Since it's that time of year, all of the Nyingma folk in our organization hold a four-day ceremony, so that's us, Odiyan, and the Tibetan Nyingma Institute down in Berkeley. Basically, it's a lot of candles, lamps, and chanting around the clock. No, really, we had people chanting all day every day from Friday afternoon through this morning. During the daytime, everyone participating in the ceremony split into two groups, which traded off chanting and taking breaks; in the evenings and overnight, people signed up for 1- or 2-hour sessions all through the night.
The ceremony (from what I heard) is intended to let you draw some of Longchenpa's energy back from the universe and contribute your own to that cache - but it's also meant to push you beyond your limits and your comfort zone, into that area where you're just so damn tired that you're kinda floating and zenning out. A couple people had to drop out because it was killing their bodies, and I understood why; when they'd come on break into the kitchen where I was working, we had a bunch of red-faced zombies on our hands. They'd quietly get something to eat and moisten their throats, sit around for an hour, then go spell off the other group. Man, oh, man.
Those of us who didn't participate in the ceremony helped out in our own way. We spent some of our regular work hours down at the factory as usual, doing what we could with just half a dozen people. The rest of the time, we came up to the lodge and helped make food and clean up for everyone. (Isabelle and Roger told me about how, this time last year, they ended up washing dishes for three days straight to help the retreat participants focus on Longchenpa'ing.)
The retreat finished this morning at 8:30am and the retreatants got the morning off to relax and unwind. Some people took walks, other people meditated. We all came back together at lunch and went back to our regular work schedules. Everyone seems happy and positive after a great couple days devoted to the ceremony!