My most dear, most kind, most precious, most wish-fulfilling Peter,
Success in shi-nä comes out very good for you generally, but you need very strong renunciation of this life and renunciation of samsara—seeing samsara as totally in the nature of suffering. So you need very strong realization of this, and also pure morality—those are the main causes of success.
Also at the place where you do the meditation, there needs to be less distraction for shi-nä, but the main thing is to have strong renunciation, otherwise the eight worldly concerns (this means the delusions) arise and cause trouble. Even though the place is perfect, enemies from within the mind arise and cause trouble. I have seen this many times with shi-nä meditators.
There was one student trying to do shi-nä, but during the retreat she fell in love with another meditator, who was planning to be a monk. She wanted to marry him, but that didn’t happen, and also she didn’t succeed in retreat. These things happen, so you need to start off with strong renunciation and very strong morality, very clean, then find a perfect place and then you can have realizations.
But before you try that, it is very good for you to study the lam-rim. Read it two or three times, then do effortless meditations. Please see attached my advice for your preliminary practices. This is in addition to what __ Rinpoche advised.
I am very, very sorry it took a long time to answer your letter.
You are most welcome to enlightenment and most welcome to free numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and bring to full enlightenment. There is nothing more important than meditating on the lam-rim and having realizations most beneficial for sentient beings, which also means yourself. Please live your life with bodhicitta night and day, and with every action that you do.
With much love and prayers...
Follow the outline of either Liberation in the Palm of your Hand or the Middle Lam-rim, using this as basis for effortful lam-rim meditation.