17 April 2017

Resolving-problems -The-meditator’s-way

How does it work with problems?

Meditative techniques – mindfulness, contemplation, imagery, and stillness are all known to improve brain function, creativity, resilience, health and wellbeing. They enable us to overcome stress, manage big workloads and sleep well.

But it is not too hard to get stuck with our problems. Obsessive thinking, difficult emotions and poor decision-making can all lead to deep dissatisfaction.

Want to try something new? 
This week, fresh from contemplating all this amidst the recent Meditation Teacher Training and Meditation retreat that both included contemplation on problems; something you may find really practical and useful. Also news of our Winter meditation retreats, but first

            Thought for the day

    Spread love everywhere you go;
    First of all in your own house. 
    Give love to your children, 
    To your wife or husband, 
    To a next door neighbor...

    Let no one ever come to you 
    Without leaving better and happier. 

    Be the living expression of God's kindness; 
    Kindness in your face, 
    Kindness in your eyes, 
    Kindness in your smile, 
    Kindness in your warm greeting. 

                                                Mother Theresa

Contemplating problems
The aim is to become aware of how we process “problems” in our mind, and then regulate where we turn our attention. Here is how it works.

First, we become aware of 5 elements or components of the problem…

1. The Story
When we have a “problem”, it starts when we bring to mind a story.

We think “He did this awful thing”… “That terrible event took place”… “What is going to happen with the finances?”

The story is like the basic detail of what happened, what is happening, what might happen.

2. The Commentary
Almost immediately we think of the problem, the story, we tend to slip into commentary, the way we think about the story.

The commentary is commonly loaded with judgment and habitual thinking.

“That was such a bad thing that I did…”. “If only he had not done that, I would be different, my life would be different”.

If a problem is long standing, then we tend to run the same commentary, the same thoughts about it over and over. These thoughts tend to be circular in that they rarely lead to any clear resolution. So the sense of “problem” persists and each time we think of the same person or event, it triggers the same commentary.

3. The Emotion 
It is the commentary that then elicits the emotion.

“I hate that awful thing that he did. It makes me so angry. “What happened makes me feel so sad.” “Thinking about the finances makes me so scared.”

Often these emotions can become habitual. Sometimes they even become what we call “racket” emotions; emotions we get into the habit of running in many situations other than the one that first set them in motion.

Some move so quickly from the story to the emotion, that the commentary is immediately obvious. Sometimes it may feel as if the emotion is pure reflex.

4. Secondary commentary

This is when we make judgement on our own emotions.
“I know I should not be angry, but what he did makes me feel so cross. There must be something wrong with me that I feel this way and cannot control it.”

5. Secondary emotion 
Now we experience another layer of emotion, usually quite a self-destructive one that is based on the secondary commentary about the primary emotion we felt in response to the story and its commentary.
“Now I feel so guilty, so ashamed.” “Now I want to blame someone else for all that made me feel so bad.”

Finding a solution to the problem 
The chance of choosing a wise solution is slim if we are running a strong commentary or are affected by strong emotions.

SO WHAT TO DO?
1. Become aware what problems you focus on habitually
Some problems are simple. Thirsty? Glass of water. No problem. But some problems become like skin itches. We go back to them, scratch, pick at them over and over, and nothing much changes. Notice what problems you dwell on.

2. Become aware of the elements of your problem
i) Review the story 
Be as objective as possible. Contemplate the basic facts of the matter - what happened, who did what, what events unfolded.

ii) Notice the commentary
Tease out what seem to be the facts as you know them, and what are the secondary thoughts you have about those facts. You might notice how the commentary is judgemental and habitual and circular.

iii) Feel into any emotion
Maybe you have shut the emotion down. Maybe the emotion is really strong. Aim to allow yourself to feel what is going on with the emotional response to your problem. Notice too if you are running a secondary commentary with secondary emotions.

iv) Notice whether or not you get to a solution
Some  commentaries and emotions are so habitual, it is like being stuck in soft sand; no matter how hard you try, no progress is made. Some people attempt to fly right over the commentary and emotion and head straight for the solution. Notice what you are doing.

v) Make new choices
Curiously, many find once they do become aware of the story, the commentary, the emotions, the prospect of a solution and where in all this they may be stuck, that there comes a new sense of understanding and freedom.

Stuck with being solution orientated come what may? Maybe time to feel the emotion a little more.

