21 February 2017

Which-generation-has-the-most-stress?-And-4-practical-solutions

How do the different generations compare when it comes to coping with stress?

Are modern technologies making life easier or tougher?


This week we examine why it is that Gen Y, or as they are also known, the Millenials, are suffering from more stress than any other generation; and we hear from a Gen Y friend and 4 things that have turned her life for the better, but first




   Thought for the day

     When the character of a man 
     Is not clear to you, 
     Look at his friends. 

            Japanese Proverb






Sadly, it does seem to be that of all the generations, it is the young who report experiencing the most stress the least relief and the least capacity to manage it well.

The Department of Health claims the prevalence of mental-health issues such as depression and anxiety may be up to three times higher among young Australians than across the community as a whole.

According to the American Psychological Association, it is the Millennials, or Gen Y (ages 18 to 33) and Gen X (ages 34 to 47) who report the highest average stress levels. However, Boomers (48 to 66) and Matures (67 years and older) join them in reporting levels that are higher than they consider healthy.

Both Millennials and Gen X report an average stress level of 5.4 on a 10-point scale where 1 is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress,” far higher than Boomers’ average stress level of 4.7 and Matures’ average stress level of 3.7.

Of course, people recognize some stress is healthy, or at least OK. However, the gap between what feels OK and what is being experienced is again higher in younger generations; lowest in the oldies. The difference between Matures’ stress levels and their perception of healthy stress is 0.7 points, compared with 1.3 for Boomers, 1.4 for Millennials, 1.6 for Gen X.

Also, 39% of Millennials say their stress has increased in the last year, compared to 36% of Gen X, 33% of Boomers and 29% of Matures.

What is happening for Gen Y?
On the one hand there are so many opportunities for younger people, yet according to recent Australian surveys, they are feeling higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

They identify with pressures not of their making and "largely beyond their control".

Financially they feel they are going backwards; owning a home seems a more and more remote possibility.

Home ownership in this age group has fallen 25% since the early 1980s, more than half are renting and many stay in their parent’s homes.

Security at work feels more tenuous for Gen Y, and while 50% are in the casual workforce, 20% are unemployed.

Now, Gen Y is known for its increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies. Is this usage linked to heightened levels of busyness, stimulation, distraction, loss of concentration? And what can be done about it?

Four practical solutions
“This is amazing! This stuff really works”

I was talking with a Gen Y friend just recently who has known me and my work for many years. Early 30s, difficult time getting a job, well established now, recently promoted, stressed out. Finally, out of desperation and after ignoring such things assiduously to date, she joined in a mindfulness program offered within her workplace.

“Life suddenly seems clearer and easier”.

So what makes the difference? Here are 4 things my friend tells me she has noticed; 4 things that have flowed on from just a few months of her new mindfulness and meditation practice.

1. Attention
“ My ability to focus and pay attention to a given task has skyrocketed. I used to be easily distracted with what was going on in the office, with checking my phone and social media, and with the thoughts and feelings in my head. Now I can keep my mind on the job much better.

Science backs this. Research from Harvard has shown that meditation leads to changes in brain regions involving learning and memory and improves our ability to sustain attention.

2. Discipline
“I used to have good intentions at work and then be easily distracted. Now I find I can put my mind to something and stick with it. It actually makes the day easier”.

A daily meditation practice can increase self-discipline and sharpen focus at work. More research, this time from the University of Sheffield, shows that mindfulness does in fact encourage persistence at given tasks

3. Productivity
“I am naturally a bit shy and used to prefer working in isolation. This was not always ideal. What I have noticed recently is that I am more open, actually more interested in collaboration. My feeling is that this is more productive – and I am coming to enjoy it”.

Mindfulness meditation practice has been shown to lead to a state of “effortless action”.

This is associated with higher levels of concentrated productivity that are related to understanding and establishing goals, prioritizing tasks, overcoming challenges and more effective time management.

4. Self Esteem
“I used to be racked with doubt. This is weird. Now I just seem more accepting of myself and others. There has been no conscious effort in this. Really it is a bit strange. I used to analyse everything, but now, it seems that just through sitting quietly most days, things have become better. People seem nicer to be with somehow”.

Research has shown that meditation promotes acceptance and helps us let go of negative self-talk and reduce procrastination. Meditation leads naturally to being more actively engaged in present feelings, thoughts and behavior in a nonjudgmental but focused way.

