04 May 2015

Meditation and the art of sitting

In traditional meditation circles it is said “if the posture is correct, meditation occurs spontaneously”. Really? Many of us may well be experiencing difficulty in the sitting. We go to meditate, sit - and encounter restlessness, discomfort, maybe even pain.

How then to simply sit and find the posture we take up for our meditation truly helpful?

Enter an old friend and colleague, David McRae. David and I worked together for many years back in the eighties, leading cancer groups and meditation programs.

So this week, in a guest blog with some great photos, David addresses “Meditation and the art of sitting”, but first



      Thought for the week


All of humanity's problems 
Stem from man's inability 
To sit quietly in a room alone

         Blaise Pascal 
         – 17th century French Philosopher



"Do you know what you are doing?" It's a common enough question in just about all fields of endeavour. While sometimes it can be an insulting question, and others it can be very helpful.

So lets be bold. When it comes to embarking upon meditation practice do we know what we are doing? Through some decades of teaching and personal practice I have found that it greatly helps learners if I discuss with them "what are we doing?", or in other words, what is meditation?

Here I am not talking about definitions of meditation; they can be unwieldy and dry. Let us be more practical and without any academic psychological or philosophical terms, examine what is meditation?

A starting point in some traditions is that the heart of meditation is SITTING. Zen teaching emphasizes that meditation is really just sitting, and then sitting some more.


By sitting we do not necessarily mean a special way of sitting, though a fairly straight upright spine is helpful, as is a posture that is quite balanced so that a good degree of relaxation is possible.


Otherwise, kneeling, being on a chair or special stool, or even lying down if your physical condition demands it are all okay. They can all qualify as 'sitting' for the purpose of meditation.


Why is an emphasis on 'just SITTING', or 'simply SITTING' so useful? Look at it this way. Often when something is tiring or stressing us we decide we need a break (providing we are self-aware enough to feel that).

So we take a break; a 'smoko' or a coffee break. Quite literally we go outside and have a cigarette, or we make a cup of tea or coffee. We might be sitting, but we are also sipping coffee or tea. Or we pick up a magazine, a bill or piece of mail or whatever might be on the table. Perhaps we have the radio on, or the TV; or we may be chatting to whoever else is in the room. There is nothing wrong with any of this and it may be somewhat restful.

But are we also capable of just SITTING without any of these preoccupations? Many people seem to find it pretty hard to “just sit” after thirty seconds or so.

Meditation is the art of having a 'smoko' break without the smoke, tea, coffee, magazine or anything else. It is the bare bones of having a break; it is simply SITTING.

The second element of the zen-like description 'simply SITTING' is that we find a way to stay with the sitting for a period of time. There are various suggested techniques, but in the end it is YOU finding a way that YOU can employ. And the simpler the technique the better.

Finding a way to do what, exactly? A way to stay physically and mentally with 'simply SITTING' beyond the first, second and third impulses to have a coffee, browse a magazine, turn on the radio or go to the fridge. And that means a way through the distractedness or restlessness that underlies all those impulses.


And there you have it - that's meditation.



Whether you are attending to your breath, to your body relaxing, to repetition of a mantra or something else it is in the service of encountering the mental impulses that would move you out of 'simply SITTING'.

Encountering your impulses and mental distractedness also has to be YOUR own way.



It may be a head on confrontation like an arm wrestle, but generally confrontation is not sustainable. More likely it will develop characteristics of witnessing your mental activity and busyness, flowing with it and allowing it to settle naturally. Something like surfing the waves, or a more subtle and responsive martial art like judo or aikido. It is your discovery and it will be your way.

So where have we come to with this enquiry into "what are we doing"? It seems we are sitting and surfing the waves of all that would pull us away from 'simply SITTING'. Hopefully this involves relaxing, and just possibly some moments of freedom from the tyranny of excessive thinking. Until of course we do choose to move out of sitting and into the rest of our day's activities. Having a coffee perhaps. Where's that bill I have to pay?

Guest blog by David McRae. Want to visit David's website? These days David lives and works in Coff's Harbour where he runs meditation groups and provides counselling. CLICK HERE


NOTICEBOARD

Winter Solstice Chanting and Meditation with Jarek Czechowicz

Saturday, June 20th, 8-11pm, Augustine Centre, Hawthorn

Another highly recommended opportunity to sing universal chants that facilitate natural meditation:



The light reveals our blessed way. 

