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Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??

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Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? peter havlin sprosty 11/7/14 11:08 PM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? Darin 11/8/14 12:49 AM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? peter havlin sprosty 11/8/14 1:30 AM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? Matt 11/8/14 11:31 PM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? peter havlin sprosty 11/9/14 8:45 PM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? Matt 11/10/14 11:36 PM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? peter havlin sprosty 11/13/14 3:33 AM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? Daniel Moretti 11/9/14 11:30 AM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? peter havlin sprosty 11/9/14 9:10 PM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? Daniel Moretti 11/14/14 12:52 PM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? paul griffin 11/14/14 11:35 PM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? peter havlin sprosty 11/16/14 2:53 AM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? peter havlin sprosty 11/16/14 3:04 AM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? Nikolai . 11/16/14 5:14 AM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? Matt 11/16/14 8:56 AM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? peter havlin sprosty 11/17/14 9:17 PM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? Teague 11/17/14 10:14 PM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? peter havlin sprosty 11/23/14 8:22 AM
impermanence paul griffin 11/11/14 10:51 PM
RE: impermanence peter havlin sprosty 11/13/14 3:36 AM
RE: impermanence paul griffin 11/13/14 11:49 AM
RE: impermanence peter havlin sprosty 11/13/14 9:13 PM
RE: impermanence paul griffin 11/14/14 11:33 AM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? Nikolai . 11/16/14 11:20 PM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? Incandescent Flower 11/20/14 6:37 PM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? peter havlin sprosty 11/23/14 9:13 AM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? Matt 11/23/14 12:41 PM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? peter havlin sprosty 11/23/14 9:55 PM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? Incandescent Flower 11/23/14 9:42 PM
RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica?? peter havlin sprosty 11/23/14 10:07 PM
Hi all...my first post, I believe. I've been a reader on and off of this site and frankly don't understand 90% of the terminology. That's ok. My med experience is based on Goenka's teaching and at least at my level, most of the terms used on this board are not mentioned. Anyhow, that's neither here nor there. So I will be going on my fourth Goenka retreat in a few weeks (first one was probably 3 years ago). My practice is pretty inconsistent and shallow, in my estimation, but I have managed to do 30 minutes in the morning for 4 or 5 or 6 months now which I must say I'm happy to have kept any kind of consistency at all. One thing that Goenka is always mentioning again and again is the arising and passing away of sensations (or thoughts, emotions, etc...) anicca anicca anicca impermanence. While I understand this on an intellectual level I feel I am missing something profound experientially; perhaps it is due to poor concentration but I don't "get it". When I scan for sensations mostly they feel the same unless it is a major pain that can sometimes pass away. What I get is mostly a subtle vibration or feeling of "being alive" in the various parts of my body. As I pass again and again through a specific part of the body the sensation remains the same...still a subtle vibration. Now a vibration is an on-off impulse so is this the impermanance I am supposed to observe...it's "on" and a millisecond later it's "off" and then in another millisecond "on" again? I don't get a deep feeling of understanding from it which leads me to think I'm not understanding or "knowing" something. On a similar note, when life "sucks" we can say, well, anicca anicca this is impermanent so let's not get worked up about it but see how long it lasts. That's fine and dandy but if it lasts until the end of my life, and then indeed changes because I'm dead, well,  I'm not feeling much consolation in this wisdom.
Any thoughts, folks? The retreats I attend are in Thailand and perhaps due to my poor Thai language skills the answers from the teachers when I ask at the retreats leave me with still more questions. So here I am.
Thanks so much, Peter.

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/8/14 12:49 AM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
I've done one 10 day Goenka retreat in Australia.  I found the scope of the technique and the teachings to be thorough but somewhat narrow.  I had some interesting experiences on the retreat that in terms of the Progress of Insight Map would correlate to 1st Jhana and the beginings of 2nd Jhana (Arising and Passing Away).  The concentration practice in the first three days was very useful and this skill has enabled my practice to branch into other vipassana techniques such as the Mahasi Sayadaw method (style of noting).  I agree with your comments concerning the limitation of the anicca insight on its own in its application to daily life.  I found that a much broader practice was necessary to bring noticeable positive effects into my daily gestalt.  Vipassana allows me to be aware of my small self in operation.  I mean vispassana in the Mahasi Sayadaw sense rather than the Goenka sense.  It's helpful to observe the thought arising and the resulting emotions that follow.  I like to make the connections between the thoughts and the emotions as felt in the body.  Goenka doesn't seem to emphasise the noticing of thoughts.  After a while the patterns emerge.  Once they are seen they lose there power, and this can be a practical benefit in daily life.  To be mindful of the thoughts and to feel the early stages of an ager response in the body is often enough to evert the damage.  I feel that my progress is due to an intellectual consideration of not only anicca but dukkha and anatta also.  There are after all, three charectistics to be considered.  Goenka as far as I am aware does not seem to address the other two.  Reading books and listening to dharma and philosophy talks has also helped alot.  And of course lots of meditation.
 

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/8/14 1:30 AM as a reply to Darin.
Thanks, Darin, for your reply. Well, I keep going back to this place because the food is so damn good! Apart from that, as you probably recall, on the retreats Goenka rather stresses not varying at all from his instructions, not mixing techniques, not meditating outside the box. So I have been somewhat reluctant and then I suppose a bit lazy, too, in not trying out some other techniques. I'm not sure what I"m getting or have gotten out of this med pursuit so far. I have felt very calm coming out of the retreats, that much I can attest to. In my day to day, well, it's hard to say. My awareness of how and why I react to things has grown. In fact, it's rather annoying now. Because I am not able, for the most part, to stand back from my emotions, I have the added joy of not only caving into them but watching the whole process, too. One step at a time, I hope. The reason I have the anicca question is because Goenka stresses it so much, if you remember. At the beginning of every sitting, it seems, when he gives instruction, he intones anicca anicca anicca arising passing away impermanence. It seems like such an integral part of his teaching that I feel I better understand it or be lost.
Again, thanks for your help.

Cheers....

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/8/14 11:31 PM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
Hi Peter,

I did my first retreat last year, a Goenka 10-day.  I had essentially zero sitting experience before that.  Here are some things I noticed that I considered evidence of impermanence:

- Many times in an hour I'd experience a compelling urge to think about something or other besides present moment bodily sensations. Something to do with other people near me, recent events, future events, etc.  Every one of those thought-streams ended up being completely pointless, and eventually each once-compelling thought stream passed away, within seconds or minutes.

-In the first several days I experienced dramatic bodily discomfort.  Most of those feelings, compelling as they were, eventually disappeared without me responding in any way to them, sometimes in seconds, sometimes in minutes.

-Throughout the retreat I experienced dramatically interesting physical and emotional phenomena that all disappeared without intervention by me.

-After about day 5, much of the physical awkwardness I had with prolonged sitting simply vanished, something that I had no expectation would happen.

I was on the lookout, I noticed when these things things came and went, I came to expect things that came to leave sooner or later.  I noticed that my reaction to things that were impermanent was often more of a problem than the impermanent issue, and that reaction dropped off the map.  That expectation/experience transferred pretty well to regular life after the retreat, as did a tendency to notice my bodily experience before I fixated on external circumstances that caused the bodily experience.

The retreat was a big win for me.

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/9/14 11:30 AM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
Hi Peter,

Firstly, good to hear about regarding your consistency of practice, keep it up!

Secondly, can you discuss what it is you expect vipassanna to give you? I think that you may have expectations regarding it which may not be accurate.

To me, vipassanna is a practice for understanding what's going on "under the hood" so that we can become intimate with our own process of suffering and most importantly end our own process of suffering. I wonder if maybe you should read some literature which expands your understanding of the aims of the vipassanna path? The goal there would be to sort of give you a "theory" which you can then "scientifically" test by way of practice. Let me know how what I've said lines up with your thoughts on the whole thing.

