25 August 2015

The top 5 Advances in Modern Oncology

What would you consider to be the top recent advances in the world of cancer?

As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the society prepared a list of the most significant clinical cancer advances in modern oncology.

It then invited physicians, patients, and the public to vote for what they considered to be the top 5 advances in the last 50 years. The votes are now in. Take a moment and reflect, what would you have chosen???

Well, this week we go Out on a Limb once more and reveal what ASCO decided they are, but first





        Thought for the day


                The future begins today


                       Wayne Gerard Trotman
                       British filmmaker, writer





So here they are. The American Society of Clinical Oncology has revealed what it describes as the "Top 5 Advances in Modern Oncology.”

1. Chemotherapy cures advanced Hodgkin lymphoma
In 1965 came the first chemotherapy breakthrough for advanced cancer in adults, when a 4-drug combination chemotherapy regimen (cyclophosphamide, vincristine, mechlorethamine, and prednisone, known as MOPP) induced long-term remissions in more than half of patients with aggressive Hodgkin lymphoma.

This regimen quickly became standard treatment, but in the 1970s, a different 4-drug combination (doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine, known as ABVD) proved even more effective, curing about 70% of patients with advanced Hodgkin lymphoma. The ABVD combination remains a mainstay of treatment today, ASCO comments.

It adds that the 1965 discovery of MOPP "sparked the first hope that advanced cancers could be cured with drug treatment, and paved the way for 90% cure rates for patients with this disease (Hodgkin lymphoma) today."

2. HPV vaccine approved to prevent cervical cancer
In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Gardasil, which protects against the two strains of HPV (16 and 18) known to cause 70% of cervical cancers, as well as two other HPV strains (6 and 11) associated with genital warts.

Another HPV vaccine, Ceravix, which protects against the 2 strains linked to cervical cancer (16 and 18), was approved in 2009. Gardasil was first approved for the prevention of HPV-related cervical cancer, but this later expanded to include prevention of additional HPV-related diseases, including vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancers in women, and anal cancer and genital warts in men.

ASCO adds that studies have also linked HPV infection to head and neck cancers, suggesting that the vaccine may help prevent these cancers as well. "Widespread vaccination, if fully implemented, stands to drive dramatic reductions in cervical and other HPV-related cancers in the US and worldwide," it adds.

3. Targeted drug transforms treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia
In 2001, the rapid FDA review and approval of imatinib (Gleevec) dramatically changed the treatment of patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).

This easy-to-take daily pill ― which targets a molecular defect (the Philadephia chromosome) present in nearly all patients with CML ― turned a disease with almost no long-term survivors into one with 5-year survival rates of 90%, ASCO comments. It also ushered in a new era of successful research on molecularly targeted treatments for many more cancers.

4. Chemotherapy cures men with testicular cancer
In 1977 came the pivotal trial showing that the 3-drug chemotherapy regimen known as PVB
(cisplatin, vinblastine, and bleomycin) produced complete remissions and some cures for more than 70% of men with advanced testicular cancer. Earlier chemotherapy treatments worked in just 5% of men, ASCO notes.

This combination regimen, coupled with later surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy advances, has made testicular cancer "one of the most curable cancers and one of oncology's biggest success stories."

5. Powerful antinausea drugs dramatically improve many patients' quality of life
In 1991, the FDA approval of the antinausea drug ondansetron (Zofran), as well as other supportive-care drugs in the following years, have together dramatically changed the experience of cancer treatment, bringing unprecedented improvements to patients' quality of life, ASCO comments.

Ondansetron, a 5HT3 receptor antagonist, works by deactivating the nervous system's natural trigger for vomiting, and other similar drugs were also soon approved, including granisetron (Kytril), dolasetron (Anzemet) and palonosetron (Aloxi).

These and other antinausea drugs, like aprepitant (Emend), which is a substance P/neurokinin 1 antagonist, allow most cancer patients to receive chemotherapy in an outpatient setting, with minimal disruption to their daily routines, ASCO commented.

"These drugs not only bring relief from intense, treatment-induced nausea, but make it possible for patients to avoid once-routine hospital stays, complete their full course of treatment, and live longer and better lives," it added.

