Goenka Vipassana Retreats

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Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby withoutcolour » Sat Jan 02, 2010 5:57 pm

(I think this may belong in the Dhammic free for all section, but I think it's also a Beginner-style question too)

I'm thinking of participating in a 10 day Goenka vipassana retreat in western Massachusetts (in July -- you have to register pretty far in advance to get in!)... and it's (obviously) free!!!
Has anyone here been to one before? I would love to hear some personal accounts from members.
Any idea what to expect?
I've done day-long retreats before (6 hours of meditation), and I'm going to try meditating longer and longer each day before the retreat. So hopefully that will prepare me.
If anyone lives in the area and wants to participate on the same days, let me know! I'm doing it the second-to-last week of July (because the LAST week of July I'm heading off to Thailand for three weeks, woohoo!).

Hope to hear from you all
Metta,
wc
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Re: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby Monkey Mind » Sat Jan 02, 2010 7:37 pm

I participated in one, and more planned in the future. And there is a local weekly sit in that tradition.

Loved it. Recommend it. Wish I had done it years ago. Redefined my practice, which was becoming too eclectic (=new agey).

My advice: follow the rules, don't "cheat". My roommate secretly kept his cell phone, and was texting and checking emails at night. He left after the fifth day, no explanation to anyone. Others were sneaking food back to their room, so that they could have an evening meal. When we could all talk again, they stated they wished they had not done that, the behavior interfered with their advancement in practice.

My other advice: I had no idea that I could injure myself meditating. Third day in I tweaked my back, probably the result of sitting for so long when I was not used to that. The next three days were very painful. I wish I had brought athletic injury supplies: Tiger Balm, ace bandage, etc.
"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: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby Monkey Mind » Sat Jan 02, 2010 7:45 pm

My other other advice: based on other retreats I had been on, I had some preconceived ideas about certain meditation postures being important, and that comfort was not so important. This probably contributed to my back injury. There are many cushions and seats of all varieties there, USE THEM! The teacher said to me, "This technique is not about self torture!" Also, wear comfortable clothes. By the 7th day, I could count how many threads were used in making my underwear, and not by visual inspection... :tongue:
"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.

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Re: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jan 02, 2010 7:51 pm

Hi withoutcolour,

I wrote a long summary of my experiences a couple of years ago on E-Sangha, but that seems long gone...

The Goenka retreats are well-organised, cheap, and very useful. The standard two meals and no talking as any other good Theravada retreat. Goenka's technique is different from what I normally use (Mahasi style), but it was very worthwhile learning to do the body scanning really well because we use it when doing walking meditation (when standing at the end of a walk), and at the start of sitting to relax the body and bring up awareness of the whole body.

One key (to me) instruction that Goenka only gives towards the end of the retreat is to maintain awareness of the body at all times, not just when sitting.

The schedule is quite tough if you have not done any other retreats, particularly since there is only sitting meditation (I normally do half walking, half sitting). I spent a lot of the break time walking to keep my body working...

There may well be little annoyances and stresses (inevitable on any retreat), but as Monkey Mind says, just follow the instructions, and drop any preconceptions and strive with diligence...

Metta
Mike
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Re: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby Monkey Mind » Sat Jan 02, 2010 8:19 pm

Hehe, Mike I read report on E-Sangha. I was trying to decide if I wanted to do the retreat or not, and your comments were very helpful in my decision making. Thank you.
"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: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby Ben » Sat Jan 02, 2010 11:07 pm

Hi Withoutcolour
I've done about 30 retreats in this tradition. About 24 10-day courses and some longer and shorter 'courses'.
Ten hours of meditation from the outside may seem a lot, but once you start doing it, it should feel natural. There are lots of breaks in between sessions.
The advice that Monkeymind said regarding following the rules is sound. Part of the practice is the development of the paramitas, and one of the ways you develop adhitthana (strong determination) is to follow the code of discipline (which is really there for your benefit). As Monkeymind said, those who do not follow the rules, feel as though they let themselves down. Mike's observations are also good.
My advice is really to echo what's said before - leave behind any preconceptions you have about vipassana practice and just practice as per the instructions.
kind regards

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.

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Re: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby withoutcolour » Sun Jan 03, 2010 4:16 am

Thank you guys.
Your posts were all really helpful.
I think I'm definitely going to sign up for the course. How can I resist? -- it's free!
I will report back when I come back, for sure. It won't be until July, but maybe you all will remember.
And I plan on definitely following the rules!
One thing I'm worried about is: when I meditated at my zen temple (especially the 6 hour retreat), I found my feet falling asleep a lot, and the transition from seated meditation into walking meditation was often clumsy and painful. I am going to have to work on a position that works for me. I am thinking that the foot sleeping thing could have been attributed to my being overweight at the time (I've lost all the weight), so I'll practice my posture until then.
Thanks again! :sage:
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Re: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jan 03, 2010 4:43 am

Greetings withoutcolour,

If the physical discomfort becomes unbearable, you should be able to meditate in a chair.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby Ben » Sun Jan 03, 2010 5:18 am

Hi withoutcolour
withoutcolour wrote: How can I resist? -- it's free!

