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Cruise control body scanning on Goenka retreat

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Cruise control body scanning on Goenka retreat
goenka body scan high equanimity
Answer
7/16/15 12:28 AM
This has happened to me a few times on Goenka retreats. It's really a very trivial thing, but since I haven't encountered it so far in literature, I thought I'd put it down.

When I have been practicing mindfulness of breath and body scanning as taught by Goenka for a few days on retreat, and I am past the dukkha nanas, my attention will be moving quite quickly, rapidly, performing a scan of several (around 15) points in the body every few seconds in a set pattern.

Suddenly my attention gets hijacked by an autonomic process, and my attention will hit points in my body in a very prceise but very complicated pattern. I guess it draws a mandala, but it's too fast to notice. It's like I've just hit the jackpot on a pinball machine, my attention is everywhere seemingly random, but in a clearly programmed rapid sequence, hijacking the flow of my scanning.  I can never hope to consciously replicate this.

It is ridiculously fast and precise, covering 50 or more points in the body in under a second.

It happens only once, a second later it is over, and now the habitual set pattern of ~15 points I used to follow to scan the body is now in cruise control mode. I can actually sit back (metaphorically speaking) and let the body scan itself, because it is pointless anymore to attempt to do the scanning when the body/mind is already doing it.

My mind now freed from the chore of scanning will now go do other things, like contemplate dhamma or whatever, and when I return to attention of my body I can find it is still going strong, doing the auto pilot body scanning. It will continue like this off the cushion, when I am asleep, when I am showering etc. I just have to return attention to my body to notice the background process of scanning is active. It remains this way for up to a week, until my attention off retreat is no good and I can't notice it anymore.

The funny thing is the attention is spatial. If I get up from the half lotus, the body scan still happens, but it is now hitting empty space near my hip where my thighs and legs used to be folded. Often this means when I go to my room I won't lie down until I absolutely have to because it feels weird to have the body scan happen only to my upper body and not my knees and toes when I am lying flat.

My best guess is that this is sankhara-upekkhañana but oddly this doesn't interrupt further insight in meditations, this appears to be a parallel track, and afaik one can only remain in one nana at a time. Anyone with an opinion of what's happening here, please chime in. I'd like to draw some insight from this, but for now it's just something cool.

RE: Cruise control body scanning on Goenka retreat
Answer
7/16/15 7:40 AM as a reply to Che.
This sounds very A&P to me.

Suddenly my attention gets hijacked by an autonomic process, and my attention will hit points in my body in a very prceise but very complicated pattern. I guess it draws a mandala, but it's too fast to notice. It's like I've just hit the jackpot on a pinball machine, my attention is everywhere seemingly random, but in a clearly programmed rapid sequence, hijacking the flow of my scanning.  I can never hope to consciously replicate this. 

Strong mindfulness happening suddenly, outside of your control, and happening too fast too note all sound A&P related. Mandala patterns are also common in A&P.
It is ridiculously fast and precise, covering 50 or more points in the body in under a second.

A&P...
My mind now freed from the chore of scanning will now go do other things, like contemplate dhamma or whatever, and when I return to attention of my body I can find it is still going strong, doing the auto pilot body scanning. It will continue like this off the cushion, when I am asleep, when I am showering etc. I just have to return attention to my body to notice the background process of scanning is active. It remains this way for up to a week, until my attention off retreat is no good and I can't notice it anymore.

I placed on emphasis on the sleep part, because stuff happening during sleep is typical of A&P. 
My best guess is that this is sankhara-upekkhañana but oddly this doesn't interrupt further insight in meditations, this appears to be a parallel track, and afaik one can only remain in one nana at a time. Anyone with an opinion of what's happening here, please chime in. I'd like to draw some insight from this, but for now it's just something cool.

Again, my best guess is A&P. It does not sound like any phase of Equanimity to me, because Equanimity is very relaxed, open, spacious, and peaceful. 

Let me also say that the third nana, the three characteristics, can mimic the Dark Night proper in many ways-- body pain, desire to renounce the world, unpleasantness, etc. 

RE: Cruise control body scanning on Goenka retreat
Answer
7/16/15 10:38 AM as a reply to Che.
How many sits/hours/days did it take to get past the dukkha nanas?

Could you distinguish between the individual dukkha nanas?

What was your cutting edge before retreat?

RE: Cruise control body scanning on Goenka retreat
Answer
7/16/15 12:45 PM as a reply to Noah.
Noah S:
How many sits/hours/days did it take to get past the dukkha nanas?

Could you distinguish between the individual dukkha nanas?



I'm usually cycling the nanas even when I'm off retreat, as long as I do 2 hours of meditation a day. Typically the fear nana lasts a day or two, before irritation, then disgust set in, each a day or half a day. Prolonged multi-week-month nanas don't happen to me, can't recall a time when I've been stuck like that unless I count a decade of semi-regular depression from 24-34 as a dukkha nana - which could have been possible. Right this moment I am in the disgust phase, 5 days ago, on Sunday I was in the fear phase with a burning ball of fear in my belly. It's very likely no one but me will notice this. 

For some years now the content of my thoughts don't bother me - they can be pleasant or harsh, I'll have the same look on my face, but occasionally I do slip for a minute or two, when I might retort harshly if I am in the irritable phase. Fear doesn't usually affect me.

I've been through several realizations in the last seven years and I've been cycling the nanas since I don't know when.
  1. The first realization changed me into a very kind and open person,
  2. the second made me realize emptiness and soon led to me quitting my posh career and discovering Buddhism,
  3. the third cured me of depression and led me into a state of no thoughts and 24x7 extreme mindfulness for several months, which was very useful at the time, since I was diagnosed with cancer and having to handle a lot of things on my own. I had always known this but now I had proof that I don't fear death, or ill health or poverty or anything usually one fears, there's just a vast acceptance (in one of my first posts here you can find details, though disregard my conclusion about my path state, I can't tell if I was being conservative or ambitious. I disagree with the whole idea of determining one's path status - a rose by any name smells just as fine, etc.),
  4. the fourth led me to give up the search for nirvana, realizing nirvana and samsara are the same. 



