Contemplative Retreats

Contemplative Retreats are offered through this community and are opportunity to withdraw from our daily lives of family and work, and to focus upon deepening our interior lives through meditation.  The retreats are structured following the Practice of the Hours; seven meditation sessions are held throughout the day beginning with Matins at 3.00 am and concluding at night with Compline.

The Three Day Contemplative Retreat is an introduction to the long contemplative retreats run by the AIES.
There are ten meditations of around an hour each with a focus on the psalms and reflective readings. Between meditations participants are encouraged to engage in spiritual reading, contemplative walks, journal writing and light duties.

The AIES operates two rigorous contemplative retreats during the year. The first is a five day silent retreat starting on Monday, and finishing on Friday. It is usually held in May of each year.

The five day retreat focuses upon the Psalms, and upon the poetry of Australian theologian and poet, Michael Leunig. The retreat is centred around the seven hours of the Christian contemplative day, beginning with Lauds in the morning and ending with Vespers at night.

The retreat is strictly silent, and participants complete seven hours of meditation per day. During the breaks between meditation hours, participants have the opportunity to paint, read, write, exercise and prepare meals for the group.

The longer contemplative retreats are a rigorous program of meditation, exercise, prayer, reflection and work, designed to deepen a person’s individual daily meditation practice. Participants meditate for seven hours per day in strict silence over a nine day program. Under the supervision of their retreat director, individuals reflect upon the Psalms, and upon the mystical text from China, the Tao te Ching.

This program is not introductory, but is suited to those with an established daily meditation practice and previous experience in five and nine day retreats.

The objective of the AIES is to run all meditation programs for free. However, in order to cover the costs of accommodation and food, fees are currently set at $55 per day for the five day and nine day retreats, incorporating supervision and direction free of charge. Costs may vary depending on the financial circumstances of the participants. Donations are gratefully accepted.

For dates please see calendar 

The Contemplative Practice

For an athlete to compete successfully he or she needs to lead a disciplined life and to establish a daily routine of exercise, diet and mental preparation.  It is the same in life, except the prize and the consequences are far more important.  Meditation and the establishment of a daily contemplative practice to enhance self-observation and motivation are essential to seeing ourselves honestly and living our lives appropriately and fully.  The longer retreats are an advanced program, much like a program that may be run for elite athletes. These retreats are like an athlete’s training program in that it is focussed upon acquiring, strengthening or developing skills and perceptions without the distractions and intrusion of daily life.  Like any discipline these retreats have their own rhythms, routines and expectations.  There are five requests that are made for all retreat participants.

The 5 Requests

1.      Please act considerately    

v  Please keep The Silence.

v  Please avoid disturbing yourself or others including the use of electronic devices.

v  Please cook your meals mindfully and calmly.

v  Please help to clean and wash up after all meals.

2.      Please be compassionate

v  Please keep in mind the retreat can be demanding and uncomfortable for some participants.

v  Please act in a way that shows you are sensitive to their struggle.

v  Please graciously ignore the distractions of others.

3.      Please avoid addictive behaviour

v  Please avoid behaviours which are addictive such as: drinking alcohol or other intoxicants, smoking, and talking or eating irregularly as they can negatively interfere with the process of deepening your meditation practice.

4.      Please practice conscientiously

v   Please attend every session and in good time, work hard to concentrate during the meditation. 

v  Please wear comfortable, warm and modest clothing to each session. 

v  Please avoid unnecessarily stimulating your sensory activity, which impacts upon concentration and meditation, including musical instruments or devices, computers, phones, newspapers or magazines.

5.      Please observe yourself

v  Please be mindful of your behaviour by observing your patterns of thinking, feeling and sensing outside the meditation times, especially how they react to the rhythms of the retreat.  Such observations can often explain changes in one’s emotional state or difficulties with the meditation or the routine of the retreat.

Readings for the Retreat

Readings for the retreat are taken from three major sources. All three sources are universally acknowledged as timeless examples of profound human knowledge and wisdom. The readings have been garnered from the Sayings of Evagrius of Pontus, the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu and the Psalms from the Hebrew scriptures.

Talking with a director

Silent meditation and a focused mind can sometimes induce a profoundly emotional experience.  The nine-day contemplative retreat is a significant extension over and above other shorter retreat programs, as the demands for personal responsibility are greater. Whereas in less demanding programs a daily opportunity to speak with a Director is available on a nine-day retreat no provision is made. Please follow any directions by the Director cooperatively and try to maintain The Silence respectfully. Of course participants will be supervised during the week so that if the experience becomes too overwhelming then the Director will offer support and advice. On the contemplative retreat every person is expected to pull their full emotional and organizational weight for the good of the entire group.

The Silence – “Summum Silentium”

The process of meditation is significantly enhanced if one’s concentrated attention is not continually broken or interrupted by the need to communicate, especially talking.  Contemplative life has always included   Summum Silentium - The great Silence - where the concentration of an individual is deepened and sharpened as they begin the fusion of their own inner silence with an outward silence during the retreat.  To enhance the experience of the retreat it is requested that each participant hold to the discipline of The Silentium, which includes n talking, eye contact, physical touch, written notes, sign language, sighing, moving, other impacts and walking.  Communication with others should always be gracious and short.  Of course communication with the directors is always available during the retreat but should be availed upon only reluctantly.  If there are questions concerning food, accommodation or health, please speak with the retreat co-ordinator at your convenience.  However, it is requested that these interactions also be kept to a minimum.  Cultivating silence, harmlessness and aloneness in the search for our identity is an important objective of the retreat.

The Daily Routine

The Contemplative Retreat is a chance to withdraw from our daily lives of family and work, and to focus upon deepening our interior lives through meditation.  Following the structure of the Practice of the Hours, meditation is held throughout the day beginning with Matins at 3.00 am and concluding at night with Compline.  Each session begins with meditation on a psalm and is completed with a silent meditation of up to one hour.  Attendance at each session is expected.  The Great Silence begins at Terce on Saturday and runs through till Terce on Sunday, nine days later.  




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