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I feel a little stressed out when I move my attention through the body to observe the sensations. I am able to meditate far better if I focus on the entire body as a whole and feel sensations wherever they come up.

Is this acceptable in the S. N. Goenka Vipassana technique or is it important that a mediator scan the body part by part?

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I can't speak for the method taught by S. N. Goenka, I only know the part by part sweeping method (link to a detailed talk by Ayya Khema about the benefits of it), but I guess you do the same thing. As for this method it is quite usual to get stressed or tensed, because you have to be much more focused on the experience you may or may not find at the current spot you're keeping your attention on. Ayya Khema said it would be a very good sign if you get a feeling of nausea coming up when practicing it for the first time. In another context I heard a different teacher saying that it's like after cleaning your clothes your washbasin is full of dirt (because it was on your clothes). It may be similar with this technique since you have to notice all kinds of feelings or emotions.

She also mentioned that if you really don't like to practice this certain method, you'll benefit the most from doing it :)

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I can't speak for the method taught by S. N. Goenka but practise must always be balanced. It is not skilful to suppress or push down the mind (into the body) in such as way that suppresses or traps stress within the body (rather than allows stress to break up & rise up out of the body).

To release stress out of the body requires some degree of 'openness' of mind.

Focusing on the entire body as a whole sounds more closely aligned to the Buddha's teachings about letting go. As long as the mind is alert & quiet (i.e., not too lax in terms of letting distractions arise), focusing on the entire body as a whole is good method.

Below is a famous scripture about too much & too little effort.

Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence, attune the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there pick up your theme.

Sona Sutta

  • I certainly feel like the guitar string is way too tight when I try to sweep my attention across the body. Perhaps... I think it is because somehow there is an attempt to co-ordinate my breathing with the sweeping. It's not like I am doing it consciously. It just happens. And that causes stress. OTOH if I focus on the entire body and just notice sensations as they arise then the breathing happens without any stress. – Parag Jun 30 '16 at 5:02

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