Editor’s comment
Nothing here directly related to any of the most common cancers – breast, prostate, lung, bowel etc; and nothing from recent years. No studies on long-term survivors. No recognition of any Lifestyle Medicine benefits (nutrition, power of the mind, meditation, exercise etc).

Ever wonder how well all those research dollars are really being spent ? Or is this a sample that reflects a bias? What do you think?  What would be in your top 5? Add a comment below....

Reference: Click here

NOTICEBOARD

Details of all coming programs Ruth and I will be presenting are on our website: www.iangawler.com/events, and here are the next few:

NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT
Meditation Under the Long White Cloud   24 - 30 October 2015

7 day retreat at Mana Retreat Centre, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand



                 Take time out from the busyness of everyday life; spend time with your self
           Slow down, reflect, contemplate – regain perspective, vitality, balance and clarity
      Deepen your understanding and experience of mindfulness, contemplation and meditation

Full details, CLICK HERE


SPECIFIC CANCER RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS

CANCER and BEYOND     October  2015     Monday 12th to Friday 16th 

Finding peace in the Healing Process

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



FULL DETAILS Click here 



MIND-BODY MEDICINE and CANCER    November  2015    Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th


Five day Residential program in the beautiful surrounds of Wanaka, New Zealand
- an easy drive from Queenstown airport and very accessible for Australians

FULL DETAILS Click here




10 August 2015

A volatile mix - stress, epigenetics and alcohol

Know anyone prone to drinking more alcohol when under stress? Talks about how the alcohol relieves the pressure? Just feels better after a glass or two?

May seem innocent enough, but this week we examine new research that demonstrates how the combination of stress and alcohol can lead to genetic changes that in turn explain how some people tip over into alcoholism, but first


               Thought for the day

         If we could read the secret history of our enemies,

        We should find in each man's life 
        Sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

                      Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 





We all know that stress, whether acute or chronic does not feel good.

We also know that if the stress we are under exceeds our capacity to cope; then that type of stress can lead to alterations in mood and increased anxiety that may eventually result in the development of stress-related mental and physical disorders.

Dysphoria is a medical term that describes “a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life”. Dysphoria is what many people feel when over-run with stress or anxiety.

Now, here is the thing. Alcohol is known to temporarily relieve feelings of dysphoria for many people. Some call this “self medication” and alcohol certainly works to that effect. But while on the surface, this self medication might seem harmless enough - having a quiet drink to settle the mind – there is a deeper and more sinister issue.

It turns out that the relationship between stress and alcohol consumption is meditated in part by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a protein that regulates both the structure and function of nerve synapses - the point where two nerve cells interact and exchange nerve signals, and numerous other physiological processes. BDNF itself is regulated by genes that in turn can be affected by alcohol consumption.



Apparently, when alcohol is drunk with the intention of alleviating the unpleasant feelings of dysphoria, it causes epigenetic changes that in turn affect the complex control of BDNF.

The more alcohol that is drunk, the less functional BDNF becomes and so the need develops to drink more alcohol to achieve the same level of relief from dysphoria.

This can tip the unwary into a vicious cycle that can lead to alcoholism.

When talking of epigenetics here, we are describing the regulation of genetic information without modification of the core DNA sequence. Epigenetics in this situation can affect the complex control of BDNF signalling and synaptic plasticity - for example, by modifying the structure of the DNA–protein complexes such as chromatin, that make up the chromosomes and thereby modulate the expression of certain genes.

While these studies that are clarifying the mechanisms behind the epigenetic control of BDNF signalling and synaptic plasticity are offering some real insight into the mechanisms mediating the interaction between stress and alcoholism, they clearly come with a warning.



The body is so extra-ordinary, and so packed with its own wisdom.

While alcohol may relieve those early feelings of discomfort that come from stress and anxiety, clearly it comes with a very real risk; as shown here, a slippery slope type of risk.

Happily, given the chance, the body – and the mind - can learn to manage stress and anxiety much more effectively.

Another great reason to meditate regularly!

