Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

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About Wildmind

BodhipaksaWildmind’s mission is to benefit the world by promoting mindfulness and compassion through the practice of Buddhist meditation.

Wildmind is run by Bodhipaksa, a Buddhist teacher and author who has been practicing within the Triratna Buddhist Community since 1982 and has been a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order since 1993. Bodhipaksa previously taught meditation in the Religious Studies department at the University of Montana.

Wildmind’s activities include:

  • Providing free meditation instruction on the internet in a variety of languages
  • Publishing news stories, articles on meditation, and reviews in our blog
  • Responding to questions about meditation through the comments on our articles
  • Publishing guided meditation CDs and MP3s
  • Conducting online classes in meditation and other forms of Buddhist practice
  • Building a spiritual community in Wildmind’s Google+ Community

Wildmind began life in 2000 as a project that Bodhipaksa undertook while studying for a Masters’ degree at the University of Montana, having realized that at that time there was a dearth of reliable information about meditation on the web.

The website was launched on 11 November, 2000, and in the spring of the following year Bodhipaksa began offering his first online meditation course. Since then Wildmind has continued to expand, and now offers a number of online courses and free instruction in a variety of languages.

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Comments

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Comment from RW Mackie
Time: August 24, 2007, 12:17 pm

Just in time. As usual. :) I have applied at the first stage of subscription and will confirm soon. Unfortunately my introduction as an absolute beginner at a local monestary does not begin for two months. But I need all the insightfulness I can muster very soon.
thanks for being here now.

RWM

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Comment from Liza
Time: January 26, 2008, 6:17 pm

This does not seem right to me. Learning meditation is not a course in how to do something, it is a shift of ground. By sitting with a real person, one experiences the depth of consciousness of the more experienced meditator, and shares in a real, not a virtual or intellectual way. I do not see that this system replaces that in any way. Better to experience a real teacher than to be discouraged what one is able to do with only virtual support. Please be careful.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 26, 2008, 9:11 pm

Hi Liza,

I wonder if you’ve set up a way of seeing things that is unnecessarily polarized? Meditation does of course involve a shift in how one relates to one’s experience, but that doesn’t rule out taking a course to help that shift come about. Otherwise we wouldn’t have meditation courses, retreats, etc.

All of us who teach here have many years of teaching face-to-face classes and we aren’t trying to set up a replacement for that any more than making a guided meditation CD or a book on meditation is intended to make face-to-face classes obsolete. Both online courses and face-to-face classes have their advantages. For example our online courses help many people who aren’t able to make it to a face-to-face class. They also offer a greater opportunity than usual to communicate with a teacher. Often the opportunity for that is very limited in a conventional class because they take place in a couple of hours one night a week, whereas our online courses offer practical and personal support and guidance throughout the week.

But of course in face-to-face classes there are advantages as well, including the one you mention, which is that there are kinds of non-verbal communication that go on. As experienced teachers we’re of course aware of that; online courses have some limitations. And yet, we’ve had many hundreds of people who have taken our courses and experienced life-changing benefits. Whatever the limitations of online courses they do, as mentioned, have some advantages too, and on balance they seem to work for many people. Indeed for some people they’re a preferred — and sometimes the only — option.

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Comment from Liza
Time: January 26, 2008, 10:21 pm

My Dear Bodhipaksa,
A zen practitioner and instructor of 35 years, I make very sure that people have the non-virtual cradle of sangha around them as they begin the first part of their journey. I would guess that some customers stop at the cd. Others may never know what they missed by continuing alone….Wishing you and all beings well.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 27, 2008, 11:01 am

Hi again Liza,

I’m glad that you make sure that people have sangha around them as they begin to practice. When I’m teaching face-to-face classes naturally I do the same thing.

But as I indicated above that’s not possible for everyone. Some people are geographically isolated and live hundreds of miles from the nearest meditation class. Other people have disabilities that make it hard to travel. Yet others work erratic patterns that make it impossible to attend a regular evening class. For such people there’s no way for us to “make very sure” they have a face-to-face sangha around them as they learn to meditate, and an online class may be the only viable option for getting started.

Gassho,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Post removed at author’s request
Time: January 28, 2008, 4:11 pm

The author of this post requested that I remove it, which I’ve done. Later posts on this page may therefore make reference to comments which no longer exist. A comment which I’d made in response to this one has also been removed.
– Bodhipaksa

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Comment from karla
Time: January 30, 2008, 6:02 am

Dear people,

I’d like to offer my personal experience of the Wildmind meditation courses to this discussion as a way to defuse some of the heat creeping in this discussion…

I chose to do the on-line meditation course at a point in my life when I was suffering from a chronic illness and unable to make any ongoing commitments to activities away from home.

