Teacher-less, Goenka, and asking for help

Darcey Layne Timmerman, modified 10 Years ago.

Teacher-less, Goenka, and asking for help

Posts: 5 Join Date: 12/6/10 Recent Posts
Hello,

My total retreat time is four ten day Goenka retreats since June 2008. I have practiced regularly for these past two years, striving for two hours a day, have now cut back to one hour on the cushion a day and am slipping rapidly, as always happens when momentum from past retreats slips. My depth of theory is minimal and I only began reading about meditation/Buddhism in August (one of the beautiful things to me about Goenka retreats was his selling points of non-sectarian, non-religious universal approach). Fortunately since then I have been introduced to this website, reading about the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition, Daniel Ingram's book, and the Buddhist Geeks podcasts (very grateful). So now I bravely appeal for help before I attend my fifth retreat this December.

Some background: in October of 2007 I had an experience while working with a very gifted healer, Paul Canali, that I now firmly believe to be an A&P event. I was in my bed meditating, when all of a sudden, from the back of my head, a feeling of pouring, rushing cold came out and spread down the back of my body and throughout my entire being. I had a vision of a mountain, flying up to this mountain, and at the peak of the mountain was a revolving light and seeing this light brought a wonderful knowing of self-worth, and how love and hate for yourself can be two sides of the same coin (sounds quite cheesy but yes), how I had to experience this rock-bottom pain in order to grow and live to my greatest potential. My body was filled with light and love and bliss and I experienced orgasmic pulsations throughout my body, accompanied by tears and relief and overwhelming joy. This lasted about twenty-thirty minutes although the feeling stayed on for a few days and I evangelically told my closest friends about it. I felt absolutely changed and still hold that moment to be the most intense so far. I realize now that prior to this experience I have had many many flirtings with mind/body awareness since I was a little girl, even putting myself to sleep by noticing the difference rhythms between my heart beating throughout my body and my breaths' rising and falling.

I believe I am now caught in the Dark Night (surprise, surprise) and I am demanding (from myself) deliverance! Or at least guidance on how to handle it while I'm here, and how to best proceed. I will describe, to the best of my memory, my retreats. Apologies for their gross descriptions as it has been awhile. I find the same process, somewhat, repeats during my ten days...usually having a distinct A&P event around Day 3 during bedtime and lasting after-effects for a half a day. After that, the worst part of my meditation comes around Day 6 and 7, when I am edgy, restless, like a child who can't sit still, cannot stay aware for even a second of my thoughts wandering, wanting to scream aloud, throw my pillows in the hall, my body racing rapidly, sometimes drowning, clawing at my sensations in my torso, and my mind completely losing its equanimity about every five minutes. Shortly after this (another day), I calm down again...WAY down. Like to utter boredom. My body has calmed enough to sit with relative comfort but I have lost a lot of concentration and a LOT of will, like 'what's the point' and find myself not caring when my awareness sees I'm thinking. In fact, defiantly following my daydreams. In short, not meditating, or 'piddling' (as I call it) in my thoughts, like a very heavy effort is needed to draw myself back to attention, a sluggish adolescent.

Retreat 1 I didn't have this, at all. I was so excited by the newness, and the instructions, I breezed once I got past the horror of the sittings of strong determination and though it was hard I found myself by Day 8 in complete buzzy Bungha (as Goenka calls it), enough to pass his suggestive tests of dropping ink into a bottle of water from the top of your head and watching/feeling it dissolve throughout the body, imagining my spinal cord as one electrified piece of rope, examining it inch by inch, or passing tiny needles from the backside of my body through to the front-side, or through the side of my body, wherever. I mentioned, after the first retreat, "it could be so much better!" to my astounded boyfriend. Please read this as honesty and not arrogance. I absolutely adore the Goenka retreats, and have immense respect for them. I noticed Goenka did very little in calling attention to thoughts or emotions and their subsequent manifestations on the body (this was part of the healing work I had been through before attending a retreat, and was all I knew to draw from).

Retreat 2 (one year later) I thought I knew everything and was quite disappointed to compare the giant boulder I'd hacked off my mountain of content on the first retreat to the pebble of the exact same old shit. This was the first time I had that desperate desire to give up, and wasted a heap of Day 8 piddling on my cushion in my cell. I found momentum on Day 9 but doubt very much I got through any of the Dark Night to any success (still not knowing this map theory).

