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S.N. Goenka-ji

Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition

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Hello to you all, this is my first post after lurking here for years (since 2014, when a fellow meditator asked me if I knew about the progress of insight at the end of a retreat, leading to MCTB and the Dho). A huge thanks to Daniel and to quite a few members of this forum for challenging my opinions and opening my understanding...

I have been practicing in the Goenka tradition for the last ten years (with at least a retreat a year and a couple of longer ones) and... I've been hesitating for a long while to share my views here, as it is obvious that this tradition has its shortcomings which have been thoroughly documented in various threads, and that some moderators are quite blunt about dismissing it. Well, here we are. I chose to keep on with the technique even though I was aware of the tremendous efficiency of the noting practice, through MCTB and testimonies on this forum.
It was a tough choice, based partly on the desire to attend longer retreats (for which you need to dedicate yourself exclusively to Goenka's tradition), but also on the need to check for myself. True, Nikolaï (http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2010/11/going-for-stream-entry-on-goenka-10-day.html) gives a great account and advice for reaching cessation in the course of a 10 day retreat. My purpose here is more like... "what are the benefits when you don't"?
So I decided to pursue with this practice until no further progress would be made, as I had a sense that something precious was unfolding from retreat to retreat and that some understanding was developing. I was also curious to see if I would reach stream-entry on Goenka's instructions. It prompted me into analyzing more what I was doing while body scanning and looking into the connections between this kind of noticing of the body sensations and (my limited understanding of) the noting practice. I am still at it five years later...

As it is the only (or most convenient) retreat option for a number of meditators, I believe it would still be valuable to some here (those who are acquainted with this tradition or are curious about it) to try to make the most sense of what happens during these retreats and afterwards, and maybe question their understanding. And to me as well of course, to organize my thought in a coherent whole here... We'll see about that one!

This thread is mostly meant for people who are already acquainted with the technique, as I won't go into certain details. If you don't know anything about these retreats, better read an introduction elsewhere first (sorry, no link yet)...
You are also welcome to chime in and discuss the techniques. I won't venture here into a critique of the organization (which would deserve its own thread). I would love to have some experienced old students share their own understanding, and maybe question the dogma, fully understanding it is something thoroughly discouraged in this tradition (I fear for wrong reasons. I chose to use an alias because it is heard of people getting blacklisted from further retreats for diverse mysterious motives).
So bear with me... I will try to argue why it may be interesting to spend years and numerous retreats on this technique as I did (and still do, even though I can see many here asserting that it is plain stupid!). I see it is often presented as a powerful (and dangerous) introduction to meditation, which does not deserve further deepening after the infamous A&P has been reached... I will try to explain why I think otherwise.

So let's start... with anapana. Goenka places great emphasis on sila, bringing his own cultural background (some say with a trace of Jainism) on his interpretation of it. I won't discuss it right now as it is a big subject.
I noticed that Goenka practitioners tend to parrot him when they describe their meditation practice. I take it as one of the downsides of never verbalizing your experience. Please correct me if you see this trait in myself (I will use brackets when I do it on purpose)!

(... to be continued)
                                                                                                                                           [edited for corrections on 9/6/20, like other posts below]

Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
Answer
7/27/19 2:49 AM as a reply to Smiling Stone.
Anapana

My first point is that "anapana" in this tradition is not a pure concentration technique. To reach optimum concentration, it is known from the experience of seasoned practitioners and teachers, that you should not be too hard on yourself, even though intensity is needed. Here, you arrive and on Day 1, you sit for ten plus hours intending to focus "on the small area below the nostrils above the upper lip" (I call it "the zone". Ok, that's for old students, the area is a little bit larger for beginners -oups, new students, not necessarily beginners-, including the whole of the nostrils). Still, focusing on a relatively small part of the body generates some tension (until one rests effortlessly on the said area, which in my experience takes years of practice), and sitting for that long creates A LOT of physical tension. This is clearly not ideal to enter jhana territory, but it is quite a good way to start understanding how your mind-body reacts under stress. After a couple of days of doing this, you have thoroughly reduced the mental chatter and often encountered your first altered states of consciousness, but in the process you have created a good deal of physical stress that often went unnoticed (should I say subconscious) as you strove to only take into account what was happening on this small area (usually devising complex strategies to achieve this, from subtle breath control to active dissociation). For me, as I had my issues with breath control (different practitioners face different issues!), my pattern was: observe the "zone", notice any tension there, notice the subtle control, let go of it; see a deeper layer of control where you thought there was none, let go of it etc...