Stuck emotionally? Maybe time to notice the commentary and how it affects you.

Stuck in the commentary, the thinking?
Maybe time to step back a little; develop more mindfulness along with the capacity to contemplate and thing things through more effectively.

WHERE HAS THIS COME FROM?
This more meditative, contemplative way of looking at problems has recently emerged for the Meditation teacher training and meditation/ contemplation retreats Ruth and I have presented recently; along with me writing a new work on contemplation. It is a work in progress.

So feedback will be really useful. What do you make of all this? If you do try this approach, how useful do you find it?

Those who were at the recent programs where we discussed and developed this, please be encouraged to share your experiences with me as the plan is to write more widely about it. It seems to have been very helpful so far…

COMMENTS  
Could be added to the Comment section below on the blog, or maybe better send to info@insighthealth.com.au.

I will reply to all comments and any questions; many thanks!

COMING SOON 
WINTER MEDITATION RETREATS AND TRAINING

June 5 – 9th Deepening Your Meditation

Our only 5 day meditation retreat, this program is all about taking time out, entering into a meditative environment and being supported to deepen your experience. Then, with this deeper experience, being able to take it with you so that your ongoing practice is more rewarding, more beneficial, more enjoyable.








July 1 -7th Mindfulness and Meditation in Daily Life

We have had many requests to present a meditation retreat in Queensland, so this is it. We are fortunate to be able to use the facilities of the Chenrezig Institute – a purpose built Retreat Centre in the hills back of the Sunshine Coast. Our retreat will focus on integrating mindfulness and meditation into daily life. I know when I first started, meditation was something I did for a few minutes (or hours) every day; but at first, I then went back to my day as if nothing much had happened.

The real benefit of these practices is in how they inform our daily life, so this retreat will be very practical. We will practice mindfulness and meditation together formally, and then use the rest of our time to bring the qualities of the practice into our daily experience – in a way that we can take them home and maintain them. My sense is that for many this could well be life changing.

October 9 – 13th Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2

This is a repeat of the earlier program. These training have been booking out, and like all our retreats, it is wise to register early.


03 April 2017

Are-the-sugars-in-fruit-dangerous?

Like your fruit? Well, fruit sugars are getting really bad press in some circles. Many are confused. Some health practitioners advise their clients to avoid fruit, even carbohydrates, because they are of the opinion they act just like ordinary sugar and have all the same bad health consequences.

So what is the fact of the matter? This week we find out what science has to say and how it relates to the recommendations I have been making for decades, but first





         Thought for the day

    Men occasionally stumble over the truth, 
    But most of them pick themselves up 
    And hurry off as if nothing ever happened.

                      Winston Churchill









What happens if we were to drink a white sugar based drink like Lemonade or Coke? (a can of either can have around 7 teaspoons of sugar in it!!!). Fact is we know we would get a big spike in blood sugar within the first hour; what we call hyper-glycaemia. This in turn would cause an immediate insulin release; a big one.

Insulin’s job, amongst other things is to regulate blood sugar, so quite quickly it does flatten that blood sugar spike. However, and here is the nub of the problem, whereas blood sugar is metabolized fast, insulin is long acting. So what happens after a sugar hit is as the insulin continues to drop our blood sugar levels, there is no new sugar being ingested, so blood sugar levels continue to drop, soon going below normal and we end up with what we call hypo-glycaemia.

But it does not stop there. Because our blood sugar levels are now below normal, the body thinks we are starving and releases first glycogen and later when the glycogen is used up, fat into our system. To be more explicit, good research now suggests excess sugar promotes the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes (T2DM) both directly and indirectly. The direct pathway involves the unregulated hepatic uptake and metabolism of fructose, leading to liver lipid accumulation, dyslipidemia, decreased insulin sensitivity and increased uric acid levels.

These facts are why the fructose in ordinary sugar and high fructose corn syrup has been compared to alcohol in its potential for harm.

So what then about the source of natural fructose, fruit?

Recent research has supplied the answer, and the rationale. While this is the type of confusion we aim to clarify for people coming to our cancer residential programs (next one is coming soon - April 24-28), it is good to set it out clearly here.

The effects of two diets were compared; one based on added sources of fructose only, the other added sources plus fruit. Total fructose levels were restricted in both diets and the effects compared. The diet that included the fruit did significantly better.

