26 December 2011

A small miracle – and 2 fun links

Just a short Happy Christmas blog, recounting a rather remarkable Christmas miracle, and then links to two great short videos that are bound to cause a smile.

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 developed 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 on in a pot until it really is large enough to demand planting. So where Ruth and I live currently, there is only one ex-Christmas tree 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 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!

Now you may think I’m dreaming, but never having seen such things in our area, or even heard of anyone else finding them, what are the chances? Not one, but two, they turned up Christmas Eve or night, under the Christmas tree and they are real deer horns.

Moral of the story? The grandchild still believes in Santa!

On a completely different note, one of our good friends has been holding a wonderful Christmas Eve get together for 38 years. The tradition is you do not bring anything other than an act to perform for the fairly large group that gathers. People sing, some even dance, others tell stories or jokes, and there is the occasional serious bit of input. A great community gathering.

This year Ruth and I assisted by two of the children decided to go all out and do the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore routine of the One-legged Tarzan. Some may remember seeing this when they first performed it on TV. I certainly do, but if you have not seen it before, check it out on the link and understand why when we do it some people just about wet themselves, while others are not sure how to react. Personally, I rather like the idea of becoming the next Tarzan, but I am still waiting for the call.

Finally, in a similar vein, check out The amazing expanding universe.

Happy Christmas, enjoy some regenerative time amidst the spirit of Christmas, and may 2012 be filled with good health, happiness and peace.

19 December 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Love, Christmas and the whole damn thing!

First, a brief reminder Mindbody Mastery (click here to connect to the website), my recently released downloadable meditation program will make a wonderful Christmas present and if you use the code IJG-SM you will receive a healthy discount as well. With its initial 8 week program and 6 months of support to establish and deepen your practice, I do hope many of you will use it and feel the benefits.

And then Christmas. This is the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Christ quite literally represents the embodiment of pure love. Unconditional love.

Now there are many forms of love in this world of ours. There is love for a parent, for a child, for a lover, for our self, an animal, a thing, a cause etc.

These worldly loves often have an element of the relative about them. Relative in the sense that they are related to attached conditions: I will love you if… (you love me back, make me laugh, look after me...etc). I will love you when… (you have a better job, loose some weight, do not get so angry…etc). I love you because…(you do this for me, you make me look good…etc), etc, etc. In this sense, for many of us, if we do take the time to reflect on it, love can have some aspect of being more like a deal than a pure state of mind.

It is easy to observe many people are confused by these different aspects of love. This was often apparent after people came to any of the Gawler Foundation programs, particularly the residential ones.

The fact is that these programs reliably bring out the best in people. Participants quickly come to really care for each other. The staff consistently put their own issues aside and really care for the participants. People begin to feel something of that unconditional love.

As an aside, it is my sense it is just this, the experience of unconditional love, that often explains the wonderful, positive and often profound transformations that occur during the programs in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and wellbeing of participants.

But then, as these people head home, often they experience the confusion that many others feel independently of attending such a program. If pure love is unconditional, and I want to love all, how do I manage the difficult people in my life?

The key resides in understanding the difference between relative and absolute. This is one of the great gifts of examining our minds. When we do so, we realise there are such things as the relative and the absolute. On the absolute level we all have an intrinsic goodness, an intrinsic purity. In Christianity we say we are made in God’s image. Cannot get much purer than that. In Buddhism we say that in their essence, everyone has Buddha nature – again that notion of fundamental goodness and purity.

Yet on the relative, worldly level it is clear peoples’ actions, emotions and thoughts can be complex and often problematic. The fact is some relationships can be very difficult, even quite toxic and there may well be a need to discriminate about whom we hang out with!

Now it is true that difficult relationships can teach us so much about ourselves, about patience, tolerance, compassion etc. And enduring some relationships can lead to healthy outcomes for all. However, in some situations it can be clear that to remain in a relationship will only create more problems and it may well be the loving thing to avoid such a relationship.

Personal awareness requires discrimination. It is not about suffering endlessly, it is not about neglecting the treatment of illness or the working on difficulties. It is about right action. Working as much as possible from a position of unconditional love, recognising the fundamental goodness in all and so having a deep respect and real compassion for all, while at the same time recognising the limitations of others and ourselves. Doing the best we can and making every effort to continue to learn and to be a better person. To be increasingly comfortable with our own capacities and those of others.

Christmas then is a perfect time to contemplate the place of love in your life. To consider when for you love is unconditional, when it is more like a deal with its conditions, and when it is better avoided. Christmas often brings families together in a way that these issues are brought to the fore, so be gentle on yourself and others, take time to contemplate and meditate, and may you experience something of the true meaning of Christmas – unconditional love.

RESOURCES

Mindbody Mastery: link here to the website and remember when you register to use the code IJG-SM so you receive your discount.

12 December 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: The Christmas Present- the secret of letting go

Well here we are, Christmas is nearly upon us, Mindbody Mastery is live and I thought it may be useful to offer a Christmas present to all of you who read “Out on a Limb”- the insight into one of the most important truths to do with our minds, and one of the most useful things to do when meditating.

When we begin to meditate, or even if we just reflect quietly for a few moments, it is easy to appreciate two things. Firstly there are things that we are aware of, and then there is the awareness itself. We can be aware of things, people, events, all that outside stuff. And we can be aware of the inside stuff too, like thoughts, feelings and emotions.

But then there is the awareness itself. We are aware of things outside, and inside, and we can be aware that we are aware. We can be aware of the awareness.

First, however, consider this. Mostly when we become aware of something, we tend to react to it. In broad terms we tend to like some things and want to hang onto them or have more of them; and we tend to dislike some things and want to avoid them or get rid of them. In meditation jargon, these two responses or reactions, are often called attachment and aversion.

Here is the trick. Most of us probably know that these reactions are a major source of stress, anxiety and unhappiness. Thinking “if only I had …”, or “if only I did not have…” can easily create inner tension, along with chronic biochemical changes in our bodies and all that that leads to.

This then is where “letting go” comes in. When we talk of letting go in meditation, and in life, what we are talking about is letting go of physical tension as well as attachment and aversion. Importantly, we are not talking about letting go of awareness. When we do let go of the reactions we normally have to things, when we do let go of attachment and aversion, we are left with a clear and calm mind and we may well end up with a heightened sense of awareness.

As a consequence, we tend to see things more clearly and to think more clearly. This means that rather than becoming dull or passive because we have let go of reacting, we have a clear sense of what needs doing, what is appropriate, and we have the energy, clarity and confidence to carry things through.

What this means for our meditation is that it makes sense to begin our practice by relaxing and thoroughly letting go of any physical tension. Because it is commonplace these days for people to be chronically tense and used to the feeling of that tension, unless we actively take time to consciously and methodically relax our bodies, we may just not manage it effectively enough to be really helpful.

