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My Vipassana Experience & Questions

My Vipassana Experience & Questions
Answer
10/22/14 4:38 PM
I had had some exposure to other meditation techniques, "energy practices", chakras and the like before I took my 10-day course. I have since left all of that behind and am 100% scientific minded now.

During the course, I started feeling this ability to move energy with my awareness throughout the body. I sort of imagined that perhaps this energy could heal or rejuvenate the body and mind and so I worked it all around the body with high intensity. I "opened every chakra" and focused it intensely at the base of the spine / perineum / prostate / anus area (who knows why I focused here). I started to feel like my whole body was in a vortex of energy. Then tight bands of energy started to unravel from the base of my spine and into all corners of the body and mind. Cool right? Well, after the retreat the unraveling continued and I experienced the whole "dark night" phenomenon and "kundalini awakening / syndrome". It got a little overwhelming and I had my mom stay with me for a couple of weeks until it calmed down.

I am doing great now. Still practicing and enjoying the benefits of practice. Deeper breath, anxiety and depression gone, more confidence, feeling more present and deeply rooted in the body, more effective socializing and spreading love and harmony to those I encounter. It is truly a wonderful technique.

A couple of questions:

1. I still experience nearly continuously odd sensations in the head, face, jaw and neck areas. These sensations feel like energy being pulled out of me, sometimes it gets going and sort of "spirals out" kind of like a rope being pulled apart. What is this? I remain equanimous to them but I am ignorant as to their nature and so experience distraction and some amount of suffering / confusion towards them. What are these sensations and how do I get rid of them?

2. How do I tell the difference between real sensations and imagined ones? If these sensations are imaginary, then are they covering up sensation "as it is" and replacing it with "how I want them to be"? Goenka warns against this numerous times. If these sensations are imaginary then perhaps they are a "fetter" or a "hindrance" to my progress on the path of insight?

I would REALLY love to have a teacher I could go to. Please let me know how to get connected to the right one who can help me on the path.

My goal is freedom from suffering. My purpose is to prevent the generation and spreading of negativity and to work to spread peace, love and happiness and teach others the way out of suffering. I take refuge in Buddha, Dharma & Sangha. May all beings be happy.

Thank you for any advice!

RE: My Vipassana Experience & Questions
Answer
10/22/14 7:06 PM as a reply to Bodhi.
[quote=Hi Josh

]
I :
had had some exposure to other meditation techniques, "energy practices", chakras and the like before I took my 10-day course. I have since left all of that behind and am 100% scientific minded now.

During the course, I started feeling this ability to move energy with my awareness throughout the body. I sort of imagined that perhaps this energy could heal or rejuvenate the body and mind and so I worked it all around the body with high intensity. I "opened every chakra" and focused it intensely at the base of the spine / perineum / prostate / anus area (who knows why I focused here). I started to feel like my whole body was in a vortex of energy. Then tight bands of energy started to unravel from the base of my spine and into all corners of the body and mind. Cool right? Well, after the retreat the unraveling continued and I experienced the whole "dark night" phenomenon and "kundalini awakening / syndrome". It got a little overwhelming and I had my mom stay with me for a couple of weeks until it calmed down.

I sounds like this was a bit of a rollercoaster for you, I'm interested to know if you told your mom what was going on. I've tried to discuss these kinds of issues with my family on various occasions and got a very mixed response.

I am doing great now. Still practicing and enjoying the benefits of practice. Deeper breath, anxiety and depression gone, more confidence, feeling more present and deeply rooted in the body, more effective socializing and spreading love and harmony to those I encounter. It is truly a wonderful technique.

Glad to see that the technique has settled down a bit for you now. Whould you mind me asking what it was?Pre-Goenka that is.

A couple of questions:

1. I still experience nearly continuously odd sensations in the head, face, jaw and neck areas. These sensations feel like energy being pulled out of me, sometimes it gets going and sort of "spirals out" kind of like a rope being pulled apart. What is this? I remain equanimous to them but I am ignorant as to their nature and so experience distraction and some amount of suffering / confusion towards them. What are these sensations and how do I get rid of them?

I will have to come clean and say that although I have done a lot of energy work, I have never had any formal training with recognised teacher. My observations are purely subjective and I don't know how they fit into any theoretical framework. These frameworks most definitely exist, its just that I've not studied any of them. My bad. Oooops.

But from my experience, the physical sensations that arise from energy practices are very diffcult to manipulate directly, indeed I would advise against trying. I always found cause and effect difficult to determine, so without this imformation, direct manipulation is less likely to succeed and runs the risk of having unintended consequences.