Conclusion
It is remarkable. Making time each day for a few minutes of quiet, of stillness, of no stimulation; this may well be the most productive thing a busy person can do.

COMING PROGRAMS - Retreats and Trainings

Both the meditation teacher training, and our next meditation retreat feature contemplation


March 27th -31st     Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2
Ruth and I train people aspiring to be meditation teachers, or who already are 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.

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.


13 February 2017

Meditation-Teacher-Training-with-Ruth-and-Ian-Gawler

Meditation is the greatest gift you can give to your self or to someone else. Learning to teach meditation accomplishes both things. There is no better way to learn something than to teach it; and to teach meditation you need to understand it well and to practise regularly.

So this week, a call for you to consider training as a meditation teacher, or to pass this information on and encourage a colleague, friend or family member to take it up.

In this dynamic world we live in, where so much is changing, where there is so much uncertainty and fear; there has never been a more urgent time for more people to take up meditation. One suspects that if a significant percentage of the population meditated regularly, the world would be a far more liveable, sane, happy and meaningful place.

What then happens during our meditation teacher training programs? This week, we get to find out, but first




             Thought for the day

A hundred times every day 
I remind myself that my inner and outer life 
Depend on the labors of other men, 
Living and dead, 
And that I must exert myself 
In order to give in the same measure 
As I have received. 

                            Albert Einstein





Ruth and I love teaching others to teach meditation.

People who aspire to teach meditation are such a fine bunch. They may be health professionals – doctors, psychologists, counselors, natural therapists etc; they may be teachers or leaders in their corporate workplaces, they may be meditators who have felt the benefits of their own practice and are inspired to pass on those benefits.

When they come together to learn, these people create an incredible atmosphere.

We really enjoy their passion. In our view, meditation is the best of all self-help techniques, because as we know, the mind decides how we think, how we react, what we do. Meditation helps us to get to know our own mind – how it does work, what it is capable of. And our aspiring teachers are committed to helping others receive the benefits of a calm and clear mind.


Our training then, consists of a 5 day residential program. 

It is conducted amidst the natural beauty and comfort of the Yarra Valley Living Centre, and is presented as part of a complete training package.

The Gawler Foundation has been teaching meditation teachers since I first started doing this in 1988.

These days The Foundation presents two 5 day modules.

One is presented by our colleagues and friends Paul and Maia Bedson (Remember Paul is the co-author of Meditation – An In-depth Guide). The Bedson’s module focuses on preparing to teach an 8 week Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation course.

The module Ruth and I present prepares the teachers to teach two 4 week courses; one on Contemplation, the other Guided Imagery. This includes theoretical and research aspects of how the mind functions and how this knowledge leads into understanding and utilizing the benefits of affirmations and imagery.

The program itself is highly experiential. While there is a good theoretical background that we study, during the training there are also many sessions where we break into small groups for supervised practice in leading meditation sessions.

There is also good time devoted for questions, answers and discussion.

There are very thorough manuals all participants receive that give explicit detail on how to present the material.


It may be worthwhile to point out that as yet, not so much is taught these days on Contemplation or Guided Imagery, despite both being profoundly helpful. Many people report how these techniques have transformed their lives for the better, and my sense is that with more and more people taking up and benefiting from basic mindfulness practices, there will soon be a big wave of people having the sense there is more on offer and enquiring as to what comes next.

Also, perhaps not surprisingly, most people who attend these trainings report how beneficial they are for their own practice. There is a deepening of their understanding and of their experience.

Membership 
Completing both modules will meet the training requirements for Provisional membership of the peak professional body for meditation teachers, The Meditation Association of Australia (MAA) - see their website for current details. Other Meditation Retreats facilitated at the Yarra Valley Living Centre could contribute to these registration requirements.

So, is this something for you? 
A new vocation perhaps? Something extra you can add to what you are already doing???

Is there someone you know how may be interested? If so, please do share your enthusiasm. Speaking personally, it is wonderful to teach anyone to meditate, but when we help another person to take up being a teacher, we know there will be a big flow on effect.

What better time than now?

For details, click here
or phone the Gawler Foundation directly on +61 3 5967 1730.

NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT

April 7 – 13th     Meditation in the Forest - MEDITATION and CONTEMPLATION

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. 

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.

06 February 2017

Contemplation at your leisure

From time to time I come across a quote that plunges me into deep contemplation. Something juicy where even on the surface the words cause one to puzzle – what is the immediate meaning?