Daniel

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/9/14 8:45 PM as a reply to Matt.
Hi Matthew, 

Thanks for your reply. Yes, I concur with you about the impermenance of the phenomena you mentioned. I experienced that as well. However, and perhaps this is my root problem, I was expecting some sort of ephifany about it, about impermenance. The way I understand it, it is the foundation to vipassana but I feel I am only getting it on an intellectual level. I had illiuminations about acceptance of myself and the moment while meditating that were powerful and gave me a profound understanding of how I make myself suffer. Ditto for seeing the level of my discontent and anxiety/stress/etc... I have not had that illumination about impermenance and since it is so stressed by Goenka on the course, I feel I'm missing something. That being said, there are a number of things that Goenka stresses that leave me indeed stressed, such as various phenomena that it seems we are supposed to be experiencing on certain days of the course and usually I am not experiencing. This leaves me feeling like I've failed in my endeavour. Of course, there is no failure so this is silly. Perhaps this is the same thing with impermenance. His talking about it so much is making me stress about it. But maybe it is just too much talk and I should just chill out....right?  

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/9/14 9:10 PM as a reply to Daniel Moretti.
Hi Daniel,

Thanks for the reply and the encouraging words. What do I expect from vipassana? That's a good question. I'm looking for some peace. I realize I am my own worst enemy, I realize I'm living completely in my head and all my "problems" stem from that, that indeed I myself am creating all my problems, all my suffering. I understand, I believe, a lot of things intellectually but of course since the intellect is the thing creating all the problems I can't think my way out of them. So I expect vipassana to give me experiential wisdom and some peace of mind. I don't expect it to relieve all my suffering at this point as I am far far away from that but it has shown me a light at the end of the tunnel, given me some hope that there is a path that I feel akin to.
In my daily meditation, I suppose I have expectations or desire to find a calm space, to slow down my mind some, to have focused concentration. I don't believe I'm very good at this at all. It's near impossible to compare experiences between folks so I don't know if I am a particularly antsy meditator or not though I feel I am. My first course, I could barely keep my eyes closed. I was highly keyed up and extremely anxious in my life at the time and so jittery that my eyelids were constantly fluttering and I had to concentrate just to keep them closed. Not all that much has changed so when I sit in the morning my concentration, I feel, is very shallow and my mind is jumping around all over the place most sessions. I don't have the problem with the fluttering eyelids, however! Occassionally,  I have what I feel is a "good" session. So far I keep trying...what else can I do? 
I notice many folks on this board talk about Daniel's book (a different Daniel, correct?) being a good resource which I will look into. Do you think the goals of vipassana are really any different from the other ways of meditating or spiritual practice? My feeling is the final goal is ultimately the same. Different methodoloy and terminology but in the big picture the destination is identical.
I have felt that some of the Goenka teaching is limited or has limited me and at times just doesn't gel with me or make sense. I read a few criticisms on here that there is little guidance from the teachers at these courses. I suppose I would agree with that though having nothing to compare it to I was unsure whether my thoughts were legitimate. So I have tried to ask my question about impermenance at the retreats many times but the answer is usually something like, "you need to follow your breath and concentrate....". It didnt anwer my question but it's probably good advice in one sense.

Are my expectations reasonable?

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/10/14 11:36 PM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
Peter,

It sounds to me like the practice is having a good effect on you, though you're missing out on an 'impermanence illumination'.  I'll mention that the 'wins' I've gotten so far come in two varieties:

The first is what I call a realization.  I don't really know what realizations are supposed to be like, but here's what's happened to me:  I'll be in some ordinary situation, something will happen,I'll have a sudden deep and clear feeling of 'oh, so that's what they mean'.  For example, the other day I heard motorcycles roaring around, which always bothers me and triggers emotional and cognitive reactions.  But this time, I had the clear thought, those motorcycle sounds are suffering, and my old baggage about motorcyclesis just too old to bother with.  Reading that old baggage is a waste of time is one thing, having that info come up in the throws of an experience is much more useful.  This moves me from a place of living within the suffering, to observing the suffering, which is a nicer place to be.  Is this what you mean by 'illumination'?

The more interesting case is when I am happily surprised that my experience of life has changed.  The way I explain it is, that there are lots of situations in life that are not nice and I've become used to them and in a way I'm expecting these not-nice things to happen.  But then at some point, I'll notice a pleasant feeling, easily determined to be the fact that something unpleasant that I subconsciously expected to happen is *not* happening.  An impermanence example: my 3 year old son can drag his feet when I'm getting us ready to leave the house.  It's easy for that to be painful for me, and consequently for him also. But now it's a non event, it just takes as long as it takes and my mind is resting easily in the deep abiding confidence that is going to last as long as it lasts, and no longer than that.  It's not words, it's just that the delays don't torture me.  Sometimes a new situation like that comes up for the first time in a long time,and I notice "hey, there is something nice going on here... oh yeah, this is not bothering me.".  Is this what you mean by an 'illumination' or an 'epiphany'?

Here is a shot in the dark, please ignore if it leads you off in a confusing direction: an experienced Goenka practitioner reminded me that Goenka said: “old students can scan and observe in different ways depending on the sensations that come up". With that in mind, check out this thread of Danial Ingram:http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/view_message/1973107#_19_message_1973107

Does this make any sense?

impermanence
Answer
11/11/14 10:51 PM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
I am speaking from the Thai forest tradition, where vipassana is a process. The contemplation of anicca is the surest entry point, but continue to contemplate it intellectually in daily life to come to experiential realization. This necessarily involves a separation between conventional reality (vohara) and ultimate reality (paramattha). Ultimate reality includes the realization that everything (except the unconditioned) is impermanent and changing as part of a birth/maturity/death cycle. This is a scientific fact, but beings divert their attention from it and it requires directing the mind toward this truth and changing the way one thinks about things, but meditation and everyday life must have a separation, because they are two different realities with different functions. This is Purification of View, one of the stages of insight. There are two subjects of contemplation here, 1. impermanence and 2. Conventional and ultimate reality. See the Visuddhimagga chap. XVIII for specific guides to these contemplations. Keep coming back to the question, "If this (impermanence) is a fact, why can't I see It ?". It also requires accepting that what is currently seen is a delusion. The process of separation is gradual.

Extract from Visuddhimagga, XVIII, 28 illustrating Conventional and Ultimate reality.
28. So in many hundred suttas it is only mentality-materiality that is illustrated,
not a being, not a person. Therefore, just as when the component parts such as
axles, wheels, frame poles, etc., are arranged in a certain way, there comes to be
the mere term of common usage “chariot,” yet in the ultimate sense when each
part is examined there is no chariot—and just as when the component parts of
a house such as wattles, etc., are placed so that they enclose a space in a certain
way, there comes to be the mere term of common usage “house,” yet in the ultimate
sense there is no house—and just as when the fingers, thumb, etc., are placed in
a certain way, there comes to be the mere term of common usage [594] “fist,”—
with body and strings, “lute”; with elephants, horses, etc., “army”; with
surrounding walls, houses, states, etc., “city”—just as when trunk, branches,
foliage, etc., are placed in a certain way, there comes to be the mere term of
common usage “tree,” yet in the ultimate sense, when each component is
examined, there is no tree—so too, when there are the five aggregates [as objects]
of clinging, there comes to be the mere term of common usage “a being,” “a
person,” yet in the ultimate sense, when each component is examined, there is
no being as a basis for the assumption “I am” or “I”; in the ultimate sense there
is only mentality-materiality. The vision of one who sees in this way is called
correct vision

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/13/14 3:33 AM as a reply to Matt.
Hi Matthew,

You're making good sense, yes. I can remember having experiences such as those you are speaking of though I cannot recall details. I will say that my mother died a year ago and I was strangely calm about the whole thing. I like to think it was because of the work I had done in vipassana though I can't say for sure. I did't feel that death was such a bad thing. Impermanence, right? Since that time I feel I have been getting further off track and this may be the result of some difficult life situations pertaining to work and money (not having much of either). For example, I've gotten quite angry multiple times at little things going on in my life, such as somebody not driving the "correct" way according to my idea of "correct", or even more stupid, something such as the piece of paper not lying flat when I want to cut it because there is a fan blowing (that I turned on to keep cool). I can see myself build up the reaction and know at the same time that I should let it go, anicca anicca anicca, focus on the sensations and not the emotions blahblahblah but I can't avert it, usually. This makes me even MORE frustrated and angry...the fact that I "should know better" but yet end up powerless. This is frustrating. I'm actually finding discussing med practice and "impermenance" frustrating, too. From that I can see that I have built up a lot of aversion...As many folks have written, the path is not always forward but often we back track and lose ground. Sometimes I get upset...and I'm feeling a bit of this right now, that we are such defective machines that we need to jump through all these hoops to live peacefully. How did such a mixed up animal come about??? It can seem like such a burden... But I digress... This brings me to a riddle and a cunundrum: is impermanence....permanent?