Also, for beginners, there is usually a lot of pain until the mind has gotten quiet enough. I would not force myself into stillness, it will come later (physical stillness involves stability of the mind, so there is some fine tuning here). You should move when you really need to, aware of how your mind loses its balance in the process, and back to it. Goenka says so, but I suspect many people can't hear it.

I believe that we spend part of the retreat from day 4 onward dealing with these tensions (the ones we "created") until we have encountered them consciously, and they have "dissolved" through concentrated and equanimous scrutiny, allowing us to feel deeper layers of sensations (there is a lot in that little sentence to comment on, I will come back to it later. What is this "dissolving"? How does it work? What are these layers of sensations?).

I would try not to aim for anything (forget about jhana for that matter, though it is our nature to want to achieve lofty goals in little time), and perform the exercise to the best of my ability noticing any tension that is the fruit of my practice (there is much more to be said about the various kinds of tension). Goenka states that "anapana is a preparation for vipassana". This is because, by day 4, you are well aware that suffering is a defining characteristic of sitting still for extended periods, and most will have started to find some connection between the calming of the mind and that of the breath (maybe also seeing, at times, how thoughts unexpectedly pop up in their concentrated mind). Now it is time to start to explore the mysterious relationship between mind and sensations in the body...

(... to be continued)

Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
Answer
7/27/19 2:51 AM as a reply to Smiling Stone.
"Vipassana"

Ok, so first I apologize for the fact that this tradition has claimed ownership on the term "vipassana" and has equated it with a meditation technique where you understand the three characteristics of experience in each bodily sensation you encounter while performing the infamous "body scan" in various ways. This is why I read “Living Dharma” by Jack Kornfield back then (going through the table of contents in a secondhand bookshop), as I did not like the easy dismissal of other traditions by Goenka... I will try to stick to the term "body scanning" when discussing this technique.

After spending three and a half days focusing on the "zone", you are taught (or reminded, from your second retreat on) how to move your attention around your body in a, at first slow and ordered way, during a gruesome two hours session where Goenka's art in slow burn instructions reaches its apex. Noting the characteristic of impermanence is focused on as the main tool to cultivate dispassion. Practicing this way, you will deepen your understanding of equanimity, and you will cultivate your will (to place your awareness on the desired object, whatever it is). You may also experience intense pain or bliss...

I believe that whole body awareness is the natural follow-up to a more circumscribed concentration when time is ripe. Here, ripe or not, you have to switch to the body scan wherever you were on the concentration spectrum after 3 and a half days of concentration (1/3 of the retreat time, on longer retreats as well). Actually, as a beginner (as long as you use extra tension to help with concentration), the more concentrated you are on the "zone", the more difficult it will be, at first, to move your attention through the different body parts (and movement will tend to break your hard-acquired concentration). First, you "force" it on the "zone", then you "force" it around the body... A lot of forcing, thus tension involved where there should hardly be any in a perfect world (concentration being a kind of tension)... A tension overload might bring full dissociation that will launch you unprepared into an A&P, with all the unfortunate consequences that have been well documented here and elsewhere. That's my take on it as I did not experience an intense "dark night" myself, I guess because I let concentration build up (more) naturally after learning the hard way on my first retreat. I believe I was then mostly prepared for what has come so far (never say never!).
The "rationale" in this tradition is that there is no “you” to create any tension (or anything for that matter), that through introspection you are just revealing what is. What is constituting "you", actually. It makes sense, and working with tensions is used in many other traditions as a tool to contrast with the state of open awareness and learn from this contrast (that's an important aspect of initiations, and I tend to think that these retreats have an initiatic feel to them, although a very non-shamanic one, as the exploration of different realms is not contextualized and dismissed as "just experience").

Also, when I say "around the body", what I really mean is "around how you picture your body in your mind": never forget that all this happens in your mind. If it is not a visualization (Goenka repeats "no visualization" day in, day out), it is a thorough "feelization"!
I would posit that, if we consider the framework of the five aggregates (another traditional and interesting way to frame or make sense of our experience), there is nothing such as "bare contact". None of the aggregates exists by itself, they are all interdependent. "Rupa" is the object side of the experience, which is only knowable through "nama" and all the different parts of "nama" are a condition for it. If one truly disappears, the others cannot be. Consciousness is experience, "vedana" involves recognition, categorization, "sañña" needs some kind of volition and "sankhara" (the Beast in this tradition) exists inside viñana... They only exist together. So there is no "bare contact" in the absence of "sankhara" or any other aggregate. The extinction of one of the aggregates brings the extinction of the whole of "nama rupa". Cessation... That's paticcasamuppada one o one. I spent quite a while trying to make sense of the order of presentation of the aggregates until I realized this. This idea reflects the fact that perception is projective (see also enaction in phenomenology).