And more evidence of epigenetics - how your genes are not static, but are directly affected by the environment they are placed in - with positive or negative effects depending upon that interaction between the genes you were given and the environment created for them.

Primary Reference 
Moonat,S., and Pandey, SC. Stress, Epigenetics, and Alcoholism; Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, Volume 34, Issue Number 4

NOTICEBOARD
COMING RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS
Currently, Ruth and I are concentrating much of our working time on preparing and presenting residential programs.

MEDITATION RETREATS
We lead meditation retreats for anyone interested in a more immersive experience of meditation. Whether as a beginner or an experienced meditator, there is nothing like taking time out from the busyness of daily life, receiving some instruction, being guided into meditation and then having a solid period of time to develop and deepen your own practice.

These programs can be well suited to people who teach meditation and want to learn more, or for those aspiring to become meditation teachers. Attending our meditation retreats may count towards the requirements to become qualified as a member of the Meditation Association of Australia (the re-named ATMA), please check for the specific program you are interested in.

CANCER PROGRAMS
We also lead more specific programs for people dealing with cancer. Again, whether you are dealing with cancer personally, or are supporting someone going through cancer, it can be invaluable to take the uninterrupted opportunity that a residential program offers to learn and experience what can be done through your own combined efforts.

All the important Lifestyle Medicine factors are addressed in depth – accelerated healing, therapeutic nutrition, suitable types of exercise, healthy, healing emotions, the power of the mind and of course, meditation, mindfulness and guided imagery.

Two types of cancer programs are presented. The first are open to everyone affected by cancer and are held in New Zealand. These programs are comprehensive in that they cover the full program and are suitable for people new to this approach or the more experienced. There is an 8 day and a 5 day version of this program to choose from.

Then there are more specific follow-up programs that we present for the Gawler Cancer Foundation in the Yarra Valley. These are tailor-made to meet the needs of people who have attended a previous “Gawler” program, either at the Foundation itself, with Ruth or myself, or one of the groups linked with the Foundation that is presenting its style of program.

THE VENUES
We have gone to some lengths to ensure that all these residential programs can be presented in beautiful environments, where the amenities are suitable and where the food is consistent with our principles and prepared lovingly with great taste. As we know, healthy food is not only good for you, but can taste terrific!

Details of the programs coming up in the not-to-distant future are below, while more comprehensive details are on the website: www.iangawler.com/events

NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT
Meditation Under the Long White Cloud   24 - 30 October 2015

7 day retreat at Mana Retreat Centre, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand



                 Take time out from the busyness of everyday life; spend time with your self
           Slow down, reflect, contemplate – regain perspective, vitality, balance and clarity
      Deepen your understanding and experience of mindfulness, contemplation and meditation

Full details, CLICK HERE


SPECIFIC CANCER RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS

CANCER and BEYOND     October  2015     Monday 12th to Friday 16th 

Finding peace in the Healing Process

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 Cancer Foundation program or equivalent such as with Sabina Rabold, CSWA, Cancer Care SA, CanLive NZ, or with the Gawlers themselves.

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 

MIND-BODY MEDICINE and CANCER    November  2015    Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th


Five day Residential program in the beautiful surrounds of Wanaka, New Zealand
- an easy drive from Queenstown airport and very accessible for Australians

This program is open to anyone affected by cancer. Health professionals interested to learn more of this work are also welcome to attend.

While the focus of this program is on therapeutic meditation and nutrition, the power of the mind and emotional health, ample time will be given to answering any questions you may have relating to the Gawler program - exercise, positive thinking, healing, balancing medical options, successful ways of dealing with setbacks, sustaining your good intentions and the relevance of finding meaning in life to healing and recovery.

FULL DETAILS Click here





27 July 2015

Important information you really need to know – and share

Most who read this blog will be aware I am in the midst of an extended meditation retreat. However, after a fairly intense 3 weeks, during a free day two new pieces of research came to my attention that I feel must be addressed. They highlight a situation that has caused me increasing distress over recent years.