My disabilities actually increased my desire to learn more about meditation, especially encouraged by the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who showed how meditation can help people suffering from untreatable pain and illness.

What I learnt from Jon K-Z gave me hope and a sense of direction, but I needed more intense personal teaching than that. And I was physically unable to attend meditation evenings, weekends or longer retreats, even if they had been only streets away.

Doing the course with Bodhipaksa was immensely helpful. The CDs allowed me to practise at those moments of the day when I was most able to make that effort. In addition, I received intense personal support right here in my home by the almost daily email exchanges with Bodhipaksa about the challenges I faced – which were the challenges that every meditation student faces plus the special challenges of illness-related fatigue, pain, and a measure of depression.

It was immensely helpful. I felt very comfortable discussing my experiences with my teacher on-line, and I was very impressed with his empathy, compassion and commitment in helping me with what I wanted to learn, and how to apply that to my life. I felt very privileged to get so much personal support and advice for my practice, and we developed a warm and affectionate bond which really helped me cope.

The on-line exchanges had the additional advantage that I was able to print out and re-read some of his comments and advice when I needed to.

So, personally I found the courses extremely helpful, and I can testify that it is entirely possible to develop a warm and affectionate contact with a caring teacher I have not actually met.

I really don’t think there is a need to get so polarised… I see an on-line meditation course as ONE way to learn about meditation, next to a whole range of other options which involve direct face-to-face contact with a teacher and other students.

For me, learning meditation is a life-long path which of necessity will include a number of teachers who teach in different ways. Each of these ways of learning has advantages and disadvantages, depending on the student’s needs and limitations at a given moment.

I think that an on-line meditation course, provided it is taught by well-trained, committed teachers who have carefully thought through the challenges of teaching meditation in this non-traditional way, can be a very useful addition to the existing array of more traditional ways of teaching meditation – depending on the needs and possibilities of the student at that particular moment of his/her life.

Karla

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Comment from Mike
Time: January 30, 2008, 10:38 am

Finding a teacher of meditation is a difficult task, especially for those living in non-urban areas. To be able to find help through the internet is a helpful option. Taking a course through Wildmind has been a worthwhile experience. The posting of comments from participants is useful in gaining a greater understanding of meditation and the role it can play in our daily lives.
Mike

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Comment from Alison Moore
Time: January 30, 2008, 10:43 am

As a long time supporter of Wildmind and its work I’ve been reading this correspondence with interest, but also with some disquiet at the underlying assumption of a dichotomy between online learning and a ‘real teacher’ – a dichotomy that isn’t borne out by my own experience of learning meditation with Wildmind.

Whilst I’ve been putting my response together, Karla, too, has posted her own story, and I’ve found it heart-warming to perceive so many echoes of my own meditation journey, even though our lives are probably very different. So I’ve edited my contribution to the discussion a little to focus more specifically on my experience of relating to a ‘virtual teacher’. Karla, it’s good to know you!

The Wildmind courses were my first introduction to meditation. I had been drawn to contemplative practice of some kind for some time, but had only come across it in a Christian context which I found it impossible to ‘own’, so when I accidentally came across Jack Kornfield’s ‘A Path With Heart’ I was seized with enthusiasm and started to read everything I could lay my hands on. I was particularly drawn to the Kornfield/Goldstein version of Vipassana and Charlotte Joko Beck’s version of Zen and wanted to find a centre near me, but further investigation revealed such a plethora of different schools and different traditions that I didn’t know where to start.

So when I came across the Wildmind site it seemed like a good way of getting started without having to commit myself to anything in particular, which I didn’t feel ready to do. And as soon as I started on the first course I knew that Wildmind wasn’t simply the equivalent of a CD with a few extra frills. There was real teaching and real learning in our encounter.
Bodhipaksa’s input was crucial to my positive experience – he was very supportive in his responses to my journal, and had the knack of making those responses personal (though I imagine that many people’s early experiences and questions have a certain amount in common). It was interesting to observe myself feeling that we were becoming friends even though I had no actual proof that he was a real person – he might have been a sixty-year old woman, or even a team, as people often suspect agony aunties of being!