But then we need to let go of mental attachment and aversion. We need to let things come and go, free of reaction, free of commentary. We need to let go physically and mentally to relax, to become calm and clear.

The physical relaxation helps with this. Because of the Mind-Body connection, if as we relax our bodies, we actually focus on the feeling of relaxation, and then just allow our minds to go with that feeling; it is as if the body leads the mind into the relaxation.

Of course, mindfulness is the word we can use to summarize all that we learn to help with simply being aware of our present moment experience, free of any reaction, judgement, attachment or aversion.

Now it will be helpful to point out that in doing this, in letting go with our minds, it is possible we can relax our awareness. Have you ever had that experience of meditating and finishing unsure of whether you were asleep or in some pleasant, drifty, wafty sort of state? This is probably when you were in what can be called a sleepy meditative state. It is a state where you let go of your awareness. Importantly, this state is excellent for healing and regeneration, because it involves being deeply relaxed physically and deeply relaxed in the mind. The key point here is that this deeply relaxed state takes us into a natural state of balance, and in this balance, the body and mind are both exquisitely designed to function in that way we describe as healthy and normal. Along with this, in that state of balance, the body is also exceptionally well designed to heal itself.

So while this low awareness form of meditation may not be much value if you are on the spiritual path or wanting to heighten your awareness and clarity, for those seeking healing or to recover from a heavy workload it can be quite useful.

Therefore, while in a general sense, retaining our awareness in meditation is the ideal, in some circumstances it does not matter and it may even be useful to let go of that awareness.

When we do want to remain aware, what helps is to know that it is possible and useful to do just that. Then it is as simple as when we go to a good film. At a good film we want to stay awake so we do not miss the show. So we are alert, but at the same time, we can relax. There is nothing we need to do. We do not need to direct the film or act in it; we do not need to present the film or make sure it runs OK. We do not need to put in a three hour essay on the relative merits of the film; we can just sit back, relax and take it in.

However, there are two ways to watch a film. One is to become engrossed in it; to become caught up and lost in the film itself. The other is to remember you are in a movie theatre, watching a film. You are aware of watching the film.

When we do go to a movie for entertainment and a bit of a break from life, it makes sense to let go of our awareness and get lost in the film.

When we meditate, and we want to be clear and present, it makes sense to remember we can be an impartial observer. It makes sense to let go of the tensions, attachments and aversions and to remember our awareness.

So that is the Christmas present. Let go, relax, be aware and be present!

NEWS

1. Mindbody Mastery, the new downloadable meditation program I have been developing for the last year or so is now live, along with its extensive support package. I hope many of my readers will try it, benefit from it and I look forward to your feedback.

2. Sogyal Rinpoche is giving a public talk in Melbourne on the 20th December, talks in other centres and the annual summer retreat at Myall lakes.

3.  Jarek Czechowicz will be presenting New Year's Eve Chanting and Meditation at the Augustine Centre, suitable for anyone seeking a more meaningful celebration. If you would like the details click here. 

Wishing you Peace and Good Health for Christmas,

05 December 2011

Ian Gawler Blog – Mindbody Mastery goes live

TO LINK TO THE MINDBODY MASTERY WEBSITE, CLICK HERE

This is a bit like telling friends about the birth of a new child! After a great deal of engaging development and testing, the new downloadable Mindbody Mastery meditation based mind training program will be available within the week, and as a reader of my blog you can obtain it with a significant discount (see below). This comprehensive and innovative program has been designed to provide you with access to meditation anywhere, at anytime.

There will be a 3 minute video on the website and Youtube that you can view for a quick intro. The video has great meditation music as a backing and is like a meditation in itself! Also, you can go to YouTube and see another video that features the world class musicians actually making the recording.

It has been a great delight and a real stretch for me into new territory as Mindbody Mastery uses the best of modern technology in an easily accessible form (remember all this stuff was new to me a year or two ago so I made sure it really is easy to use!!).

If you do have some experience of meditation, the program will help you to review and deepen what you already know, as well as provide you with a range of innovative support for your practice.

For those who are new to meditation, and this program will make a great Christmas present, the initial intructions will guide you step-by-step, while again , the support package will actively assist you in establishing a regular practice. While I did include details of the actual program in an earlier Blog, below you will find details of the support package which is where the real innovations have been possible using the new technologies. This should have real appeal to younger people, while being readily accessible and really useful for those who are bit older and less techno savvy like me!

While I will be forwarding details of how to join to members of this blog personally, access will be via mindbodymastery.net, which is likely to be live later in the week.

So I do hope you will take advantage of this exciting new step in what I am able to offer, and please feel free to add your comments here or on the Mindbody Mastery website. A big thank you to my partner in this project, Saurabh Mishra, who has had the technological and the business acumen to put it all together. We have had a multitude of top quality people contribute directly or indirectly to this project and frankly, it is as good as we can make it! I hope you find it useful and that maybe it can help others you know as well.

As a further note, when you do check all this out, you will see that we have “de-personalised” the program. That is, my name does not feature all over it, but you will know where it came from!

  FEATURES OF THE MINDBODY MASTERY PROGRAM


What it is

The Mindbody Mastery Program is an online learning program that uses modern, web-based technology to provide readily affordable access to mind-body techniques that are known to generate clarity of mind, good health and great performance in all aspects of life.

This program is like attending a meditation group with a teacher on-line.

The techniques you will learn over an initial 8 week period are:

ϖ Relaxation   Concentration  Mindfulness  Meditation  Imagery  Contemplation
           
The program provides comprehensive support over a full 6 months to deepen your experiences with the techniques, and to assist you to establish a regular routine of practising them.

How it works

Mindbody Mastery has two components, the initial 8 week program and its fully integrated support package over 6 months.

1. The initial 8 weeks

The actual program content of Mindbody Mastery is presented via MP3 downloads that you can listen to via your smartphone, ipod, or computer.

Choice of accents and gender. A major feature of this meditation based program is that you can choose to listen to a male or female voice, being myself or my wife Ruth, or you can listen to a male Indian English accent or a female American. You can check out these accents via the free sample available via the website and which features the rapid relaxation exercise.

Over the initial 8 weeks, you will be introduced to, and supported to learn and apply 8 easy mind-centred techniques. At the start of each of these first 8 weeks, you will download two MP3 files. First, a short, spoken introduction to the theory and explanation of how to practise the specific exercise daily over the coming week. Second, the guided exercise itself.

Each exercise will build logically on those before it, and together they will provide direct access to rapid relaxation, increased powers of concentration, the practical skill of mindfulness, and the deep natural peace of meditation. Mindbody Mastery also includes the added benefits of guided imagery and contemplation. Click here for more detail regarding the content of each week’s session.

World Class Meditation Music. Another highlight of the program is that several of the exercises include original backing music from world-class musicians on cello, harp, flute and sarod (an Indian musical instrument similar to the sitar). You can view the making of this music on YouTube: Meditation Music, Mindbody Mastery.

