Message Boards Message Boards

Dealing with the Dark Night

Goenka body scanning method + dark night

I've recently attended a Goenka retreat and learned a the body scanning technique as well as the logic behind it (from the discourse videos). I was never too fond of noting, and upon learning this new technique, want to use it as a replacement for noting. They are both methods of vipassana, which should help me progress through the dark night I am guessing.

I still have doubts as to whether or not I have actually crossed the a&p. If I have, it was done so unintentionally and without meditative practice. Everything that I have read online and in mctb leads me to believe that I have crossed this point and progressed into the dukkha stages. The stages seem to line up very closely with my experiences, and my current state feels like I am witnessing only the passing away of phenomenon. It is difficult to concentrate (when I try to visually focus on a certain object, it feels like I cant remain on it for even a moment, it feels like my eyes ever-so-slightly dart away from the object. This is very strange to me), difficult to conversate with people because it's almost as if my mind is delayed, feel sloth like, headaches are common.

Anyway, is Goenkas technique enough to progress through the DN? Goenka himself said that this is the method that Buddha practiced and taught to everyone 2,500 years ago. This technique leads to full enlightenment. I am not too concerned with attainments I suppose, I just would reeeeaaaaaalllly like to make it through the DN. However, I have realized that clinging to stream entry and aversion to the DN will just shoot me in the wrong direction. Equanimity is key in this situation.

RE: Goenka body scanning method + dark night
7/4/14 8:01 PM as a reply to Jake.
In my experience, what propels one out of the DN in a given sit may not propel one out of the DN in a subsequent sit. Comparing successful techniques with others is going to be mostly useless. FWIW, courageously intense noting or courageous surrender usually does it for me. Sometimes I need to establish more concentration or summon some metta. The constant movement of bodyscanning is a bit too irritating in ReOb for me. 

I don't think anyone liked noting at first. I would encourage you to make sure you've mastered noting before trying new techniques. If you can diligently note 10-20 times in 10 seconds for 30+ minutes without falling into repetitious patterns or laziness and you still don't like noting then proceed to master bodyscanning.

MASTER is the keyword. Almost every technique has the potential to help you get it done if you master it sufficiently. 

Good luck

RE: Goenka body scanning method + dark night
7/5/14 7:46 PM as a reply to Jake.
Jake WM:

Anyway, is Goenkas technique enough to progress through the DN? 

In my experience yes. But if you don't know what to do when you get into 11th nana territory, you could, like I did, cycle the dukkha nanas for a long time. If noting is not your thing, see here and read this quote by Jill, a former poster at the DhO who used only the Goenka technique. 

Thus happened for me:
before 1999: no experience of 'spiritual phenomena' or funky energetic stuff of any kind
summer 1999: full-on pce after too much emotional and mental tension forced the mind to let go due to sheer exhaustion
fall 1999 to fall 2000: year of dark night existential angst
nov. 2000: stream entry on 9th day of 1st goenka course (and 1st meditation training of any kind)

as far as my understanding of goenka's meaning of "not mixing techniques" goes, what i practiced to get stream entry was nothing but following the 10-day retreat instructions to the best of my ability. any minor 'adjusting' or 'tweaking' or 'going against instructions' that i did was all for the purpose of being able to better get back to following instructions when i was struggling to, or to be able to follow them more effectively. an example of a 'minor adjustment' was keeping my eyes open at times when it seemed obvious that having them closed made it easier to drift off into daydreams, while keeping them open made my attention much more present and attentive to sensations (the instructions say keep the eyes closed). another example is not narrowing down the anapana spot if doing so obviously led to more daydreams and losing awareness, but spending sometime on the whole breath for a few minutes until concentration became stable enough to handle a tiny spot. (the instructions say keep attention at the spot above the upper lip, under the nostrils.) i'm sure goenka himself would support such 'adjustments' because he gives a few such tips himself, such as meditating standing up for a while or getting up to wash your face and come back if you're sleepy, or even holding the breath! at times the practice demanded an urgent ripping apart of beliefs or mental habits that got in the way of following instructions. so yeh, for me it was a matter of using intuition in practice, and doing what worked by honing the self-adjusting feedback mechanism.

i can't ignore the importance of that pce experience a year prior to the course--having seen from actual experience what conditions to aim for really helped guide the practice. however, the pce insights did not show me how to alter the instructions in any way. as the days went on, the deeper i got into the practice, the more i felt that those exact instructions showed the fastest way possible for taking my life at that point closer to the pce ('fastest' at times also meant most unpleasant). what those pce insights showed me was exactly 'how little' or 'how much' application was necessary in every aspect of practice (given my specific mental/emotional/physical conditions)--how much effort, how much forcing of the mind, of attention, of the physical body, when to relax and let go, how literally or metaphorically to take goenka's different pieces of advice, or whether to follow a certain instruction very seriously every second possible as long as i still found myself alive and breathing, or whether to take it lightly as a gentle helpful tip and sometimes ignore it, like the case with 'keep your eyes closed'. 

