5 episodes

Untold is a new podcast from the special investigations team at the Financial Times. On Untold: The Retreat, host Madison Marriage examines the world of the Goenka network, which promotes a type of intensive meditation known as Vipassana. Thousands of people go on Goenka retreats every year. People rave about them. But some go to these meditation retreats, and they suffer. They might feel a deep sense of terror, or a break with reality. And on the other side, they’re not themselves anymore. Untold: The Retreat launches Jan. 24.
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Untold: The Retreat Financial Times

    • News
    • 4.0 • 75 Ratings

Untold is a new podcast from the special investigations team at the Financial Times. On Untold: The Retreat, host Madison Marriage examines the world of the Goenka network, which promotes a type of intensive meditation known as Vipassana. Thousands of people go on Goenka retreats every year. People rave about them. But some go to these meditation retreats, and they suffer. They might feel a deep sense of terror, or a break with reality. And on the other side, they’re not themselves anymore. Untold: The Retreat launches Jan. 24.
Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

    Another Death

    Another Death

    Madison Marriage hears of another death, one that happened five years before Jaqui’s. Was the Goenka network aware of the dangers of intensive meditation? Marriage asks what the organisation is doing, if anything, to protect people from harm.
    For support or more information about adverse meditation experiences, take a look at the Cheetah House website.
    If you are in need of urgent mental health support, please contact your local emergency services or reach out to a mental health helpline, such as the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline in the US, or Samaritans in the UK.
    Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com

    Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

    • 45 min
    Jaqui’s Story

    Jaqui’s Story

    Jaqui was 22 when she signed up to a 10-day Goenka retreat. It was the last known thing she did before she died. This is Jaqui’s story.
    For support or more information about adverse meditation experiences, take a look at the Cheetah House website.
    If you are in need of urgent mental health support, please contact your local emergency services or reach out to a mental health helpline, such as the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline in the US or Samaritans in the UK.
    Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com

    Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

    • 40 min
    Ten Long Days

    Ten Long Days

    Emily’s twin sister spirals after going on a Goenka retreat, and she’s not the only one. Madison Marriage hears multiple accounts of terror, hallucinations and psychosis. Was meditation just the catalyst that unleashed psychological problems? Or did this network of silent meditation retreats actually cause their suffering?
    For support or more information about adverse meditation experiences, take a look at the Cheetah House website.
    We also spoke to Miguel Farias and Jonny Say to corroborate claims in the podcast about adverse meditation experiences. You can find out more about Farias’s work here, and Say’s here.
    If you are in need of urgent mental health support, please contact your local emergency services or reach out to a mental health helpline, such as the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline in the US or Samaritans in the UK.
    Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com

    Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

    • 43 min
    Dear Madison

    Dear Madison

    Madison Marriage receives an email from a desperate father named Stephen. Over the past five years, he says, his twin daughters have changed drastically. They were bright and outgoing, with exciting plans for their future. But over their early twenties, they became increasingly distressed, struggling to eat or sleep and disassociating from normal life. Stephen believes the root of his daughters’ problems is a particular network of intensive meditation retreats.
    For support or more information about adverse meditation experiences, take a look at the Cheetah House website.
    If you are in need of urgent mental health support, please contact your local emergency services or reach out to a mental health helpline, such as the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline in the US or Samaritans in the UK.
    Note: This podcast previously included a YouTube clip that described a Vipassana meditation retreat that was not linked to the Goenka network, as originally implied.
    Read a transcript of this episode on FT.com

    Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

    • 42 min
    Introducing Untold: The Retreat

    Introducing Untold: The Retreat

    Introducing Untold, a new podcast from the special investigations team at the Financial Times. In its first series, The Retreat, host Madison Marriage examines the world of the Goenka network, which promotes a type of intensive meditation known as Vipassana. Thousands of people go on Goenka retreats every year. People rave about them. But some people go to these meditation retreats, and they suffer. They might feel a deep sense of terror, or a break with reality. And on the other side, they’re not themselves anymore. Untold: The Retreat launches Jan. 24.
    Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

