When you spend 28 days in silence, meditation is happening all of the time, not only the 6-7 hours a day of sitting in ‘formal meditative posture-style’, monk-like in stillness. You can go very deep, very quickly if you are earnest.
Some do show up in vacation mode, wandering the rustic grounds like tourists at a theme park, mindlessly (instead of mindfully) taking snap shots of the wildlife using the retreat as only an escape from their jobs and life ‘back home’. Most of these retreatants, even those who show up on a long retreat and consider themselves spiritual aspirants, are simply looking to create a better, more well-rounded personality instead of burning up the personality itself. About one third of the practitioners who show up are very sincere arriving punctually when that meditation bell rings–dropping into their chosen locations for silent sittings, walking slowly and with great determination during the walking meditation periods, and really looking deeply into the Truth of Being, the Truth of Existence.
When you go to a long Retreat with deep sincerity, you are not sure if you will walk out, hobble out or crawl out at the end but you don’t care. In fact, if good fortune springs, most of your mind is left behind at these retreats: all the disturbance, worries, grief, sadness, insanity, illusion, delusion, while the life force gets purified in the stillness and ignorance peels off and this makes Reality impossible to ignore. This means you will not be returning back home with traditional gifts for family and friends, your gifts will be more intangible, not part of the normal world of delusion.
If one gets really lucky, they’ll be left in the unknown where all beings turn out to be your family and every heart is your home. For this to happen, the ‘me idea’ has to go and it will go if you let it. Will you let it?