But then, the words do not fall away; they linger. And deeper meaning emerges.
Sometimes, just sometimes, personal change follows.

So this week, words that came to me recently that are still resonating, but first

Thought for the day

Tomorrow is a new day; 
Let today go so you can begin tomorrow well and serenely, 
With too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. 

Each new day is too dear, 
With its hopes and invitations, 
To waste a moment on yesterdays.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


A sign of success is when you have more leisure.

A sign of success is when you have more leisure.

Leisure?
Does this refer to how many holidays we have? Is it to do with how many hours in the week we work? Is it to do with how fully we cram our day with every little thing??? How spaciously we approach the day? Our work, our friends, our family, our closest relationships?

Most people I meet these days tell me how busy they are.
For some, a significant some, there is the sense that
the busyness is necessary to cover the gaps.

When we finish one thing, and before we begin another;
there is a gap.

In the gap, there is a silence.

And there is us.


For those uncomfortable with, or unused to their selves; that gap, that brief moment with self,
can be tough. So, maybe it is easier, more expedient, just to keep busy. No leisure. No gaps.
No problem… Or so it may seem.

A sign of success is when you have more leisure.

Success?
What sort of success are we talking of here? Maybe more holidays, less working hours, more actual free time is being pointed to. Makes sense on the surface.

But if life gains meaning by being helpful, by being of service to others; just how much free time need there be? Now that is worth contemplating.

Then again, there is this question of spaciousness.

Back home in the last few days from attending the annual summer retreat with Sogyal Rinpoche – who shared these words and profound teachings on Open Awareness – there has been plenty of grass to mow and slash on our little farm.

This has the potential to be a very meditative activity, or a real bind – something that has to be done amidst all the busyness.

There is often a lot to catch up on when back from retreat.

So a wonderful opportunity to be aware.

Aware of the state of mind of the mower.

To be frank, these few words, and the deep contemplation they are prompting, has resulted in a more spacious, leisurely mower/slasher.

A sign of success is when you have more leisure.

And the job got done…

Happy contemplation!


COMING PROGRAMS - Retreats and Trainings

Both the meditation teacher training, and our next meditation retreat feature contemplation


March 27th -31st     Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2
Ruth and I train people aspiring to be meditation teachers, or who already are 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.

24 January 2017

Meditation,-the-'vacation-effect',-cellular-health-and-wellbeing

Club Med or a meditation retreat? Which is better for your health? If you are interested in your health and wellbeing, is it worth “sacrificing” holiday time for a retreat, or are you better advised to simply head to the beach?

You may think this to be a silly question. However, the “vacation effect” is well known. There are measurable positive health changes that flow from a simple holiday; while intuitively we expect a meditation retreat will do us good.

So this week we go Out on a Limb once more and examine new research. What happens when meditators and non-meditators head for a residential holiday or retreat? Who comes home healthier, and who is healthier months later? But first

Thought for the day

There is a difference 
Between interest and commitment. 

When you are interested in doing something, 
You do it only when circumstances permit. 

When you are committed to something, 
You accept no excuses, only results.

Art Turock



Modern researchers are beginning to look at some really cool things. What happens physiologically when we go on a meditation retreat compared to just having a holiday?



Most of us who work hard – either formally or at raising a family - will have been on a good holiday, felt a release of pressure; maybe even something of a relief.

We might have regained some balance for a bit, but then the holiday ended and we went back to life as usual with the same old coping skills we had before the holiday began.

We feel a bit better, but has anything changed?


Many who read this post will have been on a meditation retreat. Same release of pressure; same relief. But maybe more. A deeper level of relaxation. Relaxation of body and mind. Maybe some new learning, some new insights, some new techniques we can take back to our ongoing life. We feel a bit better, but maybe something has changed?

In a highly controlled and randomised residential study, regular meditators, new meditators and non-meditators spent 6 days in the same retreat environment. Blood tests examined interesting things like telomerase activity, Aβ peptide levels and tumour necrosis factor alpha.



Everyone benefited from a significant ‘vacation effect’ - highly significant epigenetic changes as well as a reduction of stress-related responses and immune function related to acute-phase wound healing and decreased inflammation.

Remember, meta-inflammation is a major driver for all the chronic degenerative diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s and MS (see the link below).




The study also identified an additional ‘meditation effect’ in those who had practiced meditation before their retreat.

The regular meditator group, showed additional epigenetic changes associated with cellular functions that relate to healthy ageing, and this was associated with increased expression of a number of telomere maintenance pathway genes and an increase in measured telomerase enzymatic activity.