The body scan performed year after year will generate an ever changing felt map of the body (with a general tendency toward spaciousness as a baseline), where your consciousness will have its landmarks... well, a map delineating the moving boundaries of your consciousness really, with its luminosity fields and its blind spots, an emptiness (first a changing substance) within which you will find emotions and higher symbolic content. The quality of the scan will tell you a lot about the quality of your mind. Not so much about the actuality of your anatomy (that's my take on it)...
It will also deepen your understanding of the process of perception. I said in the last paragraph that perception is a projection based on our previous representation of the world that transforms it through new input. The awareness also brings all the conscious and subconscious qualities of the mind in the perception of this moment, thus giving it a color which taints the object. Actually, a big development in my practice was when I started noticing the qualities of the awareness that performs the scanning. From then on, I decided to stick with the technique, and never got bored again.

(... to be continued)

Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
Answer
9/6/20 4:23 AM as a reply to Smiling Stone.
It is essential to always keep in mind that the vipassana aspect of the body scan is only present if your are aware of at least one of the three characteristics, impermanence being the tradition's choice (well, we could argue on the differences with "noting it"). If not, it remains a good concentration technique, once you got used to moving your attention (more movement at first entails more restlessness, thus tension, in an interesting feedback loop), easing on the tension that you might have created when focusing on the "zone".

One of the most common critique is that the practice only deals with the body sensations, leaving aside the mind and emotions. While it is true that you can sometimes get absorbed in full body awareness (or any other object) to the point of not recognizing emotion and not producing discursive thought (full body absorption), you are still only observing the content of your mind in this moment and my experience is that felt sensations sometimes reflect some content of the mind that eludes conscious awareness, providing a valuable window on the subconscious.
One of the most obvious manifestations of this is how our being deals with exaltation. Let's say you reach a stage for the first time where your whole body is bright bliss and quick easy vibrations. Even if you were told a thousand times not to feel elated, you will (this is our nature), and it will unbalance your mind, creating restlessness that will generate tensions (after a little while depending on the density of this layer of your mind. This is a fascinating area to explore, the latency between cause and effect, the time necessary for karma to ripen... my experience is that strong concentration greatly speeds up the process, allowing you to discover unsuspected chains of causality). These tensions will manifest as "uneasy" sensations somewhere in your body, bringing you down from this elated state. So, next time you reach this same kind of experience, you will have learnt your lesson and remember "seriously, I don't get elated this time". Well, the recurring appearance of difficult sensations will help you understand that some subconscious part of your mind did not get it yet.

This state (of perceiving subtle vibrations) will get more and more refined, more and more balanced with time and practice, but the outcome (each time it reaches its apex, a state that we never experienced before) will generally be restlessness which will trigger different reactions which will lead to solidified ("gross") sensations. So you will run repeatedly in a state you might interpret as "bangha ñana" (knowledge of dissolution). But if you try to locate your experience on the insight maps (dissolution, then a good existential angst, serious derailing, equanimity and path), you might be in for a disappointment (if it is not the time for your big ride, as I believe there are many shades of dissolution before the real deal). Here, scripting comes in the picture. Let's go back a bit: the main instructions are "just observe the reality as it is" and "the practice is to be aware and equanimous". But, after a few days of body scan at increasing speed, Goenka informs you "cautiously" about the stages you might meet in your practice: "now or in the future, you might encounter a free flow of subtle vibrations running through your entire body", followed by "do not crave for it" then "a stage where there is no solidity anywhere, inside, outside, this is bangha!", along with "beware of not clinging to these stages, they are dangerous for you might crave them etc." Well, it is natural that a student will wonder if he has reached this or that stage (free flow, bhanga), but he might develop unhealthy curiosity about it and equate too quickly his experience with that insight stage (I believe that agitating the mind -moving quickly from an object to another- will lead to A&P'ish experiences... and to restlessness, and that can lead to self delusion in the long term. It is true of any set of beliefs that has to do with spiritual development).
To be fair, Goenka always asks us (even mature practitioners) to often come back during a single session to a practice where we move "part by part, slowly and attentively", looking for blind spots or solid sensations. I believe it is to keep us balanced and learn plasticity and resilience (and because coming down in speed will help us maintain balance in practice... But maybe "losing it" is a necessary stage on the path to cessation... The scan maintains a subtle duality between subject and object when more letting go might be needed. For this particular outcome, at least. Even when we stop the scan after bangha, it is not final, and we should come back to the surface of the body regularly for further "purification".