People who only had added sugar, as in sugar from corn syrup and the like, did badly; those who included fruit did well. The added sugar diet, not the one with fruit in it was associated with poor liver function, high blood pressure and hypertension. Those with fruit in their diets lost weight, those without it, did not.

Where it seems confusion arises is that some think sugar from concentrated sources acts in the body the same way as sugars in more natural, more complex forms such as in fruit. So some consider that if we eat watermelon we would get the same blood sugar spike with the same unhelpful consequences as a sugar drink. Right? Wrong!



This is the key point. 


The sugar in fruit behaves differently in the body when compared to concentrated sugars like the white sugar and corn syrup that is added to so many “foods” these days.




When tested, even if we add fruit to straight sugar, there is no spike, no hypo-glycaemia and no surge of glycogen or fat released into our blood streams. The blood sugar levels simply go up and down in a way that is perfectly reasonable for our bodies.

Why does this happen? Why is fruit different to ordinary sugar? Why is fruit OK?
Maybe it is to do with the consistency of the fruit, which may decrease the rate of stomach emptying compared with just swallowing a sugary drink. Instead of a sugar spike, we get a slower, more steady release of sugar into our blood streams.

Also, the soluble fiber in fruit has a gelling effect in our intestines that slows the release of sugars. So researchers tested to see if the difference was caused by just the fiber. They experimented with berry juice that had all the sugar but none of the fiber. A clear difference was observed early in blood sugar insulin levels. After 15 minutes, the blood sugar spike was significantly reduced by the berry meals, but not by the juices, however, the rest of the beneficial responses were almost the same between the juice and the whole fruit, suggesting that fiber may just be part of it.

Another fact is there are phytonutrients in fruit that inhibit the transportation of sugars through the intestinal wall into our blood stream; again, off-setting any spike. Phytonutrients in foods like apples and strawberries actually block some of the uptake of sugars.

Also, consider this. We know eating white bread produces a big insulin spike within two hours. However, add some berries and although we have added more sugar in total, the effect of the berries is to blunt the spike. Like pancakes? Eat blueberry pancakes!

The take home messages? 
Just the same as what we have consistently recommended since starting our work in 1981!

Sugar spikes are a real problem. Slowly released sugars are not so significant.

The occasional small amount of white sugar is no big deal unless you are being diligent in response to major illness like cancer when it is best to avoid it altogether. Remember, when you are well, it is what you eat mostly that is important. So aim to avoid sugar at home, but if out, no need to be too paranoid; just be careful and make smart choices.

Fruit sugars are OK. (Best eat fruits with their peels or skins if they are edible.) Two to three pieces of fruit per day are recommended; more if it suits you.

Refined carbohydrates are not OK (as in white bread).

Complex carbohydrates are OK (as in good quality wholemeal bread).

WANT MORE DETAILS? Read You Can Conquer Cancer - has many details like this re food...

Enjoy your fruit. Enjoy your complex carbohydrates.


REFERENCES
Madero M et al. The effect of two energy-restricted diets, a low-fructose diet versus a moderate natural fructose diet, on weight loss and metabolic syndrome parameters: a randomized controlled trial. Metabolism. 2011 Nov;60(11):1551-9. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2011.04.001. Epub 2011 May 31.

Petta S et al. Industrial, not fruit fructose intake is associated with the severity of liver fibrosis in genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C patients. J Hepatol. 2013 Dec;59(6):1169-76. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2013.07.037. Epub 2013 Aug 6.

Johnson RJ et al. Sugar, uric acid, and the etiology of diabetes and obesity. , Diabetes. 2013 Oct;62(10):3307-15. doi: 10.2337/db12-1814.

Stanhope KL. Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: The state of the controversy. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2016;53(1):52-67. doi: 10.3109/10408363.2015.1084990. Epub 2015 Sep 17.


NEXT CANCER RESIDENTIAL PROGRAM

April 24 – 28th Cancer and Beyond   -    COMING SOON in the Yarra Valley

For many people these days, living with cancer is an ongoing reality. So how to do that? How to live fully and well in the potential shadow of a major illness?

It seems to me to be virtually essential to regularly take time out, to stand back, to re-assess, to keep on track, to get back on track when necessary, to clarify the confusion that is so easy to get into with all that is in the Press and on the net, and to perhaps most importantly, to be re-inspired and re- enthused for the journey ahead. FULL DETAILS Click here




27 March 2017

Are-supplement-fillers-dangerous?

