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
    • 3.9 • 112 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

3.9 out of 5
112 Ratings

112 Ratings

LemangeloC ,

Resonated with personal twin experience

As an identical twin who introduced both his identical twin brother and wife to Vipassana, I found this reporting resonating and helpful albeit one-sided. Myself having never done a Vipassana retreat (I work on the “self- selves- Self” divide in a slower, more conversation-based meditation group and do IFS therapy work in conjunction), I can’t claim first hand knowledge of these retreats. But many had recommended these Vipassana retreats to me as a ‘good swift kick in the butt’ introduction to meditation. I don’t think that’s how it works anymore and it plays on our western-capitalist modern-consumer-immortality seeking mindset—“it’s free, vegan, and will reduce stress and make me more effective? sign me up!”. In any case, I’d heard about it during my early seeking days, watched ‘doing time, doing vipassana’ and so I told them both about it. My wife says she had a net-positive experience at both of the 2 retreats she did (despite her passing out on the first day). My brother, however, came back from BOTH of the 2 retreats he did suffering from serious paranoid delusions which I and my wife had to help decode and help gather insight from in order to help him get enough of himself back with new understanding (updated beliefs—i.e. insight). Which is what Vipassana claims to be—insight meditation. But not every human has the same data and knowledge at hand to interpret and have ‘insights’ which is why a “one size fits all” mediation “bootcamp/surgery” program might not work and can potentially harm as many as it might help. From my understanding, practices like mediation are not just about experiencing bliss, or stress reduction, or happiness (as this podcast too often suggests and maybe what, at some level, much of humanity might be longing for) —rather I think it aims at an individuals search for meaning, insight, truth, and deeper inner connection with Being. And that often does mean leaving some parts of our psyche behind (or rather ‘updating’ them) which can often look like and become mental illness if not handled with care, love, attention, time, and a sense of the other. In any case—It was very scary and stressful for me to witness (not to mention the fear and stress my brother was experiencing) and that’s why I don’t think as highly of Vipassana work anymore. I know loads who have gained insight and claim ‘progress’ through these retreats. But like I’ve said, EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT and the Conditions and Prescriptions MATTER with respect to the level of change/energy that meditation can offer. Mediation of this quantity/duration (plus insomnia, which my brother also experienced like so many others) is like an LSD trip—and if you don’t have the necessary guidance, knowledge, time, energy etc. it can really not be the most productive step. Fast maybe, but thorough? Fast maybe, but at what cost? Not to mention if one has a predisposition to ‘mental instability’ (i.e. bi-cameral regression), which some families seem to have baked in. Ego death is not something to be played with. I was grateful to have been reading ‘LSD and the Mind of The Universe’ by Chris Bache Ph.D and his research of over 20 years after my brother’s second delusional episode —it helped me be less scared of the level of fear and danger he was experiencing, and interpret it on a more collective level. From his research, he concluded that as we go deeper into the layers of our own psyches, it seems we tap into the sufferings of the collective psyche. But let’s not get ahead of our own selves. Then again—I was just looking into doing a Vipassana last week lol. Twins can be convincing. This podcast is helping me think maybe I’ll stick to the longer, slower, gentler modality I’ve been in. Thanks for reading if you made it this far.

1stUse ,

If the parents don’t even know, how can the meditation center know?

I feel it’s unfair to blame the meditation center, it’s a silent retreat, there’s no communication. It’s not rehab. It’s not a cult (it’s not worshipping a person). It’s not like people there are brainwashed. It’s silent. Meditation is deeply personal. It’s impossible for the organization to tailor it to each individual. The most they can do is to put out disclaimers. Therefore it’s up to the individual to take the disclaimers seriously.

BKenn111 ,

Extremely Biased and Unfair

The stories of the mental health issues of these 4 women were sad and I empathize with the families who are suffering. However, to point the root cause of their mental health issues to Vipassana meditation is very unfair. I went on this 10 day retreat 15 years ago and had several shorter meditation sits following the retreat. This is not a cult. The program sets very clear expectations about silence, meals, and meditation time. There were no surprises for me. It is intense but there were choices available during the retreat that were not discussed on the podcast. This reporting was very sensationalized and targeted against this global meditation community who has helped hundreds of thousands of people through access to low cost meditation. Why didn’t the reporter choose to interview the teacher or any meditation student to provide another point of view? Why focus only on one meditation organization? The postcast starts with the admission that this kind of podcast is unusual for the Financial Times. Maybe it is better to stick with financial reporting.

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