Well, I guess it is time to say something about the stages of insight. I suspect that noting practice speeds up the mind (Daniel is a good example!), rushing the practitioner through the stages of insight with a certain lack of stability that makes insight "shallow" until full stability is achieved (4th path?). Concentration, as practiced here (with a narrow one-pointedness) slows the mind down, and the body scan, alternating a quick flow of attention with a slower "part by part" practice, prevents you from going too easily on overdrive and "lose" it, making it a long road for insight experiences.
But, by deepening your understanding of equanimity, you make this... frame of mind ("a balanced and equanimous mind") the basis on which the different insights will proceed, which seems to make sense. That's my experience anyway, no quick A&P for me. For those who hit the A&P early on, well, the tradition will be of no help to you, so... better read about the stages of insight! (Goenka says that you might run into “gross, solidified sensations” after dissolution (itself a "very high stage indeed"), but seems to keep the meaning of “adinava” or fear etc. as the fear of getting lured into the pleasures of the very subtle sensations of dissolution, which you conquer by being disgusted by it and then desire liberation).

Anyway, in order to alter your experience on purpose, your concentration needs to be strong enough. High states of concentration bend perceptions, allowing you to act on something which is usually the field of deep subconscious influence.

One of the problems with this method is that you are totally helpless when you get lost in content (when you have thoughts powerful enough to interrupt or derail your scan). Here we need a technique to help us return to our concentration. Noting seems to be really valuable when this occurs.

(... to be continued)

Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
Answer
7/26/19 10:43 AM as a reply to Smiling Stone.
A note on cessation

I need to say that, even though I've had a serious practice and stuck to the instructions, I did not have a taste of nibbana yet. Well, the teachers do not consider it a likely outcome even in the long run. Goenka's description does not seem to fit perfectly with a cessation (which is why you'll likely be dismissed if you go to the assistant teacher with a cessation report). He says something like "After you've explored the whole field of vedana (and let go of it), you will reach a stage beyond mind and matter, where there is still consciousness with nibbana as its object". And also that "Nibbana is fourth jhana with awareness of impermanence". So it seems that it is not exactly "no consciousness"... More like a non-dual absorption? This has been bugging me since I heard of the Mahasi type of cessation... is it possible to have serious progress in insight without coming through this non-experience?
As I see it, noting speeds up the natural development of the mind and its outcome is the bleep. Scanning is intended to accelerate the mind in a "reasonable" way, alternating between fast and slow processing, and does not get the mind to a sufficient momentum to produce the bleep, the goal being the result of a process of endless purification, which will lead to "the end of suffering".
Does it mean this technique produces no insight? Experience is linked to insight in a complex way... in that some insights produce certain experiences, but any experience has numerous causes (apart from insight), and no experience is bound to produce insight, there has to be a movement of the mind towards it...

So, apart from that, what kind of benefits do I experience in the long term?

I believe that proficiency in attending to the felt body image in daily life is a valuable tool to monitor your emotional state and not get lost in content. It is a good anchor for concentration.
In my experience, the perception of the body as open, as a fluid field of experience, conveys the feeling of being an open void through which the winds of karma blow freely, in the best times without solidifying into suffering (so the "end of suffering" is possible in the here and now, if not forever...). It is a fruit of concentration, but goes quite a long way in transforming our worldview and reducing suffering. It is also a good point from which to practice metta (I like Analayo's take on metta: to radiate the different qualities of the brahmaviharas, the fruits of your practice, in all directions, though I can see why Goenka makes use of verbalization for this particular "technique", as he wants to provide a balm for the participants at the end of an intense retreat).