2. The support package 

Relaxation. Concentration. Mindfulness. Imagery. Concentration. Meditation. These are all highly valuable skills. The Mindbody Mastery program introduces them all.

Then to help you to learn them, to deepen your experience with them, and to get into the habit of practising them regularly, we offer you at no extra cost, a 6 month, fully integrated support package. This exciting support package is a unique feature of Mindbody Mastery. It includes:

a) Extra downloads

At week 12, you will receive a bonus meditation download which features a brief meditation practice that can be used daily.

At week 16, those who are continuing to receive the email support, will receive a bonus, original meditation music download, specifically commissioned to enhance the Mindbody Mastery program.

b) Daily Email and Weekly SMS Reminders and Inspirations

During the first 8 weeks of the Mindbody Mastery program, your daily emails and weekly SMS reminders are designed to enhance your understanding of the theory and techniques of the program, along with inspiring and encouraging you to develop and maintain a regular practice of those techniques.

For the next 4 weeks, from week 9 to 12, the focus of the emails and SMS messages will be to deepen your understanding and experience of the main meditation method.

Over the next 8 weeks, from week 13 to 20, each of the 8 initial sessions of Mindbody Mastery will be revisited, again to deepen your understanding of the theory and the techniques, and to help you to develop mastery of each of those techniques.

Then from week 21 to 24, we will return to focus once more on the core meditation practise.

Finally, during the last 2 weeks, week 25 – 26, we will discuss and clarify the on-going integration of the Mindbody Mastery techniques into daily life.

c) Social media support, goal setting, surveys and feedback

We know that people stick with a new routine or lifestyle change better when they have a supportive peer group. And in this day and age, one of the most readily accessible peer groups is your online social media platform friends. So we have designed some smart features (initially for Facebook and later for other online social media platforms), to engage your online friends.
NOTE: These features will all be active once the program is released, and details will be on the website.

d) Access to interesting monthly webinars (commencing in February 2012).

e) A specific, Mindbody Mastery Blog focussing on meditation related material and featuring input from myself and guest bloggers.

f) Personal advice from experts where needed to further clarify your meditation practice (via email).

Of course, if you choose to simply practise the techniques in your own way, in your own rhythm, you can opt out of any elements of the support package.

Research

There are two aspects to the research accompanying the Mindbody Mastery Program.

1. What the existing research says

It may well be helpful and comforting to know the evidence base for the Mindbody Mastery program.

It is good to be aware of the fact that there are now over 7,000 studies published worldwide attesting to the capacity for the meditation based mind techniques taught in the Mindbody Mastery program to improve physical, emotional and mental health, enhance spiritual values and improve performance in nearly every arena of human endeavour. Also, these techniques have been shown to make valuable contributions as adjuncts to existing treatment programs for many physical, emotional and mental health issues.

A summary of this research has been made available on the Mindbody website.

2. Formal, University based evaluation

The extensive support package, and use of web based technology for delivery make this program of real interest to the public and the research community. Therefore, formal research evaluation is being built into the program.

The research will be conducted by an eminent Australian University, and will assess any changes in state of mind, quality of life and a range of lifestyle behaviours of participants in the program. Under examination is the theory that as participants’ state of mind improves, so too may their lifestyle. For example, they may eat better, smoke and drink less alcohol, lose weight and exercise more. Of course, they may feel a whole lot better generally!

More details will be made available as the Research project commences in 2012.

Mindbody Mastery, Spirituality and Religion

While Mindbody Mastery focuses on training the mind and has no reference to any particular faith or creed, experience tells us that this program is highly likely to enhance spiritual values such as gratitude, kindness and altruism. These qualities are associated with greater self-care, family care and social responsibility. The program is compatible with any secular, spiritual or religious views.


Mindbody Mastery and its applications

Mindbody Mastery may well be something you will use yourself. Maybe it will be something to encourage members of your family to take up. Maybe you will refer it to other people you know, or your workplace, health related groups, sporting clubs; the program has a myriad of applications.

Mindbody Mastery has a generous Affiliates Program.

The cost and YOUR DISCOUNT

The program represents extraordinary value for money and I trust you will find it of real benefit as you use it. As a member of my blog you can access a 15% discount on the full price of $108 by entering the code IJG-SM, making the actual cost $92.80. I rather hope a few people will be receiving the program as a Christmas present. Great gift!

Do let me know your feedback, either via the Blog comment page or the Mindbody mastery website.

To finish, a reminder

Remember to breathe, let go, relax, smile.
Welcome to this present moment.
Enjoy Mindbody Mastery and flourish!

NEWS

My website is being updated and a new version will be online in the New Year. However, in the next few days, details of the events I will be involved with publicly in 2012 will be updated on the current website.


RELATED BLOG: The MINDBODY MASTERY PROGRAM


RESOURCES


BOOK: The Mindbody Mastery program is based on the book I wrote with Paul Bedson, Meditation – an In-depth Guide.

WEBSITE:  Once it is live, the website will be mindbodymastery.net.

28 November 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Communication technology and a new recipe

How can we link IT with a recipe? This week we go “Out on a Limb” and present another healthy, fast food recipe as well as considering the changing patterns affecting the sharing of information, ideas and techniques.

Back in 1982, I received a call from a desperate man living in outback New South Wales. Recently diagnosed with an advanced and supposedly medically incurable cancer, this cattle station owner had heard of the work I was involved in, based on mobilising one’s inner healing resources with the aim of recovery. Problem was it was unfeasible for him to come to Melbourne to attend the once a week sessions we were running at the time. “You Can Conquer Cancer” was still over 2 years away and there were no other books on the subject available at that time.

On hearing his plight, I offered to record the sessions and send them to him. He was delighted; I made the recordings during actual groups using the crudest hand held cassette recorder you could imagine, copied them cassette to cassette at home and sent them off.

These recordings were so bad as to be close to indecipherable! But our NSW friend strained to hear every word and busily set about putting it all into practice.

Other people requested and more cassettes were copied. Eventually, in the later part of the eighties, I decided to make decent recordings and it turned out Johnny Farnham had a personal studio just behind one of my children’s schools. With only a little persuasion, recordings were made there that covered the content of each of the group sessions – directly onto half inch tape. With this technology it was very difficult to correct errors and so they needed to be recorded in one take as they say.

Next we move into the nineties and the dawning of the digital age and CDs. Now recordings could be edited more easily and people who used them began to expect good external graphic design to go with the material inside. Series of CDs were made for each of meditation, healing and wellbeing.

Mini Discs came and went with barely a murmur and videos passed me by unaffected, although I was persuaded to record a Learn to Meditate DVD a few years back.

Now we move into the days of the internet, apps, Facebook, Utube and other ways of using downloadable material. I must say it has been a real learning adventure to put together the Mindbody Mastery program that is now almost ready for final testing and should be available in a week or two.