RE: impermanence
Answer
11/13/14 3:36 AM as a reply to paul griffin.
Hi Paul,

I keep running across good things about the Thai forest tradition. Could you tell me the difference between the forest tradition and the Goenka tradition, if you know? I had looked at a place somewhere between Pai and Mae Hong Son, the name escapes me now, that I had heard good feedback about. If that is forest tradition, if I remember correctly, there is more freedom to meditate at your own speed and also more freedom for discussion, study, etc...

RE: impermanence
Answer
11/13/14 11:49 AM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
Wat Nong Pah Pong and Wat Pah Nanachat are the most accessible entry points to the Forest tradition for Westerners. They have branch monasteries in some Western countries like the UK and Australia. Acahn Mun was one of the last masters in the Forest tradition before the forests were closed and the sangha centralised in about 1990 and it is worth researching him. There is a book "Forest Recollections: Wandering Monks in Twentieth-Century Thailand", which is a good introduction to the tradition.
The Vipassana organization sets beings on the right path, just as further information will be gleaned from the monastery system mentioned above, but essentially practice is a personal matter and some beings outgrow these 'scaffoldings'.

RE: impermanence
Answer
11/13/14 9:13 PM as a reply to paul griffin.
Interesting, I didn't know this tradition was "defunct". I live in Thailand so all these places are accessible to me. The place I was speaking of is this one: http://www.althaiman.ru/thai%20htm/Province/wattamwua.htm. I'm not sure if this is exactly the forest tradition you are speaking of or if it just happens to be meditation "in the forest". I will search out that book which should be easy to find here, I would think.

RE: impermanence
Answer
11/14/14 11:33 AM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
Those books are probably in the library at Wat Pah Nanachat, so the best option would be to book in there and stay for a period. 

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/14/14 12:52 PM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
Peter,

Sounds like you're learning a lot from this thread already, and yeah, your expectations are reasonable. I encourage you to put your mind toward research of other Buddhist traditions. Perhaps they are Hinayana (vipassana) in nature, or perhaps Mahayana (Zen, Mahamudra), or even Vajrayana. Have you shopped around a bit? All of the paths are beneficial, and provide a different "flavor" in terms of the path.

My disagreement with the Goenka approach is that it is sort of belittling. I was told, when I was discussing the practice with the teacher, that one cannot hope to attain the final goal in one lifetime. That was a bit weird to hear because it's plainly discouraging, and it seems to not necessarily be true. On some level, given the depth of content of alternate vipassana courses, it also feels like the Goenka courses are essentially the kindergarten and first grade of vipassana practice. The truth of the matter, though, is that one will attain the final goal if they sit and contemplate their bodily sensations in terms of the three characteristics: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and impersonality, which is what Goenka tells you to do. One most assuredly will gain insight into the goings-on of their experience, and start to live according to that knowledge.

Insight is nothing special, it's just understanding the goings-on of human experience. That understanding becomes realized when we succumb to the fact that our old understandings of human experience are insufficient, confused, and suffering-inducing and we have no choice but to employ our knowledge. We lose sight of this because enlightenment is sort of "oversold" as some magical crazy thing. It's not. It is just a realized set of understandings which change you and turn your experience into something much freer and open.

I'm not sure I directly answered a single one of your questions, but yeah, just more food for thought ;)

- (the other, less realized and, perhaps, less crazy) Daniel

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/14/14 11:35 PM as a reply to Daniel Moretti.
[quote=
]


 The truth of the matter, though, is that one will attain the final goal if they sit and contemplate their bodily sensations in terms of the three characteristics: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and impersonality, which is what Goenka tells you to do. One most assuredly will gain insight into the goings-on of their experience, and start to live according to that knowledge.

Insight is nothing special, it's just understanding the goings-on of human experience. That understanding becomes realized when we succumb to the fact that our old understandings of human experience are insufficient, confused, and suffering-inducing and we have no choice but to employ our knowledge. which change you and turn your experience into something much freer and open.




 
Comment:

"start to live according to that knowledge" is the moving toward ultimate reality (paramattha) and "understanding the goings-on of human experience" is conventional reality (vohara). This is an important division and constitutes a stage of insight, "Purification of View". The understanding of these two removes the perplexity the practitioner may experience in trying to reconcile their insight with conventional reality. It is necessary to understand that the two exist simultaneously and both have different and legitimate functions. There is a danger of developing aversion to conventional reality. The Buddha repeatedly mentioned his reservations when using conventional speech, e.g. in D9, "These are merely names, expressions, turns of speech, designations in common use in the world, which the Perfect One uses without misapprehending them."
Insight is understanding impermanence, which is a scientific fact and is reality and contrasts with conventional reality, the 'goings-on of human existence.' Insight is nothing special in the sense that it's a deeper understanding of reality, but nevertheless it's not purely intellectual and can produce rapture and a sense of urgency in the practitioner.

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/16/14 2:53 AM as a reply to paul griffin.
Daniel...and Paul (I'm having trouble following the different threads so please know that I am rather responding to both of you and anyone else out there......),

One thing that I have run across multiple times in relation to Goenka courses are internet posts about the quality of the assistant teachers. They, of course, each have their own peculiarities and prejudices and possible misinterpretations or just plain mistaken ideas so perhaps the one that told you enlightenment in this lifetime was impossible is a case in point. I have had a couple silly "episodes" at the Goenka retreat here that in retrospect I chalk up to overzealous servers. One thing that I feel negative about in regards to Goenka but that at the same time prevents me from contact with folks such as the one who negated your enlightenment possibility is that the assistant teachers don't speak English most of the time and if they do it is limited so there is not a lot of room for their slant on the whole thing to influence me much, though I have asked questions on many occasions. What I don't like is that I have little personal guidance during the 10 days and when I get stuck in a rut (which feels like often enough) it would be nice to get the perspective of a knowledgable teacher and perhaps a tug out of said rut.
I think I'm feeling a little bit more comfortable with my understanding of impermanence. It seems that it is indeed the on-off of the vibrations, something I think I mentioned in my first or second post in this thread. It would have been nice during the previous 3 courses if I had had the chance to pose the question when it first came to me. Oh well. It seems perhaps I was looking for an "oh wow!" moment when it is once again a "hit me over the head with subtlety" moment. 
I had a strange experience last night, or rather early this morning. I was feeling anxious in bed and couldn't sleep so I got up and came and sat in a chair, closed me eyes, and followed my breathing a bit and then the sensations of my body. My concentration felt deeper than usual (it is generally very very shallow...something I struggle with quite a bit) and I tried to feel my body as one big tingling sensation. The idea of impermenance was in the back of my mind and I felt quite connected with this idea of the body as just a vibrating mass. In fact, I felt disconnected from it. I felt a sudden burst of energy/vibrations and felt like the particles of my body were being sucked into the black vortex of space...sort of like the transporter on Star Trek. With this came a quick wave of fear/horror that "I" was really nothing and that "I" as I know myself was about to be destroyed, that is, the pattern of my particles destroyed. I saw that I was really these particles only and not Peter. This experience didn't last long and it could have been some sort of a dream state I had fallen into...it's really hard to say. I stayed there for a bit longer and then went back to bed, me, myself, and my particle pattern.
As mentioned above, I have a very shallow concentration level and focusing it on my upper lip well, it is quite difficult. I have tried focusing on the abdomen and that seems easier, my mind doesn't jump around as much. I wonder why Goenka doesn't advise students with poor concentration to perhaps start with the abdomen and once the mind has calmed a bit switch to the upper lip. I really can't see the harm in it but rather only good. It's that one might become lazy and use the abdomen only?