Fact is this is information you may will benefit from knowing and reflecting upon well in advance as the evidence shows people who are unfortunate enough to get into this situation, in the heat of the moment often make the wrong choice with serious, adverse consequences. Please do share this information with those you care for,

But first

     Thought for the day

            There is no way to not do this practice                              perfectly

            It is just this…
            Sitting; 
            Open;
            Spacious; 
            Aware;
            In the present moment.
            Just this

                         From the retreat


It is hard to say how often I have heard this, but it is very common. “We could try some chemotherapy…. “

Patients with end-stage cancer often receive chemotherapy, under the assumption that it will improve their quality of life or may even extend survival. However, 2 new major pieces of research have found quite the opposite – quality of life was worse with no benefit to overall survival.

For years it has been disturbing to watch as people in reasonable health but with advanced cancer were doing OK, only to be offered chemo. Often the statement was “You are doing so well now, why don’t we try some chemo”.

Understandably, it is extremely difficult for many people to resist this offer. Commonly it comes with big pressure from family and friends who, according to experience that is backed up by research, are like many patients and mistakenly believe the chemo will extend life as well as improve quality of life.

However, the American Society for Clinical Oncology recently identified end of life chemotherapy as one of the “top five” practices that could improve patients’ care and reduce costs, if stopped. This is confirmed by these two important research findings which themselves confirm earlier research.

The first, in the British Medical Journal concluded chemotherapy given to terminally ill cancer patients months before death was associated with no improvement in survival times, higher levels of intensive medical care (cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, or both) in the last week of life, higher probability of dying in an intensive care unit and less chance of dying in preferred place of death, like at home.


This is something we need to know of well in advance, because in the heat of the moment - at the end of life, people often opt for chemo and suffer unnecessarily.

Not to say chemo is not useful at other times, but there is a need to be very selective late in life.

In fact, the statistics show most chemo is given palliatively.


The lead researcher Dr. Prigerson believes that the use of chemotherapy at the end of life, and conversation about it, needs reforming. "The term palliative chemotherapy is disingenuous," she told Medscape Medical News in an interview. "There is a negative side to chemotherapy; it makes you sicker."

The second piece of research just published in JAMA Oncology adds more vital information. Lead author Prof. Holly G. Prigerson from Cornell said "If this so-called palliative chemotherapy is given to improve their symptoms, then these data should give them pause that it's not going to help."

Of particular significance, these findings indicate that patients with good performance status (this is medical speak for being reasonably well) were the ones most likely to receive chemotherapy near the end of life, she said in an interview.

"In our study, 100% of the patients who were feeling well and asymptomatic were being given chemotherapy," Dr Prigerson explained. "So the question is, why? Why would a person who was functioning well be given chemotherapy?"

Charles D. Blanke, MD, and Erik. K. Fromme, MD, suggest "If an oncologist suspects the death of a patient in the next 6 months, the default should be no active treatment. Let us help patients with metastatic cancer make good decisions. Let us not contribute to the suffering that cancer, and often associated therapy, brings, particularly at the end.”

EDITORIAL COMMENT
For years I have seen people adversely affected by this and now it seems a much needed correction may be coming...


I first wrote of this in 2006 when research began to emerge that reflected what was being observed amongst people in our groups (one short article and one longer, highly referenced one that was used as a basis for presenting at 2 major medical conferences that same year. They are on my website in the Information section and are still relevant - links below).

People who were managing their situation well with lifestyle therapies – good nutrition, positive thinking, meditation, working on their emotional health, relationships and state of mind, were being told they were doing much better than expected, so “Why don’t we try some chemo now? Do you want it?” Hard to resist in the climate we live in.

But then people would often be overrun by the side-effects. Eating well became problematic, meditation harder, state of mind affected, harder to be positive. And one medical intervention commonly led to another, often leading to tough last days.

So please share this information. While it may not be what some would like to hear, and maybe it is not a popular topic for conversation, it distresses me deeply to observe how often people who are managing advanced cancer well go into chemotherapy, only to be wiped out by it and die in difficult circumstances.

By contrast, there have been many people who have managed symptoms really well and died well, having carried through with the lifestyle approach and finding the stability and comfort that comes with consistent meditation.

Of course it would be wonderful if everyone survived cancer. But is highly possible to die well from it, in good circumstances, feeling that life has been completed. When this happens it makes it so much easier and better for family and friends as well.