We need to make use of a set of beliefs (or a "frame of reference") to make sense of any experience. I like to use, sometimes, the idea of our awareness navigating (or being thrown around) various layers of consciousness (or realms of existence, 31 of them in the buddhist framework). With the scanning, we learn to move our awareness horizontally on one plane, but we may notice that our perception of the sensation varies, that the "distance" between our awareness and the sensation changes, increasing as we maintain equanimity, decreasing as we react with aversion. With the distance comes fluidity, then dissolution, and with mastery we achieve vertical plasticity of the awareness, meaning we can change layers effortlessly, thus accessing further layers, well the whole range of human experience, really, from the lowest hell realm to the highest brahma realm where the experience is so subtle, so subtle and the body is long gone. Each layer has its backlog of knots which will prevent us from accessing the next one. So, it is a very long, but rewarding process of "purifying" all these layers until a hypothetical final liberation. It is a path of concentration with insight as a tool to jump to the next realm. "Getting the joke" in Kenneth Folk terms, will have you make a sidestep from the wheel of existence into cessation, and get a more or less serious understanding into the nature of reality, but you will still need to get back to experience for change to take place (karmic change, purification of the mind?). I think I remember from his three talks with Michael Taft (best podcast so far, by the way) that he was advocating coming back to the physical sensations, to which I thought: "Ok, all 4th paths to Goenka retreats!". Hum... I would venture that the nature of dissociation from experience is not the same whether you work with body sensations or with mental concepts. I think that's what Goenkaji is pointing to when he demands that we stay with body sensations. Not so good for quick understanding, but useful for karmic purification. He believed in purification, and most meditators in this tradition do... For me, there is cleansing going on, but there is no end to it (in the sense that you will not get rid of your subconscious, and you will not function in life without some set of beliefs deeper than "you", that's why the concept of "paranibbana" was introduced, death will tear us apart...), so the end has to be a sidestep... which is no end, really.

I believe that Goenka had a very strong baseline concentration (he taught over 300 ten days retreats before 1990, to give you a faint idea of his sitting history), which explains why his vision of the path was highly tainted with concentration, and why his students value retreats so much, to the extent of maybe missing insight. It also makes the Goenka centers these very special places where one can achieve such concentration that will lead to progress. Quite a lot to let go of, really...

Well, I only scratched the surface of the practice and it is already a long post. I will sit on this until more development emerge from the deep...

Metta to you all, friends in dhamma

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
Answer
7/28/19 10:15 AM as a reply to Smiling Stone.
Dear SS, you’ve done an outstanding job of describing the technique and I’ve learnt some things from the telling of your more advanced practice in that tradition than I ever managed to achieve. My response will be short as I don’t have much time, plus on a tablet, this text window doesn’t scroll so I’m limited to only a dozen lines or so before I lose control of editing. 

Very briefly, I know, and everyone I’ve asked knows, of not a single case of someone who attained Stream Entry or higher paths in that tradition, and as I’ve stated before, frankly I’d say if anyone does actually fit the bill, that they probably augmented their practice with other stuff. Fact is, the G method doesn’t allow observation of all 6 sense spheres, which is (AFAIK) essential to develop total Equanimity to all formations, and thereby set up the conditions for path knowledge to occur. The Mahasi method happens to do this, hence why that method has produced countless SEs just among the people I know, let alone more widely. Second, I can think of not a single justification for holding back on attaining path & fruition as this is where the real ‘fun’ (or work) begins (nor A&P for that matter). So the belief that one should develop one’s practice over a longer time for greater benefits than ‘rushing’ to SE via Mahasi, makes zero sense to me. The Pali Canon has numerous tales of people who approached the Buddha for teachings when it was not convenient and he turned them away. They insisted with the claim they know not how long they will live, and struck by this pointed plea, he relented. As if to prove the point, said people always end up dying right after attaining liberation upon hearing his words. Anyway, point being, even the Buddha would agree that one should attain liberation as quickly as possible, as one knows not how long one has. And any work yet to be done for someone who rushed through can be done better after that stage. 

I appreciate you starting this topic, and I want to say this with absolute metta and compassion and not at all in a sectarian way, I hope you branch out and bring your apparently very strong foundational skills to a broader noting method, and thereby attain liberation as soon as possible. The world needs more considerate and compassionate meditators such as you, up there teaching and disseminating the good stuff. Thanks again, and metta to you!

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
Answer
7/28/19 3:48 PM as a reply to Paul.
Paul, if you click on ”source” you can scroll on your tablet. At least I can, on my ipad.

...

I appreciate this thread very much. Great posts! Thankyou, Smiling Stone, for starting this topic and presenting it so thoroughly!