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/16/14 3:04 AM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
This talk of conventional reality and ultimate reality...Could it not be that neither is "true"? Who's to say that this ultimate reality is not just another veil or illusion? Sure, it feels like the ultimate reality and of course I am not an enlightened person and don't have the experience to say but from on perspective it is impossible to verify anything that we experience. It could all be part of a "dream" so to speak. Or another distortion. In one sense, if it brings you peace and harmony and the end to suffering than fine enough. But any experience is flitered through our brains and therefore subject to distortion. Including what I have just written.
 
A question came to me: would or could an enlightened person feel the effects of drugs or alcohol? Would she/he not simply remain equanimous to the sensations created and in so doing "feel" no effect whatsoever?

Another question which is worrying me before I go off for the retreat in 10 days: What is the most important and grounding action or thought to maintain to keep clear of the quicksand? Of course, Goenka says return to the breath, that is the anchor during a storm. Well, I often have a hard time doing even that. In fact, I usually get anxious before sitting to meditate and spend an inordinate amount of time "trying" to calm down. Of course, I should just observe the agitation and that will take care of the problem but that is easier said than done. My mind flits to and fro and I can remember that for an instant only before it's off to try some other technique to try and focus myself. At the end of these kinds of sittings which tends to be through most of the 10 days, I try to tell myself that his is just my particular path, that while some folks may have a more focused mind, mine for the time being is not and I will just have to keep trying. However, if you all have some tip or tips to remember when this happens, please share.

Thanks so much, Peter

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/16/14 11:20 PM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
peter havlin sprosty:
One thing that Goenka is always mentioning again and again is the arising and passing away of sensations (or thoughts, emotions, etc...) anicca anicca anicca impermanence. While I understand this on an intellectual level I feel I am missing something profound experientially; perhaps it is due to poor concentration but I don't "get it". When I scan for sensations mostly they feel the same unless it is a major pain that can sometimes pass away. What I get is mostly a subtle vibration or feeling of "being alive" in the various parts of my body.

That is 'sensation' arising and passing at a sublte level as I see it. 

As I pass again and again through a specific part of the body the sensation remains the same...still a subtle vibration.

Now a vibration is an on-off impulse so is this the impermanance I am supposed to observe...it's "on" and a millisecond later it's "off" and then in another millisecond "on" again?

At a very sublte level yes, But paying attention towards the perception of impermanence can involve a variety of manifestations of such a perception. I think I mention some ways here

I don't get a deep feeling of understanding from it which leads me to think I'm not understanding or "knowing" something. On a similar note, when life "sucks" we can say, well, anicca anicca this is impermanent so let's not get worked up about it but see how long it lasts.

That's fine and dandy but if it lasts until the end of my life, and then indeed changes because I'm dead, well,  I'm not feeling much consolation in this wisdom.

Any thoughts, folks? 

Mix it up a little. Instead of simply observing a flow of 'vibration' as the only manifestation/perception of impermanence, broaden this view a bit. Let it be more panoramic to include any perceptions of 'disssatisfaction'. E.g. a thought that "this vibration is obviously impermenent as it fluxes and arises and passes super fast BUT what good does seeing this do if it just goes on and on till I die".  Get curious about that very thought. As that is the dissatisfaction. Not the vibration. The perception of impermenance is meant to act as the crow bar that pries apart little by little or all at once the old habitual means of perceving that sucked versus a perception that doesn't.  It isn't the sensations themselves that cause the misery but the perception of them. Sanna has a lot to answer for. 

Experiment:

Simply stare at the vibrations and say to yourself "Yeh, they are imperment in a sublte sense, but they keep going on and on...what's the point?". 

VERSUS

Broaden the mind's view a little, keeping the vibrations in the field of awareness but at the same time become aware of the very thought conditioning how those vibrations are actually percieved (such as the one mentioned above). Get curious about how that sublte thought loop (i.e. belief) acts as a sort of overlay to observing the vibrations and see if there are any gaps in it. Get curious about the gaps. Broaden the view of how the perception of 'impermanence' can be experienced.

You could also play around with that view and intentionally see if you can [url=]shift the perception of it. Doing such actions can result in seeing the causes and effects of how one suffers. Knowing the arising of suffering (by actually seeing how it is arising in real time), will lead to the ceasing of the feeding of it which in turn will see its cessation come about. If you are still suffering even though you are supposedly seeing vibrations arise and pass continuously over a long period (such as a lifetime), then you ain't actually looking at the arising of suffering. You are missing it and thus (due to this ignorance) feeding its continuance.


Thanissaro Bhikkhu talks about practicing with perceptions of impermanence, not self and dukkha in order to find out where stress is still arising due to a misguided 'perception' rather than trying to simply observe a supposed  innate 'characteristic' of phenomena. 

"Ajaan Fuang once had a student in Singapore who wrote him a letter describing how his meditation had reached the point where it was concerned solely with seeing the three characteristics in everything he encountered. Ajaan Fuang had me write in reply: "Don't focus on things outside. Keep looking back at the mind, to see what it is that keeps complaining that they're stressful, inconstant, and not self — because the fault lies not with the things: The fault lies with the mind that's looking for happiness in the wrong place."

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/16/14 5:14 AM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
peter havlin sprosty:

 
A question came to me: would or could an enlightened person feel the effects of drugs or alcohol? Would she/he not simply remain equanimous to the sensations created and in so doing "feel" no effect whatsoever?

Why not find out yourself. 

Another question which is worrying me before I go off for the retreat in 10 days: What is the most important and grounding action or thought to maintain to keep clear of the quicksand?

I give some tips on how to maximise the anapana instructions and the sweeping techniquehere. They may or may not be of help. 

Of course, Goenka says return to the breath, that is the anchor during a storm. Well, I often have a hard time doing even that.

Why do you have a hard time with it specifically? What happens when you attempt it?


In fact, I usually get anxious before sitting to meditate and spend an inordinate amount of time "trying" to calm down.

How do you "try and calm down"?

Of course, I should just observe the agitation and that will take care of the problem but that is easier said than done.

Depends on how perception is playing out. Is one relegating 'agitation' to being a sensation only? Or is one broadening the view to include the mental overlay of dissatisfaction (the thought loop/belief)?

My mind flits to and fro and I can remember that for an instant only before it's off to try some other technique to try and focus myself.

Have you tried broadening the viewpoint a little to be a little more peripheral rather than centrepointed? That may help, as the 'flitting to and fro' simply becomes part of that viewpoint and need not be a hindrance,  but something more that is observed to arise and pass. A possible tripping point with the sweeping method is that yogis might feel the need to soley focus purely on vedana and ignore the other factors compounding to give rise to 'that which sucks'. 

Experiment:

Observe sensations while sweeping and get frustrated because 'agitation' manifests/compounds and acts as a hindrance pulling the onepointed mind away from the sensations it was observing.


VERSUS

Allow the mind to broaden in viewpoint, allowing the periphery to come into view also. The thought loop**  AND the sensations being observed at the same time. See those two components withinin that broadened more panoramic viewpoint side by side. Within that panoramic viewpoint, the sensations are observed as is any movement of mind, including the "flitting to and fro". 

**when i say thought loop it doesn't hve to mean only a string of words and sentences, it could be a sublte way of 'holding', valuing, judging.

CULASASA @ http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jhana_insight/message/3008

We have two different ways of "knowing" things that usually go on simultaneously - attention, and peripheral awareness. Mindfulness really means using peripheral awareness to be introspectively aware of what is going on in our own minds, and also the larger context of the situation we're in. Attention focuses in on details, so it can't observe the mind in an ongoing way, and it can't provide context. In conversations, intellectual tasks, and any kind of emotionally intense situation, attention becomes hyper-focused and peripheral awareness disappears. That is what causes us to lose mindfulness! 

