I have attended seven 10-day and one 20-day Goenka course, but never experienced either the "subtle sensations" or the "free flow." I have stopped going to Goenka retreats because I get frustrated hearing about how after the first day I should be experiencing such and such, etc. I still practice anapana for a couple of hours a day and study the Dhamma, and am resigned to being apparently incapable of having these experiences, which they also say are not important, lol. However, Goenka talks about them over and over in the courses and about how various people get "good results." I wonder if others have this experience also, and how they have dealt with it.
I would suggest you try another vipassana lineage. Goenka goes for body sensations only (AFAIK, later they add mind objects, but I only have 2nd-hand knowledge about it). Use a technique where all 4 foundations (body, feelings, mind, mind objects) are used from the very start could be useful; I am personally doing Chomtong-style practice (Ajahn Tong, a variant of Mahasi, dry-vipassana with lower concentration) and being exposed to e.g. difficult feelings and learn to acknowledge them and let go is extremely valuable for me. What I also find very useful is to have regular interviews with teacher on the retreat.
Meditation has good results if you have more clarity, understanding or yourself and others etc; in short, if your life is better. Experiences come and go and have little long-term relevance (despite the mind trying to persuade us this is it in that moment).
Disclaimer: I'm not a teacher. This is just my interpretation of Goenka's words, but his words are so explicit about this topic, and repeated so many times, that I feel that I'm just stating the obvious in the following paragraph.
"Free flow" is not the point of the technique. The point is to systematically observe whatever you feel in different parts of the body, with equanimity. Goenka talks a lot about the free flow, because many people experience it, so that they know how to respond to it. If you don't experience it, you can simply ignore that part.
As for "subtle sensations", I'm not exactly sure how you interpret them, because (as far as I know) Goenka never explicitly says what exactly a "subtle sensation" is. I'm pretty sure that acute pain wasn't the only sensation that you ever felt in your life. Some sensations are more subtle than others, and Goenka explicitly says that we aren't supposed to judge them, so why should anyone care if any particular sensation is "subtle enough"?
I did experience good results of meditation, and they are completely unrelated to the free flow or subtle sensations. The benefits I experienced include things like better self-confidence, less stress, better social relations with others, less procrastrination. Sometimes I felt free flow, sometimes didn't. The benefits I get when I meditate regularly are not related to whether I feel the free flow in a particular period of time.
Seriously, I really don't see the point of struggling to have a free flow or some other particular sensations. If your aim is to have pleasant sensations in your body, then I'd suggest having sex or masturbating, or perhaps watching porn. That will get you what you want. And requires much less time than two hours of sitting per day.
May I ask, did you ask the teacher about your problem? What did he/she say?
You really should check out the book "The Mind Illuminated" by Culadasa. I’ve done 7 10-day courses, 2 sati courses and been meditating with varying degrees of dedication for 23 years. I’ve recently been introduced to the Culadasa book and it’s given me a bit more guidance for these early stages. In particular a precise description of a distinction between attention and peripheral awareness, and what to do with each.
I wouldn't say those meditative experiences aren't important. I would say they kind of can give us a rough guide to were we are in our practice but we have to be careful of attatching to them or misunderstanding them.
So, how do you practice? Do you focus your attention on:
the raw experience of your breath as it happens
The raw sensations in and on your body as they happen
The partiality towards your experience as it happens?
1st if you crave for these experiences more further away they will be. Once your caving subsides they may suddenly pop up, but this they are also transient and replaced by other experiences.
Also lack of confidence also hinders your progress.
To progress you should
- Stop caving
- Build self confidence
We don't meditate for the results. If we do, it only decreases the chances of getting results. Of course results happen, but results vary from person to person, from time to time. There are so many factors to include it's very difficult to predict. Like the weather.
We meditate because the Four Noble Truths point to the Eightfold Path, and meditation is putting all 8 spoke of the wheel turning. We meditate for liberation and liberation alone. And we do it with our whole effort. Paring off part of our expectations for "results" diminishes what liberation can do.
Meditation techniques being sold in marketplace are one size fit all which rarely work. It is the right living and right technique which gives the results. In the spiritual marketplace goods are sold without any guarantees !!!. Low stress, boost in self confidence, happy feelings etc etc is not the goal. The goal (I take the liberty to be precise ) is to experience metaphysical and then go beyond.
If you do not find a particular technique or teaching worthwhile there are many techniques or teachers which can give you the results much faster. Do not get stuck with one technique or guru or teaching/teacher. Become a seeker who will not stop till he or she has the taste of the beyond.
What Goenka talks about is the free flow of Prana which makes possible for higher bodies to manifest and therefore generate experiences. But the ultimate goal is to go beyond.
Do not practise hard as it is counter productive.