I suppose a common sense answer would be that energy practices' main aim is to "free" or "unblock" energy and odd sensations are most likely to be the result of the practice working. This sounds like a trite answer and it probably is, but its also probably true.

It is also true that many energy practices have a contemplative component (formal sitting practice.) Unfortunately, very few people actually do this bit. Most prefer to do just the exciting, sexy stuff. However the sitting component is vital as it lets the dust settle and is one of the reasons why I was able to continue and grow without a teacher. The sitting allowed me to figure a lot of this stuff out for myself. A simple Samatha practice is fine you don't need anything fancy. One perspective is that these odd sensations are just the body's way of trying to tell you stuff. All you have to do is listen. Sitting is where that happens best.

Another thing to consider is that with energy practices, odd physical sensations go with the turf, to some extent. Its just how it is. But I don't think they have ever been dangerous or evidence of something being wrong, just consequences of a rather unusual practice.

Interestinly, I also went from energy work to Goenka and found that the Goenka technique also had the effect of magnifying some go the results from my energy work. The Goenka practice is very body centric, perhaps that is why.


2. How do I tell the difference between real sensations and imagined ones? If these sensations are imaginary, then are they covering up sensation "as it is" and replacing it with "how I want them to be"? Goenka warns against this numerous times. If these sensations are imaginary then perhaps they are a "fetter" or a "hindrance" to my progress on the path of insight?

Short answer, its all real, but don't worry. The "fetter" or "hindrance" is much more likely to by any aversion or narritive you might have around them, rather than the sensations themselves.


I would REALLY love to have a teacher I could go to. Please let me know how to get connected to the right one who can help me on the path.

just to clarify, are you looking for a Goenka teacher or an energy work teacher? For Goenka, just go back and do more retreats. For energy work you might consider Ti-chi. This is a very balanced energy practice and is less open to, shall we say "experimentation," which one of the problems with Yoga, which is just so wide open.

My goal is freedom from suffering. My purpose is to prevent the generation and spreading of negativity and to work to spread peace, love and happiness and teach others the way out of suffering. I take refuge in Buddha, Dharma & Sangha. May all beings be happy.

Thank you for any advice!

Let us know how you get on.

Peace


RE: My Vipassana Experience & Questions
Answer
10/23/14 12:01 PM as a reply to Howard Maxwell Clegg.
I sounds like this was a bit of a rollercoaster for you, I'm interested to know if you told your mom what was going on. I've tried to discuss these kinds of issues with my family on various occasions and got a very mixed response.

I told my mom EVERYTHING and she was incredibly caring and loving about it all. She was a nurse for 30 years so she has seen everything.

Glad to see that the technique has settled down a bit for you now. Whould you mind me asking what it was?Pre-Goenka that is.

I was in a new-age Yoga studio. It was all about the soul living in the heart chakra, seeing lights, moving energy around the body with the hands in meditation, asking the soul questions and receiveing guidance from it, auras and energy cords connecting people, removing energy blockages from the body, finding your soul's plan for your life and living that, changing your destiny, manifesting abundance, etc...

Are you looking for a Goenka teacher or an energy work teacher? For Goenka, just go back and do more retreats. For energy work you might consider Ti-chi. This is a very balanced energy practice and is less open to, shall we say "experimentation," which one of the problems with Yoga, which is just so wide open.

Looking for a Buddhist teacher who is familiar with Vipassana, Shamatha & has worked to help people through spiritual crises / emergencies related to Kundalini awakening, energy work conflicting with Vipassana, etc...

RE: My Vipassana Experience & Questions
Answer
10/23/14 2:16 PM as a reply to Bodhi.
"I told my mom EVERYTHING and she was incredibly caring and loving about it all. She was a nurse for 30 years so she has seen everything."

Sounds like you got lucky with your mom, its so good to hear that she is open minded.That can be rare.

"I was in a new-age Yoga studio. It was all about the soul living in the heart chakra, seeing lights, moving energy around the body with the hands in meditation, asking the soul questions and receiveing guidance from it, auras and energy cords connecting people, removing energy blockages from the body, finding your soul's plan for your life and living that, changing your destiny, manifesting abundance, etc..."

Sounds...interesting. But more importantly it sounds like way too much for 10 days. I have had a go at most of this stuff and some of it can be very productive if done properly, and I'm not suggesting that your teachers were not competent. However if something significant does happen, like it happened to you, how do you figure out which practice or practices struck a chord? You may never know now, which is a shame. If you had such a strong response to a fairly brief exposure then you are probably unusualy senstive to energy work. It might be worth asking some of the other attendees how they got on.