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
Answer
7/28/19 11:59 PM as a reply to Paul.
I have been on a lot of goenka retreats, sitting and serving. I obtained stream entry after the 3rd retreat. Goenka's advice of "continuity of practice is the secret of success" being the key for me. I had no idea what happened at the time and it didn't really matter much. I know of several others who obtained stream entry. I suspect there is a considerable percentage more but it is not talked about. Stream entry isn't even mentioned in the 10 day course. Not until the satipatthana retreat which would have to be at least the 4th retreat.
Unless you are parting hairs, the technique is the same as mahasi. At least the initial mahasi instructions. Put your attention on your meditation object i.e. the abdomen. When something grabs your attention, come back to the abdomen. There are a lot of similarities. The differences are irrelevant in the big picture. Mahasi might have a larger % but I suspect it is related to the quality of retreatant. If you hop on a plane and go to Nepal for 60 days, you are more serious and, likely, more experienced than your average goenka retreatant. That said, goenka is doing volume. Even with all of the goenka shortcomings, the cumulative effect on the world will be very positive.
One sense door works. It works with fire kasina. It works with body scanning. I can vouch for both. I have heard reports of people using the ringing of the ears or smell via incense to do vipassana as well. I feel like I can easily experience subtle impermanence in the visual or tactile sense doors better than most just because of the hours put in with kasina and body scan. However, it is not possible to just focus on one sense. Mental and auditory echos show up in the body and visa versa. Trying to focus on one sense door will definitely bring a lesson in not self.

That said, I like 6 sense doors as well. I seemed to stall after SE body scanning. Body scanning plus noting thoughts then eventually just noting led to further progress for me. I am grateful for having all of the tools. Not that I am saying multiple are better than one.

The important part is getting SE. After that, progress will be inevitable and intuitive. Do that in whatever way works! I agree with Paul on branching out if scanning has not worked after all of this time.

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
Answer
7/30/19 2:09 AM as a reply to Paul.
[quote=Very briefly, I know, and everyone I’ve asked knows, of not a single case of someone who attained Stream Entry or higher paths in that tradition, and as I’ve stated before, frankly I’d say if anyone does actually fit the bill, that they probably augmented their practice....
]

If you check the link in the OP to the blog I contributed to, that blogpost has a lot of posts added towards its end from a now anonymous yogi who has been only within the Goenka tradition and by their admission, attained to stream entry via the sweeping method applied without gaps on a ten day. 

Nikolai

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
Answer
7/30/19 6:13 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
https://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/pdf/5-personen/analayo/development-insight.pdf

i posted this comparison by Analyo in a new thread but thought it may also fit here.  Please excuse if thats not the case.

cheers
tom

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
Answer
7/30/19 5:28 PM as a reply to Paul.
Hey Paul,

Thank you for your very kind and articulate post.

Thanks for your concern about my progress. While I do not have the nagging sense of a desire for path (I was little bit obsessed for a while after reading MCTB, and thus feel quite comfortable where I am... I am fully aware that, by posting here, I will get this kind of answer ("switch to noting ASAP"), and I acknowledge it might be my subconscious (?) query... It is perfectly fine, but I am primarily looking for ways develop the understanding of the practice in this tradition, not to switch for another one, if we admit the two methods are really different in the end. These retreats will continue to flourish and attract more people, unless Daniel, Willoughby Britton and the likes make enough noise... which would be a really good thing, to my point of view, as it would force more people in the organization to recognize the downsides of the dogma... well, I am not sure anything would actually change but one can still hope... I don't think they foresaw the impact of the internet on the (lack of) ignorance of the retreatants (which is still not so obvious on retreat).

As for reaching Stream Entry asap, I have read quite a few threads here in the past five years, as well as the practice journals of Nikolai, Chris, Noah and others (Shargrol?... it was a while back) on awakenetwork.org (plus the Hamilton Project... I wanted to thank them all for sharing their practice and insights which such generosity). I have, I believe, a fair idea (not worth much, I admit!) of the path as they are laying it before me.
I really value their insights, and I try to emulate them by making my practice as open and inclusive as possible.

