Emotional Health Prior to Vipassana Retreat

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Emotional Health Prior to Vipassana Retreat

Postby picasso » Fri Dec 03, 2010 11:57 am

I apologize in advance if my question is out of place for such a forum, but I was hoping to receive the opinions of those who practice Vipassana.

A little background: I took a couple of 8 week courses in Mindful Meditation, which had been to assist in the treatment of my diagnosis of depression. I did learn the basics of Vipassana and had learned to observe the mind. I found it to be somewhat helpful while I was meditating and I enjoyed the learning process. Unfortunately, I didn't continue much after the courses ended.

Present time: I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD two years ago (the depression wasn't an accurate diagnosis 20 years earlier). I've been considering an S.N. Goenka 10-day retreat to enable myself to essentially "stop judging" the thoughts/memories that keep racing through my mind. The memories are invoking such sad emotions, but they're memories that I'm chosing to think about (as opposed to "flashbacks").

One small concern of mine is that meditation may bring up memories that I haven't remembered (if there are any left.) I believe I'm fully facing my memories, but I'd like to be able to remove the emotional reaction to them. My biggest concern about being at a retreat is, should I not be able to simply observe my thoughts and begin to cry, I will be dissruptive to the other students.

Any thoughts, experiences or suggestions would be appreciated.

Metta
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Re: Emotional Health Prior to Vipassana Retreat

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Dec 03, 2010 12:33 pm

I think that it might be an idea to contact those who are giving/managing the retreat you are contemplating Picasso, and talk through the issues with them...

best wishes

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The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: Emotional Health Prior to Vipassana Retreat

Postby Monkey Mind » Fri Dec 03, 2010 6:42 pm

My own experience as a person with a history of PTSD, attending a 10-day retreat: I experienced both hallucinations and some scary delusions, but I was very committed to seeing the process through so the scary stuff passed quickly. The benefit far out-weighed the negative. But only you can know if you are ready to face your toughest moments or not. I do know this: I was not the only person on the retreats who had strong emotional stuff come up, and everyone seemed to survive it okay.

If you are on any medications, or if you disclosed the PTSD diagnosis on the application, the assistant teacher will probably contact you and ask clarifying questions to make sure the retreat is appropriate for you. Don't be intimidated by this, and use this as an opportunity to create a safety plan for yourself. It might result in the AT making some special appointments with you as a check-in, or making some other special arrangements. [I chose not to disclose my PTSD on the application, and that meant on my first retreat I was alone with the scary stuff. Looking back on that experience, and having the experience of having served on some retreats and seeing the special accommodations made for some people. I think I would have benefited a lot from having the AT know my situation...]
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
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Re: Emotional Health Prior to Vipassana Retreat

Postby picasso » Fri Dec 03, 2010 8:53 pm

Sanghamitta, thank you for your reply, and yes, I think I should discuss it with the retreat.

Monkey Mind, I'm so glad you responded to my question. I was hoping to hear from someone with PTSD who had attended a retreat. I do think my biggest fear was the possibility of disturbing the other students. I've been playing these memories over and over again in my head for a very long time now and I do believe a retreat will help me see them for what they are - thoughts!, and allow me to move forward.

Thank you for being so forthcoming with your experience and for your suggestions of disclosure. I think being upfront with the retreat would be wise for me. I'm so glad you found your first retreat beneficial despite facing the delusions & hallucinations alone... clearly you benefitted enough to continue with subsequent retreats.

Metta
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Re: Emotional Health Prior to Vipassana Retreat

Postby Monkey Mind » Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:27 pm

picasso wrote:I do think my biggest fear was the possibility of disturbing the other students.

Part of the training is to learn not to be offended or distracted by the actions of others. If you have a crying fit during one of the sessions (and many people do), the other students will learn to be equanimous with that. So really everyone benefits. :tongue:

Ben is a good resource for your question. I don't know when you leave for your retreat, but he returns from his January 10. http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=6423&p=101707#p101707
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
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Re: Emotional Health Prior to Vipassana Retreat

Postby kiwi » Sat Dec 11, 2010 12:58 am

Picasso , its good that you are going to contact the center before you go .Its my understanding ,that some of the goenka vipassana centers have individual mediation cells and through out the course you can have a one on one with the teacher if the need arises .
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