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Going to Goenka retreat soon

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Going to Goenka retreat soon
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5/21/15 12:11 PM
Wednesday after next, I'll be in for the ten day retreat. I feel some trepidation, some anxiety, and hopeful as well. I'm hopeful that this will help with the following:

Help me develop the concentration in meditation and off the cushion mindfulness I seriously lack. As Mr. Ingram put it in his book, (I paraphrase) if you don't have access concentration, you don't have anything.

Help me get to, then through mind and body to A&P.

The realization of impermanence and/or anatta.

Yet I know I should let go of all expectation. I'm also confused as to what the quality of Goenka retreats might actually be. I've heard many good things, particulalry from a friend who did the ten day some years ago. He said it really changed his life and dramatically improved his meditation. But there are a very large number of people who describe Goenka Vipassana as 3rd rate, insufficient, very limited in scope and effectiveness.

I wonder if I'll just be wasting my time, and putting my family out for ten days for nothing. Perhaps I'm trying to con myself out of going because I'm intimidated by the intensity of the schedule and the work it entails.

I'd love to hear about the experiences of those who've been, and what changes or improvments it made in your life and practice.

RE: Going to Goenka retreat soon
Answer
5/21/15 2:48 PM as a reply to Darrell.
Goenka was my first meditation and retreat experience.  I didn't know anything about anything, I just went whole-hawg on his teachings.  It was fantastic, took me through A&P, and beyond.  I recommend a Goenka retreat for the results you are seeking.  That said, if you 'go for it', steel yourself for an exciting time, and not much help from the assistant instructors.  The two I've met were not helpful.  I suspect they have a specific 'throw into the deep end' policy.  Maybe it's fine, but be ready to hear "just continue practicing" no matter what you say.

BUT, after the retreat I got mixed up in this crowd and MCTB which was FANTASTIC.  Then I went to my second Goenka retreat and I wasn't able to get much value from it.  More 'pragmatic' influence is what I needed, and 'pragmatic' is where I am now.

Have a great retreat!

RE: Going to Goenka retreat soon
Answer
5/22/15 3:30 AM as a reply to Darrell.
Darrell, you'll be getting in 10 hours of meditation per day, for 10 days. That sort of intensity and momentum provide an excellent opportunity to develop and deepen concentration and to experience the insight knowledges.

I've done four Vipassana retreats: two Goenka 10-day retreats, a 10-day retreat by different student of Sayagyi U Ba Khin (but sharing many similarities with the Goenka style), and a 60 day Mahasi retreat. The Goenka retreats were extremely beneficial.

I found the structure and instruction masterfully and systematically planned, especially so if you are newish to meditation and/or have not undertaken previous retreats, or highly disciplined sits.  The discipline is somewhat strict but I’ve come to appreciate strict practice discipline, as it's a valuable aid to combat the hindrances of sloth and torpor. Additionally, the one hour Adhiṭṭhāna sittings (‘sittings of strong determination’) I found extremely useful and gained potent insights while practicing them. 

The dhamma talks are engaging and Goenka has a good contemporary rap with a sense of humor, bearing in mind the audience is diverse and includes some who may have never meditated before and/or never been exposed to Buddhist practice. You will not engage in the sort of discussions and analysis that's valued here (the pragmatic dharma stuff) but that's not uncommon in more or less 'conventional' Buddhist retreats, so if you can relax that desire while there you'll likley have an easier time. I found the volunteer staff to be supportive. You may have certain preferences with regard to techniques, doctrine, food, schedule, etc. and some of them may not be met, but all the components are there to have a quality sit and get in sustained quality meditation time.  Skeptical doubt is one of the hindrances, and it's common to question the utility of doing a retreat of this nature, both before and during. All sorts of stuff can and will often arise into consciousness so whatever resistance you encounter within yourself during the retreat, a sense of opposition, critique, disdain, paranoia, fear, futility, waste of time, etc., just note it while adhering to the program and applying the technique as best you can (of course, if you are in the verge of truly freaking out, talk to the assistant teacher).  

My suggestion is to enter with an open mind, fully adhere to the program, sincerely follow the instructions to the best of your ability, and good things will happen. 
As in all things, YMMV. 


Have a great sit!

RE: Going to Goenka retreat soon
Answer
5/21/15 10:20 PM as a reply to Darrell.
A few years back I went on a Goenka 10-day.  I skyped with Daniel beforehand and asked if I would note, do this, do that, and the advice he gave me was "follow their instructions to a T."  That is what I did.  I did the concentration meditation for about 4 days, and then when we switched to vipassana [scanning method], I blasted through the A+P up into High Equanimity.  It was like I'd developed medition superpowers. My concentration became intense, and I could experience bubbling, fizzing sensations all over my body as they arose and passed away.  Where ever I directed my attention, I could feel sensations arise and pass away.  The next day my superpowers felt greatly diminished and I began to doubt myself.  This led to two days of Dark Night.  I then came to realize that I was going through the A+P pretty easily and then getting into regular Equanimity, both High and Low.  Everything that I'd read about I experienced for real.  After that initial experience [A+P], It was subtler than I expected, but it was happening.  Daniel is like a phenomenology wizard, so it is unlikely you will experience what he describes with the same vividness or intensity, but, if you pay attention, you will see that the stages do play out.  

The retreat was 100% worth it.  I made more progress on that retreat than I had doing 20 minutes here or 30 minutes there during civilian life.  

I recommend bringing a dharma book of some kind, like Daniel's book.  I also brought a print out of Ron Crouch's description of the stages. These were helpful, because the teachers there won't be, from a stage perspective.  For the Goenka folks, you are "purifying yourself," not overtly seeking to work through stages of insight, so the focus is a bit different, but scanning is a solid technique, and well worth using.

I often use scanning as one of the tools in my toolbox.  I find scanning very effective for getting me up through the A+P and into near Equanimity territory, at which time I switch to noting. What will be helpful for you to practice on the retreat is recognizing the vipassana jhanas.  Once you get into jhanas that feel expansive and wide [Equanimity land], it is useful to transition to noting.  It will feel like the natural, correct thing to do.  But at first, stick with the Anapana stuff [four days], then do the scanning, which I find very good at building the concentration and getting you to pay attention to the arising and passing of crazy sensations on the body.

By the way, I am going on my 2nd Goenka retreat in July.  I am very very much looking forward to it.  I think you will have a rewarding experience.  Plus, the food is great!  They provide a very important, valuable service, all free of charge.  I consider my retreat to have been an important experience in my life.  I didn't get stream, but my experience was so rich, I felt deeply satisfied.  My goal had simply been to pass the A+P, and that happened, and much much more.    

RE: Going to Goenka retreat soon
Answer
5/22/15 10:21 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Youre the second person who has said it, about following the instructions. I'd already made my mind up to do that, for a variety of reasons, not the least being issues of morality/ethics/honesty. I'll also have to pay them something as soon as i am able for the same reason. I know people say it is free, but they do operate off of the donations made, so I feel it wouldn't be right to do otherwise.

For the same reasons I won't be able to bring any books or printed material. In the list of rules, conditions, supplies needed to be brought with you, etc, they specifically state that you do not bring any books, magazines, printed material, etc.

Thanks to everyone for the input, it's very encouraging. While I have a very limited awareness of the nanas and maps, I am going with my gut, and going without looking into this deeply before hand. I don't want to condition my mind before hand, or program anything prior. But it is my hope that this will get me off the ground. After ten years of regular meditation, being a member of a Zen sangha, having had some insights, I'm tired of being stuck and making very little, very slow progress.