As for cessations, there is something about dissociation and the path that is questioning me (it is in the air, it seems), and that I am currently trying to articulate better. Let's try: To paraphrase Freud (a dangerous game, but this line seemed to make sense to me): "Repression does not always take place through repression, but also by the disjunction of the links of causality, which is a consequence of the drawback of the affect". It seems to me it is pretty much what we are doing when we train our equanimity: "do not react to this", aka "you are not this, this is not you". Is this dissociation skillful? In psychology, they draw the line between healthy and pathological dissociation. Healthy dissociation is the result of resolving your emotions through acknowledgment and acceptance, it is a natural movement of the mind when an experience becomes habitual. The affect linked to the experience then diminishes until it disappears. It will then be written in memory with neutral affect, or forgotten. Pathological dissociation takes place through trauma: you just obliterate what you cannot stand. Bringing back to the conscious mind the body sensations through awareness, the body scan makes conscious (and first full of affect) what was till then unconscious. The practice then tends to make one familiar with all kind of sensations, thus slowly freeing them from their emotional content. When the affective load is modified, perception changes, lightens, lessens until disappearance...the sensation has been resolved (natural dissociation could take place and undo the repression that was there before)... if and only if there was no trace in practice of pathological dissociation.
Cessation, being the culmination (or perfection) of equanimity towards all formations, is total dissociation from the six senses. I think that progress on the path may hide unresolved issues. Whatever method we use, we should be careful about how we are reaching balance, so we don't bury (too much) stuff, and we don't create more than what we let go of. Also, while cessations demonstrate a capacity to touch perfect equanimity from time to time, working on baseline equanimity (meaning when some sort of concentration is involved) makes most sense to me. (Sorry for the rambling... am I trying to rationalize my fidelity to the scanning?)

PS: As the initials of Smiling Stone are loaded with historical horror, I would rather you all call me Stone, Smile, S. or whatnot... Your go !

All the best
Metta
Smiling Stone

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
Answer
7/30/19 5:31 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Hi Linda,
Thanks for your encouragements, I enjoy your practice log, your healthy curiosity and your general presence on this forum.

With Metta
Stone

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
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7/30/19 5:37 PM as a reply to Jason Massie.
Hello Jason,
Thank you for your testimonial and your advice (I would not say that scanning has "not worked" after all this time, though).
I find the discrepancies between your post and that of Paul quite interesting. I hope more people will chime in.
I see you give valuable advice to people going on these retreats. Keep up the good work!

Metta
Smile

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
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7/30/19 5:54 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Hello Nikolai,

I said it in the reply to Paul, but thank you again for being an inspiration and one of the reasons why I got hooked on this forum in the beginning.
Any more anecdotes about your contact with Goenkaji (I would love to hear more... though I understand these were your dark night years, maybe that's why you don't talk much about it) ?
Anonymous Yogi does not seem like the average practicioner to me (very inspirational as well!). Does the pce the year before SE mean she was already in contact with Actualism or that it was posted on an actualist forum? I would love to have her take now on all this, but I gather she might not talk/write ?

Metta
S.

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
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7/30/19 6:00 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
Hey Tom,

Thank you, no hijacking, Analayo is my hero !
Actually, I thought you were sending this:
"The Ancient Roots of the UBa Khin Vipassanā Meditation" :
https://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/pdf/5-personen/analayo/ancientroots.pdf

and realize it is a different article that I have not read yet. Bravo !
I will read that shortly and with great interest as always
and put some links to other ressources of Hamburg Uni on one of your Analayo threads (three now, if I count well?)

With Metta
Smiling Stone

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
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7/30/19 7:04 PM as a reply to Smiling Stone.
Your kind words made me smile. Thankyou!

As for cessations being dissociation, that’s not my experience at all. Sure, for a very brief moment no information is being projected into consciousness, but I don’t see any problem with that. In fact, the reboot of the consciousness resulting from it enables a far more vivid experience of life and helps a lot with building a baseline equanimity.

Best wishes for your wellbeing and practice.

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
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7/31/19 2:21 AM as a reply to Smiling Stone.
Smiling Stone:
One of the most common critique is that the practice only deals with the body sensations, leaving aside the mind and emotions. While it is true that you can sometimes get absorbed in full body awareness (or any other object) to the point of not recognizing emotion and not producing discursive thought (full body absorption), you are still only observing the content of your mind in this moment and my experience is that felt sensations sometimes reflect some content of the mind that eludes conscious awareness, providing a valuable window on the subconscious.
One of the most obvious manifestations of this is how our being deals with exaltation. Let's say you reach a stage for the first time where your whole body is bright bliss and quick easy vibrations. Even if you were told a thousand times not to feel elated, you will (this is our nature), and it will unbalance your mind, creating restlessness that will generate tensions (after a little while depending on the density of this layer of your mind. This is a fascinating area to explore, the latency between cause and effect, the time necessary for karma to ripen... my experience is that strong concentration greatly speeds up the process, allowing you to discover unsuspected chains of causality). These tensions will manifest as "uneasy" sensations somewhere in your body, bringing you down from this elated state. So, next time you reach this same kind of experience, you will have learnt your lesson and remember "seriously, I don't get elated this time". Well, the recurring appearance of difficult sensations will help you understand that some subconscious part of your mind did not get it yet.
Interesting. My first retreat was a Goenka retreat. After that I branched off towards noting, where I actually understood what the 3Cs were. But now, after almost a decade, I'm considering going back and giving Goenka another try, because I suspect that the whole-body scanning might do something good where noting fails, because in noting it seems to be rather random where your attention ends up.