Please share  ….

REFERENCES
Wright A A et al, Associations between palliative chemotherapy and adult cancer patients’ end of life care and place of death: prospective cohort study, BMJ 2014;348:g1219

Prigerson HD et al, Chemotherapy Use, Performance Status, and Quality of Life at the End of Life, JAMA Oncol. Published online July 23, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.2378

Chemotherapy: how much does it contribute to 5 year survival?  

Cancer, lifestyle and chemotherapy: A documented examination of the benefits and side effects of lifestyle factors and chemotherapy.


NEWS
The retreat goes well and I will write something of that at a future time. Many useful things to share coming from it…

NOTICEBOARD

NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT

Meditation Under the Long White Cloud   24 - 28 October 2015

7 day retreat at Mana Retreat Centre, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand



         Take time out from the busyness of everyday life; spend time with your self
      Slow down, reflect, contemplate – regain perspective, vitality, balance and clarity
Deepen your understanding and experience of mindfulness, contemplation and meditation.

The special focus of this meditation retreat will be the theory and practise of contemplation

Full details, CLICK HERE



SPECIFIC CANCER RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS

CANCER and BEYOND     October  2015     Monday 12th to Friday 16th 

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




FULL DETAILS  Click here 



MIND-BODY MEDICINE and CANCER    November  2015    Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th

         Five day Residential program in the beautiful surrounds of Wanaka, New Zealand
            - an easy drive from Queenstown airport and very accessible for Australians



FULL DETAILS Click here




13 July 2015

Mind-Body Medicine and cancer

Cancer is best regarded as a potentially reversible, degenerative disease that is fuelled by inflammation. 


Everyone diagnosed with cancer needs to know this because it is within their potential to convert “potentially reversible” into “actually reversed”.

This week we reaffirm how this is possible and remind ourselves of how we can help others; maybe even save a life or two.

Also news of the next Mind and its Potential Conference coming up 27 -28th October in Sydney. This is a fabulous annual event and one I heartily recommend. With me having spoken at the conference several times, and being a conference partner, you can register before July31st and save 20% on the fees (around $4 - 500) - see the details and necessary code below, along with some news of my retreat, but first


         Thought for the day

            When your fear touches someone’s pain
            It becomes pity.

            When your love touches someone’s pain
            It becomes compassion.

                       Stephen Levine


For anyone wanting to use the best of their own potential to overcome cancer, the answer is surprisingly simple. The fact is that Lifestyle Medicine offers the real hope of reversing the very nature of the cancer process.

Lifestyle Medicine teaches how to activate a highly therapeutic, highly anti-inflammatory, highly regenerative process. 


However, experience tells us that putting this “simple” fact into action, is often not so easy. The challenge is that to get the best out of what Lifestyle Medicine has to offer, means changing one's lifestyle, changing one's habits.

To have any real prospect of accomplishing this people need inspiration, good information, a clear sense of direction, and on-going support, but most of all they need to be in a good state of mind.

Lifestyle Medicine enables us to benefit from those things that are within our own capacity to take control of.

What we eat and what we drink. And how much we eat and drink. How much we exercise; how we manage our relationships and spiritual lives, and crucially how we manage our minds.

What choices we make and what state of mind we follow those choices through in – grumpy resistance or a welcoming embrace.


The mind is the focal point for Lifestyle Medicine. 

For it is the mind that decides what we do. Indeed, it is the mind that changes everything.

So this is where the more specific benefits of Mind-Body Medicine are called for. Mind-Body Medicine enables us to reverse destructive states of mind – the adverse impacts of stress, unhealthy habits and ways of thinking. Mind-Body Medicine also provides the means to move through any times of apathy or stagnation, and to benefit from all the constructive, healing powers of a mind well directed and engaged.

Mind-Body Medicine is at the heart of a healthy, healing lifestyle.

People have been telling me for over 30 years that they believe stress was a major factor that brought their cancer on. Certainly, for anyone who was not stressed beforehand, a diagnosis of cancer is of itself a major potential cause of stress. Some studies indicate that over 50% of people develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a cancer diagnosis.

