22 December 2014

Christmas - a miracle and some reflection

One good definition for a miracle is an event for which there is no logical explanation. So this week, recounting a rather remarkable Christmas miracle, and then a short reflection on meaning, and the highs and lows of Christmas, but first



           

     Thought for the day

            What a lover’s heart knows 
            Let no man’s brain dispute

                           Aberjani 







For many years I have always had a live Christmas tree. When my children were growing up, we had a new one each year and then planted it out. So on our old farm there is the Christmas tree avenue, made up of all the different pine trees, cedars and like minded trees.

In more recent times, we have grown the Christmas tree in a pot until it really is large enough to demand planting. So where Ruth and I live currently, there are only two ex-Christmas trees in the ground.

A couple of years ago our oldest grandchild was getting to the age of questioning Santa. Fancy that! Anyway, it was a hot year and a good deal of tree watering was required. Having checked the trees on Christmas Eve, I went out to water them on Boxing Day.



Imagine this.


Under one of the ex-Christmas tree were two deer horns!

Each about 4 – 5” long, or 10 – 15 cms in the new money.

They looked for all the world like baby reindeer horns and here they are:



Now you may think I am dreaming, but never having seen such things in our area, or even heard of anyone else finding them, what are the chances? They turned up Christmas Eve or night, under the Christmas tree and they are real deer horns.

Moral of the story? The grandchild believed in Santa for a couple more years!

Then there is Christmas itself. If we take the birth of Christ metaphorically, the principle of Christ represents pure love, so the birth of Christ represents the birth of pure love.

One way of regarding Christmas therefore, is to remind ourselves of our own aspirations to be more loving. Now there is something worth celebrating! Of course pure love is the same as unconditional love and that is quite an achievement – to say the least.

For most of us mere mortals, love is more likely to have some element of a deal involved. I will love you if you love me back. I will not love you unless you are nice to me. I will love you if you look after me, pay the bills, help me bring up the children, make me feel good, share sex with me ….. and on and on.

Unconditional love says I will love you. Full stop. No deals. No qualifications.

I will love you.

Full stop.

Aspiring to unconditional love is helped by being aware of the two aspects of the mind - the active, thinking mind and the deeper stillness of mind. The thinking mind has many wonderful attributes, but also the capacity to scheme, to be highly conditional and to bring overt and covert deals into ostensibly loving relationships.

The still mind is beyond all that. Intrinsically pure; of its very nature it is unconditional. So the more we connect with the stillness of our mind, (made possible through meditation of course), the more we have the capacity to be unconditional.

Now unconditional does not mean being a doormat or being taken advantage of. And this is where for many the challenges of Christmas arise. The fact is that for many, Christmas raises conflicting emotions. Loneliness. Too many people gathering. Old family wounds can be rekindled. Real joy being experienced. The full range of emotions and experiences.

So Christmas…..

A good time to be kind to our self and to those around us. Maybe it is a good time to take some time quietly for our self, to reflect on the nature of love, what it means to us, how we have experienced it in our own life, and even how it may be possible to be more unconditional in our own way of loving.

Maybe something of all this could form part of an aspiration for a bright new year.

From Ruth and myself then - Happy Christmas, enjoy some regenerative time amidst the spirit of Christmas, and may 2015 be filled with good health, happiness and peace.

NOTICEBOARD
Meditation in the Forest        March 27th to April 2nd  2015

During this, our first meditation retreat for 2015, we will be focusing upon the deeper stillness of meditation. We will explore the theory, but moreso, the actual practices that help us to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind into a more direct and profound experience of the still mind.



Deep, natural peace. A calm and clear mind. So many possibilities follow…..

FULL DETAILS Click here 

17 December 2014

Pearls of Wisdom – 2

Many thanks to all those who have supported this recent new venture, the Pearls, and a reminder that if you are thinking of a last minute, elegant, meaningful Christmas present, it will be wise to order by this Friday 19th to give a reasonable (but to be fair, not guaranteed) delivery before Christmas.