Remember too, telomerase protects and repairs our telomeres; the shortening of which is directly related to the rate of our aging.

Changes in wellbeing were assessed after the retreat/holiday, as well as 1 and 10 months later. All groups showed equivalently large immediate post-intervention improvements in wellbeing, but interestingly, novice meditators showed greater maintenance of lower distress over time compared with those in the vacation arm.


The researchers concluded that this study provides a strong distinction between beneficial effects of short-term relaxation typical of a vacation versus acute intensive meditation for regular meditators.


Also, they pointed out that for those already trained in the practice of meditation, a retreat does in fact appear to provide additional benefits to cellular health beyond the vacation effect.


So there you have it. The meditation retreat was a clear winner! Maybe armed with this evidence it will be easier to approach the boss for time off to attend a future meditation retreat – there are well proven advantages.

MAIN REFERENCE
Epel ES et al. Meditation and vacation effects have an impact on disease-associated molecular phenotypes. Translational Psychiatry (2016) 6, e880.  LINK HERE

RELATED BLOG
A New Way of Living


COMING PROGRAMS - Retreats and Trainings

March 27th -31st     Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2
Ruth and I train people aspiring to be meditation teachers, or who already are 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.

09 January 2017

Meditation-retreats-Teacher-training-and-specific-cancer-programs-2017-Meditation-for-Life

Meditation for Life 
Seems to sum up so much to do with meditation. Meditation brings us more fully into life. It is a profound healer. It awakens us, heightens our awareness and helps us to appreciate life more fully, to live more fully. Meditation brings us life; directly adding to our longevity. Meditation for life.

So this week, the schedule of retreats Ruth and I will present this year – meditation retreats, our specific cancer residential programs, and of course, the meditation teacher training programs, but first,

        Thought for the Day

Would you like me to give you a formula for...success? 
It's quite simple, really. 
Double your rate of failure... 
You're thinking of failure as the enemy of success. 
But it isn't at all... 
You can be discouraged by failure
-or you can learn from it. 
So go ahead and make mistakes. 
Make all you can. 
Because, remember that's where you'll find success. 
On the far side.

                         Thomas Watson

I love this quote. It speaks for the need to persist, and it speaks to the value of being somewhat adventurous; of having a go, making mistakes, learning from them and accomplishing remarkable things.

Can you remember what it was like when you began meditating? Seems to me there was one “mistake” after another for me. Tried this... not much progress. Tried that… not much progress. Just an inkling that something useful was happening… could happen. Just an inkling that meditation was something well worth persevering with and learning from the experiences along the way.

So the message? Do not be put off. On the contrary, persevere. And seek opportunities to learn and practice more deeply.

Again, speaking personally, amidst the busyness of modern life, amidst all the changes that are hurtling through our modern way of living, amidst all the opportunities we have; it just seems essential to take some time out at least once each year, to give ourselves the time to reflect, to contemplate, to learn some more, to deepen our practice – maybe re-new our practice – and then return to daily life invigorated, with a deeper sense of calm and clarity.

It is for this reason that last year, Ruth and I decided to reduce the number of public workshops and seminars we present and to concentrate more on the retreats.

This gave me more time for preparation for our different retreats and now in retrospect, this was really useful. In my own estimation, the teachings in the retreats went to another level in 2016 and the feedback was excellent.

So we have decided to do the same again for 2017 – focus on presenting retreats. Maybe 2018 will be another year of larger public events, but this year we invite you to join us and deepen your experience on one of our retreats.

Speaking personally, Ruth and I will attend 2 retreats as participants ourselves in 2017; one for 2 weeks starting soon and then a longer one through August. These retreats will further add to what we can provide and are an essential part of what we offer.

So here is the program of meditation and other retreats for 2017             with links to their details
                  Hope you can join us …

March 27 – 31st  Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2 
Ruth and I train people aspiring to be meditation teachers, or who already are 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.

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.

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.



November 2 – 9th Mind-Body Medicine and Cancer
This 8 day comprehensive program in New Zealand for people affected by cancer is the only program still to be confirmed for 2017.

November 20 – 24 Cancer and Beyond
This is a similar program to the one in April. It is part of the ongoing series of programs designed specifically for those affected by cancer. Each program is adapted specifically to the needs of those attending based upon a pre-attendance questionnaire, and the interests and needs that emerge during the program.

So, plenty of choices… Will you join us in 2017?