The second instruction Daniel gave you is all about this. It is quite possible to be observing your own mind in peripheral awareness at the same time that attention is focused on something else, like a conversation. When you do this, it gives you the feeling of "watching the mind" even while the mind is engaged in carrying on the conversation, or whatever else it is that attention happens to be engaged in. In other words, two ways of knowing, happening at the same time, provide the "mirror". It allows the mind's activities to be illuminated from "behind", or "within" or "above", or however you might like to describe it.

It takes practice to get good at doing this. And being grounded in body awareness is a great way to get into this place. But no amount of practice and skill will get you very far in intense emotional situations, because attention sucks up all of your capacity for consciousness, leaving none behind for peripheral awareness. This is where meditation really helps. The mind becomes more powerful, so, providing you have developed the habit of introspective peripheral awareness, you are able to mindful even in situations where you might otherwise not be. 

The reason that some of us have acquired this skill at sustaining peripheral awareness and this enhanced conscious power of the mind is that we have been using it all along to help us succeed in our meditation. Early on, we noticed that when we became too focused, we either forgot what we were doing or we got dull and dozy. So we learned to avoid becoming hyper-focused by sustaining peripheral awareness while we focused. Then, the way we ultimately overcame dullness and distractions was by recognizing them as soon as they arose so that we could correct for them. And we did this by converting our peripheral awareness into introspective awareness so that we always knew what was happening in our minds. Eventually, not only introspective peripheral awareness, but the correcting process itself became automatic, and we were good meditators as a result. But sustained introspective peripheral awareness as a habit spills over into daily life as well. So we also found ourselves being much more mindful, even while working and talking to people and fighting with our partners. This was, of course, a tremendous bonus, and actually leads to Insight.

Those of us who have acquired this skill and ability have done it largely by accident. I know that my own successes in both meditation and life would have come about much more quickly if someone had explained these details to me. So that is why I am so happy to pass it along to you. Cultivate peripheral awareness both on and off the cushion. learn to sustain peripheral awareness even when you are focusing very closely. Transmute peripheral awareness from being all about what is happening outside of the mind to being about what is happening inside the mind as well. " CULADASA



At the end of these kinds of sittings which tends to be through most of the 10 days, I try to tell myself that his is just my particular path, that while some folks may have a more focused mind, mine for the time being is not and I will just have to keep trying. However, if you all have some tip or tips to remember when this happens, please share.

You simply aren't competent yet in the skill in dealing with distraction. You simply need to train in becoming competent. You can do this.  




Nick

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/16/14 8:56 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Wow, thank you Peter and Nikoli for having this conversation!

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/17/14 9:17 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
A question came to me: would or could an enlightened person feel the effects of drugs or alcohol? Would she/he not simply remain equanimous to the sensations created and in so doing "feel" no effect whatsoever?

Why not find out yourself. 

Ha ha is this a goad to become enlightened?

Another question which is worrying me before I go off for the retreat in 10 days: What is the most important and grounding action or thought to maintain to keep clear of the quicksand? 

I give some tips on how to maximise the anapana instructions and the sweeping techniquehere. They may or may not be of help. 

Nikolai, that was of great help, thanks for that. It's interesting that as I get closer to the retreat date I am getting more and more anxious about my sitting. Well, not really a surprise but what you say in that link is a great help…if I can remember it when I sit. One of the problems with agitation is that the mind becomes so flighty it can't latch onto any of the good advice I have gleaned over the years and keeps swirling around. 
I was perusing your blog about a week ago and you mention something to the effect of "observe the observer" or "perceive the perceiver" as you go about scanning mind and body. I tried to sit and do that but found myself a bit confused. I have this idea that with this advice we sort of pull back from ourselves and view ourselves from a different perspective like a camera that was doing a close-up and then pulls back to get a fuller view. It is a way to disassociate? Does my idea here follow what you were getting at? I also found what Jill had to say quite pertinent, which is, of course, why you quoted it.

Of course, Goenka says return to the breath, that is the anchor during a storm. Well, I often have a hard time doing even that. 

Why do you have a hard time with it specifically? What happens when you attempt it?

Well, my attention does not remain fixed to it. It feels like it glides over it, jumping back and forth, like one of those little flies that continuously lands on your ankles again and again.and annoying the hell out of you. I get a sense that I am not "perceiving" it though surely I am aware that the breath is there. But it feels more intellectual than experiential. And since the concentration is so shallow I start to question if I am doing it correctly and whether or not I really should be paying attention to sensations, that perhaps that is a better way to focus my mind (and of course I am at the same time aware of various sensations in the body…Hmmm, thinking about  this right now I realize that perhaps I am not giving anapana the weight it deserves, that I have the idea that it is not really important and so when I do it I do it half-heartedly…I will have to investigate this the next time I sit). With the questioning comes more lack of focus and doubt. I also feel confused by the difference between just observing the breath, in and out/long or short and observing the touch of the breath on the nostrils and upper lip. In the first case, I am not looking for the sensation of breathing, correct? but just the mental perception that it is going on? My last sit I tried breathing through my mouth for a bit (10 seconds) and found it much easier to latch onto. Is there some reason that it is always through the nose?

In fact, I usually get anxious before sitting to meditate and spend an inordinate amount of time "trying" to calm down. 

How do you "try and calm down"?

I suppose I try and calm down by concentrating on the task at hand. But again, this concentration is flitting to and fro between body and breath and I suppose mind, with the mind somewhat wildly trying to remember all the things I have read, such as this forum post here, about the tips and tricks of meditating. So it seems I am not confident with my technique. When I'm not sitting I feel quite sure of what I need to do but when I actually do it that confidence vanishes. I suppose this is exactly what anxiety does; it makes the mind wild.

Of course, I should just observe the agitation and that will take care of the problem but that is easier said than done. 

Depends on how perception is playing out. Is one relegating 'agitation' to being a sensation only? Or is one broadening the view to include the mental overlay of dissatisfaction (the thought loop/belief)?

Good point! You mean "dukkha", right? I'm going to try that. The thing is, it's somewhat easy to do in my mini 30 minute sittings. Only 30 minutes because I found myself with too much aversion to longer sittings. This caused me in the past to not sit at all! I still have quite a bit of aversion to the daily 30 minutes. Ugh!

My mind flits to and fro and I can remember that for an instant only before it's off to try some other technique to try and focus myself. 

Have you tried broadening the viewpoint a little to be a little more peripheral rather than centrepointed? That may help, as the 'flitting to and fro' simply becomes part of that viewpoint and need not be a hindrance,  but something more that is observed to arise and pass. A possible tripping point with the sweeping method is that yogis might feel the need to soley focus purely on vedana and ignore the other factors compounding to give rise to 'that which sucks'. 
Experiment:Observe sensations while sweeping and get frustrated because 'agitation' manifests/compounds and acts as a hindrance pulling the onepointed mind away from the sensations it was observing.VERSUSAllow the mind to broaden in viewpoint, allowing the periphery to come into view also. The thought loop**  AND the sensations being observed at the same time. See those two components withinin that broadened more panoramic viewpoint side by side. Within that panoramic viewpoint, the sensations are observed as is any movement of mind, including the "flitting to and fro". **when i say thought loop it doesn't hve to mean only a string of words and sentences, it could be a sublte way of 'holding', valuing, judging.

This is interesting and I refer to it as "not seeing the forest for the trees". I understand what you are getting at here and it's a great help when I can "remember" to do it. I have had this experience a few times while sitting where I can't feel any sensations and then suddenly they all rush in and I get the impression that I was seeing them the whole time but looking too far off in the distance and so didn't notice them. I think this is akin to what you are getting at with broadening the viewpoint. The whole mind/body concert is a sensation, my agitation is a sensation, my dissatisfaction is a sensation…right?
I have had some success with sitting and with a light mood saying to myself, "ok, let's see what's going on in the ol' bod" instead of the mental idea of "doing hardcore vipassana meditation".