the path moment for me happened on a lunch break during the course, while sitting next to a lily pond trying to maintain continuity of attention. when high eq came, i wasn't doing any scanning in sequence, but just staying aware of breathing and whatever random sensations were interesting. what caught my interest was the weird new perfection of equanimity (even the swarm of fruit flies that buzzed around me and landed on my face and eyelids were entertaining and richly interesting instead of annoying), the changes in the perceptions of will, intention, physical body, perceiver, space, peace, stillness, and then the moment happened. so technically, i did not actually experience the path moment while doing scanning practice, but i was still following goenka's advice to stay aware (of breathing and some sensation or another) and equanimous at every moment. speaking from my experience only, i see no reason that this sort of "chilling in the present" should be included in his sitting instructions, because it's what the attention ends up learning to do anyway during rest periods and daily life after all the tough scanning work. what i don't know is if the path moment opportunity would likely be missed if one is intently focused on moving attention up and down the arms when high eq comes. (this is also why i've encouraged other goenka meditators, like btg, to have some aware chilling time after home sits to get the mind used to maintaining and enjoying heightened awareness in a natural way.)

so to me, "goenka-style vipassana" goes beyond those initial instructions to sit and scan and sweep. the practice for me includes building on whatever is learned from results of applying that technique and further applying those insights and new perceptual skills in both sitting and daily life. after several years of retreats, practice, and clear progress under only one tradition, one might end up with a personally-catered practice that could be called "mixing techniques" by a good stretch of the definition.

that balancing act of knowing how much/how little seems really important; it's finding your groove of optimal practice in real time, as it happens, and knowing how to make big or subtle adjustments every minute. i think this personal "recognizing what's just right" should get refined with some solid practice effort (retreat experience is invaluable), trial and error, sincere interest and self-examination, and perhaps access to more specific advice and useful information, as is available on this forum. 

So, my question is: are there any case reports of yogis actually attaining stream entry using "pure" Goenka technique, without doing any of the above? Another yogi
i just hung out with one such suspect a couple weeks ago: no prior experience with other techniques or strange energetic phenomena (wife made him try first retreat), demonstrates experiential understanding of insights that came to me at the path moment and equivalent freedom from suffering in daily life, no evidence of pre-path perspective or fixed logic or insight confusion, but no recall of "disappearing"(fruitions), no knowledge of stages of insight (before talking to me), and not much urge to seek more information on how to practice or reach new attainments, as his (goenka-style) practice is going fine, still bringing progress, and he's totally content with the incredible life change it has brought him. 

My working hypothesis is that pure Goenka Vipassana rarely leads to stream entry. I would love to see this falsified. Maybe there is another discussion forum somewhere else where large numbers of Goenka practitioners have attained stream entry using the "pure" Vipassana technique exactly as taught, but they just aren't showing up here? If someone is aware of such a forum, a link would be appreciated. Another yogi

i have no idea how rare or common it is, but i wouldn't have shown up here or on any web forum myself had a goenka yogi friend not persuaded me to read mctb. i actually lost all interest in reading anything about spirituality and enlightenment after finding a practice that clearly worked for me. from goenka's vague descriptions of attainments but high praise of the "totally changed person" as a "saintly person, a noble person" who has experienced "the first dip of nibhanna"(which is something "beyond mind and matter"--a total mystery to goenka students), it wouldn't be surprising if many stream enterers in this tradition have no idea what their life-changing relief was according to the suttas. in my case, i only found out nine years after the event, and i would probably not be out about it had i not been convinced by daniel ingram's arguments about the potential benefits of sharing this openly.


RE: Goenka body scanning method + dark night
7/6/14 2:59 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Wow.. very interesting. This response has made me deeply question my "a&p" experience.. It seems like now it was a PCE, and an extended one at that, lasting almost 3 months. I was actually able to will myself (I think..?) back into that PCE state, but soon the unpleasantness of school and life took over, and I feel into a deeper depression.

Jill wrote that her PCE was followed by a dark night. I am guessing this is the same dark night that happens during meditative practice? or something similar? 

I have a strange motivation to practice yet a strange motivation not to practice as well, at this very moment. I am confused as to whether which route I should go in terms of Vipassana. I have to be honest with myself and say that I have not given fair trial to either technique, noting or scanning.

Also, Nikolai, I have begun reading many posts from the hamilton project (guessing this is your blog):

Very interesting reads. This day provided many intellectual insights that have made me question what the fuck I have been doing for the past 2 years since my pce or a&p or whatever the hell it was.