about particularities of Goenka (semi-marathon) method. And after, they can take their own choice.
There is no surprise with these retreats. The schedules are made known before participating in them, and there is plenty of information on the Web, so there is no excuse not to be informed. Also, this is not a marathon method, semi or otherwise.


I have no doubt ! :anjali:
And actually, i think that peoples goes to Goenka because of his method. So peoples are serching for it. So there is no problem.

But i have conviction that little bit by little bit is better.
Why?
Because in studying, any lecon without pause is lost lecon. There is to be a harmony between lecon and pause. And more short is this cycle, more there is lecons, more there is pauses, and so more deeper is comprehention.
Lecon is the life, and pause is the calm of meditation.
Like a microscope, or map, you have to find your own scale of studying. When there is one cycle of lecon/pause, biiiiig lecon (a year without practice), and biiiiig pause (retreat), so the scale will be very big too, and you will be able to see in general, but it will be impossible to go closer, to reduce the scale for more deeper understanding.

After, there is a scale when the lecon and pause goes together - insight arise.

It's my opinion.
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