CULASASA @ http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jhana_insight/message/3008

We have two different ways of "knowing" things that usually go on simultaneously - attention, and peripheral awareness. Mindfulness really means using peripheral awareness to be introspectively aware of what is going on in our own minds, and also the larger context of the situation we're in. Attention focuses in on details, so it can't observe the mind in an ongoing way, and it can't provide context. In conversations, intellectual tasks, and any kind of emotionally intense situation, attention becomes hyper-focused and peripheral awareness disappears. That is what causes us to lose mindfulness! 

The second instruction Daniel gave you is all about this. It is quite possible to be observing your own mind in peripheral awareness at the same time that attention is focused on something else, like a conversation. When you do this, it gives you the feeling of "watching the mind" even while the mind is engaged in carrying on the conversation, or whatever else it is that attention happens to be engaged in. In other words, two ways of knowing, happening at the same time, provide the "mirror". It allows the mind's activities to be illuminated from "behind", or "within" or "above", or however you might like to describe it.

It takes practice to get good at doing this. And being grounded in body awareness is a great way to get into this place. But no amount of practice and skill will get you very far in intense emotional situations, because attention sucks up all of your capacity for consciousness, leaving none behind for peripheral awareness. This is where meditation really helps. The mind becomes more powerful, so, providing you have developed the habit of introspective peripheral awareness, you are able to mindful even in situations where you might otherwise not be. 

The reason that some of us have acquired this skill at sustaining peripheral awareness and this enhanced conscious power of the mind is that we have been using it all along to help us succeed in our meditation. Early on, we noticed that when we became too focused, we either forgot what we were doing or we got dull and dozy. So we learned to avoid becoming hyper-focused by sustaining peripheral awareness while we focused. Then, the way we ultimately overcame dullness and distractions was by recognizing them as soon as they arose so that we could correct for them. And we did this by converting our peripheral awareness into introspective awareness so that we always knew what was happening in our minds. Eventually, not only introspective peripheral awareness, but the correcting process itself became automatic, and we were good meditators as a result. But sustained introspective peripheral awareness as a habit spills over into daily life as well. So we also found ourselves being much more mindful, even while working and talking to people and fighting with our partners. This was, of course, a tremendous bonus, and actually leads to Insight.

Those of us who have acquired this skill and ability have done it largely by accident. I know that my own successes in both meditation and life would have come about much more quickly if someone had explained these details to me. So that is why I am so happy to pass it along to you. Cultivate peripheral awareness both on and off the cushion. learn to sustain peripheral awareness even when you are focusing very closely. Transmute peripheral awareness from being all about what is happening outside of the mind to being about what is happening inside the mind as well. " CULADASA

This is great, well said and very helpful! I am quite fond of The Power of Now in which this very technique is talked about. It's a great book and completely relevant to vipassana…in fact, it is vipassana, it seems to me, though the author never mentions it. 

At the end of these kinds of sittings which tends to be through most of the 10 days, I try to tell myself that his is just my particular path, that while some folks may have a more focused mind, mine for the time being is not and I will just have to keep trying. However, if you all have some tip or tips to remember when this happens, please share.

You simply aren't competent yet in the skill in dealing with distraction. You simply need to train in becoming competent. You can do this.  

Let's hope 4 is my magic number. Part of me feels I "wasted" the last two retreats stuck in a mind loop of agitation. The last one, it wasn't until the 8th or 9th day that I developed any kind of deep concentration. I can recall this particular phenomena from the last retreat. While scanning for sensation I am aware of my breath…it is far from natural. It seems that as I am breathing tension is held in check but building…after two breaths or a breath and a half it reaches a tipping point and at the top of the breath I experience an electric jolt in the eyes and the chest (and perhaps a flash of light in the closed eyes) which releases the tension but also disrupts my concentration and drops it back to zero. I was unable to get out of this pattern the last retreat until the 8th or 9th day….yuck.

One note on "self". In talking about anatta, we say observe how the phenomena are arising and passing away without our control. This is evidence of non-self. Well, what about the phenomena in which we do have control? We decided to meditate, decided to raise our arm, take a deep breath, eat some food, think about such and such. How do voluntary actions/thoughts gel with anatta? Aren't they evidence of "I"?

1000 thanks, Nikolai, for your time…Peter. 

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/17/14 10:14 PM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
peter havlin sprosty:

One note on "self". In talking about anatta, we say observe how the phenomena are arising and passing away without our control. This is evidence of non-self. Well, what about the phenomena in which we do have control? We decided to meditate, decided to raise our arm, take a deep breath, eat some food, think about such and such. How do voluntary actions/thoughts gel with anatta? Aren't they evidence of "I"?


If you get proficient at the peripheral awareness technique that is described in Nick's quoted blurb, then you will begin to experience that all "you" are is a little node of awareness along for the ride in this mind/body.  Agency and doer-ship fall away and there is just awarenees of raising our arm, taking a deep breath, eating food, etc.  It can be really interesting and bizzare seeing how skilled your body is at doing certain things, like making coffee, or brushing your teeth.  There are so many little deft motions involved with something as simple as removing the cap to the toothpaste, and you don't know how your body is going to do them until it does.  It's even stranger when you slip into that mode while speaking.  You speak, but it's not "you" speaking.  Words are coming out, but you don't even know what they're going to say!

When I experience this, the awareness still has the feeling of self, even though the self isn't doing the doing.  Eventually, even the sense of awareness as self goes away too, so I've heard.
-T

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/20/14 6:37 PM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
peter havlin sprosty:
Hi all...my first post, I believe. I've been a reader on and off of this site and frankly don't understand 90% of the terminology. That's ok. My med experience is based on Goenka's teaching and at least at my level, most of the terms used on this board are not mentioned. Anyhow, that's neither here nor there. So I will be going on my fourth Goenka retreat in a few weeks (first one was probably 3 years ago). My practice is pretty inconsistent and shallow, in my estimation, but I have managed to do 30 minutes in the morning for 4 or 5 or 6 months now which I must say I'm happy to have kept any kind of consistency at all. One thing that Goenka is always mentioning again and again is the arising and passing away of sensations (or thoughts, emotions, etc...) anicca anicca anicca impermanence. While I understand this on an intellectual level I feel I am missing something profound experientially; perhaps it is due to poor concentration but I don't "get it". When I scan for sensations mostly they feel the same unless it is a major pain that can sometimes pass away. What I get is mostly a subtle vibration or feeling of "being alive" in the various parts of my body. As I pass again and again through a specific part of the body the sensation remains the same...still a subtle vibration. Now a vibration is an on-off impulse so is this the impermanance I am supposed to observe...it's "on" and a millisecond later it's "off" and then in another millisecond "on" again? I don't get a deep feeling of understanding from it which leads me to think I'm not understanding or "knowing" something. On a similar note, when life "sucks" we can say, well, anicca anicca this is impermanent so let's not get worked up about it but see how long it lasts. That's fine and dandy but if it lasts until the end of my life, and then indeed changes because I'm dead, well,  I'm not feeling much consolation in this wisdom.
Any thoughts, folks? The retreats I attend are in Thailand and perhaps due to my poor Thai language skills the answers from the teachers when I ask at the retreats leave me with still more questions. So here I am.
Thanks so much, Peter.

Okay, Peter, to start things off, your intuition is right, the insight into impermanence is not something that's to be pursued on an intellectual level, but rather on an experiential level. What do I mean by this? When you have this concept in the forefront of your mind -- i.e., "sensations are impermanent, look for their impermanence" -- then what actually happens when you experience a sensation is you apply the concept in order to judge the sensation, but by that juncture you've missed the point of gaining liberation from that impermanent, unsatisfactory, and selfless phenomenon, namely, because you've relied on the thought "look for impermanance" or perhaps "I should be seeing impermanence", which is itself an impermanent, unsatisfactory, and selfless phenomenon. In other words, the entire point of the meditation is to break the mind's habit of relying on these phenomena that are impermanent, unsatisfactory, and selfless for what the mind believes to be its own "safety", but which in reality is just an enormous heap of entirely needless processing.