Many supplements contain saturated fat as a hidden filler. What a tough, crazy world we live in. One could imagine the makers of vitamin and mineral supplements would be keen to create completely healthy and especially safe products. Yet it seems most have included, or is that disguised, a common source of saturated fat in their products.

So this week, what to look out for and what are the options, along with mention of coming retreats, but first

      Thought for the day

Civility is beauty of behaviour. 

It requires for its perfection 
Patience, self-control, and an environment of leisure. 

For genuine courtesy is a creation, 
Like pictures, like music. 

It is a harmonious blending 
Of voice, gesture and movement, words and action, 
In which generosity of conduct is expressed. 

It reveals the man himself and has no ulterior purpose. 
                          Rabindranath Tagore



Stearic Acid. Maybe you do not know much about it, but read your supplement labels and you are highly likely to find it listed amongst the ingredients. Having looked reasonably widely, I can report there is very little in the literature about this, very little in the Press, yet put simply, stearic acid is simply beef fat.

Stearic acid is one of the most common saturated fatty acids found in nature following palmitic acid. Its name comes from the Greek word “stear” that means tallow and while its most common source is indeed beef fat, another source is palm oil and we know how hard that is on the environment as well as being another saturated fat.

Stearic acid is widely used in the production of detergents, soaps, cosmetics, shampoo and shaving cream.

It is also used with sugar and corn syrup to harden sweets (again – check labels).

However, stearic acid, particularly in the form of its magnesium salt, is also used widely to stop things sticking together.

This is important when making supplements as there is a need to have an easy flow and to prevent the various ingredients from sticking to equipment during mixing and compression.

So stearates make manufacturing faster, easier, and cheaper.

So apart from cost, there is no benefit to you.

In fact, the opposite may well be true. Take magnesium stearate as an example. It is not a source of effective dietary magnesium and has no known benefits, but is used in many supplements and is a saturated fat; the problems with which you will be well acquainted. Also, magnesium stearate may have a detrimental effect on your immune function as stearic acid has been linked to suppression of T cells. This filler also stimulates your gut to form a biofilm that can prevent proper absorption of nutrients from your bowel.

When I asked Prof George Jelinek what he does about this, he had this to say

These fillers are one of the many reasons I don't recommend supplements apart from vitamin D and flaxseed oil. The vitamin D I take is chosen for this reason, as it only contains vitamin D and cold pressed olive oil. It is HealthOrigins Vitamin D3 10,000IU. Just about all capsules with powder in them have these unhelpful ingredients. 

Supplements are the ultimate in processed food in my view. It is one of the possible reasons the multivitamins and other specific supplements cause such an increase in mortality in the randomised controlled trials.

WHAT TO DO?
It comes back to this…

BUYER BEWARE

Know what to look for, read all your labels and make good choices.

When it comes to food, as much as possible, start with raw, organic ingredients so you know what you are getting. Supplements will never make up for poor quality food; eat well and be well!

NEWS
This week, Ruth and I will be teaching a keen bunch of meditation teachers how to present programs on contemplation and guided imagery - wonderful work. Then on 7th April, our annual pre- Easter meditation retreat commences and this year the theme is contemplation; so a delightful opportunity to once again delve into one of the most important life skills - contemplation.









April 7 – 13th     Meditation in the Forest

There is not so much written on contemplation, and very few retreats on this specific topic, yet in my experience it is one of the most useful and profound elements to add to our practice. Ruth and I love presenting this retreat, and we love observing the benefits it brings to those who attend.


NEXT CANCER RESIDENTIAL PROGRAM

April 24 – 28th Cancer and Beyond

For many people these days, living with cancer is an ongoing reality. So how to do that? How to live fully and well in the potential shadow of a major illness?

It seems to me to be virtually essential to regularly take time out, to stand back, to re-assess, to keep on track, to get back on track when necessary, to clarify the confusion that is so easy to get into with all that is in the Press and on the net, and to perhaps most importantly, to be re-inspired and re- enthused for the journey ahead.

FULL DETAILS Click here



13 March 2017

The-latest-on-soy-and-breast-cancer

Soy rivals coconut oil as the most confusing and contentious food item amongst people I meet with. For prevention and recovery, naturopaths and doctors alike have conflicting views and often express them with some passion.

