Reflection on my first retreat - and a request for help to understand this

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no - mark, modified 8 Years ago at 8/4/14 10:12 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 8/4/14 10:12 AM

Reflection on my first retreat - and a request for help to understand this

Posts: 3 Join Date: 3/21/14 Recent Posts
So, I just returned from my first retreat.  I did the 10 day silent vipassana retreat - as taught by Goenka. 

The retreat was much harder than I had expected, but also better in many ways. 

It was harder than expected due to the physical pain that I experienced - mostly in my back / shoulder blades.  This lasted the whole 10 days - only when sitting - apart from a couple of 10 or 20 minute periods on day 4 and 7 (I think) where I seemed to come to terms with the pain and was able to sit with it in a state of calm and mild tranquility. 

I also had some quite strange experiences - like going cold turkey on two of the nights following particularly difficult days - that I am trying to make sense of.  More precisely, my body was very restless - legs wanting to walk around, etc - and my head seemed to have a very bright internal light that some had forgotten to turn off before going to bed.  Occasionally I also had these quite disturbing whizzing sounds in my head. 

Any thoughts or advice? 

Thanks!
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no - mark, modified 8 Years ago at 8/6/14 6:23 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 8/6/14 6:22 AM

RE: Reflection on my first retreat - and a request for help to understand t

Posts: 3 Join Date: 3/21/14 Recent Posts
I see that there have been 73 viewing of my post but no replies - so perhaps I need to ask more specific questions...

I assumed that the pain that I experienced during the retreat was simple due to sitting still in one place for long periods of time.  However, when I mentioned this to the teacher he explained it in terms of sankhara - mental reaction and conditioning.  What do people think of this explanation? 

I also assume that the strange experiences that I had in the night following particularly challenging days was simple due to exhaustion - I pushed myself too hard.  But I was wondering if - as with the pain above - there is an alternative explanation?  
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tom moylan, modified 8 Years ago at 8/6/14 8:33 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 8/6/14 8:33 AM

RE: Reflection on my first retreat - and a request for help to understand t

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
hi there no-mark!
congratulations on your first retreat.  for those of us who have been at this stuff a while a lot of what you went through rings some bells.  as you know, the idea alone of entertaining the possibility of dedicating ten precious days to silence and sitting is unthinkable.  you got past that and maybe even attacked it with an adventurous sense of gusto.  now you know its possible to do something like that which is a success in and of itself.

i too have sat through goenkajis sonorous and seemingly never-ending baritone chanting with pain screaming in my knees.  at some point pure resolution to stick it out helped me get through that and at other times i just had to move.  whether you call these things sankaras or just pure distilled agony doesn't matter much but since we tend to want to understand what value we got from that pain we try to align it with "stages" and "progress" and other labels that help us place ourselves on a systematic maps of these things.

sometime we are right and sometimes we are not.  if you have not read MCTB you should, but i am guessing you have.  some of the pain you describe could be from simply sitting for long periods as you suggest but may also be associated with the "3Cs" stage.  at this point our focus and speed of noticing is building and we can tend to be like a terrier, focusing in on whatever is predominant in our field of experience: pain falls easily into this category ;-)

as far as the nighttime stuf: you assumed that it was simply exhaustion...maybe.  is that a common reaction for you?  this meditation stuff has very real effects on our brain chemistry and our sensitivity which could (and does in my experience) effect sleep amoung other things.  but my humble advice would be to not make much of it.  meaning don't look at that as a certain signpost of progress.

having said that, how is your concentration after your retreat: better?  can you sit for longer periods now?
are you motivated to practice regularly or for longer periods?

more sitting, more questioning, more reporting here about your direct experience of your practice will bring you farther.

CU

tom
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no - mark, modified 8 Years ago at 8/6/14 10:31 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 8/6/14 10:31 AM

RE: Reflection on my first retreat - and a request for help to understand t

Posts: 3 Join Date: 3/21/14 Recent Posts
Thanks for your feedback and encouragement Tom. 

In answer to your questions...

I would say that, in general, I do feel like I have better equanimity.  However, if I am honest, when I actually sit my concentration does not seem that much better.  That said, I do feel that I am more motivated to practice after the retreat - Goenka is a great teacher!

Continuing to live within the Five Precepts (sila) whilst developing my concentration (samadhi) are going to be my priorities for the time being.  Wisdom (panna) will have to wait a while I am afraid. 
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tom moylan, modified 8 Years ago at 8/6/14 10:46 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 8/6/14 10:46 AM

RE: Reflection on my first retreat - and a request for help to understand t

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
hey,
you are already wise.  its not a single point in your progress but a series of insights.  you already got some.  i like the metaphor (from bill hamilton?) of insight / enlightenment not being like suddenly owning a pot of gold but more like picking up gold coins every day until your pot is full.

also, concentration fluctuates.  i have been at this stuff for a while but have had stronger concentration at points in the past than i do at the moment.  there are points on the sinosoidal curve where concentration is more difficult despite the fact that progress is being made.  you are moving forward even when your current experience does not SEEM to confirm that.

tom

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