I recall that something like this is actually Goenka's argument for why his technique leads to enlightenment ("get all them sankharas, not only some of them), whereas others don't: sankharas are everywhere in your body, so you need to observe the whole body.

So my own experience is that there are many things in the mind which maybe need to be clearly seen, but when I do noting, they're simply not visible and just fade into the background.
Anyone who has a lot of experience in both approaches and can comment on this argument of Goenka?

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
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7/31/19 5:18 AM as a reply to Raving Rhubarb.
Sorry for commenting despite lacking experience, but I find it fascinating that sankharas in the body go unnoticed for people. It is probably due to having Tourette syndrome that I often find them all too obvious. That’s a mixed blessing, I guess. My brain doesn’t have that kind of spam filter. It’s a pain in the ass to be aware of all these tensions all the time, but I have come to find it helpful with regard to purification. The body does indeed harbor a seemingly endless amount of sankharas, and every layer that is peeled off is a relief.

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
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7/31/19 6:06 AM as a reply to Smiling Stone.
Smiling Stone:

Healthy dissociation is the result of resolving your emotions through acknowledgment and acceptance, it is a natural movement of the mind when an experience becomes habitual. The affect linked to the experience then diminishes until it disappears. It will then be written in memory with neutral affect, or forgotten. Pathological dissociation takes place through trauma: you just obliterate what you cannot stand. Bringing back to the conscious mind the body sensations through awareness, the body scan makes conscious (and first full of affect) what was till then unconscious. The practice then tends to make one familiar with all kind of sensations, thus slowly freeing them from their emotional content.



I just want to point out how the statement on body scans making the affect conscious is both true and untrue. In theory, it definitely should work this way, but I've also encountered enough people that seem to be perfectly able to experience sensations and yet be blind to emotions, or urges, or thoughts. So I think it's possible that, for some people, they can connect with body sensations and never quite access suppressed/repressed emotions and thoughts.

It surprised me the first time I encountered it, someone being able to tell me phenominologically what they were experiencing in terms of sensations, but when I asked them if they noticed they were adverse/angry (which was obvious) they didn't connect to it. I also remember someone who could connect to was obviously doubting, uncertain, and always mapping/comparing their practice, but couldn't report their thoughts about it. In both of these cases, they were doing a combination of body awareness and noting ---- but were not noting whole  categories of mind objects (emotions and thoughts). 

This is why I think working with a teacher helps. We all have blind spots. In both of those cases, it was clear that they need to do dedicated noting of sensations for a period of their sits. Similarly the other person needed to do dedicated noting of "practice thoughts" during their sits. My sense is that body scanning was not going to be the answer for them. But who knows?

I think the biggest factor for Equanimity and SE is actually getting good at noticing urges (pre-emotions) and thoughts-as-thoughts, especially thoughts about practice. 

But that's worth what you paid for it! emoticon

RE: Some views on the technique in the Goenka tradition
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7/31/19 8:33 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks for your input Shargrol !
Actually, I totally agree with what you say. I have met enough people high as kites on retreat, convinced that the technique would solve all their issues (not unlike the actualists who "do not experience emotions"), which was so obviously off the mark.

Also, I do not think it is a reasonable goal to hope we are going to unearth and solve all our blind spots (with any technique or therapy, for that matter - maybe more with the latter than with the former, though). It has a name in Daniel's models...

I guess my last post was not that skillful, I have to learn to interact on the forum (like, answering people without thinking too much about it and without saying stupid things or getting carried away)... I wanted to talk about the ways to develop equanimity, stressing that some are leading us in a dead end (using the term pathological dissociation, I would say that is what you are talking about). It is a risk if you focus on sensations discarding emotions and thoughts (a common feature of Goenka practicioners, I admit, as it is exactly what Goenka asks us to do: "do not give it any importance"...). I guess it would be helpful to translate vedana as "experience" instead of "sensation" (maybe Analayo talks about this somewhere, have to check)

To Linda, thanks for your feedback, I did not want to imply that cessations were bad or unskillful, but that maybe there was some issue with the equanimity leading to them
I should not have used the word "dissociation"... But I am at a loss for a better one!

I take your advice Shargrol, thanks (and it comes cheap enough!)
With Metta
Smiling Stone