The retreat actually began four months before the three years started when I completed recitation of the Arya Sanghatasutra and the Vajrasattva retreat. This placed my mind in a state of peace and happiness that remained and was enhanced throughout the main retreat. Of course there were the usual emotional ups and downs, but these were as natural as waking and sleeping and did not disturb the inner happiness.
According to instructions from my lama, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the first eighteen months were spent doing the sadhana for four sessions a day and mostly analytical meditation on lam-rim rather than mantra recitation. During that time I read many lam-rim teachings, especially those of Geshe Sopa Rinpoche, which were delightful.For the next fifteen months, I tried to gain single-pointed concentration on the self-generation. There are nine stages of mental development towards this goal. I didn’t get to the second stage.
The final three months were spent reciting the Sutra of Golden Light daily, doing the Lama Chöpa Jorchö practice extensively and devouring books from the De-Tong Ling library. I read most of His Holiness’ books and Alan Wallace’s on physics and Dharma, the comparison of Dharma and science being of particular interest to me.
For most of the retreat I went to bed at about 10:00 p.m. and woke at 3:00 a.m. Five hours sleep is all one needs in that situation. I could have even shortened it but was too lazy.I saw nobody during retreat apart from a dentist at eighteen months to remove a wayward tooth. Then, after two-and-a-half years, six police appeared at the door and gave me ten minutes to evacuate. Just because white ash was raining down on the cabin and smoke was everywhere from a bushfire! The night sky had been lit up for a week – the island was burning down. They said it was compulsory to go so I accepted my karma and evacuated with two other retreaters. The good thing about it was that I scored a giant pizza in the nearby town, Kingscote.https://www.mandalamagazine.org/archive ... r-retreat/