What is meant, then, by gaining liberation or gaining insight? Well, what happens on an experiential level is that we experience a shifting in perspective, a movement into "the periphery", as people on this thread have called it, from which we can more clearly evaluate what's going on in "the foreground". It's like you just see something start to happen in front of you but you just don't quite buy into it. Now, after sitting down to meditate, the first few times you experience the insight into impermanence, this shift will be very slight, and in fact, the shift will tend to be slight no matter how far along you are into your meditation, it's just that in deeper states of meditation, having made a hundred or so "slight" adjustments, the grains of salt have added up, so to speak, and you may find yourself in territory that may seem quite alien from your "normal", non-meditating state, you may find yourself tuning out further and further from "the foreground". Don't be afraid of this state. In fact, it, too, along with all its sensations, is impermanent: in other words, your work is not done, keep going. What people who have attained various stages of enlightenment will tell you is this: this is not a process that continues ad infinitum, indefinitely, it is not something we do just for fun or for brief episodes of post-meditation clarity, though those are certainly nice; eventually, your mind, having observed enough of the useless activities it performs in order to maintain the appearance of permanence, satisfactoriness, selfness, will "give in", so to speak, "reboot", all in the matter of seconds, or maybe even milliseconds, and a fundamental change will happen. That's what is meant by stream entry or fruition. However, it is not that you can simply "will" your mind to this giving in; it will simply do it all on its own given the right moment. Your job is to give it that right moment, which brings me to my next point, which if you've read this far you might as well consider the only point of my entire post.

BUT BEFORE THAT, I must insert a warning. If you are serious about attaining stream-entry, i.e., cutting off the first limb of needless processing (in other words, suffering), know that your work will only increase from there, meaning, once you get a taste of enlightenment, you will always know somewhere in the back of your mind that there is more to be done, and meditation/contemplation will most assuredly take more of a front seat in your life. That is, until you finish, the possibility of which the Buddha and Arahats (both ancient and contemporary) attest to. Also, there will be confusion, angst, restlessness, all that stuff, but don't let me convince you it's not worth it, as the fruit of enlightenment/awakening/whatever you want to call it is definitely wonderful. So if you're not prepared to get serious about it, then certainly don't let me talk you into doing something you may regret. I don't know, maybe you're better equipt at handling stress than I ever was, but as far as I see it, this is one of the few things in my life that has been truly worthy of pursuit, and it has undoubtedly had a positive impact on my relationship to others, to the world, and to myself. Whatever it is you lose from awakening, you will not miss. So with that said, on to the part that you actually need to hear:

Follow the instructions. Place your entire attention (ENTIRE ATTENTION) on the area at the entrance of the nostrils and the sensations taking place there, if what you're doing is anapana. And don't underestimate anapana. First you must really get your attention to stay on that area, then, once you have it there, make sure you are observing the sensations that are going on. For the first part, getting your mind to stay there, you might find it useful, as I have, to simply count how many breaths you can take in and out without letting your attention leave the area of the nostrils. Let's say you do 10, woo-hoo, good job, you're a fabulous meditator, now why couldn't you make it 15? And so on. Once your focus is pretty well set, just continue to make sure you are evaluating the sensations going on there: what kind of sensations are occuring in this area, are they sensations of heat, electricity, moisture, tension, etc.? Otherwise your mind will have the tendency of "pretending" to focus on that area but really be tied up with thoughts, wanderings, etc., and you will kind of "blank out" for a while. Oh, well, back to the breath. Something that I've found is very helpful to this technique, and pretty much any meditative technique, is to kind of tell yourself at some point in the sitting that there is simply no other concern worth pursuing for a stretch of time starting right now and extending to a certain, though indefinite, point in the future. All outside conerns, plans, etc., if they arise, will simply be let to pass away without giving them any weight, until that indefinite point in the future has been reached. If they continue to arise, oh, well, back to the breath, because a) there's no point in thinking about what's not here and now, and b) there's equally nonexistent of a point in getting mad at yourself for not being a perfect meditator. As time moves on, and you're letting these thoughts fall away, getting more concentrated, just see if you can keep lengthening this "stretch of time". Similarly with body scanning, which is just a little more complex, but not really that much different, except that it gets you more full-body awareness and requires a little more fine-tuning, which brings me to my next point.

If you haven't figured out by now, I've participated in a Goenka retreat, as well. In fact, the reason I'm going through the effort of posting this is that your experience of constantly "trying to remember things" resonated strongly with my own. But there's even a deeper reason, which I will get into below. I remember going almost whole days caught up in worries about remembering all the instructions, at all moments, kind of like the juggling of the instructions was itself the technique. I remember I requested an interview with the teacher because while meditating I simply could not get Goenka's voice out of my head and had started developing serious resentment toward him as a human being. (My teacher's reply, "But it's just a voice", worked well for me, until I managed to turn that thought against myself, too). The techniques themselves, as you will observe, are remarkably simple. What you have to realize is that the point of the various "advices" that Goenka or anyone else gives you is to help you out if you find you are getting really lost. Otherwise, stick with the simple: place your entire attention on the sensations. When you feel you're lost, the "trying to remember" can be helpful, sure, but don't allow yourself to stay in "trying to remember" realm once you find you can get back to the sensations. Just leave your concerns behind.

Now, what I think that you are really saying in your post, without saying it, of course, is that there's another problem that's operating in your mind, one that actually I identify with way more than the "trying to remember" issue: that is, the problem of doubt. Not believing a word of it. Not believing that there's really any point in going so hard into this technique, maybe not believing in enlightenment, I don't know, in any case, I JUST DON'T WANT TO BELIEVE IT. It's remarkable how strongly you can be attached to the simple thought process: "doubt". It's like it doesn't really matter what the object of your doubt is, it could be doubt of a teacher, doubt of other meditators, it could be self-doubt, as long as it's doubt, well, at least we got that going for us (says the mind). (A quick aside, I may be wrong, you may display wonderful faith toward others, toward yourself, toward the possibility of gaining real freedom in this life, and if that's the case then I genuinely applaud you, but I have a feeling I'm right). This was the real poison that I had to flush out of my system, so to speak, before I could make any progress, this was the real reason I was bouncing the instructions half-assedly back and forth in my head. And what it really came down to was the fundamental recognition that this technique was literally just aimed at getting me to look at what I was actually experiencing, all considerations of whether I "believed" in anything set aside, namely, my own ongoing body/mind phenomenon, which is itself unquestionable. It was trying to get me to connect with what I actually was, which seems straightforward and maybe a little trite but can actually be a quite profound realization if you're someone like I used to be and pretend you enjoy swimming in gay, tumultuous oceans of doubt. Which is not to say that Goenka's technique is the only way to reach stream-entry or subsequent paths -- others here will definitely attest to that -- but merely, that with any sustained application of effort, there is a virtue in faith in others, in yourself, and in the efficacy of the technique.

Okay, that's all I feel like posting for now. I hope this has been a useful read, Peter, and I wish you the best on your upcoming retreat and with whatever the future brings.

With metta,
Kyle

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/23/14 8:22 AM as a reply to Teague.
It's funny, I didn't start this post to try and poke holes in Vipassana at all but during our exchange a lot of questions started coming up. Such as this one...about, well, all of it but in response to Teague about doing away with the sense of self... I started to feel like what we're doing is "convincing" ourselves of something such as a "no-self". I can relate to it completely about the "unconcious"/involuntary things the body does but we do will ourselves to do things. It's hard to say that is not the self. Sure, from one perspective it is not but that's a perspective from a long way off. Up close, it sure seems like a "self". Not that this has to negate the positive benefits of vipassana. But if you stare at a wall long enough telling yourself it's this or that other thing and not actually a wall and go through all sorts of difficult physical and mental gymnastics eventually you might start believing that indeed it is not a wall but... Just a thought, neither here nor there. I seem to be having a lot of them lately. Some major aversion to what I'm trying to do. That might be a good thing!

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/23/14 9:13 AM as a reply to Incandescent Flower.
Kyle....

