The Role of the Teacher

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2 thoughts on “The Role of the Teacher”

  1. Goenka, who died Sept 29 at age 80 whatever, has a lot to teach us about rigor.

    When he began teaching Vipassana meditation (where the meditative focus is on bodily sensation, not on mantras images etc) in India in the ’70s, people could meditate for an hour, then go and have a chai or whatever, come back, bla bla.

    Goenka began experimenting with real rigour and eventually came up with what I found was basically Buddhist boot camp: 10 days, no talking, reading, writing, eye contact, exercise, TV etc, combined with 11 daily hours of silent meditation and one lecture. Vegetarian food. Strict segregation of the sexes and baggy clothes only.

    Goenka understood that you gotta COMMIT. You don’t dilly-dally. You want to learn to meditate? DO IT and GET RID OF DISTRACTIONS.

    After my second 10 day, I went to a weekend retreat in Vancouver. People chatted in the meditation hall. Some guys ate. The young women wore the black tights and yoga tops that all young women in Vancouver nowadays seem compelled to wear. People texted. I couldn’t focus for the life of me.

    Goenka’s brand of Vipassana has a LOT in common with our TPRS classrooms. We’re ALL IN. We don’t let English distract us. We don’t clutter the environment. We don’t yap. We ditch conscious focus on the superficial and we get into the deep intense focus on meaning-based activities, be they funny or serious. We treat each other with respect, and the teacher understands that, while each kid is on his/her own trip and acquiring at their own pace, each kid also has the responsibility of following the rules and being a part of a remarkable thing that, despite its occasional weirdness, WORKS.

    Anybody want a life-changing experience? Do a 10-day at the Goenka Institute. An emotional and cereberal enema.

  2. …we don’t let English distract us. We don’t clutter the environment. We don’t yap. We ditch conscious focus on the superficial and we get into the deep intense focus on meaning-based activities….

    I never thought of teaching a class as a true meditative practice. I have thought that it is LIKE one, but in the light of what you say here, Chris. I see that it IS a practice. No wonder it is so rarely done. Easier to stay in the intellectual realm of worksheets, of abstract reasoning about the thing. It compares to reading a book about yoga asanas, vs. actually taking a yoga class.

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