I went to the S.N. Goenka 10 day new student course in Menomonie Wisconsin in May of 2016. This was fairly soon after I had been meditating on a regular basis.
I found it to be a spiritual bootcamp. This is Theravadan Vipassana. It’s also a class in a technique, not really a retreat, so there are rather stringent procedures to follow. It’s thought that 10 days is the minimum amount of time to learn the technique. This is only one style of Vipassana and actually specific to one teacher. There is a live assistant teacher at the course, but Mr. Goenka teaches it via CDs. The assistant teacher is there to answer questions and to monitor the students, which, obviously, Goenka couldn’t
The food was good and plentiful. Old students didn’t eat after noon, only taking some tea in the evening but new students were given some fruits. The accommodations were in a bunkhouse environment, except I got the one private room – needing to use a CPAP ( air pump that won’t let your breathing tubes collapse as you sleep) has it’s advantages ! 😉
There is complete segregation of the sexes, no talking except by the teachers and the student’s managers as well as the staff.
Not talking for 9 days is actually quite hard, some folks can’t do it. Being alone with your own mind is rather enlightening. Stuff comes up that one has repressed or is trying to repress. That’s why the course is not recommended for anyone with a mental illness.
The technique of Vipassana Meditation is taught at ten-day residential courses during which participants learn the basics of the method, and practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial results. There are no charges for the courses – not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation. All expenses are met by donations from people who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the opportunity to also benefit.
I thought the course was quite beneficial as background to my ongoing practice. I don’t use it exclusively though.
This is my take on the course, here’s a different opinion – http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/criticism/goenka.htm
Stay tuned for more posts on the topic!
Comments always appreciated.