Previous blogs (see references below) have catalogued the science and shared the clinical experiences that inform my own opinions, yet still the questions seem to linger. New research has emerged to throw fresh light on what has been a long and often emotional debate, so this week, some more clarity, but first




               Thought for the day

     When one door closes another door opens; 
     But we so often look so long 
     And so regretfully upon the closed door, 
     That we do not see the ones which open for us. 

                              Alexander Graham Bell




Soy and breast cancer prevention

The evidence here is pretty clear and consistent.

One good example is the 2008 study that found women averaging one cup of soymilk or about one-half cup of tofu daily have about 30% less risk of developing breast cancer, compared with women who have little or no soy products in their diets.

Reference : Wu AH, Yu MC, Tseng CC, Pike MC. Epidemiology of soy exposures and breast cancer risk. Br J Cancer. 2008;98:9-14.


However, even more compelling was the major review published By Messina and colleagues. I consider this to be one of the very the best review articles on this topic and well worth reading if you want more detail, even though it as written before research was published that examined the link between soy consumption and breast cancer outcomes (that comes next).

To quote:
The conclusion drawn from this extensive review of the available literature is that currently there is little evidence to suggest that any potential weak estrogenic effects of dietary isoflavones have a clinically relevant impact on breast tissue in healthy women. Limited data suggest this is also the case for breast cancer survivors.


This evidence includes multiple trials showing no effects on breast proliferation or mammographic density and considerable epidemiologic data showing either no effect or a modest protective role of soy/isoflavone intake on breast cancer risk.


Based on this evidence it seems unlikely that isoflavone consumption at dietary levels (i.e. <100 mg/day) elicits adverse breast cancer-promoting effects in healthy women or breast cancer survivors not undergoing active treatment.

Reference : Messina MJ and Wood CE; Nutrition Journal 2008.

The importance of an early habit

However, there is good evidence to suggest that to be fully effective in regards to prevention, the soy consumption may have to occur early in life - as breast tissue is forming during adolescence. It seems for adolescent girls, eating soy products may be very helpful.

Reference 1 : Korde LA, Wu AH, Fears T, et al. Childhood soy intake and breast cancer risk in Asian American women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009;18:1050-1059.
4.

Reference 2 : Shu XO, Jin F, Dai Q, et al. Soyfood intake during adolescence and subsequent risk of breast cancer among Chinese women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2001;10:483-488.

Soy and breast cancer treatment
If something reduces your risk of a cancer recurrence by 25%, that sounds like a treatment to me. In my view it is very clear - nutrition is therapeutic for people with cancer generally and for women with breast cancer specifically. There is a good deal of strong science to support this proposition.

Here is a good research example from the not too distant past

A 2012 analysis that combined the results of prior studies and included a total of 9,514 women from the United States and China, concluded that women who consumed the most soy products were 25% less likely to have their cancer return, compared with those who tended to avoid soy products.

Reference : Nechuta SJ, Caan BJ, Chen WY, et al. Soy food intake after diagnosis of breast cancer and survival: an in-depth analysis of combined evidence from cohort studies of US and Chinese women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96:123-132.

Now for the latest
An editorial published this month in the prestigious journal Cancer has this to say :
Recent data from Asia and North America indicate that soy foods may decrease the risk of breast cancer and improve the results of treatment in patients with breast cancer. Studying soy foods and isoflavones promises to be an exceptionally fertile area for a wide range of cancer researchers.

Reference : Cancer Journal editorial
Omer Kucuk MD, Soy foods, isoflavones, and breast cancer Cancer; 6 March 2017
DOI: 10.1002/cncr.30614

The editorial introduces findings from a new, long term study that confirms that women with breast cancer who consume soy products experience improved survival rates.

This study examined 6,235 women with breast cancer and monitored their diet records and mortality rates. Women with hormone-receptor-negative tumors who consumed the highest amounts of isoflavones from soy reduced their all-cause mortality by an average of 21% over the course of 9.4 years, compared with those who consumed the least amount.

It is significant that in this study, the lower mortality associated with higher intake was limited to women who had tumors that were negative for hormone receptors – where the reduction in risk of dying was an amazing 50%; and those who did not receive hormone therapy for their breast cancer – where the reduction was 32%.