If stress is left unrecognised, and worse untreated, then it means anything positive that is done will be undermined.



Happily, there is so much that can be done once we address the mind.

And the key?

Learn how to embrace whatever we do. Not just go along with. Not just put up with. Not even just tolerate. No, much more than this. Embrace. Welcome. Commit. Persevere. Develop resilience. Engage wholeheartedly. Flourish.

For these are the attributes of long-term survivors, and these are attributes that can be learnt.

Most people who first come to a cancer lifestyle-based program, are somewhere along a spectrum of engagement with what will really help them that ranges from ignorant indifference to full on commitment.

Good news. Once one knows what works; once one has been convinced that this Lifestyle Medicine stuff does actually work, then one can learn and be supported to put it into place. The trick is to begin.

So how to be convinced that Lifestyle Medicine works? 

Evidence in medicine is based upon what comes out of the research and what is known from clinical experience.

Through over 30 years of work with the Gawler Foundation (where most people know that these days I only work as a consultant, not on staff or on the Board) and all the wonderful colleagues there, more clinical experience has probably been gathered in this field than at any other centre in Australia, quite possibly around the world.

Add to this all the exciting new research that is building rapidly to confirm so much of what has been learnt through all that clinical experience, and there are grounds for a high degree of confidence.

So what to do?
Many who read this blog and are dealing with cancer are well on-track. The issue is to stay there. To not be worn down by our own old habits or the influence of society, friends or even family.

Getting well from cancer and staying well requires life-long healthy habits. Sadly, there are so many vested influences in the commercial world that seem bent on us continuing to be good consumers and to maintain unhealthy habits, that staying well can be a challenge. 

This is another good reason to go on retreat at least once each year. Take time out, sit back a little. Reflect. How am I going? Am I on track?

Of course, a retreat can be inspiring, informative, regenerative; but this need to re-assess, to be reminded of what we know and to be supported to keep on track, is one of the high points of attending a retreat.

For those new to this, for someone you might like to help – to inspire, to inform, to get started on the road to healing, the best thing I suggest is to offer You Can Conquer Cancer. A book is easy. And this book contains all the information people need to get started (many people have told me how they simply read the book, did it all and got well). People can dip in and out of it at their own pace and find out whether this is something they can commit to for themselves.

Truth is, as I am sure we all know, what we are talking of is not for everyone. But maybe a word at the right time, maybe a book at the right time, might just get someone started. Might just help someone to save their life…

RELATED BLOG
Cancer Self-help Residential Program - a photographic essay

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.


NOTICEBOARD

NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT

Meditation Under the Long White Cloud   24 - 28 October 2015

7 day retreat at Mana Retreat Centre, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand



         Take time out from the busyness of everyday life; spend time with your self
      Slow down, reflect, contemplate – regain perspective, vitality, balance and clarity
Deepen your understanding and experience of mindfulness, contemplation and meditation.

The special focus of this meditation retreat will be the theory and practise of contemplation

Full details, CLICK HERE



SPECIFIC CANCER RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS

CANCER and BEYOND     October  2015     Monday 12th to Friday 16th 

Five Day Residential Follow-up Program at the Gawler Cancer 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 Cancer Foundation program or equivalent such as with Sabina Rabold, CSWA, Cancer Care SA, CanLive NZ, or with the Gawlers themselves.

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 



MIND-BODY MEDICINE and CANCER    November  2015    Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th

         Five day Residential program in the beautiful surrounds of Wanaka, New Zealand
            - an easy drive from Queenstown airport and very accessible for Australians


This program is open to anyone affected by cancer.

While the focus of this program is on therapeutic meditation and nutrition, the power of the mind and emotional health, ample time will be given to answering any questions you may have relating to the Gawler program - exercise, positive thinking, healing, balancing medical options, successful ways of dealing with setbacks, sustaining your good intentions and the relevance of finding meaning in life to healing and recovery.

Health professionals interested to learn more of this work are also welcome to attend.