Also, thanks for the patience some of you needed as there was a problem on the webstore for about 24hours a few days ago. All has been put right and everything is working well again.



Thought for the day

Christmas, my child, 
Is love in action. 
Every time we love, 
Every time we give, 
It is Christmas.

Dale Rogers 
(wife of Roy Rogers)


Pearls of Wisdom. There are three of them. Here are their details once more.
Each Pearl is a compact MP3 player that comes in an elegant silk lined box, complete with headphones and USB cable for universal re-charging.


Each Pearl is designed to provide a highly transportable, sophisticated and effective way to be guided into key relaxation, mindfulness and meditation exercises. They are a bit like a portable CD player. You simply connect the ear phones, turn on the device, and away you go…

The Calm Pearl is designed to help relieve stress, tension and anxiety. It comes with 2 key exercises in sequence - the Rapid Relaxation exercise flowing into the deeper tranquility and stillness of meditation, plus some quiet time.

The Pain Relief Pearl has a continuous exercise that flows on for over an hour and incorporates relaxation, mindfulness, meditation and imagery. My sense is that many people will find this one useful as a regular practice whether they have pain or not, however, experience tells us that many do find this sequence remarkably effective for pain relief.

The Sleep Pearl is specifically designed for relaxation of body and mind. Simply focusing on the Progressive Muscle Relaxation, the Sleep Pearl is accompanied by relaxing, soothing music provided by world class musicians (including Ruth’s brother David Berlin who is the Principal cello at the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra). This Pearl is ideally suited for listening in bed, while experience again tells us that regular use during the day leads to significantly better sleep patterns – getting to sleep more quickly, sleeping deeper, returning to sleep throughout the night more easily if needed.

So, we hope you like them! Hope they may be a present you can give with real delight! The Pearls have grown out of the work I have been doing with Mindbody Mastery, and as another exciting prospect, that on-line meditation program will be available via a radically innovative app in the New Year (we are calling it the One Meditation Network App).

Here then is the link to the Pearls once more: CLICK HERE

May the true spirit of Christmas – unconditional love – touch your heart and all those you love.

With all our best wishes

Be well

Ian and Ruth




12 December 2014

Pearls of Wisdom

Wouldn’t it be nice to give an elegant and meaningful present? We have an innovative suggestion for you. A present that you could give at Christmas or on any special occasion, that might change the life of someone you care about for the better. Or you could even give yourself a treat…

Pearls of Wisdom

Well, here we are nearly to Christmas, and speaking personally, I love the focus it brings to catching up with friends, rounding off the cycle of the calendar year and getting together with family to share life and exchange presents.

I also love going to the Boxing Day test (one of the ritual joys of living near Melbourne) and having some real free time to reflect, regenerate and plan over the New Year period.

But then there is the waste. Packaging to throw out, and often those not-so-useful presents to confine to some back room cupboard or the bin! Actually, my family does a pretty good job in the gifts department, but we all know the problem.

So here is the new possibility…

Pearls of Wisdom



But first,

          Thought for the day


                 Find out who you are
                And do it on purpose

                               Dolly Parton




                       Pearls of Wisdom



As far as we know, there is nothing else

like this available at present.

There are three of them.

Each Pearl is a compact MP3 player
that comes in an elegant silk lined box,
complete with headphones and USB cable
for universal re-charging.







Each Pearl is designed to provide a highly transportable, sophisticated and effective way to be guided into key relaxation, mindfulness and meditation exercises.

They are a bit like a portable CD player.

You simply connect the ear phones, turn on the device, and away you go…







The Calm Pearl is designed to help relieve stress, tension and anxiety.

It comes with 2 key exercises in sequence
- the Rapid Relaxation exercise
flowing into the deeper tranquility
and stillness of meditation,
plus some quiet time.