The night is longing for the day. 
Awakening we pray: 
May these days be filled with love.  


Come for a comfortable and heart-warming celebration.



Buy tickets at: http://www.trybooking.com/hmon

Get more information at: http://www.jarekc.com/winter-solstice/

Join the event and Share it on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/events/466410683510863/

COMING EVENTS with RUTH and MYSELF

MEDITATION RETREAT

Meditation and the Inner Journey        8th  – 12th  June     Yarra Valley
This retreat brings together 2 powerful experiences - the deep natural peace of meditation, and a gentle process of introspection that will help you reconnect with your own inner wisdom.

For thousands of years, people have removed themselves from the busyness of daily life and entered into a retreat situation to meditate. Come, join like-minded people, be inspired, be renewed. Immerse yourself in meditation. Be guided, be nurtured. Take the opportunity to reconnect with your own inner wisdom and the essence of who you really are.

FULL DETAILS  -  Click here



SPECIFIC CANCER PROGRAMS for 2015

Ruth and I have committed to presenting a series of ongoing, regular 5 day follow-up residential cancer programs for the Gawler Foundation. The first of these begins in the Yarra Valley this week, the next will be from 12th - 16th October. We will also present a similar 5 day follow up cancer program in New Zealand for Canlive - 9th - 13th November.

We will also present one comprehensive 8 day program (also in New Zealand for Canlive) CANCER, HEALING and WELLBEING, that will be well suited to anyone who has not done a program with us before. This program is on in mid May - see below.

CANCER, HEALING and WELLBEING

Eight day residential program in New Zealand   May 15th  –  22nd , 2015

All welcome; attendance with a partner/ support person is ideal but not essential.

This program will lead you through all the self-healing options:
. Therapeutic nutrition
. Practical positive thinking
. Therapeutic meditation, plus the healing power of imagery and contemplation
. Accelerated healing
. Healthy, healing emotions
. How to get the most out of mainstream treatments and minimize side-effects
. How to be most effective as a support person/carer, and to look after yourself in the process.

I actually lead most of the main sessions, with support from Ruth and 2 exceptional New Zealanders. We live in for the full program so there is plenty of time for questions and personal interaction.

This program is organized and supported by Canlive New Zealand.

FULL DETAILS Click here


27 April 2015

Eat well and increase the bottom line

Food does not always go directly to your backside. It can go to your head and significantly affect the way you function.

New research shows that eating good food increased productivity in the workplace. Dietary changes alone also led to less anxiety, depression, fatigue – and weight; so good for your bottom line in more ways than one!

What changes made the difference? This week we investigate - and a clue - it was NOT the Paleo Diet.

Then amidst the shocking admission by social entrepreneur and fundraiser Belle Gibson that she lied about ever having the terminal brain cancer she claimed to have overcome, and some very harsh commentary in the social media and press, I share my own thoughts on the matter.

But first, inspired by the passing of a dear friend, Sandy Dean who was a much loved member of the Wednesdays with Ian group

           Thought for the day

      If ever there is a tomorrow when we are not together 
      There is something you must always remember; 
      You are braver than you believe
      Stronger than you seem 
      And smarter than you think. 
      But most importantly, even if we are apart, 
      I will always be with you.

                Christopher Robin reading to Winnie the Pooh




Many years ago, I heard of an American study that showed feeding healthy food to prisoners in jail led to reduced recidivism rates (the rate prisoners return to jail after release).

Now a new study, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion reports that an 18-week dietary intervention program in a corporate setting increased employee productivity, while reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

Researchers collaborated with GEICO (The Government Employees Insurance Company - the second largest insurer of vehicles in the USA). Employees who had a BMI of 25 or above or a previous diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, were encouraged to adopt a diet many of you will be familiar with – and benefit from.

So yes, the diet that led to all these constructive changes was a low-fat, low-glycemic, high-fibre, plant-based diet. As well, participants joined in weekly “lunch-and-learn” sessions to ask questions, learn the science behind the diet, and experiment with new recipes.

GEICO supported the research in a very real way. The company stocked its cafeterias with healthful
vegan options, including hummus vegetable sandwiches, leafy green salads, and black bean chili.

In 18 weeks, as well as the improvements in productivity and reductions in symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and general health problems, study participants lost an average of around 4 kgs and lowered their average LDL cholesterol levels by 13 points. Those who had type 2 diabetes also saw improvements in blood sugar control.


