Common Ground Meditation hosted the retreat and several noble volunteers supported us Yogis during the four days by cooking, organizing and otherwise keeping as many distractions at bay. Mark, as usual, was an absolutely insightful, supportive and brilliant teacher and guide for the entirety of the retreat. His morning guided meditations, his evening Dhamma talks (especially), the small group meetings and the private meeting all lending a grounding effect on the weekend, providing motivation and guidance that was invaluable.
We arrived on Thursday evening for a meal and briefing including some last minute chat time before and during dinner. At the end of dinner came the beginning of Noble Silence, to be observed until Sunday afternoon. We spent the evening meditating and listening to the first of Mark's Dhamma talks. I spent the later evening meditating, looking out into the dark night across the lake from the warmth of the retreat center and though its windows.
We awoke the next morning, as we did the following mornings, to the sound of the wake up bell; a small chime struck every few seconds by a Yogi walking the hallways. What a peaceful and effortless way to wake. So much better and easier than my obnoxious alarm clock back home. By 6:15, earlier for those brave enough, we began our 15 hours of meditation that was spent either in sitting, walking or during meals (the food was incredible).
On Saturday morning, we walked into the meditation hall and spent our first 45 minutes of the day in meditation. Before entering the hall it was still dark outside. As we exited the hall the sun had come up, shedding light on a glorious new world covered in fresh, huge-flakes of snow. It was gathering in nice pillows on the boughs of the trees, layering thick blankets over the ground and obscuring the complete view of the lake in that magical way that is so alluring to the eye. Although this was a silent retreat, I'm certain I wasn't the only one to accidentally let loose a gasp of joy in response. It was so difficult not to make eye contact with the other Yogis and share the experience beyond what we could, in that silence.
My mind started to finally settle and I was getting the clarity I needed to work on my meditation more productively. That day and the first half of Sunday provided amazing challenges and some rewards for my efforts; the perfect amount for me for my first retreat. Overall, I'd say that the the combination of the four day length, the tremendous effort of the volunteers on our behalf, the food and the guidance of Mark made for just the right experience for me; and I'm certain several others.
I'm so very grateful to have had the support and opportunity to have those four days and look forward to helping other Yogis on future retreats.