Oct 302019

There are still openings available for the Mother Academy’s contemplative retreat on the weekend of February 28 through March 1 at the Guthrie Scottish Rite Temple. It is open only to associates and inducted members of the AOR. There is no fee for this event, but we will suggest a minimal donation to cover food expenses. After reading this posting, associates and inducted members should contact clerk@academyofreflection.org to state your desire to attend. If you are not an associate or member, you can learn more about the requirements here: https://academyofreflection.org/joining-the-aor/. It is possible to become an associate between now and the registration deadline.


The purpose of this retreat is to provide space, time, and support for AOR members and associates wanting the benefits of a carefully structured immersion experience in contemplative practice. As such, it entails a significant shift from ordinary attitudes and behaviors, and begins with a commitment to focus our time and attention primarily on our own internal being. For the duration of the retreat, attendees practice silence except during times specifically designated otherwise, abstain from alcohol, tobacco products, sweets, meat, communication with the outside world, and electronic media, and eat only the simple meals offered for communal dining. The Custodian should be informed of any special dietary needs prior to the retreat. The AOR officers’ contact information is provided in advance so that all attendees can share it with friends or family members who may need to communicate with them in case of an emergency.

Each attendee will be provided with a bed in the temple. Please bring your own toiletries and a sleeping bag or other bedding so that we place less demand on temple staff. Dress very comfortably, and be prepared for the possibility of cooler temperatures inside the temple.


1. Active Participation:
a. Remain at the retreat from the moment you arrive until after the closing ceremony. (Inducted members who have attended prior retreats may request permission for partial attendance. Such requests must be submitted in advance of the retreat and will be considered on a case by case basis at the discretion of the officers. Permission granted for partial attendance in one case shall not be construed as a precedent for other cases, even with the same member.)

b. Take responsibility for arriving at each scheduled activity no later than the designated time. If you are late to an activity, enter with as little disturbance as possible and with understanding that nobody will explain what you have missed. It is therefore of vital importance that speakers keep their comments as concise, to the point, and brief as possible.
c. Participate fully in each activity.
d. If there is some compelling reason for not participating in an activity, either prior to the activity or as soon as possible afterward, you should communicate with one of the officers about it in the manner described in guideline 5.c.

2. Abstinence:
a. Attendees are expected to abstain from unauthorized speaking, alcohol, tobacco, sweets, meat, communication with the outside world, and electronic media.
b. Cravings, irritability, and other abstinence-related experiences are opportunities for practicing mindfulness and self-discipline and for developing greater self-awareness and insight.
c. All food and drink must remain in the dining area.

3. Bells:
a. Bells ring at different times during the retreat to indicate changes of activity.
b. Attendees are encouraged to respond to bells by briefly assuming the Sign of Silence (forefinger to your lips).

4. Silence:
a. Observe silence at all times unless instructed to do otherwise. If there is a special need to break silence, follow guideline 5.c if possible.
b. Whispering, the soundless mouthing of words, or writing notes to other attendees are not silence.
c. Observing silence also means being mindful in one’s movements in order to avoid making any noises that might be disturbing to others.
d. There is no need to suppress coughs or sneezes.
e. During sessions that include periods for discussion and dialogue, carefully observe the beginning and ending of those periods.
f. When someone is speaking, practice deep listening. There are no whispers and no side comments or conversations during discussion times.
g. There is no communication with the outside world during the retreat unless there is a genuine emergency. Except for those specifically authorized by the AOR officers, all electronic devices such as phones, notepads, personal computers, etc, should be turned completely off at all times during the retreat.

5. Speaking:
a. During designated periods for discussion and dialogue, only one person speaks at a time and all others practice deep listening. It is therefore of vital importance that speakers keep their comments as concise, to the point, and brief as possible.
b. To speak during a general session, raise your hand and wait to be recognized by the discussion facilitator.
c. If there is any other genuine need to communicate with someone, approach one of the AOR officers under the Sign of Silence. He will lead you to a private place where you can speak freely about your concern.

6. Solitary Time:
a. Avoid all forms of contact with others during solitary time. If you are near other attendees, avoid eye contact and behaving in ways that might distract them.
b. Attendees are welcome to spend solitary time silently meditating, praying, reading, writing, doing artwork, practicing mindful or meditative movement, or sleeping. Do not play music.
c. Attendees may go outside onto the temple grounds during solitary time, understanding that all guidelines continue to apply.
d. Consultation: Each attendee may schedule one 20-minute consultation with an AOR Instructor, held during one solitary time.
i. A consultation addresses a specific question or two that the attendee has about contemplative practice and his personal experience with it.
ii. Consultations are not for advising on personal issues such as relationships or career, although they may focus on how contemplative practices may be of benefit to the attendee managing such issues.
iii. Use the time efficiently. The Instructor will end the session promptly at 20-minutes.

7. Free Time:
a. The guidelines for silence and speaking are lifted during free time, and thus attendees may speak freely to anyone anywhere at the retreat.
b. Singing and the playing of acoustical instruments, such as the piano, are welcome during free time.

8. Restroom Breaks:
a. Take advantage of meal times and solitary times for trips to the restroom.
b. Triad meetings can also be ended with a few minutes to spare for this purpose.
c. If it is necessary to leave an activity for a restroom break, please leave and return with as little disturbance as possible.

9. Dining:
a. Unless there is a specific medical need, attendees should not bring food or beverages of any kind to the retreat.
b. Meals are primarily opportunities to nourish the body and practice mindful eating and drinking. They are very simple, usually consisting of raw fruits and vegetables, nuts, cereals, and dairy products like cheese and yogurt. Provided beverages include coffee, tea, juice, and milk.
c. All attendees are encouraged to assist in setting out food and dining implements at the beginning of meal times, and to help clean up at the end of meal times.
d. Snacks between meals are discouraged, but available for those with a medical need.

10. Responding to Breaches of the Guidelines:
a. If you or someone else breaches the guidelines, your first and perhaps only response should be to attend carefully to your own internal reactions as you continue following the guidelines.
b. If you believe it is wise to respond in a more overt manner, gently assuming the Sign of Silence is a polite and respectful reminder to oneself and others of our shared commitment to the guidelines.

Tentative Schedule

Attendees should have dinner before coming to the temple. Please arrive early enough to find your bed and get settled before 8:00pm.

8:00pm – General Session 1
• Ceremonial Opening
• Review Guidelines, Schedule, and other Retreat Materials
• Questions and Answers
• Agreement to Follow the Guidelines
• Begin Setting Personal Intentions for the Retreat
• Silent Sitting
10:00pm – Solitary Time
12:00 midnight – Lights Out

6:00am – Morning Bell
6:30am – General Session 2
7:30am – Breakfast
8:00am – Solitary Time
9:00am – Triads: Dialogue on Our Personal Intentions
11:00am – General Session 3
12:00 noon – Lunch
1:00pm – Solitary Time
4:00pm – General Session 4
6:00pm – Dinner
7:00pm – Triads: How are things going?
8:00pm – General Session 5
10:00pm – Free Time (silence and speaking guidelines lifted)
12:00 midnight – Lights Out (return of silence and speaking guidelines)

6:00am – Morning Bell
6:30am – General Session 6
7:30am – Breakfast
8:00am – General Session 7
9:00am – Solitary Time (police rooms and pack)
10:00am – Triads: Dialogue on Our Personal Intentions
11:00am – Lunch (silence and speaking guidelines lifted)
12:00 noon – General Session 8
2:00pm – General Session 9: Ceremonial Closing