    • 1 min

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5
75 Ratings

75 Ratings

AlistairCandlin ,

Interesting but shallow so far, melodramatic, and one-sided

You’ve gone into this investigation with your mind already made up, I think. In my opinion these people had underlying issues that were triggered by meditation and then accentuated by exhaustion from lack of sleep. Anyone with sleep deprivation will start getting unpleasant side effects, I suppose. Hope you cut out the dramatic music and interview some people who benefited from the Goenka retreats. I’ve done two - a ten day course in India, and a short one in Oxfordshire. They were tough in some ways, but definitely beneficial. It’s called insight meditation and you do get some insights. They method is basically trying to focus your attention on your breath, then on your body sensations. For me, by doing this, I realised I was very rarely present - my thoughts kept going to old memories, or thoughts, maybe anxieties, about the future. Then i would realise I was sidetracked and try to focus on my breath again. That’s probably the starting point, or it was for me. From there I started to realise how my mind was like an energetic monkey, jumping between things, and hardly ever really in the moment. This was linked to desire and aversion. So, anyway, you start to get these sort of insights. I guess other participants had similar experiences. Obviously this is going to trigger major issues for some people. Maybe these issues could have been handled better, maybe they would have happened anyway. It does not mean the whole thing is a dangerous cult, as you seem to imply.

Edit: having listened to the end of episode 3 now, I see where you’re coming from. No, the volunteers are not trained to cope with mental health issues, and they should be. That’s clear negligence. I think they are well meaning: they are people who have found the technique helpful, but might believe the method is a universal panacea. However the practice will clearly prompt mental health issues for some people. The organization needs to take measures and get the advice of qualified mental health professional to create a training program on how to deal with people who have emotional reactions induced by the technique. Because that is definitely going to happen; just by being alone with your own thoughts for ten days issues you have will inevitable surface. Some people will always have these problems if they do this practice and the staff are simply not equipped to deal with them. All they can say is: keep practising.

I think a lot of yoga is similar. In my opinion, to teach yoga you should have training equal to that of a qualified physiotherapist: three or four years at a university with in depth knowledge of anatomy. People shouldn’t be teaching yoga after doing a short training course. So I agree with the implications here: these things need to be regulated.

Anyway, I’ve raised my rating to four stars. Not 5, because the music is too melodramatic! Good stuff though.

Soozer24 ,

Had potential, needed actual reporting

I was really looking forward to an investigative piece on this topic. However there wasn’t any real reporting done and so this came across as an opinion piece wrapped around tragic profiles. Coming from The Financial Times I had higher expectations.
The experiences and stories highlighted are definitely sad. However I wanted context — what percentage of participants leave with this kind of experience? What underlying conditions could predispose a person to have this extreme of a reaction? These stories are presented in a fear-mongering way — don’t participate or you will lose your mind! But without being presented with any actual facts I suspect these are tragic outliers.
Also, the “cult expert” in the first episode that says 1/3 leave the meditation experience having benefited, 1/3 feel no effect and 1/3 are destroyed by it . . Ummm, what source or statistics he basing that on?!

Isapeetersh ,

Biased reporting delivering an important message

There are elements that make this a biased series, which is too bad because it makes the ultimate, important, message less powerful. Let’s start by the music which is definitely chosen to condition the listener, preparing for a horror story. And then there are the “factual statements” of sleep deprivation, insufficient calorie intake… When I went to the retreat I slept from 9:00pm to 4:00am which for me was more than enough. I understand it is not enough for everyone but it is specified on the website. Food wise there was always enough, healthy and good food. There also it specifies on the website that the food is vegetarian, no surprises. Anyhow, these and many other “statements” are made apparently to attract listeners into a sensationalist story and don’t contribute to the report at all. I do feel for the affected families and hope they will include information about the risks and dangers of meditation in their communications. I was not aware of these dangers and thank the report for shedding light on it. Too bad it was not done in a more professional way.

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