The Pain Relief Pearl has a continuous exercise that flows on for over an hour and incorporates relaxation, mindfulness, meditation and imagery. My sense is that many people will find this one useful as a regular practice whether they have pain or not, however, experience tells us that many do find this sequence remarkably effective for pain relief.


The Sleep Pearl is specifically designed for relaxation of body and mind. Simply focusing on the Progressive Muscle Relaxation, the Sleep Pearl is accompanied by meditative, soothing music provided by world class musicians (including Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's Principal cello - Ruth’s brother David Berlin).

This Pearl is ideally suited for listening in bed, while experience again tells us that regular use during the day leads to significantly better sleep patterns – getting to sleep more quickly, sleeping deeper, returning to sleep throughout the night more easily if needed.

There is a useful discount if you purchase all 3, and all 3 come free of postage and packaging - a handy saving!

So, we hope you like them! Hope they may be a present you can give with real delight!

Please do share this post with your friends and family.

The Pearls have grown out of the work I have been doing with Mindbody Mastery, and as another exciting prospect, that on-line meditation program will be available via a radically innovative app in the New Year (we are calling it the One Meditation Network App).

Here then is the link to the Pearls once more: CLICK HERE

May the true spirit of Christmas – unconditional love – touch your heart and all those you love. 

With all our best wishes

Be well

Ian and Ruth






01 December 2014

Communal Grief - what the death of Phillip Hughes tells us

The recent death of the talented Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes has triggered a remarkable wave of communal grief. How do we make sense of the scale of this outpouring of emotion, when many of us will have been touched by deaths in other sports or arenas of life that went by with far less public response?

What too of the personal griefs all of us have known? Those losses that have touched us deeply, affected our families and friends profoundly and been acknowledged by our own smaller and more local communities?

This week then, let us look more deeply at why some deaths stand out in the collective consciousness, and trigger a huge wave of communal grief as has happened in response to the very real, very tragic, very untimely death of Phillip Hughes, but first



      Thought for the day

   This body is not me; 
   I am not caught in this body, 
   I am life without boundaries, 
   I have never been born and I have never died. 

        Thích Nhất Hạnh - "No Death, No Fear"




In these days of mass media, even if we are fortunate enough to have no personal losses to grieve at present, almost daily we are exposed to death. War, murder, suicide, accident. The death of celebrities, people we somewhat knew, people we knew more intimately. It is clear that while life is Oh so precious, it is Oh so fragile.

So as we are regularly exposed to this ever present presence of death, my sense is that we almost mourn in passing. Life has to go on. On one level, we acknowledge these deaths as they come to visit us during the normal course of modern daily life. But there is no funeral; no effective forum to express our grief. We feel something of a pang, swallow deeply, and then we carry on.

There is the real possibility we can be left with what could be called “residual grief”. That deeper level of angst that comes from the accumulated losses and its attendant sadness; along with the constant covert reminder that all people die some day, that we too will die some day …..

Residual grief.

So then, from time to time, it is almost as if some archetypal figure dies. Some figure is lost to us, often in tragic or unexpected circumstances; some figure that represented a collective dream. And this death triggers an outpouring of that stored up, communal grief.

We saw this so noticeably with the death of the archetypal Princess, Lady Diana. The death of that archetypal Aussie/Irish hero, Jim Stynes. We will face it next year with the centenary of the Anzac tradition.

And now what is it? The death of young hope and exuberance? Phillip Hughes.

Grief comes in many forms. Often the way emotions can swing so widely, even wildly, can be perplexing for people experiencing the loss of someone they loved. Often people report how when they focus on the more spiritual spectrum of human experience, death can be almost exhilarating; but then how in the next moment, by giving attention to the personal losses and changes brought on by death, there comes profound sadness, even moments of despair.

Therefore it may well be wise to reflect on death when it is not so close to us.

Geraldine Doogue asked me during the filming of the ABC Compass program A Good Life whether doing just that, reflecting on death, was of itself depressing and contrary to the notion of a good life?

My response was based on personal experience and observations made while working with many people who were facing their own mortality or the loss of those they loved.