Previous research shows a plant-based diet can improve overall mood even outside the workplace simply by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet.

Obesity currently affects 35 % of U.S. adults and accounts for $73 billion in lost productivity costs every year. Depression affects 9.5 % of the adult U.S. population, accounting for $83 billion in lost productivity each year.

 “Helping employees improve their health through a plant-based dietary intervention is a win-win situation for employees and the company,” says study author Dr Neal Barnard. “Who doesn’t want to feel great, increase energy, and maximize productivity in the process?”

RESOURCES
REFERENCES
1. Agarwal U, Barnard ND ET AL. A multicenter randomized controlled trial of a nutrition intervention program in a multiethnic adult population in the corporate setting reduces anxiety and improves quality of life: The GEICO Study. Am J Health Promot. 2015; 4:245-254.

2. White BA, Horwath CC, Conner TS. Many apples a day keep the blues away – daily experiences of negative and positive affect and food consumption in young adults. Br J Health Psychol. Published ahead of print January 24, 2013.

CDs and Downloads
Want extra guidance on how to adopt a whole-food, plant-based diet via CD or download?
Eating Well, Being Well has all the information you need, CLICK HERE

BOOKS
You Can Conquer Cancer
has 3 chapters on healthy nutrition and is ideal for prevention as well as
cancer management/recovery.

Eat Well, Be Well is the recommended cook book put together by the staff at the Gawler Foundation - it is terrific and has helped many people convert their good intentions into practice - yummy good food for all the family.




Forgiveness is easy

One has to feel deeply for Belle Gibson who in falsely claiming to have recovered from terminal
cancer has lived out the most extra-ordinary lie.

In doing so she misled many, tainted cancer charities widely, confirmed in at least one instance what lazy sceptics often fall back on generally - that remarkable cancer recoveries are "too good to be true", and let many people down badly.


So condoning what she did? Never. Saying it was OK? Never. Saying she will have major consequences to deal with? Certainly. But forgiveness? Easy!


How sad to get to a point in life where doing such a thing seems OK and actually happens. While it is easy to recognise that what Belle did was abhorrent, we can only feel compassion for her as a person, and hope she is getting the help she needs.
                                                                                                                                                    (Reproduced from my Facebook post of April 23)


NOTICEBOARD

Looking for a great meditation course in Melbourne?

What Meditation Really Is is a weekly program designed by Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the spiritual classic The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and delivered by his thoroughly trained students.

The program is offered on Thursday evenings from 7 - 9pm. It is a wonderful course covering both the study and practice of meditation. It brings together over 2,000 years of Buddhist wisdom and experience in a way that is authentic, accessible and completely relevant to modern life.

Whilst the course has started, it has been designed so you can join in at any time. The course will run until mid-November, with breaks during school holidays and on public holidays.

The fees are modest and full details and booking info is available on the Rigpa website - CLICK HERE    

COMING EVENTS with RUTH and MYSELF

MEDITATION RETREAT

Meditation and the Inner Journey        8th  – 12th  June     Yarra Valley

This retreat brings together 2 powerful experiences - the deep natural peace of meditation, and a gentle process of introspection that will help you reconnect with your own inner wisdom.

For thousands of years, people have removed themselves from the busyness of daily life and entered into a retreat situation to meditate. Come, join like-minded people, be inspired, be renewed. Immerse yourself in meditation. Be guided, be nurtured. Take the opportunity to reconnect with your own inner wisdom and the essence of who you really are.

FULL DETAILS  -  Click here









SPECIFIC CANCER PROGRAMS for 2015

Ruth and I have committed to  presenting a series of ongoing, regular 5 day follow-up residential cancer programs for the Gawler Foundation. The first of these begins in the Yarra Valley next week, the next will be from 12th - 16th October. We will also present a similar 5 day follow up cancer program in New Zealand for Canlive - 9th - 13th November.

We will also present one comprehensive 8 day program (also in New Zealand for Canlive) CANCER, HEALING and WELLBEING, that will be well suited to anyone who has not done a program with us before. This program is on in mid May - see below.

Australians are welcome in NZ and vice-versa!

CANCER, HEALING and WELLBEING
Eight day residential program in New Zealand   May 15th  –  22nd , 2015

All welcome; attendance with a partner/ support person is ideal but not essential.

