Vipassana Meditation a waste of time

 
Lockwood
 
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Lockwood
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25 January 2019 14:01
 

If I knew how to send Sam Harris a letter directly it would be the one below. I suppose there’s a chance he might see it and even respond, but I’d also be interested in what other people think of my experience and my very genuine dilemma.

Dear Sam Harris

I have enjoyed your podcasts and books so I have respect for and tend to agree with your views political and otherwise. As you have often recommended Vipassana meditation I decided to attend a ten day retreat as taught by S.N.Goenka at Dhamma Dipa in Herefordshire, England. Having completed the ten days I am writing express how truly baffled I am at why you promote this practice.

The day ran from 4 am to 9 pm, involving up to eleven hours a day of meditation
For the first two days we concentrated on the sensations of itches and tingles that we felt in the upper lip area. Then the next two days on the itches and tingles on the triangular area around the upper lip and nose. On day four, as we moved to observe these same sensations in various areas of our body the reasoning behind this practice was revealed: the itches and tingles are “defilements” called shankaras, abstract fear, anger, passions and embodied negative emotions, and the actual process of observing these itches and tingles will release the negativity and it will pass away, the ultimate purpose being that we can have a better rebirth when we die.

Well I don’t need my degree in Experimental Psychology to know this is claptrap. However I decided to stay the course in the expectation of some further more practical or experiential lessons to be learned.  Surely, I thought as each day passed, there is more to it than this. It must develop into some insight into the mind, my self, or something, anything. But no, day after day the method of scanning and observing the itches and tingles up and down, left to right, back to front was introduced but no further enlightenment was given aside from lectures assuring us that this was doing us all a lot of good. By day eight I voiced my concern about the monotony of the process and was told if I felt bored I should observe the boredom and it would pass and then I should go back to observing the itches and tingles.

But at the end of the ten days I had had no insight nor the slightest degree of enlightenment. I don’t need ten days of monotony to know that one hundred hours of observing itches and tingles and numbness and pain is boring so my mind will wander and distract itself: this is a trivial lesson to learn, and one I already knew. Surely it is a sign of human intelligence and creativity that the mind will seek diversion when bored, and conversely a sign of mental illness to be able to repeat and endure tedious and pointless actions non-stop without being disturbed.

Of course to the Buddhists attending this was not pointless or disturbing because it was the means to an end - a better rebirth next time around. But to anyone else this can only be a complete waste of time. Or did I miss something and if so what?  I started the course with few preconceptions and with a mind open to learning or even just experiencing something new. I did not expect pure enlightenment but I did expect something beyond boredom and frustration, some “insight” which was not after all forthcoming.

I believe I have wasted ten days of my life and I feel that as you have been a vocal proponent of Vipassana you would do me a favour, and I’m sure others in my situation who have trusted your judgement and advice, if you could explain how someone as intelligent as you are, can put up with ten days or longer periods of tedium and repetition and then recommend it to others.

If you are unable to reply to this letter, perhaps you could address this in a podcast. Secular people shouldn’t really have “faith” in others but this has severely undermined my faith in your judgement.

With friendly best wishes,

KL

 
EN
 
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EN
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25 January 2019 17:35
 

Sam is not going to respond to you here, or anywhere else, for that matter.

 
GAD
 
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GAD
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25 January 2019 18:36
 
EN - 25 January 2019 05:35 PM

Sam is not going to respond to you here, or anywhere else, for that matter.

In any case all people who sell bullshit do is say you must be doing it wrong i.e. it’s you not their bullshit that’s the problem.

 
 
hannahtoo
 
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hannahtoo
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26 January 2019 10:17
 

Of course, everyone is different.  Some people imprisoned in solitary confinement go crazy.  Others go on to become president of a country.

 
GAD
 
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GAD
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26 January 2019 10:28
 
hannahtoo - 26 January 2019 10:17 AM

Of course, everyone is different.  Some people imprisoned in solitary confinement go crazy.  Others go on to become president of a country.

What do you think the statistics of that are? I mean how many people imprisoned in solitary confinement go on be president, or anything useful for that matter. I’m going to guess millions to one, so not really very effective in my view.

 
 
Cheshire Cat
 
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Cheshire Cat
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26 January 2019 12:06
 

I’ve been doing Vipassana meditation going on 12 years now.

I don’t find it a waste of time. Quite the opposite.

 
 
hannahtoo
 
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hannahtoo
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27 January 2019 08:23
 
GAD - 26 January 2019 10:28 AM
hannahtoo - 26 January 2019 10:17 AM

Of course, everyone is different.  Some people imprisoned in solitary confinement go crazy.  Others go on to become president of a country.

What do you think the statistics of that are? I mean how many people imprisoned in solitary confinement go on be president, or anything useful for that matter. I’m going to guess millions to one, so not really very effective in my view.

I don’t know about the statistics, but many POW’s survived terrible circumstances and went on to lead productive lives.  One became a US Senator and ran for President.  Other soldiers end up with disabling PTSD.  I don’t know what makes the difference in these cases.  My point, however, is that how a mind reacts to circumstances—from calm meditation to extreme duress—depends as much on the mind as the circumstances. 

Probably Vipassana meditation is not right for the poster.  But maybe it’s great for other people.  Personally, I have never had the patience for sitting meditation.  But I have gotten benefits from long solo walks, which some people might consider to be a sort of walking meditation.