"Looking for a Buddhist
teacher who is familiar with Vipassana, Shamatha & has worked to
help people through spiritual crises / emergencies related to Kundalini"

The teacher profile you are looking for is a fairly demanding one. People don't seem to jump traditions that often, so I can't recomend anyone with that specific skill set. I'm not sure you need all of those skills under one roof though. Energy work is good at highlighting pre-existing neurosis and a vanila psychothereapist might be of some use. MBSR is now fairly mainstream and many therapists train in this. Its great that you are clear about needing a teacher though and there are some great ones around. I cannot recomend my own teacher, Kenneth Folk, highly enough. I am also a "recovering" energy worker and he has always given excelent advice.

The simplest thing you can do is stop doing energy practices. This may sound obvious, but there may be a temptaion to go back and play around. You should resist this urge and stick to your new practice. In time the fallout will probably subside, it sounds like it has done a bit already. And there is always the DHO of course.

Good luck

RE: My Vipassana Experience & Questions
Answer
10/24/14 4:46 PM as a reply to Howard Maxwell Clegg.
Goenka said that Kundalini is when nerves in the spine "get activated". He said that Vipassana activates every atom in the body. I think what he says is close to the truth. Here's what I have currently worked out about it from my experience:

When your awareness senses tension in the body, it helps to relax and remove this tension, but only if it isn't in a state of creating new tension. This is what Goenka calls not creating new Sankharas. When you don't create new Sankharas, old Sankharas start to come up to the surface and pass away. Sankhara is basically a piece of information stored in the mind in the following form:

1. Situation / object / images / labels / content
2. Judgement (good / bad)
3. Pleasant or unpleasant sensation

So, for example, if you were bitten by a dog as a child, somewhere in your mind is stored the following:

1. Image of angry dog, feeling of teeth biting you
2. Judgement that this is very bad
3. Fear, helplessness, anxiety, aversion

And they are all connected together and stored as one thing. This is stored as a tension in the body that can affect how you breathe, move, feel. When you start feeling all the sensations throughout the body without applying craving, aversion or delusion then you will start to apply consciousness to the various tensions throughout the body and those tensions will start to come out and be released. As they are doing so, you will re-experience the event to which they are associated. You may see images in the imagination of a dog. You may feel pain in the arm like teeth biting. You may feel rushes of itchyness and burning on the skin. You may feel anxiety and fear in your heart or stomach area. If you can avoid reacting to any of these feelings and just continue scanning the body/mind calmly, the tension eventually releases and now you are free of that unwholesome tension that used to live in you.

In every body there is a sort of master "knot" of tension that is held together at the base of the spine. If you develop a sharp and focused mind, a high degree of Samadhi and go into this knot with your awareness, at some point the tension release process is triggered and it unravels this grandaddy of all the tension and with it comes all of the other tension throughout the body and all of the negativity and content and sensations and emotions tied to all those experiences start flooding the mind, presenting themselves to your consciousness to be released / healed. This is the "dark night of the soul" so common to Kundalini awakenings. If you can keep your cool through this entirely natural process of tension release and mental experience processing, you are rewarded with a much lighter psyche, and a better functioning body with less nervous tension. As all of the tension is released, the brain releases a lot of dopamine which can cause feelings of spiritual enlightenment / bliss.

Of course there is much more to it than that, but this is my scientific / natural attempt to explain what Kundalini awakening is, how it can be triggered and handled.

In my case, the tension release process is still ongoing 2 months after the retreat and I get weary of it wanting to continue when I am trying to work and function and socialize and still feel these sensations being constantly processed. Most of all, I am weary of it being so constantly in my head, distracting my attention from being deeply rooted within the inner body where I would like it to be.

RE: My Vipassana Experience & Questions
Answer
10/27/14 5:44 AM as a reply to Bodhi.
Hello again,
Your description sounds spookily familiar to me and I can verify that that is how it goes down for me a lot of the time. This model also has parallels elsewhere, most obviously Freudian psychology of course. I had forgotten Goenka's descriptions of the Kundilini experience and had forgotten why his method was so attractive to me at the time.  Thank you for reminding me.

It sounds like you have a good theoretical framework to work with. However I have a couple of cautionary notes.

Josh:
"In every body there is a sort of master "knot" of tension that is held together at the base of the spine. If you develop a sharp and focused mind, a high degree of Samadhi and go into this knot with your awareness, at some point the tension release process is triggered and it unravels this grandaddy of all the tension and with it comes all of the other tension throughout the body and all of the negativity and content and sensations and emotions tied to all those experiences start flooding the mind, presenting themselves to your consciousness to be released / healed. This is the "dark night of the soul" so common to Kundalini awakenings. If you can keep your cool through this entirely natural process of tension release and mental experience processing, you are rewarded with a much lighter psyche, and a better functioning body with less nervous tension. As all of the tension is released, the brain releases a lot of dopamine which can cause feelings of spiritual enlightenment / bliss."