Keep in mind that courses are financed from the donations of grateful participants. If you feel a sense of gratitude after the course and would like to contribute so that someone else can participate - then i would encourage you to donate something commensurate with your means.

withoutcolour wrote:I found my feet falling asleep a lot, and the transition from seated meditation into walking meditation was often clumsy and painful. I am going to have to work on a position that works for me.

At Shelbourne Falls, you will have access to chairs and other sitting 'implements' to help you.
All the best with your course!
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: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby Monkey Mind » Sun Jan 03, 2010 6:02 am

I agree with Ben, don't think of the course as free. Everyone who "works" at the retreat center is a volunteer. I was grateful for the teachings, and have contributed dana, but volunteering is another option for giving back.
"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: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby withoutcolour » Sun Jan 03, 2010 6:25 pm

Oh I would love to volunteer once I complete a course!

Heh, in regards to the FREE thing: well I'm fairly poor, so the fact that I don't have to pay is pretty fantastic. The zen center I used to frequent charges an arm and a leg for retreats. So I guess it just sounds too good to be true in comparison. :)
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Re: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby Clayton » Sat Jan 16, 2010 6:39 am

Hey I went on my first Goenka retreat recently. It ended on the 20th of December. I would recommend it to anyone serious in meditation. It is very challenging at times... on day 6 I had the worst 15 minutes of my life in meditation... on day 7 the best 15 minutes of my life doing the exact same thing. Its great to see impermanence in so clear a way. Since coming back I have continued the recommended sittings in the morning and evening... it has changed my entire outlook. After having played intellectual games with Buddhism for years I feel like I am finally working a honest practice. Nothing can really prepare you for sitting that long every day, but you get used to it. I can't wait to go on retreat again this summer... Feel free to ask me any questions you have concerning the retreat...

Metta,

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Re: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby Ben » Sat Jan 16, 2010 6:59 am

Well done Clayton!
May you continue to grow in the Dhamma!
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: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby cooran » Sat Jan 16, 2010 7:37 am

Hello all,

In Australia, last year the cost of organising a retreat, of having an actual physical centre and land, providing beds, mats, cushions, electricity, water, cooking costs, food, linen, pillows, beverages, etc. for 10 days came to approximately $23.00 per day per retreatant. Which would be about $230.00 per yogi for the 10 days ... with no profit factor. Not to mention that the Assistant Teachers, office staff and cooks are not paid.

So ... though this is not asked for, and it not necessary to pay anything, meditators would do well to remember that the very first thing the Buddha taught those new to his teachings is Dana (Generosity).

with metta
Chris
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Re: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby living peacefully » Thu Jan 21, 2010 12:08 am

I will be attending my first 10 day in March in Georgia. I have a couple of questions about the jewelry restriction. I am female and have pierced ears. Would I be allowed to keep very simple, very small gold hoops in? Also, would I be allowed to wear my wedding ring - gold band, no stones? Ipod will stay at home, cell phone will stay turned off and in the car. I'm vegan, so I'm not concerned about the menu and I don't eat in the evenings, so I won't miss not having "dinner." I also have nice, loose meditation wear, so no problems there...just curious about the jewelry.

Any guidance from experienced folks is greatly appreciated.

Living Peacefully :namaste:
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Re: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby zavk » Thu Jan 21, 2010 12:25 am

Hi living_peacefully

I've done a few Goenka retreats but never had to worry about the issue of jewelery simply because I don't wear any. But I think it is likely that the course management will ask you to remove the gold hoops. As for your wedding ring, I'm not too sure about that. Maybe Ben (who has sat many, many courses) can comment on that.

All the best for your course.
With metta,
zavk
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Re: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby Ben » Thu Jan 21, 2010 4:58 am

Hi living peacefully and Zavk

You won't need to remove your wedding ring. I wear a wedding ring and I don't take mine off during a retreat and I've never been asked to.

Your earrings might be ok if they are functional and being worn to ensure your piercings don't heal over. Anyway, you can discuss with Centre management during registration. It shouldn't be a problem.
I would like to wish you the very best for your first retreat. Just remember to follow the instructions and the code of discipline and you should be fine.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask via pm.
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


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
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Re: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:54 am

Just a quick note which may be of interest, I have done both Mahasi and Goenka retreats and found them both of the greatest benefit.
I realise that life circumstances may temporarily present a problem for a few in attending retreats, but for those who can, dont hesitate. I would go as far as saying that my meditation practice before my first retreat was very valuable, but it was a very valuable rehearsal for retreat. The effect of retreat was profound and for me, transformative. The theoretical started at least in a small way, to become the actual.
Best wishes to all who are planning a retreat, on a retreat, or have been retreatants.

:anjali:
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Re: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby living peacefully » Thu Jan 21, 2010 12:52 pm

Thank you for your thoughts and advice Zavk, Ben and Sanghamitta. :bow:

Living Peacefully :namaste:
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Re: Goenka Vipassana Retreats

Postby Moggalana » Thu Jan 21, 2010 1:00 pm

Has anyone here also done a retreat with the people at IMC? It is also in the tradition of U Ba Khin, so it is probably not too different from Goenka's retreats, or is it?
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