FULL DETAILS Click here




NEWS
Many know by now that I am on an extended meditation retreat in France which began July 1st. We have just emerged from the last 10 days spent in silence which for me has been a very stabilising, settling time. Starting to feel as if the busyness of daily life has been left well behind and can ease into the retreat schedule.

There are several hundred on the retreat at present, with more arriving, especially in August where the numbers will swell to over 1,000. It is wonderful to receive teachings directly from such a great meditation master as Sogyal Rinpoche, and already I have realised new ways that should be helpful to present meditation in the retreats Ruth and I present. And there is nothing like having a good block of time to deepen your own practice.

What a treat to be on retreat!



29 June 2015

Meditation retreats – 4 good reasons to go

Meditation has a multitude of benefits. Basically, we meditate daily so those benefits can flow into our daily life. Why then make the effort to go on a meditation retreat?

This week, we examine why it may be worthwhile to take time out from daily life, to go to a secluded place and enter into a meditation retreat, and as I embark personally on a 3 month retreat, I will share some of my own personal motivation and experiences, but first

          
              Thought for the day 

To meditate is to make a complete break 
With how we “normally” operate, 

For it is a state free of all cares and concerns, 
In which there is no competition, 
No desire to possess or grasp at anything,
No intense and anxious struggle, 

And no hunger to achieve 

An ambitionless state where there is 
Neither acceptance nor rejection,
Neither hope nor fear, 
A state in which we slowly begin 
To release all those emotions and concepts 
That have imprisoned us 
Into the space of natural simplicity.

                           Sogyal Rinpoche




So why take a complete break” and join a meditation retreat? Four good reasons:


1. Immersion

Dive in deeply.

Leave behind the activity and the distractions – both good and bad - and dive in.

On retreat we can be shielded from day-to-day events. Not that they are unimportant, its just that time out can be more than useful, more than a relief, more than a chance to regain balance; diving in can lead to a deeper experience that will last with you.

Many people tell me how their daily meditation practice helps them to maintain their poise and balance. But in reality, for many of us, it can be a bit like keeping our heads above water.

Life can be so busy these days that as we work at fulfilling all our obligations it can be challenging to make real personal progress.

Taking time out and immersing ourselves in a suitable retreat gives the opportunity to learn more, to deepen our experience of meditation, to reflect on where we are at in our lives and to return home refreshed and better equipped for the rigors of modern life.

Speaking personally, life has been very full these past few years. Lots of wonderful things; but very full - and rather continuous. So the opportunity to remove myself from all the activity, to defer everything in my working life for 3 months will be a rare opportunity and one I look forward to with the excited anticipation of an unattached meditator! Whoopee!

2. Learning
Most retreats will feature teachings that provide the means to deepen our understanding of what meditation really is, how we can practice it and if we are so involved, how we can help others as we teach and share it.

I am fortunate to have been a student of the great Tibetan teacher Sogyal Rinpoche for over 30 years now. If you have felt some benefit from my teaching, it will be largely due to what I have learnt from him, along with my first important teacher, Dr Ainlsie Meares, along with all I have garnered from the people who I have been attempting to help to learn to meditate over the years.

Sogyal Rinpoche is a great teacher, very familiar with the Western mind and what we Westerners are dealing with, and someone who brings humour along with incredible knowledge, wisdom and experience to his teachings.

In part, what I am going to will be like attending a Summer school on meditation; along with plenty of practise.

3. Deepening experience
Ever noticed how if you sit to meditate for a longer period of time, how towards the end you seem to settle a bit more and enter into something deeper? Going on retreat offers that opportunity in a very direct way.


Also, when a retreat is held in an inspiring, beautiful environment, in buildings that have been
designed for the purpose and had a good deal of meditation practised within them; and when you are in like-minded company being supported and led by an experienced teacher; then all is conducive to relax, to let go and enter deeply into the practice.

Happily, the memory of that deeper experience is likely to stay with you and inform your practise at home.

It becomes easier to return to a deeper meditative experience.



4. Reflection
Life can be so busy these days it is easy to get caught up in all the day-to-day happenings. Years can go by until one day, it is as if we wake up and think “What was that all about?”’ “Where did all those years go?”