I did find myself depending quite a lot on our correspondence, and creating a sort of virtual ‘guru’ out of how I imagined him to be. This was a particularly easy pattern to fall into since of course I never actually saw him relating to anyone else. I was aware that I was doing this, and it was a useful way to observe projections, plus the need to put my experiences into writing was a very valuable way of helping me collect my thoughts and was often a spur to further reflection, so the virtual nature of the relationship was helpful to me in several ways.
However I did very soon get to feel the need to find a real 3D sangha, and I was delighted to find one only ten minutes from my home in the UK: Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, a Thai Forest monastery in the tradition of Ajahn Chah, and home to the well-respected Ajahn Sumedho, I joined the lay community there and have now been closely involved with them for over five years.

But I kept up a regular correspondence with Bodhipaksa via the journnal for at least a year to 18 months after I started coming regularly to Amaravati and I continued to find the personal contact a very useful support as I was finding my feet. I have no doubt that it contributed to the ease with which I was able to develop a regular practice – the discipline of keeping a journal was a good framework – and I was aware that I was continuing to appreciate the individual support which is not so obviously part of the pattern at Amaravati. During this time the relationship gradually developed into more of a spiritual friendship than a teacher-pupil one, and this too was explicitly negotiated – very interesting, and the only time in my life I have ever reflected so consciously and deliberately on the nature of a relationship.

So there you have it – I have had personal experience of online learning and a relationship with a virtual teacher, and also of a deepening connection with a well-established Theravada Buddhist community. I have developed mutually supportive relationships there with monastics and lay people alike. Both the virtual relationship and the face-to-face ones have been, and continue to be, of inestimable value to me on the path, and I see no dichotomy here, only a rich variety which I treasure and for which I feel deep gratitude.

With metta

Alison

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Comment from Wes Chapman
Time: January 30, 2008, 3:19 pm

As one who has taken three classes from Wildmind and benefitted enormously from them, I want to affirm what Bodhipaksa and others have said, while acknowledging that this is not a one-sided issue.

I live in a small city in the Midwest. There are lots of churches here, but no Buddhist temples, no meditation centers. Occasionally someone drives up from another city to lead a Zen meditation practice in the Unitarian church, but that’s hardly the same thing as teaching meditation in a systematic way. I think it likely that most cities under 100,000 or so and nearly all rural areas do not offer instruction in Buddhist meditation…which is to say that unless you live in a big city, or in a very unusual small city, access is a real problem.

Moreover, face to face doesn’t necessarily mean better. For a little while, one of the counselors at the university where I teach held meditation classes, which I attended. The classes at Wildmind were MUCH better. What the counselor was teaching–valuable in its own way–was a way to calm down a little bit. What Sunada and Bodhipaksa’s classes taught me was a spiritual practice.

True, it takes a lot of discipline (and time) to get the most from an online class; I sat for two hours a day or more during the last two classes, and wouldn’t have gone nearly as far as I did without having put in that time. But surely that is true for face to face classes as well.

Would face to face classes with Sunada or another good teacher have been better? Probably. It is very definitely possible to form a close relationship with an instructor online–Karla is totally right about that. But in a face to face class I would probably have developed (and still have) a close relationship with a community. But this really comes down to living where I live, again: I am not part of a face to face community, a sangha in the fullest sense of the word, because there isn’t one where I live. This is undoubtedly a loss in ways that I cannot realize because I have nothing to compare with my actual experience.

As to whether or not an online class can effect a “shift of ground”–oh yes, yes, a thousand times yes, it can. I said in my final email of the class that I felt that a whole new room had been opened up in my mind, one that I had no idea even existed. I am a better person for having been to that room in my mind, and I still go there daily.

May all on both sides of the issue be well and happy,

Wes

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Comment from Lotus
Time: February 6, 2008, 5:57 pm

Hi there,
well i was really happy to see the comments from those who have taken the courses here – i know it is possible to have deep friendships online – there is a time i wouldn’t have believed that possible – but i now know it to be true. And I wanted to mention, some of us suffer from anxieties and phobias and even if we can find the time – sometimes we just cannot get out and be among people. The only thing stopping me from taking this course at the moment is financial, and if that changes someday I will be so delighted to become a student here – far less alone then merely reading books and trying to learn completely on my own!!
This is a lovely site. Thankyou. :)

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 6, 2008, 6:03 pm

Hello Lotus! Thanks for your words of appreciation about the site. And thanks also on behalf of the students who wrote in.

I just wanted you to know that we’ve almost never turned someone away because of an inability to pay. The rare exceptions have been when our classes have been very full. So when you’re ready to join a class feel free to drop us a line via the “contact” link above. All the best, Bodhipaksa.

