I admit I felt good reading Saunder’s comments on A critique of Vipassana Meditation as taught by Goenka.
I haven’t write my thoughts to the critique yet – I have some things to say, from my own experience – but I will put here Sander’s comments, as he is also a part of the professionals who are backing up the technique with factual from medical research.
The fight or flight mechanism causes the body to contract due to stressors in our environment.
Over years these contractions remain as tension or tone in all the body muscles, which are not released.
When muscles are tense they send signals back to the brain and the greater the tone, the higher the frequency of the signals.
If the body has a great deal of tension, then the brain becomes overwhelmed with signals and starts having less stamina to deal with the day to day requirements of dealing with life.
The Goenka technique requires us to concentrate on these tensions and the brain then starts to release the tension. Over time we start to reprogramme all the muscles to remove the tension built up over many years. This has the affect of making the body more flexible, lighter and less painful. In addition, it removes a great deal of load off the brain and gives the brain extra stamina to deal with the needs of life.
The brain feels refreshed and at easy which enables sound judgments and clear thinking.
The technique is based on sound physiology of the body.
If you read the article “The physiology of boredom depression and senile dementia” by M.N. Saunders, you will find out the processes that occur in the brain which bring about the changes and results in a mind that is free of clutter and is sharp and clear.
I searched for the paper ““The physiology of boredom depression and senile dementia” by M.N. Saunders” he is referring, I guess it is written by himself, I only found the abstract as it is under research communities repositories.
Further information to that above.
You may ask why the brain does not release the muscle tension all the time.
The reason is that the tension or tone builds up gradually over years and is continuous. So the tension becomes latent or unconscious. It only becomes conscious in later years when the tension becomes chronic and the body develops back pain and rigidity.
So the brain does not realise the tension because it is not aware of the tension. The Goenka technique sharpens the mind using Anapana which then enables us to notice the tension. At first we notice the gross tensions and with practice we begin to notice the subtle tension.
You may ask why the brain releases the tension.
The body is very conservative and does not like to waste energy. So as soon as it notices tension it releases it. However after we stop focusing on the tension the muscles return to their preprogrammed state. Its only after repeated release over many months that we begin to reprogramme the muscles to stay relaxed.
You may ask how the brain knows that the tension is not caused by movement.
The brain concentrates on the tension. If it lasts for only a few seconds, say 10 to 20, then it assumes that it is part of the moving process and does not release the tension. However, if the tension continues after that time. the brain realises that its not part of the moving process and is wasted energy, and then it releases the tension. This is the technique used by progressive stretching exercises where we tense a muscle, wait 30 seconds and then the brain releases the tension and we can stretch a little more. We can do this several times and each time the brain releases more tension, thus enabling several stretches.
We may ask why the process does not reverse itself.
The reason is that the Goenka technique teaches us to notice the tension as soon as a stressor developes. So as soon as we notice that the body is becoming tense, we can go into the body and prevent the tension from building up by concentrating on it. Thus we can become conscious of the gradual build up of tension in the body which we have not been able to do before we practised the Goenka technique.
I hope this makes the technique a little more transparent.
My final comments on the matter.
You remove a little tension from the body and you get a little peace.
You remove a lot of tension from the body and you get a lot of peace.
You remove ALL the tension from the body and you get TOTAL PEACE AND TRANQUILITY IN BOTH THE BODY AND MIND.
Isn’t that something worth striving for?