This program will lead you through all the self-healing options:
. Therapeutic nutrition
. Practical positive thinking
. Therapeutic meditation, plus the healing power of imagery and contemplation
. Accelerated healing
. Healthy, healing emotions
. How to get the most out of mainstream treatments and minimize side-effects
. How to be most effective as a support person/carer, and to look after yourself in the process.

I actually lead most of the main sessions, with support from Ruth and 2 exceptional New Zealanders. We live in for the full program so there is plenty of time for questions and personal interaction.

This program is organized and supported by Canlive New Zealand.

FULL DETAILS Click here


20 April 2015

Meditation and the Inner Journey

Imagine you are to be granted an audience with the wisest person of your choosing. Living or dead. Who would you choose? Jesus? Socrates? The Buddha? Germaine Greer? Mahatma Gandhi? Aung San Suu Kyi? The Dalai Lama? Your favourite grandparent? Who would you choose?

What if you could learn to access that level of wisdom from within your own mind? This indeed is the potential, the very real possibility that comes with learning and practising very specific techniques relating to meditation and the inner journey.

Ruth and I have taught these techniques during a range of programs over many years and in June will share them as the focal point of a 5 day retreat in the Yarra Valley at the Gawler Foundation’s Living Centre - Meditation and the Inner Journey - winter being an ideal time of year to venture inwards.

So this week, an introduction to how to engage with this technique, but first



                                Thought for the day


                  Realization of Truth is higher than all else. 

                 Higher still is truthful living

                                 Guru Nanak - Founder of Sikhism



Clearly our mind has different aspects. We speak of the intellect, and we speak of wisdom. We know these are two ways in which our minds can function.

We know that intelligence used without wisdom is commonplace and often dangerous. We know that wisdom is often harder to come by than intellectual learning.

Who would not like to be thought of as wise? Who would not like to have more access to their own wisdom?

Well, in theory at least, accessing more of our own inner wisdom is fairly straight forward – once we know where to look, and what to look for.

Wisdom comes in two most obvious forms, the first of which is through our own accumulated life experience. We experience life events, we learn from them, we remember the lessons and with age and maturity we become wiser. Simple enough.

But how to access this stored wisdom more directly? Knowing something of the mind makes it possible.

Our memories, along with our accumulated wisdom, are stored in the unconscious aspect of our mind. This being so, to access our wisdom we need to access our unconscious. We need to connect the conscious, thinking aspect of our mind with the unconscious in a way that makes it possible for the two to communicate. We need an interface; a “language” both the conscious and the unconscious mind can understand.

This is where it gets easy. The natural “language” of the unconscious is imagery, and the conscious can work with images quite readily. Imagery is the common language.

If we enter a meditative state and begin to use imagery, we are already in the territory of the unconscious. In that state, we can then invite our inner wisdom to be represented by an intermediary, an image, that we can communicate with through an inner dialogue.


But there is even more to this possibility.

Karl Jung was a champion for the notion of the collective unconscious.


Unlike the wisdom that springs from our own accumulated life experience, Jung claimed this aspect of the unconscious was common to all people.

This aspect of the unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It is collective, universal, and impersonal. It is identical in all individuals.

And the collective unconscious, because it also resides in the domain of the unconscious; it too is also accessible via guided imagery!


So meditation and the inner journey involves learning how to enter into an inner state where we can generate an image for our own inner wisdom and dialogue with it. For years I have observed people derive great benefit from this technique, obtaining answers to often vexing questions they might have been pondering for years or needed answers to in an immediate sense.

People often ask how do you know if the answer you get from your inner wisdom through such a technique can be trusted. Ever experienced doubt? Ever just known deep in your being that something was true? When this inner wisdom exercise works, the answer comes with conviction. It is that simple.

If there is doubt, then you doubt the supposed wisdom. If there is conviction, then you can trust it. You will know the answer to this from your own inner experience.

The mechanics of this exercise are detailed in my book The Mind that Changes Everything, however, to be direct, while many have learnt it for themselves, to do it with guidance and support makes it easier to learn and more effective, hence this year’s retreat.

Feedback or questions welcome via the Comments section

RESOURCES

SPECIFIC RETREAT

Meditation and the Inner Journey
This retreat brings together 2 powerful experiences - the deep natural peace of meditation, and a gentle process of introspection that will help you reconnect with your own inner wisdom.



