A Customized Approach

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.

5 thoughts on “A Customized Approach

  1. Mayur

    If something is helping you, than that is your path. If following multiple different traditions is the solution for you, than be it. You can give your approach a new name. And if you know what’s best for you, than why even bother asking ATs.

    It is important not to try and suggest on something, which we ourselves have not mastered. This way we end up confusing others who may be new and still trying to explore. It is a very sad state of our current world that everyone is trying to become a teacher, even before learning to become a student.

    All the questions that you raise through your blogs have already been answered during preliminary 10 day course. Goenkaji clearly says that if you don’t believe in theoretical part of it, than just focus on practice.

    My two cents if it helps you. The technique is a cleaning process. Whatever dirt one has will come out during the practice. One has to see it with awareness and equanimity and without a trace of craving or aversion. There is no more theory to be learned. If you run away to other techniques when there is pain, than you miss the chance of cleaning that dirt. Ultimately it will not give you the benefits that you desire. Trust and faith is important to learn anything. Please learn to surrender to any subject that you really want to understand.

    My best wishes for you so that you find your real path.

  2. Hi Mayur – Thanks for your kind and insightful comment. I like that you respect the individual’s ability to find the right path for them while differentiating between a unique student perspective from that of a teacher. I also agree that disagreements with the theoretical aspects shouldn’t interrupt a person’s practice, but don’t these discrepancies need to be resolved at some point? If so, when is the right time to do that? Thanks again for your comment!

  3. Anonymous

    Hi Rayan, Some people dig a well and find water. Some are not. There is a decision to make: keep digging or start a new well. There is no right or wrong answer. Why? We learn different experiences by different path. Nothing is wasted if we don’t reject anything.

  4. Mayur

    Hello Ryan, Appreciate you showing the strength in trying to resolve the conflicts.
    As I mentioned earlier, it is a cleaning process. Everyone has different types of things stored inside. The whole thrust of the practise is to clean whatever is there inside, irrespective of its nature. If you get caught up in understanding the nature of things coming out, you will forget the cleaning process itself. And there is the real danger. There are associated feelings, emotions, sensations, etc in whatever comes out. It will bring at the surface all unresolved conflicts of the past as well. ATs don’t focus on analyzing the dirt, but they want you to focus on the cleaning process. At this time it is important to focus only on the practice.
    Just follow the process and nature will take it’s own course. And I can tell you from my own experience, you will not regret it.
    Also, a very important point – knowing oneself is a very very subtle procedure and is best practiced in isolation. Once your vessel is full, it will effortlessly overflow.
    Best,
    Mayur

  5. Hi Mayur – Thanks again for your encouraging words. Your message is clear, well written, and inspiring. I appreciate it. I have some reflecting to do.

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