A number of people have asked about what our days are like in retreat.
Ideally, the question'd be what's your day like - not what're your days like. When things are going well and there are few distractions, every day's pretty much the same - no difference between weekdays and weekends. It's basically meditation all day, every day, except for breaks to eat and do chores (during which you're trying to maintain an ongoing flow of mindfulness, so the practice is always at the forefront). I'm practicing 10 hrs a day, sometimes more; Michelle's more like 12 hours. To be more specific: I'll get 1-3 hours of practice in before breakfast, at 7:30. Then I'll walk the dog and check in on our greenhouse (we're growing most of our own veggies, year round). Then practice 3 hours or more before lunch. Make a quick, simple lunch - soup and a sandwich or something - and do chores - batch cooking, vacuuming, laundry, pay bills once a month, chopping wood, etc. Then back to practice, until dinner. Then, you guessed it, about two hours of practice after dinner. I'll also exercise almost every day - walks through the mountains, or visits to a tiny gym nearby (usually I'm the only one there - so it's not distracting) -- that's a nice way to break up the longer sits when restlessness kicks in.
I started this by saying "when things are going well." We've found that there are nice long patches without distraction -- weeks at at time -- but when the distractions hit, they seem to come in waves. The importance of "ruthless simplicity" is a lesson we've learned the hard way. Even a seemingly insignificant interaction with 'ordinary life' has a way of spiralling out into much more complication than you intended. For example, you feel like you need a printer, to make certain tasks easier. So you go online, to find a good, cheap one. Maybe you get distracted, because there's a startling headline that pops up. You buy the printer. It doesn't arrive, so you have to track it down - FedEx accidentally dropped it off at your neighbor's house. You get the printer. Two months later, it breaks down, so you're trying to figure out how to fix it. Then it's a call to the service center, and so on.
We started this retreat in a lodge at The Shambhala Mountain Center, with the other participants. There, we had a staff cooking for us, taking care of issues like plumbing or electricity problems, etc. Here, we don't have this kind of support, so we feel a bit like dolphins - we'll dive down into retreat for extended periods of time, then something will pull us up to the surface for a short period, then we'll dive back in for as long as we can ... When we first got to Crestone, we had a fixed idea of being fully in retreat, as we had been at the Shambhala Mountain Center, and we'd get frustrated when we kept getting pulled out of retreat. After some time, we recognized that this was the rhythm of self-directed retreat, and that these distractions were in fact excellent exercises for bringing the heart-opening and mindfulness-enhancing practices off the cushion and out in the ordinary life - and for letting go of those distractions when it was time to come back to the cushion.
The Lojong trainings (see the right hand column) were invaluable!