What this experience tells, is that one of the best ways to have a good life, is to make friends with death!

Weird?

Maybe at first thought, but actually, reconciling ourselves to death, being prepared for death, leaves us free of that fear, free of that angst, free to focus on living each day fully, free to experience a good life.

As a prompt to this reflection, poetry can be very useful.

Here then are two poems that touch on different ways of responding to death – one of defiance, one of welcome.

Maybe these poems, this post, could serve as a catalyst for your own reflection; maybe for a meaningful conversation? Maybe you have a comment or a poem of your own to share in the Comment section below?

Liz Maluschnig is a nurse from New Zealand who worked for many years in oncology before doing extensive training as a psychotherapist. We are fortunate to have Liz as one of the people who works with Ruth and myself during the cancer programs we present in New Zealand.

Liz has many years experience working with adults and children with cancer and is the author of 4 books. Liz writes and reads poetry frequently, and she wrote this poem based on her experience of working with many women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Death Visits 

Death brazenly knocked on my door,
Barging inside 
She said:
“You’re coming with me” 

I recoiled. Froze.
“B -but I’m not ready” 
“There’s so much to do,
My husband…., My children…., I can’t…….

Stunned. Silenced.
I Slowly defrosted my mind’s freeze 
From the icy grip 
Of her arctic breath. 

I welcomed my fear,  
Cradling it with hope
Converting it to courage. 
I challenged her….

Drawing myself up to my full height
I breathed deeply - into the very marrow of my bones
And defied her.
I looked her in the face and defied her….

Then pushed her outside and slammed the door shut!
I left her empty handed, outside in the cold,
Her chilling invitation declined.
There was no welcome in my heart for her today.

Well….
She could have one breast I conceded …..
If she really wanted to take something….. 
But no more than that! 

I knew I needed to get serious now
I researched, 
I prayed, 
I asked for help.

I walked
I drank a million organic veggie juices, 
I flooded my body with nutritious food, 
I learnt to say “No”.

I kissed my inner child 
…. all better.  
I forgave, 
I followed my heart.

I said Yes! to Chemo.
I said Yes! to Life, 
I said Yes! 
… to Me.

Boldly opening the door I shouted 
“And I’ll visit you when I’m good and ready”   
And watched as she bolted down the path,
Her tail between her legs.


Liz Maluschnig
2014

Speaking personally, it may well be that in the moment of death all of our most profound questions about life and death are actually answered. Maybe we really do get to find out what the answers are.

So maybe, just maybe, the moment of death could be a moment of delight, filled with mystery and magic? Personally, I look forward to it.

Here then is what occurred to me:

The Clear Moment of Death

The moment of death may be the greatest moment of your life
It may be better than the best chocolate sundae you ever had
It may be better than the best orgasm you ever had
It may be better than the dearest, happiest moment you hold in your memory

For in that moment of death
The spirit separates from the body
And in that moment
It is free – totally free

If you can grasp that clear moment of death
Recognise it for what it is and experience it fully
Then you will experience fully who you really are
And unite with the mystery and essence of life itself

The only thing that scares me about the moment of death
Is that I may come to it unprepared

To be prepared for the moment of death
I would need to feel that I had lived fully
Loving and learning as much as I could during this lifetime
And feeling free of regrets

To be prepared
I would need to feel that those around me would be alright
That I could let go of my worldly attachments
And that they could release me

To be prepared
I would need to be free of fear
And to have had some glimpse of my own true nature – 
Perhaps through the introduction of meditation

Being prepared for that clear moment of death
Then it may well be
That I would be able to recognise what I have been searching for always – 
The heart and essence of who I really am.

 Ian Gawler


RELATED BLOG
A big mystery addressed

RESOURCES
BOOK
For a thorough review of many aspects to do with understanding death and helping the dying, read that chapter in You Can Conquer Cancer

CD or Download
Understanding Death, Helping the Dying – a very useful catalyst for personal reflection, or as a catalyst to listen to with family or friends, even colleagues and then discuss.