So it seems almost like a necessity to make the effort at least once a year to step back and take time to reflect. Where am I in terms of my life path? Am I on track? Am I distracted? What is important? What are the priorities?

Speaking personally again, I am now 65. I love the work that I do; leading retreats with Ruth is such a wonderful thing to be able to do. We both thrive on leading meditation retreats as well as offering to help people with cancer on the more specific cancer residential programs. And we are involved in quite deal else as well.

However, it is always good to stand back and re-assess things. How can I be most helpful? How can we be most helpful?

The last time I took time for a major reflection, the hold world of IT opened up. The blog. The website and webstore and then the Mindbody Mastery on-line meditation program that will soon be available as an app.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode   …..

NOTICEBOARD
COMING RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS
Currently, Ruth and I are concentrating much of our working time on preparing and presenting residential programs.

MEDITATION RETREATS
We lead meditation retreats for anyone interested in a more immersive experience of meditation. Whether as a beginner or an experienced meditator, there is nothing like taking time out from the busyness of daily life, receiving some instruction, being guided into meditation and then having a solid period of time to develop and deepen your own practice.

These programs can be well suited to people who teach meditation and want to learn more, or for those aspiring to become meditation teachers. Attending our meditation retreats may count towards the requirements to become qualified as a member of the Meditation Association of Australia (the re-named ATMA), please check for the specific program you are interested in.

CANCER PROGRAMS
We also lead more specific programs for people dealing with cancer. Again, whether you are dealing with cancer personally, or are supporting someone going through cancer, it can be invaluable to take the uninterrupted opportunity that a residential program offers to learn and experience what can be done through your own efforts.

All the important Lifestyle Medicine factors are addressed in depth – therapeutic nutrition, suitable types of exercise, healthy, healing emotions, the power of the mind and of course, meditation, mindfulness and guided imagery.

Two types of cancer programs are presented. The first are open to everyone affected by cancer and are held in New Zealand. These programs are comprehensive in that they cover the full program and are suitable for people new to this approach or the more experienced. There is an 8 day and a 5 day version of this program to choose from.

Then there are more specific follow-up programs that we present for the Gawler Cancer Foundation in the Yarra Valley. These are tailor made to meet the needs of people who have attended a previous “Gawler” program, either at the Foundation itself, with Ruth or myself, or one of the groups linked with the Foundation that is presenting its style of program.

THE VENUES

We have gone to some lengths to ensure that all these residential programs can be presented in beautiful environments, where the amenities are suitable and where the food is consistent with our principles and prepared lovingly with great taste. As we know, healthy food is not only good for you, but can taste terrific!

So details of the programs coming up in the not-to-distant future are below, while more comprehensive details are on the website: www.iangawler.com/events.

NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT

Meditation Under the Long White Cloud   24 - 28 October 2015

7 day retreat at Mana Retreat Centre, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand



         Take time out from the busyness of everyday life; spend time with your self
      Slow down, reflect, contemplate – regain perspective, vitality, balance and clarity
Deepen your understanding and experience of mindfulness, contemplation and meditation.

The special focus of this meditation retreat will be the theory and practise of contemplation

Full details, CLICK HERE



SPECIFIC CANCER RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS

CANCER and BEYOND     October  2015     Monday 12th to Friday 16th 

Five Day Residential Follow-up Program at the Gawler Cancer 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 Cancer Foundation program or equivalent such as with Sabina Rabold, CSWA, Cancer Care SA, CanLive NZ, or with the Gawlers themselves.

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 



MIND-BODY MEDICINE and CANCER    November  2015    Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th

         Five day Residential program in the beautiful surrounds of Wanaka, New Zealand
            - an easy drive from Queenstown airport and very accessible for Australians



This program is open to anyone affected by cancer.

While the focus of this program is on therapeutic meditation and nutrition, the power of the mind and emotional health, ample time will be given to answering any questions you may have relating to the Gawler program - exercise, positive thinking, healing, balancing medical options, successful ways of dealing with setbacks, sustaining your good intentions and the relevance of finding meaning in life to healing and recovery.

Health professionals interested to learn more of this work are also welcome to attend.

FULL DETAILS Click here