The retreat was intense. U Pandita Sayadaw gave Dhamma talks many nights. He has extremely high standards (obviously, as he is speaking from ultimate realization) and it has humbled me greatly.
I took robes for 12 days. I encourage everybody who is serious about the Path to take robes at least temporarily. It's ego-busting. Going for the alms round in the near freezing temperature in the morning, barefoot, will knock down a person's pride quickly. I am not sure the monk's life is for me since that are some rituals, such as different ways to wear robes on certain occasions, that seem superfluous, although I am sure one could get used to it. It's probably the fear of renunciation that is arising here.
The ordination process was really simple. I asked to be ordained, they said OK, they gave me robes, I ordained as novice, I went to U Pandita Sayadaw and he became my preceptor after saying a couple of words, 13 monks gathered in a separate room and they said a bunch of Pali, and I repeated some English and Pali, THEN I was asked if I had any debt, if I was a human being, if I was a free man, if I was free from royal services, If I was a male, how old I was, who my preceptor was. I told them I have $1300 on a credit card, and it didn't seem to count as debt.
I didn't give up any of my possessions. It was sort of like "Oh, here is another temporary ordination." It makes me smile.
Meditating in a group can be powerful or it can be distracting--it probably depends on where you are on the path.
You can definitely enter the first jhana in a group setting. And, in the Buddha's time, there were many occassions when he gave talks to large groups of people. The chanting is a rite although it can be beneficial.
Do Good, Avoid Evil, Purify the Mind.