By an anonymous old student
Before vipassana, I had participated in other meditation courses that were quite didactic and costly. When I googled “meditation courses closest to me,” vipassana was the first listing. The course was donation-based and the center was nearby. To be honest, I came out more confused and annoyed than I had been going into it. After that course, I dropped the technique for a few years. It wasn’t until I was pondering where to spend my annual vacation that I realized I didn’t want to sightsee and spend lavishly on a superficial touristy experience. I googled vipassana again and noticed the link to serve. When I served my first course, it started to make more sense to me. The people I worked with were living and breathing this philosophy of compassion, kindness and love. Seeing their practice in action was inspiring.
My impulse is to give rather than to receive. I feel more comfortable when I serve, and there are tangible benefits that I see in ordinary tasks like cooking and cleaning. I never quite got to a place where I wanted to sit on my own. I could only really meditate when I was on a course since I was in an environment that I had no other choice. But for many years I continued to sit courses, thinking maybe the next one would have some more lasting impact or that it would motivate me to sit on my own without needing to be in a group setting environment.
While I felt more at peace after sitting courses, it also brought up plenty of trauma and pain. If I tried to ask an AT about this, the answer was always “it’s a passing sensation.” This never felt to me to be an adequate response for people who struggle with trauma.
I think I would have benefited more from this tradition if it didn’t mandate that we practice this and only this once you get to the longer courses. For me, it is just one of a myriad of healing modalities that have helped me in my life–yoga, therapy and movement, to name a few. As a Kundalini yoga practitioner, I have been repeatedly told that this particular type of yoga is incompatible to the Goenka tradition. Other spiritual paths I explore do not place limitations on what other healing modalities you are allowed to participate in. I think everyone needs a customized practice for them that works.
I have spoken to numerous ATs and senior ATs that advise against mixing and matching modalities. I understand they mean well. I also know what’s best for me. Given I have benefitted most from pursuing a variety of spiritual paths, the Goenka tradition is not something I would seriously consider diving deeper into again unless there was room for acceptance of other spiritual practices and was not a one size fits all method.