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Comment from Emma
Time: February 19, 2008, 3:01 pm

Hello,
I came across this site today whilst looking for something else and was very interested to see the messages here. I wanted to express my thoughts. I was a teacher for many years. With regard to Liza’s and Johnathan’s comments, I know from my own experience that a person’s spiritual journey is extremely precious to them. When we are deeply involved in our own journey we can become attached to one way of doing things because it has suited us. Having taught for many years I just wanted to say that there are many ways of learning new skills, and no one way suits everybody. Some children are visual learners, others auditory, yet others learn by “observation” and others by “doing”. Adults too learn in very different ways. For you Liza, and for Johnathan, one to one meditation classes working alongside a teacher has obviously been a powerful and important aspect of your meditation/spiritual journey. But that’s not necessarily the case for everyone. It isn’t “how” a person learns the skill that matters so much as “what” they learn. Isn’t it better that people have the opportunity to choose what is best for them? The format of a person’s learning experience will make that experience different from another, so learning online is different to learning face to face. So what? Trust is an important part of each person’s spiritual journey. Trusting that our journey will unfold for us in the way it is meant to is very important. Choosing what feels right for ourselves is an important part of developing trust in ourselves and the Universe as we progress on our spiritual journey. Does it really matter whether we become spiritually aware through the internet as opposed to working face to face? I don’t feel that one way is more valuable than the other if the outcome is a deeper connection to ourselves, each other and the Universe. I actually find it very uplifting (rather than fearful) to know that I can make contact with caring, supportive meditation teachers quickly and easily online.
With all good wishes,
Emma

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Comment from Shannon
Time: February 26, 2008, 10:35 am

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Is it fair for us to judge in which way the teacher appears..or how each pupil finds their way. If a seed is planted..it will grow..As important as it is to be mindful on our journey, I believe it is just as important to trust that as we take our next step, the ground will be there under our feet, without having to constantly look down to see the road. Much better to have faith in the road, and be looking around, in that moment. May each of us continue to take steps along our journey…each and every journey as unique as each of us.

I am indeed one of those people, that due to a variety of circumstances does not at this time have face to face instruction or guidance..i have gratitude for the time and effort taken to provide information and inspiration, which I am finding a blessing to my life and to my journey.

Namaste

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Comment from Jeannine
Time: March 17, 2008, 3:20 pm

That’s a very good point. There are many paths to the same destination. As I follow my own path, I do not wish to to be judged nor to judge anyone who chooses differently. (By the way, I was quite thrilled to learn of these classes.)

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Comment from Mark
Time: May 7, 2008, 6:57 am

It’s good to know that WildMind is still going strong Bodhipaksa – you’ve done a splendid job and have created an invaluable resource for many people to share. I have used your CD over many years – what I learnt has stayed with me and helps ‘centre’ me whenever my mind becomes busy!

Having reviewed with interest the various comments contained here, I’ve taken a moment to consider the points that were expressed and wonder if perhaps there is an opportunity to provide information of meditation centres and/or organisations that would harmonize your own teachings, so that anyone wishing to develop themselves further by visiting a meditation centre could do so?

I appreciate that you have a link to http://www.shambhala.org.uk – are there any other Orgs that you are able to support and could this information be contained somewhere within the site?

Just a thought… ;o)

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Comment from Ban-san
Time: May 25, 2008, 7:59 pm

WildMind is a breath of fresh air to those of us living in the “heart of Dixie.” Outside of the larger Southern Metro cities there is a dearth of anything that is not based in Southern Baptist theology — namely meditation. This online format fills a need where it is impossible to have one-on-one daily contact. With the price of gas, driving to Atlanta has become a major expense that is out of reach for some. Thanks for being there! In Gassho….

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 26, 2008, 12:46 pm

We’ve just converted to the One True Faith and will shortly be deleting all this heathen Buddhist nonsense so that we can save more souls from Satan’s machinations. No, just joking.

Seriously, we’re delighted to hear that we’re able to provide inspiration to spiritual seekers in the Bible Belt. I had a friend who lived in a large town in Tennessee and there was simply nothing available for non-Christians.

All the best with your practice,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Deb
Time: November 17, 2008, 10:20 pm

Hi,

I just discovered this website and I am enjoying it tremendously. I’m wondering if you offer any workshops in the southern NH area? Feel free to respond to me directly.

Many blessings,
Deb

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 18, 2008, 11:21 am

Hi Deb,

Glad you like the site.

I sent you an email, but in case anyone else is wondering I do sometimes run classes at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, NH.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Pingback from Build a Bigger Brain | Awake in This Life
Time: August 3, 2009, 2:26 pm

[...] Bodhipaksa, over at Wildmind has just posted this fascinating article: People who meditate have bigger brains than those who don’t, say researchers at UCLA. [...]

