19 January 2015

Time to retreat?

Need a break? Want to review your priorities, maybe transform your life? This blog focuses on the busyness of modern life and the value of personal retreats, but first






Thought for the Day


Do you have the patience to wait

till your mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving

till the right action arises by itself?



Lao-Tzu, Tao-te-Ching 




Met an old friend recently. How are you I enquired? "Really busy thanks" came the common response, accompanied by a satisfied smile.

It seems that for many people these days being busy has become something of a badge of honour. Certainly there can be great value in being productive and useful, but what of balance? What if the busyness leaves no time for peace, no time for reflection, no time to reassess, reaffirm or redirect our priorities?

For some it seems busyness is actually a modern variation on old-fashioned laziness. These days, the more we have to do, the less we have to think! At least, the less we have time to think about what may be challenging, difficult or even just really important in our lives.

So amidst this busyness, there has never been more need to consider going on retreat. Retreats offer more than a holiday. They are best when they do combine the elements of some R and R along with time for learning, reflection, review and preferably meditation. Simple food, time to be on your own and ideally a spiritual theme or atmosphere. Time to spend time with your self. Time to get to know your self a little better. Time to reappraise priorities and to go forward in life.

So, do you need a break? Feeling stressed? Feeling like the busyness is a bit much and you have lost the plot a little? Feeling like you need to give some time to your self - to regain the balance, to refocus your priorities?

In my view, amidst this busy lifestyle so many of us seem to be caught up in, at least one retreat a year is mandatory. His year, as well as leading several, I will be going on three for myself.

Now I know it is easy to justify why we do not have the time or space to go on a retreat. We are so busy aren’t we? And how will everyone else cope? But if not now, when? If not now, maybe 20 years go by and you wake up one day wondering what was that all about?

Maybe going on retreat is not only good for us, but good for our family, our friends and our work. When we are in balance and have some inner peace and contentment, not only is our physical and psychological health sure to be better, our capacity to work and be helpful will be greatly enhanced. Maybe having the parents being away for a while is actually good for children and helps them with independence and appreciation. Now there is a radical thought.

There are a wide variety of retreats available. Many spiritually focused groups offer them, but so do more secularly aligned places. Ruth and I offer a range of meditation retreats where of course the primary focus is on meditation. We always touch on elements of what makes for a healthy lifestyle and provide time for personal development and reflection, rest and regeneration.

Also, each of our retreats has its own particular theme. This year, Meditation in the Forest will focus on the experience of the deep stillness of meditation – the essence of meditation. Meditation and the Inner Journey will provide instruction in how to access our own inner wisdom and intuition more directly, while Meditation Under the Long White Cloud will delve into the practice of contemplation.

Over the years Ruth and I have see many people transform their lives at these programs. However, while going on retreats with like-minded people is wonderful and has many benefits, some people I know simply take the phone of the hook, do not answer the door and arrange their own home retreat. Or go to a place of their own choosing and create their own retreat atmosphere and conditions.

Given it is the start of another new year, why not make a plan? Give yourself a real treat and go on a retreat! It all starts with the intention.

Ruth and I are currently attending Sogyal Rinpoche's annual retreat. Rinpoche teaches directly for 2 hrs or more each day. Then there are videos of his best recent teachings, along with time for meditation and other practices. 600 people including 120 children with their own specific program. Great company! This year's theme is "The Wisdom of Awareness". Very beneficial.

NOTICEBOARD
2015 CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Full details are on the website, click here

MEDITATION RETREATS for 2015




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 and meditation

Please note: While these retreats are designed to meet general needs, the programs are well suited to meditation teachers and health professionals seeking personal and professional development. Some health professional organisations may accept these programs for Continuing Professional Development requirements and they can be used by those applying for registration with ATMA. If you need more detail on this aspect of the retreats, please email info@insighthealth.com.au.

MEDITATION in the FOREST      
Yarra Junction    March 27th to April 2nd  2015

During this meditation retreat, 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 

MEDITATION and the INNER JOURNEY 
Yarra Junction   8th – 12th June   2015

This retreat brings together 2 powerful experiences
- the deep natural peace of meditation, and a gentle process of introspection.

