As the teacher Adyashanti says, "Sit still long enough with your eyes closed and something is gonna happen."
Indeed. A lot did.
The first many days I focused on getting concentrated. No, actually, the first few days were trying to stay awake. I think I slept over ten hours the first few nights.
After that, I started to work on sharpening my capacity to stay present. I did Anapana Sati - breath awareness - and thinking I might make this a concentration retreat, I focused on the very subtle sensation of the breath against my upper lip.
After a number of days - I can't remember how many - I decided I'd open up my awareness beyond this strict concentration practice and in the silence and undistracted schedule, was treated to the spectacle of the mind manufacturing an unbelievable amount of content.
One thing I always come to recognize is just how shameless the mind is.
I experienced moments of amazing expansiveness and presence as well as old hurts, petty grievances, planning, fantasy and small-mindedness. Mostly what I came to experience was how little control we actually have over the mind and the different states of consciousness as they come and go. After a few weeks of paying attention to this it can be incredibly entertaining to watch the mind thinking in a moment of clarity, "What a great job I'm doing!" and during a meditation filled with disheartening fog, "What went wrong? How do I get 'back there?'".
Eventually I began to see there is nowhere to 'get.' And that's when the relaxation began to flow, a deepening awareness of the qualities of impermanence, clinging and the truly ephemeral sense of 'self.'
I was really happy to go. And really happy to be back.