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Pingback from Build a Bigger Brain | Infinite Smile
Time: November 14, 2010, 7:46 pm

[...] Bodhipaksa, over at Wildmind has just posted this fascinating article: People who meditate have bigger brains than those who don’t, say researchers at UCLA. [...]

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Comment from Interested Person
Time: September 30, 2011, 9:52 pm

What is the annual income from products (CD, courses, anything) sold via this site?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 5, 2011, 11:47 am

It’s interesting that you ask. Wildmind is a small publisher of guided meditation CDs, and we also sell some other items related to meditation and Buddhism, such as incense and ritual items. The income from all this is not enough to provide me or my children with health insurance. It’s not enough that paying bills isn’t a struggle. My family is, like many American families, one crisis away from financial ruin. However:

  • Despite this, I spend as much of my time as possible helping people (free of charge) with their meditation practice. I receive many questions on the blog and via email, and I attempt to answer every one of them — including yours. Our site now has over a million visitors a year, and it’s satisfying to know that the work we do here helps so many people.
  • Despite this, I spend as much time as possible writing articles, and persuading others to write articles, that may help people live happier and more fulfilling live.
  • Despite this, for six years I travelled up to the men’s prison in Concord, NH, in order to teach meditation and Buddhism to inmates. Unfortunately I had to stop doing this when my wife’s work hours changed.

I hope this reply has helped you with whatever it was you wanted to know. Do feel free to help financially support the work we do here by making a donation or purchasing a guided meditation CD or MP3.

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Comment from Nicole
Time: June 2, 2012, 12:06 pm

Is it preferable/required to have a teacher guide you through meditation? I was using an online guided meditation session, but the narrations were very frustrating. I felt rushed and couldn’t keep up with all of the instructions that were given. Considering the point of meditation is to come to peace with and learn about yourself, I would like to do it in my time rather than the time an instructor would choose for me.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 2, 2012, 12:12 pm

Not at all. We need a guide when we’re learning something new, and at those times we just have to be patient because the teacher can’t possibly know whether or not you’re moving at a pace that’s ideal for you, but in the long term most of our meditations will be self-guided. Even experienced meditators can benefit from a guided meditation once in a while, but it’s not desirable to rely on guidance the whole time. And as you’ve found, it can be frustrating. Mind you, so can meditating on your own!

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Comment from Jake
Time: August 23, 2014, 11:18 pm

I’ve been practicing mindfulness of breathing on and off for around a year (often more off than on, unfortunately). Over the past 3-4 weeks, however, I have been practicing more regularly for at least 40 minutes each day. In the past week or so I’ve been feeling more anxious and stressed than I can honestly ever remember feeling. I know on paper at least that the ‘aim’ of meditation is not to reach any particular state, but it does seem as though meditating is taking me to a state more unpleasant than that which I experienced before coming to the practice. I have considered that this might just be me becoming more aware of feelings that have always been present, but, I have experienced powerful waves of anxiety so pronounced as of late that they *surely* could not have been overlooked in my life as a non-meditator.

To that end, I have provisionally enrolled on a 10-day Goenka Vipassana meditation retreat in two weeks’ time in the hope that some structured teaching might help to advance my practice. Would you be able to offer any advice on whether it is too soon in your eyes to embark upon such a prolonged and thorough stretch of meditation, or any thoughts as an unbiased spectator on this particular course? The “reviews” and opinions online are all very polemical.

I would appreciate any insights on either the recent stress and anxiety or on the decision to go on an extended retreat so soon into regular meditation

Thank you in advance for any help.

Jake

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 25, 2014, 6:42 pm

Hi, Jeff.

Apologies for the delayed reply, but I’m just back from a vacation with my children, and I was trying to avoid being online as much as possible while I was with them.

I don’t think it’s likely that you’re discovering emotions that have been buried. Largely I think that idea is ill-founded. What’s more likely is that a natural tendency to anxiety is becoming compounded. In other words you’re turning your attention inwards, noticing signs of anxiety, and becoming anxious in response.

But there can be other causes too, and you might want to check out this page, and the comments below, including the one by Andrea, which is similar to yours in some ways.

I have mixed feelings about Goenka retreats. They can be very intense indeed, and some people find them unbearable. On the other hand, people who make it through them often experience great benefits. They also vary in quality, depending on who is conducting them. With luck you’ll have a good teacher on board who can help you work through your experience in a way that doesn’t add anxiety to anxiety, if indeed that’s what’s going on.

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