FULL DETAILS Click here

MEDITATION Under The LONG WHITE CLOUD  
Meditation and Contemplation
Mana Retreat Centre, New Zealand   Saturday 24th to Friday 30th October 2015:

This meditation retreat will provide a specific focus on the practice of contemplation. You will learn techniques that reliably help you to think things through more clearly, to overcome confusion, develop clarity and certainty in decision making; and more – how to access insight, intuition and inner wisdom.

Many have found learning these exercises profoundly helpful.

FULL DETAILS Click here 

GREAT OPPORTUNITY!!!

Public talk with the great Tibetan Lama, Zasep Tulku on Buddha Nature, and including Medicine Buddha mantra transmission. It is next Tuesday evening, 27th January, at Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne. 

Link to details on the Convent website



08 January 2015

The 2 most important things I have learnt

Tomorrow, the 9th of January, is a major anniversary. It will be 40 years since my leg was amputated.

Bittersweet.

So much has changed for the better over the last 40 years and speaking personally, my whole perception of life, my whole experience of life has changed for the better. But quite a price.

On reflection, the two most important things I have learnt are

1. Life is incredibly precious

2. Life is incredibly fragile

How wonderful for those who while still in good health and without having to be provoked by such a major event like mine, recognise these two facts - how precious life is and how fragile it is - and as a consequence, use their life to full advantage.

Here, from the diary entries of those days as they appeared in my biography The Dragon’s Blessing, I share the letter I wrote to my leg and something of the times.

But first


Thought for the Day

Remembering that you are going to die 

Is the best way I know 
to avoid 

The trap of thinking you have something to lose.


You are already naked.


There is no reason not to follow your heart.


Steve Jobs 



Wednesday, January 8, 1975 — To my leg

How well you have served me for nearly twenty-five years. I remember long treks through the mountains of Gippsland and how you led the way to jump over six-feet-four. That soaring feeling you gave rise to as you swept up into the air, leading the rest of my body into flight. Just the joy of running was so dear. I was fortunate you were so strong and coordinated. 

I guess I shall never again feel my mobility to be normal.

You carry scars of days gone by. Below the knee is a small raised up thickening of skin that reminds me of a tip in Longueville, Sydney. How when a friend had his leg caught in the rubbish, you carried me running half a mile for help and only then let on that you were bleeding so badly. 

On the knee itself is a jagged, ill-defined, purplish scar. A reminder of that foul football match at Sebastopol [near Ballarat] the year before last. It took weeks to get all the gravel out. 

There are two other scars on the lower leg which are reminders of hockey days, flying sticks and pain that was not so easily subdued. More recently there is the bandaged biopsy site and its resultant swelling.

My mind wanders over the many happy times. There are no complaints as the only time you fell short of my expectations was when my pride and ambitions were too great.

That you are to be lost to me in a few hours leaves me feeling empty. I feel drained of feeling. I hope I still go forward with expectation. I am apprehensive and fear I may shrink before the challenge. So melancholy. I must lift my spirits.

Ian spent most of the rest of the day in quiet, melancholic but calm contemplation and redoubled his efforts to meditate in an effort to buoy himself up. Raised as an Anglican he remembered earlier times when repeating the Lord’s Prayer over and over as a twelve- year-old, he had entered the early stages of a meditative state—and it was this technique he returned to once more that day.

He also remembered the advice of Dr Raynor Johnson about meditation from a series of lectures he had given at veterinary school that had made a deep impression on Ian. Johnson had talked of using a mantra, notably the Lord’s Prayer, in repetition as a skillful way to focus the mind and keep it from wandering.

I am repeating the Lord’s Prayer, and with eyes closed, trying to fix my concentration between my eyes and to keep my mind clear. The only thing that has any certainty is the repetition of the Prayer. Most of the time thoughts come bursting in over the top of it, cascading ideas through my head. I am still full of resolve, but the more imperfections I see, the more awesome the task.