On most 10 day retreats it goes like this, pretty typical schedule within a margin of error.
  • Day 1 - sits are easy but getting more difficult by the end of the day,
  • Day 2 - everything aches,
  • Day 3 - Better sits but good chance of diarrhea,
  • Day 4 - Horrors and fears, especially when I am off the cushion, usually ends by the time I fall sleep, 
  • Day 5 - Boredom, listlessness, irritability, (sometimes strong sexual thoughts (can also happen on day 3 mildly, but stronger now), my desire for sex in daily life has mostly disappeared, but it reappears now and again for a few months and it's usually just something I can choose to care about if I feel like indulging the conditioning), 
  • Day 6 - better sits, but some continuation of day 5, can end in bliss and peaceful loving kindness,
  • Day 7 - very equanimous, sometimes jhanas, visions while walking, special insights & powers, very pleasurable overall, everything is like clockwork
  • day 8 - auto-body scanning commences  or has commened the previous evening, lots of cittanupassana & dhammanupassana - pretty much this most of the day,
  • day 9 -  still more c & d, not paying any attention to the body scanning now - usually lost in the meaning of insights from c&d,
  • day 10 - variable, sometimes I am once more in a very blissful bramhavihara state leaving me very kind hearted.
What was your cutting edge before retreat?
Don't know what you mean here? The nana with which I enter? Hard to say, usually in the past I've signed up for a retreat often when for some reason or the other I haven't been meditating enough, so my state then is little stressed from not meditating. Sometimes I've prepared before the retreat and I am in low equanimity. If I am in a dukkha phase at the time the retreat comes around I'll often back out and not attend. I haven't done a retreat in a year, fwiw.

RE: Cruise control body scanning on Goenka retreat
Answer
7/16/15 12:16 PM as a reply to Eric M W.
Eric M W:
This sounds very A&P to me.

I agree, it's possible I am dropping back into a more profound A&P experience than the first time up the ladder. You can see my other comment for more details. Thanks for pointing me to this possibility.

RE: Cruise control body scanning on Goenka retreat
Answer
7/16/15 7:57 PM as a reply to Che.
Che:

I've been through several realizations in the last seven years and I've been cycling the nanas since I don't know when.
  1. The first realization changed me into a very kind and open person,
  2. the second made me realize emptiness and soon led to me quitting my posh career and discovering Buddhism,
  3. the third cured me of depression and led me into a state of no thoughts and 24x7 extreme mindfulness for several months, which was very useful at the time, since I was diagnosed with cancer and having to handle a lot of things on my own. I had always known this but now I had proof that I don't fear death, or ill health or poverty or anything usually one fears, there's just a vast acceptance (in one of my first posts here you can find details, though disregard my conclusion about my path state, I can't tell if I was being conservative or ambitious. I disagree with the whole idea of determining one's path status - a rose by any name smells just as fine, etc.),
  4. the fourth led me to give up the search for nirvana, realizing nirvana and samsara are the same. 
...
Very interesting.  I also went back to read your older posts.  Thanks very much for sharing your experience.

RE: Cruise control body scanning on Goenka retreat
Answer
7/20/15 1:54 AM as a reply to Che.
Gordo . .:
Thought i would add a bit more, as its probably a bit much to tell someone to drop their technique.
The idea that you can leave the sweeping and do other things, then periodically come back and check thats its still happening is totally off the mark. Do you listen to the instructions? They are very clear.
When you lay down why can't you feel your legs. They are there they have sensations. Where is your mindfulness? Is it with the object and in the present moment, or are you in a past moment with a past object?
When you are sweeping and you are present for each and every moment your on the mark. When you are not present you are distracted.


I see what you're saying here, and there is definitely some truth to it. Body scanning is the only technique I've followed that I don't believe in. Since I attain all the nanas with anapanasati alone, I do pay lip service to body scanning. Within a day of starting to body scan (which I usually start only on day 6) this auto process kicks in.

One time I was living on a boat, and every time I got back on land my legs and sense of balance would still sway. Unused to the terra firma they were going with their conditioning of maintaining balance while on water. Perhaps something similar here.

The mind can focus on only one object at a time, when I am mindful of a sound I can't be mindful of the pain in my buttocks from sitting. That's just how the mind is. When I am doing cittanupassana I can't be also doing body scan, so one of them is Vipassana and the other isn't.  

Once the body scanning automatically takes over, I feel like I can go do something more useful to me, like cittanupasana, which is more natural for me at least, I began doing it without training, and has lead to insight and understanding, not the intellectual kind, but in terms of success in letting go and leading to calm and tranquility in life.

Body scanning has never given me any insight at all that I didn't already have - perhaps because I had already witnessed all the nanas before being introduced to body scanning.

Almost every Vipassana movement has critics, and the Goenka system has plenty - some who say that beyond Bhanga nana the body scan system has nothing to offer. Anyway, there are other posts about that can of worms (like http://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/2957843).

On Goenka retreats the well meaning teachers have more than once asked me to keep my eyes open and not get into the jhanas, so I can be on the same level as the other students. All of them are very apologetic of course, and I can understand where they are coming from - they want to cater to the 99 out of 100 students who are new to meditation. 

To clarify, I have got a lot out of the Goenka establishment, and I deeply respect their unparalleled effort of running hundreds of centers, it's just body scanning that's proved fruitless for me.

Thanks for reading.