So what about the recipe?

Baked tofu, brown rice and steamed vegetables.

This is another completely healthy, very quick and easy, delicious meal that has enough variations to make it a regular staple. It has three parts:

1. Baked tofu

Cut firm (not silken) organic, non-genetically engineered tofu into slabs about as thick as your little finger. Place them in a baking dish (anything but aluminium) with a little water. Sprinkle the tofu with organic, low salt Tamari and add a little of the same to the water. Grate fresh ginger over the tofu and place in a moderate oven. If you like your tofu softer, 15 – 20 mins is enough, if you like it firmer, leave another 5 mins or so.

2. Brown rice

Cook by the absorption method: Add about one and a half times the volume of water compared to the volume of rice. Bring to the slow boil with the lid on. The rice should be cooked as all the water is absorbed into the rice. With organic brown rice this can take up to 40 minutes.

3. Steamed vegetables

With a bit of luck you have an organic home veggie garden and so you steam whatever is ready to be picked. Alternatively you prepare what is in season for your area at the time of the meal. This is where the variety comes; you can change the combination of veggies you use a great deal. Mostly this takes step takes around 5 – 10 minutes.

Aim to co-ordinate the cooking so everything is ready at the same time. Feel free to experiment a bit to get this close to right. Once the meal is on the plate, adding some flaxseed oil and Tamari to the rice adds to the flavour and texture.

This meal is tasty, quick and very good for you and those you care about.

How does the recipe link with the communication history?

Is your health a matter of luck, or is it the result of a recipe? I suggest that to a very large degree your health and wellbeing is a bit like Baked tofu, brown rice and vegetables. If you know the recipe and follow it, you can be pretty confident of the outcome.

As an observation, my sense of it is that many of the people who obtained those early cassettes of terrible quality made more of them than quite a few of the people who buy CDs and the like these days.

Why?

Well one obvious thing is they needed a great deal of commitment to persevere through the poor technology! But then, maybe it is because we live in a time of information overload; a time when so much is available so easily. Rather than getting one thing, sticking to it and giving it a fair go, these days I hear of a disturbing number of people who go information shopping. They seek out the new, you beaut version of this or that, and do not give anything a fair chance. They keep searching for something new, something supposedly better.

So here is an important suggestion. It makes sense to search around and do research into what is likely to help you. But then there comes a time for action. A time to make a commitment and to give what you do a chance to have effect. Of course it makes sense from time to time to stand back, re-assess and make adjustments. It does not make sense to change constantly from one thing to the next.

So for those who over the years found helpful what I have produced by way of books, cassettes, CDs and DVD, I do hope the new technology in Mindbody Mastery will be helpful. There is a recipe involved.

Also, there is a need to respond to the times we live in!


NEWS
SOGYAL RINPOCHE


Public talks in Melbourne and other Australian centres


Here is another great present that would be highly meaningful and is well worth considering to give to your self or someone you really care about for Christmas.


The Heart Essence of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

A glimpse of the Buddhist wisdom of Tibet, and its vision of life and death


Venue:   Genazzano FCJ College301 Cotham Rd Kew (ample parking; Tram no. 109 and No. 42)
Time:   Tuesday 20th December, 7.30pm
Tickets:   $25 full, $15 concession.   Book online at rigpa.org.au/tour    or    by phone on (03) 9877 6811

A transformative gift you could offer to friends and family

Enquiries:  Regarding the Pubic Talk, Courses and Meditation at the Melbourne Fitzroy centre (03) 9417 4488  Email:  http://www.melbourne.rigpa.org.au/


RELATED BLOGS

The Mindbody Mastery Program

Good food prepared quickly - Free spirit pasta and vegetables

RESOURCES

Click here for details of the current material I have produced.

Mindbody Mastery will be available in a week or two.

21 November 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Random facts of kindness

This blog, two issues that demand attention. The first concerns us all and exposes how industrial animal farming is putting us all at risk – even if you are a vegetarian! There is a real need to be selective in how we produce our food and what we as consumers buy and eat. Then there is an issue for the therapists who read this blog and are concerned about mental health.

The new 'outbreak' film Contagion raises real concerns


Microbes are finally getting the attention they deserve: albeit through the glossy veneer of a Hollywood ‘outbreak film', Contagion. The film stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon and Laurence Fishburne and is loosely based on research by Nathan Wolfe whose new book, Viral Storm: the dawn of a new pandemic age, tells why modern life has made us more vulnerable, not less, to the threat of a global pandemic.

In the film, the origin of a deadly global virus is linked back to a nesting bat whose home is destroyed by forest clearing from a mining company. The homeless bat then infects a pig, which is slaughtered and the chef, who carries the pig blood on his hands, passes it on to an unsuspecting first victim (played by Gwyneth Paltrow).

Reproduced here with permission, is part of an article in The Ecologist that reports on the book which goes into detail, linking the threat of global disease pandemics and industrial animal farming.

Being a veterinarian myself, this issue is one I have been aware of and deeply concerned about for decades. When will my profession, the Government, the meat industry and the public act on this major health problem?

The fact is that cramped and stressed conditions in factory farms require the use of low level antibiotics to protect the animals. These drugs are euphemistically called “growth promotants” and they directly contribute to antibiotic resistance, making it more difficult to treat human as well as animal diseases. Eighty per cent of all antibiotics sold in 2009 were used on livestock and poultry, meaning that just 20 per cent were used for human illnesses. Seventy-five per cent of antibiotics are not absorbed by animals and are excreted in their waste, posing another serious risk to public health.

Wolfe has done his own research on factory farming, stating that more than half of the livestock produced globally now originate in industrial farm settings. The numbers of livestock boggle the mind: over one billion cattle, one billion pigs and over twenty billion chickens live on our planet.

Industrial farms can be more than settings to grow meat; they can be ‘incubators' for infectious agents that could move into human populations, he writes.

The Ecologist has reported widely on the growing threat of deadly antibiotic-resistant infections from animals to humans.

Yet the calls so far for the reduction of the use of antibiotics have gone largely ignored, primarily because factory farming would not be possible without them. For options and to read the full Ecologist article by Matilda Lee, click here. 

DSM 5 petition reflects concerns with the overdiagnosis and overtreatment of mental health conditions.

The DSM or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is published by the American Psychiatric Association and provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders.

A new edition, planned for publication in 2013, is attracting a good deal of controversy as the early drafts reveal significant changes from the current DSM 4.

An online petition against the new version, which began on October 22, is reported to have attracted 3,514 signatures by Nov 3 and over 6,000 by Nov 15.

The criticisms include the reduction in the number of criteria necessary to diagnose ADHD and the lowering of the diagnostic threshold for generalised anxiety disorder.