For thousands of years, people have removed themselves from the busyness of daily life and entered into a retreat situation to meditate. Come, join like-minded people, be inspired, be renewed. Immerse yourself in meditation. Be guided, be nurtured. Take the opportunity to reconnect with your own inner wisdom and the essence of who you really are.

DETAILS Click here

BOOK
The Mind that Changes Everything

CD and DOWNLOAD
Inner Peace, Inner Wisdom

NOTICEBOARD

SPECIFIC CANCER PROGRAMS for 2015

This year, Ruth and I will be presenting two follow-up 5 day residential cancer programs for the Gawler Foundation plus another in New Zealand for Canlive.

We will also present one comprehensive 8 day program (also in New Zealand for Canlive) that will be well suited to anyone who has not done a program with us before - Cancer, Healing and Wellbeing. Australians are welcome in NZ and vice-versa!

CANCER, HEALING and WELLBEING
Eight day residential program in New Zealand   May 15th  –  22nd , 2015

All welcome; attendance with a partner/ support person is ideal but not essential.

This program will lead you through all the self-healing options:
. Therapeutic nutrition
. Practical positive thinking
. Therapeutic meditation, plus the healing power of imagery and contemplation
. Accelerated healing
. Healthy, healing emotions
. How to get the most out of mainstream treatments and minimize side-effects
. How to be most effective as a support person/carer, and to look after yourself in the process.

I actually lead most of the main sessions, with support from Ruth and 2 exceptional New Zealanders. We live in for the full program so there is plenty of time for questions and personal interaction.

This program is organized and supported by Canlive New Zealand.

FULL DETAILS Click here

13 April 2015

Integrated oncology - why cancer management necessitates a broad approach

This is an important post that I hope you might share with anyone you know affected by cancer. It sets out my concerns for many facing a diagnosis of cancer today; they may well be missing out on what could dramatically improve their quality of life, as well as what could even save their life.


Here is the thing. For many years I worked as a veterinarian. I loved that work.

Over the last 30 years I have worked with people affected with cancer. I continue to love that work, but let us be very clear.

A dog with a broken leg has a simple health issue to manage. It does not need to attend a support group to learn how to cope with its illness and give itself the best chance of recovery.


By contrast, any person diagnosed with cancer who does not attend an educational support group to learn how to manage their illness and give themselves the best chance of recovery is severely limiting their chances.

So this week, lets go Out on a Limb once more and examine why this is so and why an integrated approach to cancer management is mandatory, but first

Thought for the Day

                                            May you find in me the Mother of the World.

                                            May my heart be a mother’s heart, 
                                            My hands be a mother’s hands.

                                            May my response to your suffering 
                                            Be a mother’s response to your suffering.




                                             May I sit with you in the dark, 
                                             Like a mother sits in the dark.

                                             May you know through our relationship 
                                             That there is something in this world that can be trusted.

                                             Anonymous letter from a young Medical student

Working as a veterinarian, much of it was simple in the relative scheme of things. Take repairing a broken leg for example. The cause was something everyone could agree upon. Little Johnny left the side-gate open, the dog ran onto the road, the car hit the dog. Broken leg. Simple.

Diagnosis was usually simple. Maybe a clinical examination was enough; if an X Ray was needed the benefit far outweighed the risk. The cost was modest. Simple.

Then repair would involve immobilization, maybe even surgery, but again, simple.

The healing phase too was straight forward. A dog can eat just about anything and a broken leg will heal.

The dog’s emotions seem to be of no concern to the healing process; and what is going on in the dog’s head, its thoughts, just like its spiritual life – no problem. In fact, it is all simple!

Best of all with a broken leg, the final outcome is generally good. They nearly always heal. Well.


In fact, it is common knowledge that as broken bones heal they often over-compensate so that the part that was broken often ends up stronger than the original bone. This fact spawned the New Age healing saying “We get stronger at the broken places”.

Contrast all of this with the complexity involved when a human being is dealing with cancer.

When it comes to the cause, cancer is known to be a multi-factorial, chronic degenerative disease. People commonly ask after diagnosis “Why me? How did this happen to me?” While much is known in answer to the basic question, for the individual concerned, the full story it is usually far from simple.

Then there is diagnosis. Often complicated. Often expensive. Sometimes there are contradictory test results. Interpretation is not so easy. Sometimes diagnosis is missed or delayed.