The prayer and his journal were his only anchors at a time when many might have dropped into bottomless depths of utter despair, or worse, succumbed to a blind and terrible panic.

Ian remained calm as he was wheeled to his appointment with the surgeons.

I went down to an anaesthetic room where I had to wait about 20 minutes. The delay was good as it gave me time to set my mind at rest and pray for strength. After being transferred from my bed onto a narrower table, a blanket was draped over my surgery gown and I was left to wait.

The room itself was quite narrow and cluttered. My head was at its entrance, my feet pointed towards the operating theatre. At my left stood the anaesthetic machine in all its pseudo complexity. On the walls beside this were benches stacked with intravenous fluids, same as the ones we use. 

Against the opposite wall was a stark bench and cupboard with who knows what in it. From the ceiling hung suspended a huge operating light on articulated beams. There were hinged swinging doors into the operating theatre and, periodically, as people came and went, I caught a glimpse of more lights all focused on the operating table.

Finally my anaesthetist arrived, appearing somewhat apprehensive. I still cannot decide if she was just unsure how to conduct herself with someone who was about to lose a leg or if she was concerned with the technical aspects of the coming procedure . . .

I was soon wheeled into the surgery and manhandled onto the operating table. Then there was much slapping of my left hand by the anaesthetist, presumably to get a vein up. This annoyed me, being quite unpleasant. Anyway, finally we were under way.

I tried to keep meditating and praying as I went under . . .

Mr John Doyle, assisted by Mr Kevin King, amputated Ian’s right leg at the hip. It was barely two weeks after Ian had first realised, on the Bacchus Marsh oval, that something might be seriously awry.

It was a very difficult and long operation,’ says Mr Doyle, now retired, reading from his notes from the operation. The surgery took almost three hours.

‘Most amputations are just below the knee or just above the knee,’ he says. ‘This was through the hip joint. I don’t think I’d ever done a disarticulation through the hip at that stage. These things are pretty uncommon. Kevin had done two, which is why we joined forces.’

RESOURCE 

The Dragon’s Blessing by Guy Allenby – the official biography

2015 CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Full details are on the website, click here

FIRST MEDITATION RETREAT
Meditation in the Forest        March 27th to April 2nd  2015

During this meditation retreat, 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 

FIRST SPECIFIC CANCER PROGRAM

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

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

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

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

FULL DETAILS Click here

05 January 2015

Forty years of living out on a limb, forty years since a leg was amputated - A New Year's Reflection

I had the good fortune when quite young to be forced into living as if my life depended upon it.

For several years from the age of 24, everything revolved around what would help me to live well enough to live; well enough to overcome the very real prospect of dying of a difficult cancer.

To be frank, it did not seem like good fortune right at the start when the cancer necessitated the amputation through the hip of my right leg on January the 8th, 1975 – forty years ago. However, it was not long before the reality became apparent - all that was helping me to live well, all that was helping me to heal, was in my own best interest.

So at the start of another calendar year, lets go Out on a Limb once more and reflect on how we might live our lives in 2015, but first





                    Thought for the day

    
           You are not a drop in the ocean,


           You are the entire ocean in a drop.


                                            Rumi






So when this good fortune came my way, there was no other sensible choice. I ate particularly well. Spent time exercising, walking with a bare foot on the earth daily. Felt the sun’s rays on my skin daily. Massage was a regular feature. I juiced, took herbs and supplements, experimented with many things. Read 2 – 3 books each week, journaled daily, sought out the best of teachers.

Learnt to relax, let go of stress. Learnt to be more in the moment, to visualize, to meditate. Learnt to trust intuition; to expect synchronicity. Gained faith in healing physically and beyond.

Learnt to live.

By the time the physical healing was complete, much of this way of living well had become habitual. No effort in eating well, exercising regularly, reading consistently, continuing to seek out great teachers, following the best of them, meditating as a part of daily life.

Aspiring to help others came naturally. Actually, speaking frankly, once again there was no sensible other choice. With all the help I had been given so generously, with all the good fortune I had experienced, how could I not share all that I had learnt?