Retreat 3 (Six months later) I resolved not to waste time piddling, but instead in my eagerness wasted the first three days of anapana in a desire to jump to body-scanning. This somehow made the Dark Night super horrible due to lack of concentration. I killed myself with laser-point precision body scanning, and had all sorts of dream-like visions of body pierced flesh, nightmarish bloody battles, inner screaming, like I was wailing for help or a stronghold. I asked the teacher for help and she said these were manifestations of inner defilements (sankaras), and to 'work in bigger chunks' which helped, and I got through to my usual boredom and desire for deliverance, but also kept concentration and mostly equanimous awareness.

Retreat 4 (August, eight months later) I feel I MAY have gotten (almost?) to Equanimity. My daily practice was stronger before attending than in the past, and also I was in Thailand which seemed to up the standard for intense surrounding practitioners. I remember feeling a lifted weight around Day 8, and a new kind of reality after the drama of my hellish previous days. I also felt a bit shaky in my awareness, like an invalid after bedrest who knows they're cured but still a bit panicked they could regress, and a chunky kind of reality as I scanned, as if there was too much time in between something occuring in my body and the noticing of it. Day 10, when noble silence was lifted, I went into my room and wept as I desired a longer retreat, felt I was on the cusp of something, and dreaded losing the momentum I'd gained. This time my mood swings following the retreat were horrible, and it took about a month to integrate. I felt very fragile, and susceptible to the world, argumentative with my boyfriend (now husband). This is when I fell into MCTB, this website, and began reading some lovely books loaned from a friend at the Buddhist Meditation Center in Penang.

Why Goenka? you might be asking. I am sort of asking the same thing now as I live and work in Kuala Lumpur and could meditate at several wonderful monasteries if I can find the time. Goenka is great in the US, and its severe/intense style suits my personality. I love the non-talking aspect but realizing now I may never be able to sit a longer course due to its rules. I am curious about switching to noting practice at this time, if this is even necessary given where I am, or if scanning Goenka style can still work. Also any help/advice on the very end stages of the Dark Night, recognizing/anticipating Equanimity and beyond. Or I have completely misread where I am to begin with...

Darcey
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Yadid Bee, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Teacher-less, Goenka, and asking for help

Posts: 258 Join Date: 9/11/09 Recent Posts
Hi Darcey,
It was interesting to read your background.

Many of us here have switched from Goenka style body-scanning to Mahasi style noting and found it of immense benefit.
Personally I was able to go from the Dark Night into Equanimity and am now lurking in it, while others have gotten stream-entry and beyond (Nikolai for example).

I also still practice at the Goenka facilities from time to time, since they provide excellent meditation conditions.

I'm glad you found this forum and Daniel's book, and I hope it will help you progress in your own practice.

Speaking of which, how's that going for you nowadays?
Darcey T, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Teacher-less, Goenka, and asking for help

Posts: 5 Join Date: 12/6/10 Recent Posts
Thanks for your kind words, Yadid, and your encouragement. You asked about my daily practice. This is the first I've shared this, and haven't poked about on this website looking for any 'proper' terminology. Here goes.

A typical sit (half hour or hour) might go like this: I sit on my cushion, and usually begin with a few breaths to relax and calm my mind. I pay attention to my breathe on the inside of my nostrils and I usually wait until I feel my heart beating throughout my body (I have done this since I was little). I also find if I first concentrate on relaxing my jaw and eyes, I can more easily tune into my sensations. This can take thirty seconds or five minutes. Or twenty on a very bad day. Only recently have I been trying to be more aware of the content of my every thought. As you know, Goenka only says to notice thought for thought and to simply draw awareness back to the breath or sensations. Now I can see how noting thought in crude content (chatting, planning) is one step more aware, and still yet one step objectively out of the drama of content. I am in the habit of body scanning, so I begin at the top of my head and usually have to bring my attention back from thoughts of the future several times over my first scan. By the end of my first scan, something in my awareness has gently 'snapped', sort of broadened or expanded outside my scan and usually I am aware several patches of fine, buzzy subtle chunks around my body, also with plenty of blind, bare patches. Sometimes after this point my eyes feel as if they've opened up at their periphery, I sort of stop seeing parts of my body individually, and a slight blissful feeling comes into my face, mouth, sometimes I'm a bit nauseous, hungry feeling. I stay with these vibrations until I am aware of pain in my legs, legs falling asleep (always falling asleep, always after about twenty minutes). At this point I usually think, 'here we go,' revert to anapana for a bit of calm and then go back to study in chunks the sensations of my legs and elsewhere, looking for dissolution and sticking with it until the timer goes off. If it is an hour sit, I usually shift my posture but I wait for my desire to change goes by about three times and shift as slowly as possible.