When it comes to treatment it is a sad fact that most current cancer treatments are quite tough on the person involved, and by extension, their families and friends.

Most are becoming incredibly expensive.

Clearly too, not everyone survives a cancer diagnosis. Around one third die in the first 5 years.


Far from simple.



Then when it comes to the healing phase - that phase that accompanies and goes on after any medical treatment - just about everything you can think of has some part to play. What someone eats influences outcome. Exercise. Sunlight. Emotional health. Mental state. Accessing the power of the mind. Spiritual life. Mind-Body Medicine. Just about everything warrants attention.

For some, the choices they make in this arena can truly make the difference between life and death.

Then there are other things to consider. Complementary therapies. Alternatives. How family and friends are coping. How they can be helpful rather than a hindrance. Financial issues. Finding meaning. Life after cancer. Reconciling death. And on and on.

Clearly, every aspect of cancer management is complex.

If someone diagnosed with cancer were to concentrate on just one aspect of the disease, like the medical treatment, they would be missing so many other important aspects. If someone diagnosed with cancer was to attempt to sort out all the complex issues on their own, how could we possibly imagine they would succeed?


Management of cancer demands an integrated approach. This means approaching the significance of the disease, its personal meaning, and its recovery by considering the body, the emotions, the mind and the spirit.



An integrated approach also involves working with an integrated team of health professionals as well as giving a pre-eminent place to consideration of what the person can do for themselves.

Attending to the latter effectively, learning what to do for yourself, is most effectively accomplished in a group setting. Residential programs are ideal as they provide the opportunity to withdraw from day-to-day life, to find genuine hope, to experience the recommended lifestyle changes such as the therapeutic foods and meditation, to learn from peers, to be inspired, to learn and to make good choices.

Sometimes I do miss the simplicity of my old veterinary days when treating broken bones was a simple delight. But actually, working with people amidst the complexity of managing cancer, seeing how well people do in body, mind and spirit when following this integrated path, helping to sort out the complexity, finding peace of mind amidst all this; being a part of all this is even more extra-ordinary – and wonderful.

RELATED BLOG
The Cancer Council, the survivors and the book
This is an important post that chronicles the Cancer Council of Australia’s position statement on Complimentary and Alternative therapies. If you have not seen it already, it is must reading and it may help inform discussions with some medical staff – if they need reminding of what their guidelines are. Another vital post to share with those in need.

RESOURCES
BOOK
You Can Conquer Cancer This is an ideal introduction for anyone affected by cancer who is interested to know what they can do to help themselves, or how they can help the one they love.

CDs or Downloads
The Gawler Cancer Program: Outlines how cancer develops and how this self help approach can help the healing.

What to do when someone you love has cancer: Essential listening providing clear guidance for those supporting people affected by cancer, whether family, friends or health professionals.

PROGRAMS
Ruth and I really enjoy leading specific cancer residential programs together, as well as the much more general meditation retreats we present.

In 2015, we will be presenting two follow-up 5 day residential cancer programs for the Gawler Foundation plus another in New Zealand for Canlive. We will also present one full 8 day program (also in New Zealand for Canlive) that will be well suited to anyone who has not done a program with us before – see more details below. Australians are welcome in NZ and vice-versa!

Also, The Gawler Foundation (where I am no longer on full time staff) presents regular cancer residential programs that are world class (in fact I doubt that there is anything to reasonably compare with the quality of what is being presented by the Gawler team!) Link here


NEWS

The world lost one of its bright flames recently.


Many who read this blog will have come to know Jess Ainscough, The Wellness Warrior in some way. Jess is featured in the related blog linked above. I was fortunate to know her over the years and was deeply saddened by her death.


It has been even more saddening to read some of the ill-informed commentary on her life choices and her influence since she has died.


Those of us who had the good fortune to know Jesse well knew her for what she was – an incredibly bright and positive person who made considered choices in the face of her own very difficult circumstances, and who inspired many with hope in a well measured way.

Jane Treleaven has written a wonderful piece on her own reaction/ response to Jess’ death; it is highly recommended. LINK HERE


NEXT SPECIFIC CANCER PROGRAMS
CANCER and BEYOND

May 2015   Monday 4th at 11am to Friday 8th at 2pm

Five Day Residential Follow-up Program at the Gawler Foundation in the Yarra Valley 

This program is specifically designed for those with cancer or in remission, along with their support people who have attended a previous Gawler Foundation program or equivalent such as with Sabina Rabold, CSWA, Cancer Care SA, CanLive NZ, or with the Gawlers

A unique opportunity to meet with like-minded people once again, to consolidate what you already know, to learn more from the combined knowledge, have a real rest, to reaffirm your good intentions, and to go home refreshed and revitalised.