Reference
Zhang FF, et al. Dietary isoflavone intake and all-cause mortality in breast cancer survivors: the Breast Cancer Family Registry. Cancer. Published online March 6, 2017.

Why do soy products reduce cancer risk? 

Most research has focused on the phytoestrogens found in soybeans.

Some researchers have suggested that these compounds somehow block the effects of women’s natural oestrogens and I explained this hypothesis in detail in the earlier blog posts.

However, that does not appear to be the entire explanation, as diet effects may also benefit people with oestrogen-receptor-negative cancers.


RELATED BLOGS
Is soy safe? - 1

Is soy safe? – 2

NEXT CANCER RESIDENTIAL PROGRAM

April 24 – 28th Cancer and Beyond

For many people these days, living with cancer is an ongoing reality. So how to do that? How to live fully and well in the potential shadow of a major illness?

It seems to me to be virtually essential to regularly take time out, to stand back, to re-assess, to keep on track, to get back on track when necessary, to clarify the confusion that is so easy to get into with all that is in the Press and on the net, and to perhaps most importantly, to be re-inspired and re- enthused for the journey ahead.

FULL DETAILS Click here

06 March 2017

Enlightenment-bananas-and-lasting-happiness

As human beings, we all have some things in common. For example, we all want happiness. But what sort of happiness?

This week, we go Out on a Limb once more to investigate. Is it possible to experience lasting happiness and what has that got to do with enlightenment? And bananas? And what is enlightenment anyway? And is it possible or just a fantasy? But first

        Thought for the day

Profound and tranquil, free from complexity,
Uncompounded luminous clarity,
Beyond the mind of conceptual ideas;
This is the depth of the mind of the Victorious Ones.

In this there is not a thing to be removed,
Nor anything that needs to be added.
It is merely the immaculate
Looking naturally at itself.

                       Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche

Happiness or pleasure?
It seems that many of us have been misled and have come to believe pleasure is the source of happiness. By pleasure we usually mean that which makes us feel good and comfortable in the short term. A good meal, a good entertainment, a good…

But most sources of this type of pleasure tend to be transitory.

They come and go quite quickly.

Now this is not to say we cannot enjoy them while they are present.

There is no need to feel guilty getting off on temporary delights.

Just do not be confused.

Short-term pleasure is not the same thing as long-term happiness.

No doubt many have worked this much out; but then we think maybe happiness will come with a bit more complexity. A good job, a nice car, the right relationship; maybe that will do it? You only need to reflect a little to realise the bad news. All these things also come and go – they just usually take a little longer than a good meal to change and ultimately dissolve!

In seeking long-term happiness, we are seeking something constant and enduring. We will not find this outside of ourselves amidst people, things and events.

True happiness
Lasting happiness comes from our inner state of mind.

If that is what we are seeking, we need to turn our mind inwardly. By doing so we can begin to experience inner peace, inner contentment, inner happiness. As we do this, the true nature of our mind becomes more obvious. We come to realise an inner truth – our minds have two aspects. We all have an active thinking/ feeling mind that is intimately involved with our outer world, along with its pleasures and pains.

But then we all have a deeper aspect of mind that is more enduring, more stable and more constantly happy. When we come to experience something of these two aspects of our mind, this truth of the nature of our mind, we come to experience something of enlightenment.

Enlightenment then is the direct experience of a fundamental truth. The truth of who we really are. The truth of the nature of our mind.

Now to dispel some myths
Enlightenment for many looms as some distant and mystical goal.  Something that probably could only be found in some far away exotic land, a prize to be attained after all sorts of trials and tribulations, disciplines and sacrifices.



But what if it were simpler than this?

Closer than this?

What if we all carried the seed of enlightenment within us?

All of us?

What if your potential to become enlightened was just as good as anyone else’s?

What if enlightenment was less of an external struggle and more of an internal revelation?

And if this were so, how could we come to experience this inner realisation?


Maybe it is as if this inner truth of who we are is like a precious diamond within us. It is there all right, but it is covered by layers of dirt – by layers of ordinary thoughts and feelings that prevent us from seeing its real nature, its real beauty.

Why bananas?
Try to imagine you had never eaten a banana before and you became interested in the truth of what a banana tastes like. Then imagine some wonderful friend produced a banana and offered to share it with you.

Some of us might gratefully take a few bites and say

“Wow! So that’s it.

That’s what a banana tastes like!”