That's about it. My sits sometimes feel like they dictate the mood for the day, or at least a few hours beyond them. If I've fought through painful sensations or restlessness (my true enemy), and found a modicum of equanimity, I could be grouchy or mild. If I didn't work through something difficult, I almost always feel grouchy after. I'm speaking generally and not mentioning long term benefits from these past two years, which come into play almost everyday.

I would be curious to hear about your transition from scanning to noting, and if there are insights you feel comfortable sharing now that you have 'left' Goenka, such as things he doesn't cover so clearly.

Darcey
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Nikolai H., modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Teacher-less, Goenka, and asking for help (Answer)

Posts: 1650 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
Hi Darcey,

I was a hardcore Goenka practitioner for years. i made the switch to noting. It got me through to the 11th nana and on to stream entry. Here is a link to the account of the Goenka course where I did what needed to be done: http://kennethfolkdharma.wetpaint.com/page/An+account+of+stream+entry

I mixed techniques and did not follow instructions. It was not a problem for me and I got it done. If, however, you feel bad about switching and mixing techniques I posted what i think someone needs to do to get stream entry with just the sweeping technique without mixing techniques: http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2010/11/going-for-stream-entry-on-goenka-10-day.html


Hope this helps
Nick
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Yadid Bee, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Teacher-less, Goenka, and asking for help

Posts: 258 Join Date: 9/11/09 Recent Posts
Darcey T:

I would be curious to hear about your transition from scanning to noting, and if there are insights you feel comfortable sharing now that you have 'left' Goenka, such as things he doesn't cover so clearly.


It took me a while to make the decision to make the transition, since I was afraid of learning something new. But once I did, I found it to be a very powerful technique, and progress has been much better since.

My goal is to be enlightened, to get of suffering, and attachment to some teacher or technique is certainly in the way of that.

You seem like an open-minded person, since you are posting here, therefor I recommend you try it out, because you got nothing to lose, and much to gain :-)

You can also check out people's practice journals on this website and open one of your own to get feedback from advanced practitioners, and/or at kennethfolk.com

good luck and keep us posted on your progress !
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Beoman Beo Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Teacher-less, Goenka, and asking for help

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Hey Darcey, and welcome.

From this description:
Darcey T:
Shortly after this (another day), I calm down again...WAY down. Like to utter boredom. My body has calmed enough to sit with relative comfort but I have lost a lot of concentration and a LOT of will, like 'what's the point' and find myself not caring when my awareness sees I'm thinking. In fact, defiantly following my daydreams. In short, not meditating, or 'piddling' (as I call it) in my thoughts, like a very heavy effort is needed to draw myself back to attention, a sluggish adolescent.


I think every time you have hit the "boredom" you have gotten to Equanimity, especially as it comes after the intense pain-filled days before. For me the most annoying and frustrating time was in Re-Observation, which is right before Equanimity. The fact that you have gotten through it before is good, though! For me what helped was directing my attention to why I was suffering instead of trying to ignore it, to note/meditate, failing to do it as best I thought I should, getting annoyed more, etc.

I haven't done Goenka, but noting has served me well. I feel it can work especially well in places like Equanimity where you get bored, since instead of just being bored, you can note "boredom" and go from there. Once you notice your mind wandering you can note "wandering". Then even if you are lazy and bored you will still be investigating sensations, namely those of being bored, which are also important (just like the hellish Dark Night feelings are).

Also maybe you want to find a different posture, if you always become uncomfortable after 20 minutes? It might help to meditate for longer without something like that distracting you.

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