FULL DETAILS Click here 



CANCER, HEALING and WELLBEING

Eight day Residential Program in New Zealand   May 15th  –  22nd , 2015

All welcome with a diagnosis or in remission; attendance with a partners and support people welcome.

This program will guide you through all the self-healing principles:
. Therapeutic nutrition
. Practical positive thinking
. Therapeutic meditation, plus the healing power of imagery and contemplation
. Accelerated healing
. Healthy, healing emotions
. Getting the most out of conventional medical treatments and minimising side-effects
. Being most effective as a support person/carer, and to looking after yourself in the process.

I will be leading most of the main sessions, with support from Ruth and 2 exceptional New Zealanders. We live-in for the full program so there is plenty of time for questions and personal interaction.

This program is organized and supported by Canlive New Zealand.

FULL DETAILS Click here





06 April 2015

Meditation and the experience of stillness

“Stillness is elusive but brilliant when experienced.” 

This week, inspiring and informative insights offered through quotes from participants who attended the annual Pre-Easter meditation retreat Ruth and I presented recently in the Yarra Valley. Excellent pointers to what the experience of meditation is like, and how to get there, but first



Thought for the day

   Just as a writer learns the spontaneous freedom of expression 
   Only after years of often gruelling study, 
   And just as the simple grace of a dancer 
   Is achieved only with enormous, patient effort, 
   So when you begin to understand where meditation will lead you, 
   You will approach it as the greatest endeavour of your life, 
   One that demands of you the deepest perseverance, 
   Enthusiasm, intelligence, and discipline

                                      Sogyal Rinpoche


Strange really. Meditation is about being still, deeply still. One could imagine being still would be quite easy, yet we meditators know that may not necessarily be so. For many, meditation can seem to require so much effort. The delight of going on a meditation retreat is that you give yourself time to stand back from daily life and to delve into what meditation really is.

When I was very focussed, I found myself falling into stillness, but wasn’t quite sure what it was. It was vivid and I had a sense of literally falling. When I was “trying” to get to stillness, it wasn’t as effective. In fact I felt a lot of resistance to “letting go” and it actually became quite emotional. 

So it was the focussed effort that took me into stillness, without the expectation of it. It just happened accidentally and was intensely vivid.

Meditation is about letting go of the busyness of daily life, it is about letting go of the busyness of our thinking mind and entering into the experience of that deeper, more fundamental aspect of our mind, our own inner stillness.

Coming on retreat forced me to leave the busyness of my life behind. I was able to focus on myself and the task in hand in a deep and meaningful way.

In this stillness of meditation we create the inner conditions that free us from stress. In stillness we open the doors to creativity. We enable our thoughts to settle, our mind to become calm and to think clearly. In stillness we connect with the truth of who we really are.

I was a fledgling beginner when I arrived who didn’t realise how stressed and tense and controlling I was. Now I feel like a competent meditator with the tools I need to develop further. I also now have a plan to manage my stress etc on a daily basis.

Stillness is to be experienced beyond relaxation. Beyond concentration. Beyond mindfulness.

Relaxation can help lead us into stillness.

Relaxation, relaxation, relaxation – that has been a profound discovery. It has made the biggest difference in my meditating. Prior to this week I always thought of relaxation as a desirable end point rather than the beginning of it all.

Concentration can help lead us into stillness. Mindfulness can help lead us into stillness.

The open mindfulness was very helpful – learning to accept without judgement – particularly the “annoying” sounds per se.

Relaxation, concentration and mindfulness are all techniques, very useful techniques, but techniques never-the-less.

Another delight of being on retreat is to have enough time to spend learning and experiencing these techniques to a degree that we can take them home. There they can have their own direct benefits when applied in our daily lives, but more, they also can serve as a prelude, an introduction, a gateway into meditation.

Clearly stillness dwells in the territory that dwells beyond all technique. Meditation begins, stillness begins to be experienced, when all the techniques have been let go of.

I have got to the point where I can “see’ it, and almost feel its presence. I think that once I get to that point, I’m so keen to get there that I start trying too hard and then loose that closeness.