The DSM-5 taskforce’s consideration of several “unsubstantiated and questionable disorder categories” such as apathy syndrome, internet addiction disorder and parental alienation syndrome is also condemned.

One Australian signatory is Dr Godfrey Barrett-Lennard, an honorary fellow in the school of psychology at WA’s Murdoch University, who writes:

“The whole approach of rendering varieties of human distress under the heading of illnesses or pathologies is in my considered view... on the wrong track and seriously and even harmfully misleading.”

To read what Psychiatry Update (from Australian Doctor) has to comment on this matter click here, or to see the petition, signatories and comments, or to sign: click here.

NEWS


MINDBODY MASTERY, the new downloadable meditation program, continues to near completion!

Due to the thoroughness of the ongoing support package that will come with the base 8 week program, there is a good deal of IT detail to establish and ensure that it is working well. This is nearly done and I hope to be able to announce the release date in a week, and that it will be around another week on from then.  For more details, click here.

14 November 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Meditation and its experiences

I am often asked a really good question:

What can I expect as I begin to meditate, and how do I know I am making progress?

This week, with my new online meditation program, Mindbody Mastery, just days away from being released, it may be helpful to explain in some detail what happens as you begin to meditate and go deeper.

This information was collated using a series of extensive questionnaires filled in by many people whom I taught to meditate over several years in the late 1980s. The experiences recounted here match common experiences described by some of the great meditation traditions. It does seem that many people do advance in a steady progression through all of these experiences, but it is also not uncommon to leapfrog some milestones. Just because you do not have one or another of these experiences does not mean you are not meditating well.

However, particularly when relaxation is used as a lead-in to meditation, there are a series of key indicators of progress that are worth being aware of. Of course, by providing a measuring stick for meditation progress, there is a risk we will become anxious or judgemental, wanting to achieve a particular ‘level’, or becoming despondent if we do not seem to be making progress. Therefore we have to remind ourselves yet again of the need to approach all this in the right state of mind - engaged but non-judgemental!

However, many people do find it helpful to use the following information as one would use a series of signposts or significant milestones that appear during a journey. If we have a sense of where we are traveling to and know what signposts or milestones to expect, when we see them we can simply relax, knowing that we are on the right track and heading in the right direction.

All of this makes for a Blog that is much longer than usual, but maybe it is interesting and helpful!

i). Motivation and intention

By simply intending to meditate you have taken the first step and reached the first milestone.

ii). Establishing a practice

This second milestone is reached when you actually start to practise.

iii). Being able to sit still

Most people who start need to overcome some feelings of restlessness; they need to learn to sit still. Once you can do this, you have accomplished another milestone.

iv). Feeling heavy

As we begin to relax physically, often the body begins to feel heavy. This feeling usually affects the limbs, especially the arms. During this stage some people report that their arms feel so heavy they doubt they could lift them even if they wanted to.

v). Feeling lighter

As we relax more, heaviness often gives way to lightness. Sometimes people feel as if their arms are floating; sometimes the whole body. For some, this sensation can feel as if they are floating in space. Generally, using the Mindfulness-Based Stillness Meditation (MBSM) technique, we stay well grounded, and while the feeling of lightness does often come, it is a lightness of body that we experience, not a disconnected, troubling feeling. The lightness most people experience is very pleasant, very comfortable.

vi). Temperature changes

Often as we begin to relax and to meditate, we move through a phase where we feel hotter or cooler. For a small percentage of people, the feeling of heat can be accompanied by sweating. Sweating is more common if there is a localised area of illness or injury, but some very healthy people do sweat for a while too. Sometimes hot flushes are experienced.

If there are persistent feelings of cold, then warm clothes or a rug are recommended. Usually the feelings of temperature changes come and go fairly quickly, both in individual sessions and during the practice generally. These sensations are rarely around for more than a week or two.

vii). Sexual arousal

This is not so often discussed, but it is not uncommon for beginners to have some experiences of sexual arousal. While this is more common when techniques are used that focus on energy centres, particularly the chakras and their activation, it can occur when we simply relax. While often disconcerting because it is usually unexpected, this experience is another one to simply observe. It usually passes quite quickly, and is an unusual phenomenon for more experienced meditators; maybe that is a little disappointing for some, but it is the truth of the matter!

viii). Feeling the same all over—the hollow-body feeling

As we relax more deeply, more completely, we reach a point where we can scan our attention through our body and it feels the same all over. At this point we will have a clear sense of our body’s outer boundaries, as in the sense of where our skin is, but inside, everything feels ‘hollow’. Now this ‘hollow’ is not like an empty void; it is not a nothingness. On the contrary, it feels luminous and vibrant. It feels very much alive, and again, very pleasant.

ix). Changes in body awareness

There are two versions that commonly occur during this stage. The first is that we lose awareness of parts of the body, usually the hands and forearms. We can be sitting there, quite awake but not able to feel those parts of our body. Of course, if we were to open our eyes our body parts would be there, but it feels as if they are not.

Less frequently, people feel as if their body is expanding and becoming larger, as though it was being pumped up like a balloon, and becoming fuzzy around the edges.

x). Loss of body awareness

If we simply relax into and go along with either of the two changes in body awareness mentioned above in point ix), the next thing is that we lose awareness of our body altogether.

xi). Transitional experiences

By now, if we are experiencing a loss of body awareness, we are deeply relaxed and our mind is becoming very calm and relaxed as well. We now enter into what is called the transitional phase, which occurs in that realm between an active mind and a still mind. If the stillness we enter into is the stillness of the ordinary mind, just an absence of thoughts, then our experience is likely to be rather dull and nebulous. If we are more alert, more mindful, and more aware, then maybe we enter into the stillness beyond thought.

The transition occurs as we move from awareness of the thinking mind into that awareness beyond thought, the awareness of stillness. In this transitional phase, inner phenomena often, but not always, come to our attention.

The most common phenomenon is the appearance of inner light. This light will almost always be iridescent, of a primary colour like blue or red, though it could also be white. Usually the lights move. Most frequently they pulsate, often starting off in the distance and then moving towards us, only to fade away or to recede into the distance before pulsing back again. Sometimes they do the opposite, starting as a field of coloured light in front of our eyes, and then receding and pulsing back and forward. For others the light may move from side to side or swirl around.

The common reaction when we first see these lights is to be pleasantly surprised, to realise that something interesting is happening, and to try to analyse what the lights mean! This, of course, activates the thinking mind; we come up out of the depth of relaxation in which the lights appeared, and so the lights disappear. Then, if we consciously try to make them appear again, we are using our thinking mind, and so we do not relax enough, we do not let go deeply enough, and the lights do not reappear.
These inner lights are classic signposts and they can be very instructive as our meditation progresses. What their appearance tells us is that we must be deeply relaxed in both body and mind. Whatever has got us to that point of deep relaxation is working well.