But many might say “Are you really sure this is a banana?

Even if this is a banana, are you sure there is not a tastier one, a bigger one, a different one, a better one?”

Our mind could so easily, so readily form concepts around the banana that we could get caught up in the thinking and miss the experience altogether. While thinking has many benefits, enlightenment is an experience, not a thinking.

How then do we experience our mind without thinking? Easy isn’t it – the answer is meditation. Meditation teaches us how to go beyond the thinking mind and to experience the nature of our mind.

But again, all too easily, as our meditation matures and we do begin to experience glimpses of this inner truth, the analytical mind can still come in causing us to loose clarity and confidence.

The importance of the teacher
This is where a true teacher is so valuable. A true teacher offers the banana, confirms it is a banana, and after you have eaten it, tasted it, realised it; they confirm your experience.

And how does a teacher acquire the authority to do this? By being authentic. It is just like a Professor at University. How do we know they are authentic? They need to have been authentically taught by authentic teachers following authentic teachings (eg they need the right qualifications), and then they need to teach authentically according to the teachings they received.



So when it comes to ourselves, maybe we are lucky.

Maybe we meet a teacher at a time in our lives
when we are ready.

All is right - auspicious as they say; we are introduced to this inner reality, and we get it in one go.



For many of us, however, even with a good teacher, maybe it is more like eating lots of bananas. Having little tastes, little glimpses of this inner truth and building up to the point where we can say “Yep, I have tasted lots of bananas; I reckon I know bananas”.

The trick is to be patient. Determined. And to keep your sense of humour; to avoid guilt and shame, and to be OK with your state of mind and your progress.

For most of us, our lives seem to vacillate between moments of confusion and moments of clarity. Meditation eases the confusion and strengthens the clarity. Meditation can lead to the dawning of wisdom, the experience of enlightenment.

So why wait? Maybe this is the year to really go for it. To meditate regularly. To seek a teacher. To actually follow their advice. To take your own enlightenment seriously.

Happy meditating!

MEDITATION RETREATS FOR 2017 with Ian and Ruth

March 27 – 31st  Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2 
Ruth and I regularly train people aspiring to be meditation teachers, or who are already and are seeking to extend their skills. This program is allied to Module 1, presented by Paul and Maia Bedson who teach on Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation. We teach Contemplation and Guided Imagery.

April 7 – 13th Meditation in the Forest


This is our annual Pre-Easter 7 day retreat at the Yarra Valley Living Centre. Each year we learn a little more about relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, and we practice together. Then each year there is a specific theme; this year it is contemplation. There is not so much written on contemplation, and very few retreats on this specific topic, yet in my experience it is one of the most useful and profound elements to add to our practice. Ruth and I love presenting this retreat, and we love observing the benefits it brings to those who attend.

June 5 – 9th Deepening Your Meditation
Our only 5 day meditation retreat, this program is all about taking time out, entering into a meditative environment and being supported to deepen your experience. Then, with this deeper experience, being able to take it with you so that your ongoing practice is more rewarding, more beneficial, more enjoyable.



July 1 -7th Mindfulness and Meditation in Daily Life
We have had many requests to present a meditation retreat in Queensland, so this is it. We are fortunate to be able to use the facilities of the Chenrezig Centre – a Buddhist Retreat Centre in the hills back of the Sunshine Coast. Our retreat will focus on integrating mindfulness and meditation into daily life. I know when I first started, meditation was something I did for a few minutes (or hours) every day; but at first, I then went back to my day as if nothing much had happened, The real benefit of these things is in how they inform our daily life, so this retreat will be very Practical. We will practice mindfulness and meditation together formally, and then use the rest of our time to bring the qualities of the practice into our daily experience – in a way that we can take them home and maintain them. My sense is that for many this could well be life changing.

October 9 – 13th Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2
This is a repeat of the earlier program. These training have been booking out, and like all our retreats, it is wise to register early.

October 21 – 27th Meditation Under the Long White Cloud
The annual New Zealand retreat at the wonderful Mana Centre on the Coromandel Peninsula (see the view from Mana below), this year the focus is on using Guided Imagery techniques to combine head and heart. We hear so much these days about training the mind. Very useful, but a mind with no heart is cold and empty. Guided Imagery provides the techniques in meditation that bring the mind and heart together – a wonderful new dimension to the practice and to life.