24 November 2014

Is milk OK? No whey!

In 1962, there was only one household in all of Adelaide that had commercial size quantities of Peters ice-cream delivered to its door. My father had personally appealed to the company’s CEO for help, citing his son’s capacity to eat vast amounts of ice-cream daily.

So why, 50 years later, do I now recommend avoiding dairy products? Certainly it has nothing to do with taste or old habits; in fact, they took a bit of getting over. So this week, lets go way Out on a Limb once more and examine another of the sacred cows of modern nutrition (OK not a great pun, but as an ex veterinarian, I love bringing animals into the conversation), and then make mention of a great option for New Year’s Eve, but first




   Thought for the day

      Four out of five cows agree
      Soy milk is best

             Based on a straw poll









Over the previous 30 years, based on the research as well as the clinical experience of working with literally thousands of people adding or subtracting dairy products from their diets, I have become increasingly convinced that the best approach is to minimise or avoid dairy on the Wellness Diet and leave it out altogether from the Healing Diet.

Why? 
1. Saturated fat
Cow’s milk contains a large amount of saturated fat. This can be minimised in low fat milk, but many cheeses actually concentrate the fats and butter is usually around 50% saturated fat.

2. Biochemistry and a confused immune system 
The protein in human milk is a short chain protein. This means it is a small molecule. By contrast cow’s milk is a long chain, large and angular molecular protein.

When a young child is introduced to cow’s milk early in life, the contrast with human milk is stark. The child’s developing immune system may become confused. Is this large molecule a food that needs to be digested, or an invader that must be attacked?

It seems many youngsters do mount a low level immune reaction to milk; a reaction that may cause immediate problems. For example, children who suffer from recurrent inflammation of the ear (along with attendant infections) or tonsillitis, often clear up when strictly taken off all dairy products.

However, often, even worse, the result is chronic, low level, generalised inflammation – meta-inflammation – that can last throughout childhood and into adult life. Meta-inflammation is a known pre-cursor to chronic degenerative disease. This is a major issue as we see the sad but rapid rise in chronic degenerative diseases in young adults and more recently, even in children.

Meta-inflammation is also a potentiator of cancer (that is, it speeds cancer growth), hence another major reason why people keen to recover from cancer are recommended to avoid dairy products.

Also, be aware that during times of extra stress - through environmental pressures, unsuitable food, disease, emotional or mental stress - meta-inflammation may flare, making inflammation more acute.

Options

What about goat or sheep’s milk? These milk varieties have smaller chain proteins so that issue is lessened. Many children with full-blown allergies to cow’s milk can manage goat’s milk.

However, these sources of milk are high in fat and naturally homogenised. That means that the fat is suspended in the liquid of the milk, does not naturally settle out and is not so easy to separate. Therefore, goat and sheep’s milk tends to be high in saturated fat with all the issues that relates to. They too are best avoided or minimised.

3. The science
There is a growing body of evidence pointing to better health outcomes when dairy is left off the menu. Here are a couple of important recent papers:

No dairy, less lung, breast, and ovarian cancers
Removing dairy products from your diet may lower your risk of certain cancers, according to a study in the British Journal of Cancer. Researchers followed 22,788 lactose intolerant participants from Sweden. They also monitored cancer rates of their immediate family members. The incidence rates for lung, breast, and ovarian cancers decreased among the lactose intolerant - those who avoided dairy products.

Family members and the general Swedish population who included dairy in their diet did not experience the same reduction in cancer risk. Researchers suspect the avoidance of high amounts of saturated fat and hormones found in dairy products may account for the decreased risk.

Ji J,et al. Lactose intolerance and risk of lung, breast and ovarian cancers: Aetiological clues from a population-based study in Sweden. Br J Cancer. Published online October 14, 2014.