Also, the lights demonstrate to us very directly that if we use our thinking mind we come out of that deep relaxation. At the same time, we come to learn that if we simply relax and go with the feeling of deep relaxation, we can move on past this transitional phase where the inner light appears, and into the deeper realm of stillness.

While inner lights are the most common phenomenon in this transitional phase, some people see images, like faces, and some hear music or other sounds. However, these phenomena are much less common than the frequently observed inner light. It is best to treat them all in the same way: simply be aware of them, resist the temptation to analyse or judge them, let go a little more, relax more deeply and flow on into a deeper stillness.

xii). Infinite space

Having moved through the transitional phase described, the next most common experience is to have a sense of being in infinite space. This ‘space’ is not a void or an emptiness. It is commonly dark, yet it has a feeling of luminosity and what is best described as an immanence. It feels as if it is a very creative, very alive space, yet empty of anything definable or recognisable as a specific object. Infinite space: Vast with no borders, no boundaries, and accompanied by a very expansive, warm, contented, blissful feeling.

xiii). Infinite consciousness

This feeling of infinite space can flow on to become a feeling of being connected to or part of an infinite consciousness. It is as if the luminous space described becomes more directly, more tangibly ripe with creative potential. This becomes a more mystical type of experience, a more direct experience of a spiritual truth. Often, the feeling that accompanies this phase is intense bliss. For some people this mystical feeling can be accompanied by visions. For all, it is a transcendent and transformative experience.

xiv). Oneness

The experience of infinite space, and the experience of infinite consciousness, significant and wonderful as they both may be, still involve a duality. In other words, while these two experiences can only be found in the realm of stillness beyond the thinking mind, there is still a part of us that is observing the experience. There is a sense that I am experiencing, or I am observing, infinite space. I am experiencing or I am aware of infinite consciousness. There is me, and there is the experience. A duality. That which is the observer, and that which is observed. In this state of stillness, that duality may be quite subtle, but it is a duality nonetheless.

Meditation reaches its end when we transcend that duality, when there is simply a pure awareness. The duality merges into a state of union, and there is the direct experience of unity, a oneness.

Even a glimpse of this oneness, even a moment, or just a fleeting sense of what it is like, is deeply reassuring. Maybe this is just like being introduced briefly to a new person and we are yet to get to know them well; to become familiar with them. But even in a brief experience of that oneness we come to experience a profound inner truth, the truth of who we really are, and the truth of what is in our heart’s essence.

Use this information wisely!

It is tempting, especially as a beginner, to become eager and impatient at the prospect of experiencing all of this. So again, remember to temper this excitement with the knowledge that in meditation what will help us to advance is to avoid trying too hard, to avoid making it a source of a stress, to avoid judgement, and to concentrate on just doing it.

Where these signposts can be helpful is that when we do experience them, we can take comfort that we are heading in the right direction. They tell us we are progressing, and that we simply need to use the techniques and support them by letting go of judgement and reaction, and taking comfort in the knowledge that the techniques do work and that we just need to go with them.

Of course, the real answer to the question “How do I know if I am meditating well?” is this: ‘You know you are meditating well when you do not have to ask the question!’ What this means is that it is possible for us to reach a point in our meditation practice where we have an inner knowing that leaves us confident that all is well, that the meditation is going well. There is no longer any need to ask anyone; we just know.

Happy meditating!

This Blog has been adapted from “Meditation – an In-depth Guide” by Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson.

NEWS


1. Sogyal Rinpoche will be in Melbourne for a public talk prior to Christmas - 20th December. What a great present! Take someone you care for. He is also in other cities are Australia - check the website.

RELATED BLOG     The Mindbody Mastery Program

RESOURCES


BOOK    Meditation - an In-depth Guide: Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson

DVD  Meditation live:  Ian Gawler

07 November 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Where does your power come from?

Some people are naturally positive in the way they approach life. I have known many others, who recognizing they were somewhat lacking in this quality, set out to acquire it. Some actively trained their minds using positive thinking techniques. Others learnt to meditate, developing clearer, calmer minds and then the positivity simply flowed.

Let go “Out on a Limb” and discuss the relative merits of the two approaches. What works best? Positive thinking or meditation? Or is it more effective to do both at the same time? What is your experience? This is an area where your feedback in the Comments section below would be particularly welcome.

Positive thinking can be developed through act of will. Just as we can decide to study computers or to play golf, we can use our will to become more positive. Developing the power of the mind in this deliberate, systematic way involves using our intellect to study how our mind works and how we can use it more efficiently and effectively.

This is like making a cake – it does take some effort on our part, but if we know the recipe and follow it, we can produce a predictable outcome. Also, the more cakes we make, the more we practice, the better our cakes become.

Meditation provides an interesting contrast. The act of will with meditation is to actually do it. It takes will to make the time to practise. However, when we do practise, meditation is more about letting go than of making an effort. The less we “try”, the better it seems to flow.

As you will know if you have done some meditation, meditation is less about doing and more about being. Being at rest, yet aware and undistracted. When we learn to meditate by relaxing our bodies and calming our minds, as in the Mindfulness-Based Stillness Meditation method I teach, the mind settles, and when we remain undistracted with our attention in the present moment, stress and anxiety dissolves. Maybe an awareness of a deeper stillness dawns, bringing with it a natural clarity. We feel an inner peace. An inner confidence and a natural positivity flows.

So we could say positive thinking methods makes being more positive happen, while meditation allows it to happen.

So what to do? Experience tells me people are naturally drawn, or is that attracted?, to what they need. This is especially so if one does happen to have some clarity of mind.

It makes sense therefore, that some people start by deliberately developing and practising affirmations and imagery. Others maybe recognise their need to calm their minds and regain some balance through meditation first, while they trust this too will lead to a more positive state of mind.

Certainly we can do both things at once. Affirmations, imagery and meditation are synergistic. Perhaps the real secret is to be flexible, aware and open so that we can recognise what we need when. Either that or have a good advisor.

It may be worth mentioning one potential trap. Some people become so enthused about “being positive” that their will becomes dominant and their perspective narrow. Meditation balances the will, adding resilience while it also brings more openness, flexibility and creativity.

So what works for you? What have you turned to when you needed more positivity? Positive thinking? Meditation? We have not discussed here the role of family or friends. Were there particular people or books you benefited from? What lifted you? What inspired you?

Anything to share?


NEWS


1. Mindbody Research 

My new on-line meditation based program, Mindbody Mastery, is just a few weeks away from release. One of the features on the website for the program will be a detailed summary of the research published on meditation. Actually it will be more than that as people tend to validate what they do in different ways. Some like to know the history, how things have stood the test of time. Others like personal accounts, the testimonies, the stories and experiences that come from respected authorities, from their families, friends and the wider community, along with personal recommendations and inspiration. And of course, it is not only the scientists who are interested in what the formal research has to say.