Phenomenal post. And let me apologies for my super delayed response. As I stated in the short post before this one but perhaps not to a very great extent, I am having serious aversion to meditating as my retreat looms closer (huh! I'll get to that in a bit) so much so that my thoughts are rather vaporous on the whole issue. I can't pin down my feelings and find that I don't want to do it. I am resisting thinking about them, resisiting formulating a reply or continuing on the forum post that I started. Just massive aversion...which is perhaps confusion or as you bring up, doubt. I wasn't aware I had so much doubt but again, referring to my latest post, I asked yet another question doubting the technique or some of its claims.

I want to thank you for clarifying "stream entry" which I keep running across but have never understood what it was nor did I take the time to look it up. I didn't think it was really necessary to know the terminology but it can be helpful in discussion.

The idea of the peripheral, yes, I can relate to that perfectly and as Nikolai keeps saying, "now step back"....that's exactly what it feels like to me or as I mentioned before, not seeing the forest for the trees. 

I love your "grains of salt adding up" analogy. I find I sabotage or try to any break through I have in sensation let's say. When I start to feel new things happening or the body/mind doind something strange a little sing-songy voice in my head calls out, "bangha! bangha!" and pokes fun at the whole thing. I sort of just accept the voice now but it's slightly maddening...and something I've done all my life and am still doing...sabotaging myself, afraid of success (which is really afraid of failure, correct?). 

Your warning about proceeding on this path I think comes too late for me. I am now stuck in a no-man's land. I often can watch myself doing something and feel to a certain degree detached, perhaps on soley an intellectual level which I can relate to Vipassana/Buddhist teachings. However, emotionally I am still 100% ruled by these impermanent phenomena. So, though I know they are not permanent and are "meaningless" and though I know there is something better out there from experience, I cannot prevent myself from jumping into the quicksand just the same. I suppose my suffering has not reached a great enough level to force my hand. We all have our individual limits. 
Good at dealing with stress, me? no way.

Back to doubt: what keeps running through my mind as of recent is, "why does it have to be so hard?" I keep asking myself how did we as human beings end up here in this situation where we are just so screwed up that we have to pursue this arduous path just to live a harmonious life. It strikes me as so screwy. So complicated. As if there should be something really simple to living a good, peaceful, harmonious life. Occam's razor comes to mind: the simplest solution is the most likely. Of course, I don't know what the solution is but shouldn't there be something cleaner/faster/simpler/more beautiful than the grueling meditation path? It just seems so messy.

How many times I have cursed Goenka at the retreats and wished he would stop talking and CHANTING. But then I curse the wind when it blows the wrong way so this is just a sign of negativity in me and nothing to do with Goenka's chanting.

This brings me to my last declaration: I have cancelled the retreat. I won't go too much into the reasons why and frankly they're hard to sort. I do feel a sense of relief in not going, I have to admit. As well as a sense of remorse and a sense of failure. But my life situation at the moment is too demanding. Leaving for 10 days would be stupid and irresponsible and probably have far reaching consequences of a bad sort. I had a hard time seeing that as I thought the aversion to going was only about my aversion to the hard work I would have to do there. Now I don't think that's true. 

So now I'm not sure where I sit (huh!). I haven't sat for 4 or 5 days since I cancelled the retreat. I feel like I'm fighting some demon inside...is this the doubt you spoke of? I have faith (sometimes!) that the right time and place, the right moment will come when I can corral all the necessary elements to pick up again where I left off. I rather feel perhaps this is a necessary growth period, a healthy though difficult period of confusion or doubt and that the time will come when I feel fresh and can synchronize all that's necessary to resart with gusto.

Thanks again, Kyle et al. Awesome posts and discussions which I will be re-reading as necessary. A lot of my questions were answered...a lot of those answers are still swimming around in my brain and I need some time and distance to let them settle. I am quite confident that the info here will be very helpful to me and of course it already has.

A big impermanent cheers folks, Peter.

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/23/14 12:41 PM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
peter havlin sprosty:
Phenomenal post. And let me apologies for my super delayed response. As I stated in the short post before this one but perhaps not to a very great extent, I am having serious aversion to meditating as my retreat looms closer (huh! I'll get to that in a bit) so much so that my thoughts are rather vaporous on the whole issue. I can't pin down my feelings and find that I don't want to do it. I am resisting thinking about them, resisiting formulating a reply or continuing on the forum post that I started. Just massive aversion...which is perhaps confusion or as you bring up, doubt. I wasn't aware I had so much doubt but again, referring to my latest post, I asked yet another question doubting the technique or some of its claims.... However, emotionally I am still 100% ruled by these impermanent phenomena. So, though I know they are not permanent and are "meaningless" and though I know there is something better out there from experience, I cannot prevent myself from jumping into the quicksand just the same. I suppose my suffering has not reached a great enough level to force my hand. We all have our individual limits. 
Good at dealing with stress, me? no way.
Don't forget that (in Mahasi land)  to be aware of, to label the attendent sensations is the solid, required step for progress.  Each of those feelings you mentioned can be an object of inspection.  The act of labeling/inspecting the feeling, hopefully, provides a bit of separation and relief, of de-identification, and strengthens your ability to de-identify.

How many times I have cursed Goenka at the retreats and wished he would stop talking and CHANTING. But then I curse the wind when it blows the wrong way so this is just a sign of negativity in me and nothing to do with Goenka's chanting.
In Gonka land, each moment is an opportunity for awareness of the distracting feeling, an opportunity to turn away from the feeling and towards the intended object (the body scanning when on the cushion, or the desired task at hand when not on the cushion)

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/23/14 9:42 PM as a reply to peter havlin sprosty.
peter havlin sprosty:


Back to doubt: what keeps running through my mind as of recent is, "why does it have to be so hard?" I keep asking myself how did we as human beings end up here in this situation where we are just so screwed up that we have to pursue this arduous path just to live a harmonious life. It strikes me as so screwy. So complicated. As if there should be something really simple to living a good, peaceful, harmonious life. Occam's razor comes to mind: the simplest solution is the most likely. Of course, I don't know what the solution is but shouldn't there be something cleaner/faster/simpler/more beautiful than the grueling meditation path? It just seems so messy.

The whole point is that the mind literally does not know the solution. It just has the things it has grown used to. That's what's so hard.

Peter, I'm glad to hear that you are considering how you should proceed with caution. Remember that the object of insight meditation is to make the things going on "under the hood" clearer so that, coming away from the meditation, you can act with greater understanding. One of my favorite ways of viewing it, which I take from Ajaan Lee's "Knowledge", is that you are giving your mind a chance to clear out the old knowledge (concepts "dealing with the world or the Dhamma, however many or few"), and that "only when they're washed away can new knowledge arise."

One last thing I will leave you with. When true determination arises, know to stick with it. If you should encounter failure (and you probably will), learn how to let go of it.

Best to you,
Kyle

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/23/14 9:55 PM as a reply to Matt.
oooo that's good! I love finding out that what I thought was my failure was really a sign of my success. I do get the feeling, sometimes, that I am stuck in a kind of purgatory. I have too much experience or "wisdom" if you will, to be 100% ignorant but not enough as of yet to catapult me out of the miasma.

RE: Goenka style: arising/passing away...annica??
Answer
11/23/14 10:07 PM as a reply to Incandescent Flower.
More good stuff, Kyle. I woke up this morning, or perhaps it was last night after posting, with the feeling that things were ok. Perhaps my confession about cancelling the retreat freed me of some guilt. I'm wondering if other folks have had the experience of needing to step off the road for a bit, take a break from meditating. This is what I am feeling right now and it's not the first time. In fact, during the retreats, I sometimes wish I could leave for a day and give myself some time to adjust to all the happenings. It doesn't feel like escape but a necessary step for my process. That's what I woke up today feeling and perhaps is what you are alluding to Kyle when you speak of my caution. I hope this is the case. That while yes, the timing right now for the retreat just didn't gel with my life situation but also perhaps subconciously I feel at a crossroads but not quite ready to take that step.
Do other folks get this? That sometimes they just need to throw up their hands at the whole thing, not think about it for a while, and then come back at a later time?