Drinking Milk Associated with Fractures and Death
High cow’s milk intake is associated with increased risk for bone fractures and death, according to a new study in the British Medical Journal. Researchers followed 61,433 women and 45,339 men for more than 20 years and 11 years, respectively.



Among women, those who consumed three or more glasses of milk per day had a 60 percent increased risk for developing a hip fracture and a 16 percent increased risk for developing any bone fracture. These results are similar to previous studies showing no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk.

Additionally among women, for each glass of milk consumed, risk of dying from all causes increased by 15 percent, from heart disease by 15 percent, and from cancer by 7 percent. For the women who consumed three or more glasses of milk per day, compared with less than one glass, risk of dying increased by 93 percent. Men had a 10 percent increased risk of dying when consuming three or more glasses of milk per day, compared with less than one glass.



Michaëlsson  K, et al. Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies. BMJ. 2014;349:g6015.

A Vegan Diet Proves Most Effective for Weight Loss
A vegan diet leads to the most weight loss, compared with other dietary patterns, according to a new study in the journal Nutrition. Sixty-three overweight adult study participants were assigned to one of five different dietary patterns for a six-month period: omnivorous, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, and vegan.

At the end of the study, the vegan group lost, on average, more than twice the percentage of body weight (7.5 percent), compared with omnivores (3.1 percent), semi-vegetarians (3.2 percent), and pesco-vegetarians (3.2 percent). The lacto-ovo vegetarian group lost an average of 6.3 percentage points.

The vegan group also had the greatest reductions in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol and greatest increase in dietary fiber intake—all protective against chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Turner-McGrievy GM,et al. Comparative effectiveness of plant-based diets for weight loss: A randomized controlled trial of five different diets. Nutrition. 2014. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.09.002.

4. Environmental issues
Cows produce large amounts of methane and require large tracts of cleared land. Soy products are way more environmentally friendly.

5. Animal care
Long gone are the days of the much loved house cow. A few do still exist, and of course, many modern dairy farmers dearly love their animals and care for them well, but this is amidst a large herd environment where the pressures of cost efficiency lead to modern practices that I find very difficult to justify.

CONCLUSION
Eat and drink soy products or other dairy alternatives.

Save the cow the trouble and enjoy better health for you, your family and the planet.

RELATED BLOG
Is soy safe?

Is soy safe? - Part 2

NOTICEBOARD
Meditation in the Forest  

Pre- Easter 7 day residential meditation retreat, March 27th to April 2nd  2015




During this, our first meditation retreat for 2015, Ruth and I will be focusing upon the deeper stillness of meditation. We will explore the theory, but moreso, the actual practices that help us to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind into a more direct and profound experience of the still mind.

Deep, natural peace. A calm and clear mind. So many possibilities follow…..

Full details, CLICK HERE

New Year's Eve Chanting and Meditation 

Book early and save considerably!
   


Buy tickets now at www.trybooking.com/GCAT  

Share it on the Facebook event page

Read more at www.jarekc.com/new-years-eve/

Start the new year with inner peace. Sing universal chants, meditate, dance, relax, share vegetarian supper snacks with friends, drink chai, and enjoy the charm of the air-conditioned venue, and the garden.

At midnight immerse yourself in an active meditation of free-flowing OM chanting. No alcohol, no drugs, and all love. Discover how good you can feel!

Jarek Czechowicz (guitar, chants, meditation) performs chants and mantras that embrace you with a feeling of love, intuitive improvisations that soothe your soul, and guided meditations that fill you with a sense of inner peace and freedom.

ACCOMPANYING MUSICIANS    

Ami Hasson, percussion; Michael Arvanitakis bass and cello; Mermaid Music (voices, tambura, harmonium, harp) comprises Samantha Fernandez, Angela Hina Gates, Eilish De Avalon, and Janet Borg.

TICKETS  

www.trybooking.com/gcat/    

$65/$60 Earlybird tickets to 30 November

$75/$70 Standard tickets to 30 December

$90/$85 At the Door on 31 December