So in support of the Mindbody Mastery program we will consider the evidence relating to meditation in general and the program specifically by examining:

1. The History of Meditation.

2. The Evidence Base for Meditation and the different elements of the Mindbody Mastery Program.

3. Personal Testimonies.

So once the program is up and running, you may find this a useful resource – most of the actual research section has been collated by Dr Craig Hassed from Monash University.

2. The Gawler Foundation Conference is only a week or so away, a great opportunity to refresh and refocus on integrative health with like-minded people.

3. Sogyal Rinpoche will be back in Australia soon and is giving a public lecture in Melbourne on the 20th of December and the meditation retreat at Myall Lakes in January.

RESOURCES


RELATED BLOGS


Mindbody Mastery

The mind that changes everything

Go with the flow or intervene?

BOOKS 

Meditation – an In-depth Guide

The Mind that Changes Everything

CDs

Mind Training

Meditation – a Complete Guide

31 October 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Telomeres, meditation and length of life.

If meditation can lengthen your telomeres, does this mean it lengthens your life? A major new study from America, involving Australian Noble Laureate Prof Elizabeth Blackburn, is one of a number of recent studies that tantalisingly suggests this may well be so.

What then are telomeres? Telomeres are sequences of DNA at the end of all our chromosomes that tend to become damaged and shorten each time one of our cells divide. With time and aging, the telomere length eventually drops below a critical length and then that cell can no longer divide properly and its death follows.

Telomerase is an enzyme that can rebuild and lengthen telomeres. Other research indicates that telomerase activity may be linked with psychological stress and physical health.

This new study, conducted by a big team at UC Davis and led by Tonya Jacobs and Clifford Saron, measured telomerase activity in the participants of a three month, intensive meditation retreat. Known as the Shamatha project, and with the retreat itself led by the renowned B Alan Wallace, participants meditated in group sessions twice daily, and in individual practice for six hours each day.

The most comprehensive scientific study of a meditation retreat yet conducted, there have been some very interesting findings. Firstly, telomerase activity was 30% higher in those on the retreat compared to their matched controls. There was a positive relationship between these telomerase changes and positive psychological changes.

Saron speaking with the due caution of a scientist says “ The take home message from this work is not that meditation directly increases telomerase activity and therefore a person’s health and longevity. Rather, meditation may improve a person’s psychological wellbeing and in turn these changes are related to telomerase activity in cells, which have the potential to promote longevity in those cells”.

Jacobs commented “this work is the first to show a relation between positive psychological change and telomerase activity.”

Having said that, some readers of this blog will be aware that Dean Ornish showed with his research into the effects of a lifestyle based approach for men with early prostate cancer, that as well as reducing PSA activity and significantly reducing the need for more major medical treatment, the lifestyle approach significantly increased the length of the men’s telomeres. It is of note that Ornish’s approach is very similar to the one set out in “You Can Conquer Cancer” and taught at the Gawler Foundation.

Also, this study may be the start to being able to scientifically understand the evidence from other observational studies that have associated meditation with increased physiological health and longevity.

Clearly there is the need for more study in this exciting field and how good it would be if some of the new research was funded and conducted here in Australia where we have such a rich tradition of the practice of therapeutic meditation.

NEWS


MINDBODY MASTERY:  My new on-line 8 wk meditation based mind training program is due for release on November 24th. We are in the final stages of preparing the rather sophisticated website and system to deliver the program, along with the 6 mths of integrated support which includes email and SMS reminders etc.

A number of people have enquired re the cost. We are keen to make the program readily accessible and so the whole thing is costed at $108, although to members of my database and blog there will be a 15% discount, making the cost to you $91.80. Hopefully this is very good value for money and reasonable affordable. The program could make great Christmas presents.

The Gawler Foundation's Annual Conference Nov 19 & 20 The Hilton, Melbourne

This is a great conference that has been presented annually since 1984. There is an excellent line-up of speakers and the chance to spend a weekend amongst a diverse group of like minded people. The lunches provided are a vegetarian highlight and people seem to always leave inspired, informed and thoroughly satisfied with the event. I am presenting a Keynote  and a Workshop, so hope to see many old faces (even if they are young ones) and meet new people. It is wise to book soon as the workshops are filling.

You Can Conquer Cancer: I have Robina Courtin helping me currently to edit the almost fully rewritten new edition of my cancer book. First published in 1984, it has been revised twice in recent years, but this is its first really major rewrite and it will probably be released mid next year. Be reassured the current one remains very useful in my opinion. It is not that the basic information is being changed; it is being updated and modernised. It is 27 years old after all. Maybe its telomeres need a bit of a revamp!

RESOURCES


RELATED BLOG  Mindbody Mastery


BOOKS Meditation – an In-depth Guide: Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson

               The Mind that Changes Everything: Ian Gawler

              You Can Conquer Cancer: Ian Gawler

CDs      The Gawler Cancer Program: Ian Gawler

PROGRAMS: The Gawler Foundation

RESEARCH:  U C Davis: Centre for Mind and Brain
                     
                         The Shamatha Project

                         Dean Ornish and the Preventive Medicine Research Institute

24 October 2011

Mindbody Mastery

TO LINK TO THE MINDBODY MASTERY WEBSITE, CLICK HERE

For nearly two years now, I have been pre-occupied with how to help people more effectively on a broader, more accessible scale. The first manifestation of these efforts is a very exciting, soon to be released meditation based, on-line mind training program with some unique features.

The program is called Mindbody Mastery and it uses modern technology to provide readily affordable access to the techniques that we all know generate clarity of mind, good health and great performance in all aspects of life. It will be like attending a meditation group with a teacher on-line.

Mindbody Mastery will be presented via an initial 8wk program of MP3 downloads for smart phones or computer, and includes 6 months of support via a cutting edge support package. The program will be terrific for beginners and a great way of deepening and sustaining your mindfulness and meditation if you already do some.

Over the initial 8 weeks, you will be introduced to, and supported to learn and apply 8 easy mind-centred techniques. Each week you will receive a download in two parts. First, a short, spoken introduction to the theory (available in either male or female voice – me or Ruth) along with an explanation of how to practise a specific exercise designed to be used daily over the coming week. Second, you will be guided in the exercise itself.

Each exercise will build logically on those before it, and together provide direct access to rapid relaxation, increased powers of concentration, the practical skill of mindfulness, and the deep natural peace of meditation. Mindbody Mastery also includes the added benefits of guided imagery and contemplation. Another feature is that several of the exercises include backing music from world-class musicians on cello, harp, flute and sarod (which is a bit like a sitar).

Now the special features of the program. For years I have worked with thousands of people who want to meditate but struggle to keep up a regular practice. So Mindbody Mastery is reinforced by a thorough, ongoing support program. Using a sophisticated combination of simple and well-proven technologies, you will receive six months of elegantly structured email and SMS reminders. You will be encouraged and supported to use social media networking along with personal and group feedback to build your practice routines. As well, you will be have access to webinars, FAQ and experts for personal advice where needed.

