I've now been through nearly two days of meditating in 'parallel' with my friends who are doing a week-long White Tara retreat. But, unlike last year, I'm explicitly not considering my extra sitting as a retreat. The difference? It's all the peripheral stuff - I'm not restricting any activities, not avoiding TV, or news, not keeping silence. This makes a big difference. It makes the whole process much less of a big deal, for one thing. Yesterday I sat for two hours, and today, for three. Not much really - except in comparison with what I've been doing in the last few weeks, which was very little at all. I want to crank up the number of hours significantly.
There is one change since last year though because we no longer get a morning newspaper. Last year I decided not to look at the paper at all for the whole retreat week, except for bringing it in from the front porch. I was keenly aware of not looking at it, not getting an update on the state of the world with my first cup of coffee. This year I'm used to simply digging in to the day - we stopped the paper several months ago, and the mornings are much better without it.