And so the years flowed on. Sixty five next month and close to 35 years of this work. And now there is a feeling of the need for renewal in 2015.

Sure many have recovered, but so many good people have died. Sure things have changed somewhat in Mind-Body and Integrative medicine, and yes, meditation and mindfulness have gone mainstream.

But still so much to be accomplished and so much opposition to deal with along the way. So much opposition to the simple proposition of living well.

A culture to live in that is built on fear and speed. Speed. Sounds like a drug, but maybe it is even worse. The fast pace of daily life that leads to so much anxiety, and then more frenetic speed. No time to slow down and think things through. No time to reflect, to contemplate and to make good choices.

Simple things suffer. We come to think buying bread makes more sense than baking it. No time for anything else.




We come to think that shopping once a week instead of daily makes sense. We let go of the notion of fresh food and then we come to accept the preservatives to keep the food so we can buy it when time permits. And on and on…


People say “here, have one of these! it won’t hurt you….” Well true, maybe it won’t kill you overnight, but you know there is a compromise or cost involved.



Well I was fortunate. There was a time in my life when I was quite young when I was forced to live as if my life depended upon it. Compromises made no sense.   But over the years I have slipped a little. I know that if I was living my life right now as if my very life depended upon it, I would be living my life with more intent.

There is a need for renewal.

This is where death is my friend and ally. Maybe I am not beset by illness right now, but death is real and comes without warning. Like everyone else, I could die tomorrow.

And while for many years I have reminded myself of this fact daily in an attempt to take life more seriously, in an attempt to waste as little of life as possible, to live as fully as possible; my sense is that even this reminder has become a little stale, a little habitual.

Even though I grow older and the prospect of death becomes ever more real; there is this part of me that is inclined to dissociate, to forget, to rationalise, to indulge in bravado; anything to evade the reality of death and enable living less intently.

So there it is. In 2015 my aspiration, my intention, is to live as if my life depends upon it. What will you be doing? In 2015 Ruth and I will be giving more time to running retreats, less time to workshops and other events. In 2015 we plan to work more closely with people who are ready to take some time out, to retreat from daily life for a few days, to relax, regain balance, regain health and vigour, go deeper into meditation and living well, go deeper into reflection - and be renewed.

Looking forward to it – as much as one can who is attempting to live in the moment

2015 CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Full details of all events are on the website, click here

FIRST MEDITATION RETREAT

MEDITATION in the FOREST       March 27th to April 2nd  2015

During this meditation retreat, 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 

FIRST SPECIFIC CANCER PROGRAMS 
Australia and New Zealand

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

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

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

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

FULL DETAILS Click here 

2. CANCER, HEALING and WELLBEING  May 2015 : Friday 15th to Friday 22nd
Located amidst the natural beauty of Wanaka, New Zealand

Based on You Can Conquer Cancer, giving a focus to accelerated healing and led throughout by Drs Ruth and Ian Gawler, this program will help you to access the heart and science of Lifestyle Medicine.

The 8 DAY RESIDENTIAL PROGRAM designed as a comprehensive starting point for those intent on utilising the best of what Ian and Ruth have to offer.

FULL DETAILS Click here 

NOTICEBOARD
SOGYAL RINPOCHE PUBLIC TALKSACT FAST – JUST A FEW DAYS AWAY

Another landmark anniversary. It is 30 years this month since I had the good fortune to first meet the great Tibetan Lama Sogyal Rinpoche when he first visited Australia. Author of the internationally best selling Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Rinpoche has taught me so much that has translated directly into my work and my life. There is immense gratitude.

So good news, Rinpoche is speaking in Newcastle and Sydney in the next few days, then Brisbane later in February. A not-to-be missed opportunity to be in the presence of an authentic meditation teacher whose lineage goes unbroken all the way back to the Buddha and who can translate this ancient wisdom into a modern context with humour and great insight.

Do your self a favour. Bring your family, colleagues and friends. Maybe even come to the retreat Rinpoche will present later in January. I will be there!

FULL DETAILS Click here 


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