"There are various kinds of Buddhist retreats, each stressing different kinds of practices, different schedules and practices. In our seasonal Dzogchen Center intensive retreats, we structure our time, place, activities, and attitude according to what I call the Ten S's of retreat:

1. Silence
2. Solitude, seclusion
3. Self-discipline, morality
4. Slowing down, stillness, and simplicity
5. Softness, gentleness
6. Sati (mindfulness)
7. Self-inquiry
8. Satya (truth)
9. Selflessness, unselfishness
10. Sacred outlook

"The first three are mostly outer, the second four are internal, and the last three are innermost guidelines. Using this structure, if you have some self-discipline, you can really do a retreat almost anytime and anywhere you choose, and structure it according to what is most conducive to accomplishing your goals during the period of time you can set aside for this worthwhile pursuit. One could even do this at home, by freeing oneself from all obligations, commitments, and responsibilities; turning off the phone, e-mail, and radio and doing a news fast; and simply turning inward for some period of time. Yet the habitual home environment can prove challenging.

"Here are a few more tips and pointers I've learned through many years of retreat practice:

• Never give up or give in to discouragement and despair. Everything changes.
• Continuity is the secret of success.
• You can get used to anything.
• Savor time as precious, and use it meaningfully.
• Keep your eyes peeled.
• Don't look back. Start each day and each session afresh. Let go of the past and future and be totally present.
• Give yourself wholeheartedly to whatever you've chosen to be doing.
• Don't make irrevocable, life-altering decisions while on retreat.
• Nothing is as important as you think it is at the moment.
• Everything is subjective.
• Life is mysterious, and the spiritual path even more so.
• Be there while getting there every single step of the Way.

"Solitude and loneliness are not necessarily synonymous. Marpa, the great Tibetan master of old, sang: 'When I am alone in the mountains, I am never alone. All the Buddha and gurus accompany me. I feel blessed and delighted!'

"I love to go on retreat. I think it is one of the greatest spurs to spiritual growth and realization. The secret of spiritual life is actually doing it; this means practice, not mere theory, belief, or membership. Take the opportunity to try it for yourself. I think you'll love it."