Many of us experience moments of peace, moments of calm during our daily life. But there is more to this stillness of which we speak.

I’ve experienced stillness in two ways, but have more experience of one than the other. The first way of experiencing stillness is rather mundane – mostly sitting still and reduced thinking. This has been an important experience for me. Taking time out from a busy life full of thinking and needing to be places and doing things. This has been a great pleasure.

The other more profound stillness has been fleeting and limited. I have had moments when I felt aware and had let thoughts, feelings, movement etc go. I would like more of this and will work towards it.

So there is a sense of relief that can come with all this.

In my mind I have a picture of the cells saying to each other “Thank goodness she has slowed and stopped”. 

And

The retreat helps me to realise what is possible. It is and always has been a mental refuge for me.

And

I feel at home – as if I’ve come home.

And then something deeply reassuring.

The stillness was just that deep stillness – aware only of my presence – and a deep feeling of peace.

But then it comes time to leave the retreat and return to daily life.

The stillness lasts beyond the meditation. It feels to be a lasting stillness. It feels like it’s through my mind and body.

And so, with gratitude for all those who have shared something of their experience, and for the wonderful supportive staff at the Gawler Foundation, along with the very conducive facilities and environment of the Upper Yarra Valley, a final comment

The retreat has been quite extraordinary; nurturing and challenging; peaceful and restorative. It has given me a real sense of the possibilities that lie ahead. 

I came feeling despondent, tired, fearful and basically worn out. I now feel much more energetic, calm, clear headed and optimistic even though my circumstances haven’t changed in essence. I feel that I can face the future again.

The take home message? Meditate. Regularly….


RELATED BLOG
Slow down and go faster

NEWS
Journalist Peter Greste attributes meditation in part to surviving his ordeal in an Egyptian jail.



He has given permission to recount that he learnt meditation from one of the meditation teachers i trained some years ago.

The ripples go out in extraordinary ways!!!

Recounting his days in prison, Greste said he made a conscious attempt to stay fit physically, mentally and spiritually.

"I made a very conscious effort to deal with all three of those things: to try and keep fit, running in a very limited space, to keep up an exercise programme, to keep mentally fit with study and spiritually fit too with meditation. 
"Through all of that it was a way of enforcing a kind of discipline on myself and dealing with each day as it came. And hopefully, touch-wood, I haven't come out of it too damaged."

NOTICEBOARD

NEXT SPECIFIC CANCER PROGRAMS

See all the program details - CLICK HERE

Ruth and I will be presenting just one full cancer program this year during an 8 day residential program amidst the amazing beauty of Wanaka (nearby to Queenstown in the southern island of New Zealand). We will also present 3 follow-up programs for people who have attended previous “Gawler” style cancer programs. Two of these will be at the Gawler Foundation, one in New Zealand.

The first two of these programs are 2 months away and the follow-up in the Yarra Valley is close to fully booked already. Here are the details…

CANCER and BEYOND  May 2015   Monday 4th at 11am to Friday 8th at 2pm




Five Day Residential Follow-up Program at the Gawler Foundation in the Yarra Valley 

This program is specifically designed for those with cancer along with their support people who have attended a previous Gawler Foundation program or equivalent such as with Sabina Rabold, CSWA, Cancer Care SA, CanLive NZ, or with the Gawlers

A unique opportunity to meet with like-minded people once again, to consolidate what you already know, to learn more from the combined knowledge, experience and wisdom of Ian and Ruth, to reaffirm your good intentions, and to go home refreshed and revitalised.

FULL DETAILS Click here 


CANCER, HEALING and WELLBEING



Eight day residential program in New Zealand   May 15th  –  22nd , 2015

All welcome; attendance with a partner/ support person is ideal but not essential.

This program will lead you through all the self-healing options:
. Therapeutic nutrition
. Practical positive thinking
. Therapeutic meditation, plus the healing power of imagery and contemplation
. Accelerated healing
. Healthy, healing emotions
. How to get the most out of mainstream treatments and minimize side-effects
. How to be most effective as a support person/carer, and to look after yourself in the process.

I actually lead most of the main sessions, with support from Ruth and 2 exceptional New Zealanders. We live in for the full program so there is plenty of time for questions and personal interaction.

This program is organized and supported by Canlive New Zealand.

FULL DETAILS Click here