This is a pretty much word-for-word description of what happened to me on my first Goenka retreat.Except that I felt lighter but also more spirtiualy exhaused than I had ever felt before. But rather than feeling elated and liberated, I needed to sleep for a week. So, just a warning that this process can be idiosyncratic and specific to the individual.

Also this process of encountering the "master knot of tension", as it were, occured many times for me. Each time I felt that this time I'd beaten it and each time it came around again. This proccess only stopped when I attained to stream entry. I have to say that I had and awful lot of crap to process and each time was a profound experience of personal growth but getting to stream entry sooner would probably have helped. This is my main critisism of Goenka, he never mentions the progress of insight or stream entry. I don't understand why this is and is the main reason I switched from Goenka to Noting. But like I said, Goenka is still a good basic practice.

You say release of tension has been going on for two months and you want it to continue and are weary of this. Okay, you need to relax. It is highly unlikely that you will experience all the truth there is to be had from this one episode. Practice can be a long game and you need to pace yourself. Sometimes insight it inhibited by our very desire for insight and "progress." This is one of the main critisisms of the maps based approach to practice. Also practice, like all things, has seasons. Sometimes it is appropriate to pause and reflect a bit more. Some would say that that is exactly what Samatha is for, it breaks up the intensity of the insight process. Aquiring insight can be exhausting, sometimes the mind just says "enough already." Time for some Samatha. Use the breath, it is an excelent way into body awareness and is much more gentle than Goenka. Don't deconstruct it, just enjoy the simple act of breathing. If you want to expand it a bit, try breathing "into" your head and limbs. But remember to enjoy!

Let us know how you get on.

Peace

RE: My Vipassana Experience & Questions
Answer
10/27/14 9:55 AM as a reply to Howard Maxwell Clegg.
So how do I get stream entry? And what is this major difference between Goenka & "Noting"?

I was thinking of checking out Zen "Shikantaza". Supposedly it is like Shamatha and Vipassana mixed together and just diving in to the deepest part of VIpassana immediately. Instant Bhanga?

RE: My Vipassana Experience & Questions
Answer
10/27/14 11:29 AM as a reply to Bodhi.
Josh:
So how do I get stream entry?
Read Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, an Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book, by Daniel Ingram and see if that does not answer most of your questions. I'd read it twice. Most people here have read it and use the vocabulary even if they do not agree to the maps and models of enlightenment.
Josh:
And what is this major difference between Goenka & "Noting"?
Goenka focuses on body stuff..feeling. There are 5 senses and he uses one mostly. Noting uses all 5 senses and thought as the 6th sense.

Josh:
I was thinking of checking out Zen "Shikantaza". Supposedly it is like Shamatha and Vipassana mixed together and just diving in to the deepest part of VIpassana immediately. Instant Bhanga?
I'd wait a while before doing "just sitting". I am finally now at the point of my practice that just sitting is useful. Your milage may vary though....but ask yourself what exactly are you doing? do you know why? if you don't perhaps you should figure that out unless you have more faith than I'll ever have.
~D

RE: My Vipassana Experience & Questions
Answer
10/27/14 10:43 PM as a reply to Howard Maxwell Clegg.
Howard Maxwell Clegg:

I have to say that I had and awful lot of crap to process and each time was a profound experience of personal growth but getting to stream entry sooner would probably have helped. This is my main critisism of Goenka, he never mentions the progress of insight or stream entry. I don't understand why this is and is the main reason I switched from Goenka to Noting. But like I said, Goenka is still a good basic practice.


Goenka stated that he never attained stream entry. He didn't seem to believe it was possible and it wasn't a focus of his. Crazy, considering how many of us got stream entry on one of his retreats - I did.

RE: My Vipassana Experience & Questions
Answer
10/29/14 9:24 AM as a reply to J C.
Nice to know he was honest about his attainments instead of hinting about olympian levels of consciouness, like so many teachers do. A refreshing dose of humility. Also nice to know that the the human spirit can find a way when the signposts are obscure.

RE: My Vipassana Experience & Questions
Answer
10/29/14 11:43 AM as a reply to Howard Maxwell Clegg.
The way you guys talk about Stream Entry kinda makes me crave it.

RE: My Vipassana Experience & Questions
Answer
10/29/14 1:05 PM as a reply to Bodhi.
Josh:
The way you guys talk about Stream Entry kinda makes me crave it.


Good! Use that craving. Will you be able to go on any retreats any time soon?

Some links you might find helpful:

http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2010/11/going-for-stream-entry-on-goenka-10-day.html

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/ReformedSlackersGuide/en