Retreat Advice by XX (Shargrol)
Probably the best way to think of where you are is still in the “progression through nanas is good, progression through jhanas is going to happen too” domain, which is what second path and the early part of third path are all about. When fruitions hit, they probably won’t make as a big difference, but they are a nice sense of “ahhhh, that was good. I’m done for the time being and it feels good.” You’re doing the right thing, watching how the mind naturally sees and, as important at this stage, how practice seems to lead itself onward into new experiences and new sensitivities to old experiences.
I know what you mean about not being eligible for longer/advanced retreats because of not going through the system. But, in the same way you hit stream entry in a half hour sit instead of a 3-month IMS retreat (which is the usual “system” approach), just take what retreats you can, and simply commit to fully experiencing them. Success on retreat is more about getting out of your own way, rather than length or even format. Daylong retreats are worth a week of sitting, weekend retreats are really helpful, 5 days is good, 7 days is really good, 10 day is great, but, paradoxically, only if you really show up as an open questioning/experiment, approach each day sit-by-sit, approach each sit moment-by-moment rather than thinking that time really matters.
That attitude will also keep you from getting the delusions of grandeur that happen when you think “Oh, I’m going to go on this retreat, kick ass, get paths, and be awesome.” Too many of us have gotten too hardcore on IMS retreats, felt destabilized, and, to rub salt in the wound, realize how bad it was to be without recourse to having a teacher be able to talk with us about maps. Ironically, the IMS retreats are perfect for making healthy progress if we drop the “awesome meditator” quest and just do the schedule and let things happen.