This extensive support package, along with the use of modern, web based technology for delivery, make this program of real interest to the public and the research community. Therefore, formal research evaluation is built into the program.

Led by Prof Nick Allen, Professor of Psychology at the University of Melbourne, this ongoing research will assess any changes in state of mind, quality of life and a range of lifestyle behaviours. Under examination is the theory that as participant’s state of mind improves, so too may their lifestyle. For example, they may eat better, smoke and drink less alcohol, loose weight and exercise more. Of course, they may feel a whole lot better generally!

There are now well over 7,000 studies published worldwide confirming that the mind techniques taught in the Mindbody Mastery program reliably improve physical, emotional and mental health, enhance spiritual values and improve performance in nearly every arena of human endeavour. Also, these techniques are proven to make valuable contributions as adjuncts to existing treatment programs for most physical, emotional and mental health issues. A summary of this research will be available on the Mindbody website.

While Mindbody Mastery focuses on training the mind and has no reference to any particular faith or creed, experience tells us that this program will reliably enhance spiritual values such as gratitude, kindness and altruism. These qualities are associated with greater self-care, family care and social responsibility. The program is compatible with any secular, spiritual or religious views.

Mindbody Mastery looks like being ready for release towards the end of November. Maybe this will be something you will use yourself. Maybe you could use it, or refer it to other people you know, or your workplace, health related groups, sporting clubs; it is designed to have a myriad of applications. It would make a terrific Christmas present for those of you who have children who are ready to begin to train their minds.

Once the website is ready in mid November, I will be advising you via the blog, but if you have specific questions, or can think of larger applications for the program, let me know via my website.

THE MINDBODY MASTERY PROGRAM

WEEK 1    RELAXATION
Introduction and theory: A brief introduction to the full module and this week’s focus – the negative effects of stress, the benefits of relaxation and an introduction to this week’s exercise.

The exercise: Rapid Relaxation: A 5 minute technique to relax the body and calm the mind.

WEEK 2    MIND – BODY MEDICINE
Theory: Brief outline of the current, research based understandings of the interactions between mind and body and a further development of the rationale for the full module.

Exercise: Deep Relaxation. Participants will learn how to physically relax quickly and deeply.

WEEK 3    CONCENTRATION
Theory: It will be explained how focussing one’s attention takes the mind off disturbing emotions and thoughts, reduces mental chatter and actually calms the mind.

Exercise: Focussing on the breath. Participants will learn a simple technique to focus their minds, enhancing concentration in a way that will enhance all these mind techniques and help them to be able to concentrate more fully when required in daily life.

WEEK 4    MINDFULNESS - 1
Theory: Mindfulness will be defined, while the theory behind its many proven benefits and its practice will be explained.

Exercise: Mindfulness of sound and breath. These two mindfulness exercises are brought together into one very effective technique that is easy to learn and practise.

WEEK 5    MINDFULNESS – 2
Theory: Mindfulness theory will be expanded and reinforced, giving emphasis to learning how to remain undistracted and to let go of potentially stressful and anxiety provoking events and thoughts.

Exercise: Mindfulness of thoughts. Participants will learn a simple yet highly effective technique that teaches them to achieve a deeper stillness of mind beyond thought.

WEEK 6     VISUALISATION and IMAGERY
Theory: How to use basic imagery techniques will be explained, along with a rationale for their use and their potential benefits.

Exercise: The Healing Journey. This is a guided imagery exercise replete with many subtle yet powerful metaphorical images developed to enhance healing and wellbeing. This exercise appeals to the young and old alike and has been well tested over decades.

WEEK 7     MEDITATION
Theory: Participants will learn how to combine what they have learnt of relaxation, concentration and mindfulness into a simple meditation exercise that they will be encouraged to practise in an ongoing way as their main mind training technique.

WEEK 8     CONTEMPLATION and INTEGRATION
Theory: The practice of contemplation will be introduced (it is worth noting that recent research has indicated this practice helps to overcome depression) and an introduction given for this week’s exercise.
Also, guidance will be given regarding integrating the techniques learnt throughout the module into daily life, along with an outline of the on-going support package.

Exercise: Contemplation on gratitude.

At week 12, you will receive a bonus meditation download which features a brief meditation practice that can be used daily.

To finish, a reminder:

Remember to breath, let go, relax, smile.

Welcome to this present moment.

NEWS

Early Bird Discount is closing soon for the Happiness and its Causes Conference. Mention my name as a speaker and the organisers will give you a further 15% discount!

Click here for the link to this great conference that I am honoured to speak at again next year. Here is a summary from the program:

WHY ARE WE HERE?     HOW CAN WE BE HAPPY?     HOW SHOULD WE LIVE?

Join the best and brightest minds in philosophy, science, psychology, spirituality and the arts in exploring these questions and more at Happiness & Its Causes 2012. Now in its 7th amazing year, Happiness & Its Causes is the world’s leading conference examining the varied causes of a happy and meaningful life.
Be motivated and inspired by an extraordinary roll call of 40+ speakers from Australia and abroad!

Keynotes include world-renowned Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Sogyal Rinpoche; founder of positive psychology Dr Martin Seligman; acclaimed ethicist, philosopher and author, Peter Singer; pioneering researcher into successful ageing Ellen Langer; playwright and National Living Treasure, David Williamson and ground-breaking journalist, Ita Buttrose.

DISCOUNTS ARE AVAILABLE! Book before 4 November and save $200 on the 2 day conference and $340 on the gold pass!

PLUS given I am presenting at the event, my contacts are entitled to a further 15% discount on the conference fees. Simply call (02) 8719 5118 to register and mention my name.

RESOURCES FOR MEDITATION from Ian Gawler

THE MINDBODY MASTERY WEBSITE

BOOK:   Meditation – an In-depth Guide: Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson
     
                The Mind that Changes Everything: Ian Gawler

DVD:  Meditation Live

CDs: Meditation – A Complete Guide  is the best CD to begin with; then the others follow on as a sequence

17 October 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Orgasm or the moment of death?

Here is a challenge for you. Would you rather read a blog that focuses on orgasm and mentions dying in passing, or would you rather read a blog on dying that mentions orgasm in passing?

You are sure to know someone who has not had an orgasm, but you will not know anyone who will not die one day. So which takes your attention? While it would be nice to know how to have a good orgasm, surely it would be good to know how to have a good death.

Nearing the completion of a major rewrite of my book, “You Can Conquer Cancer”, I came across a poem I wrote some time back. The theme is the moment of death. It seems to me that at the moment of death will come quite a revelation. As our body dies, and our emotions and thinking mind dissolves, we will find out what is left.

If there is nothing, well that will be no problem. If there is something, how can it be anything but extraordinary? In fact, it could be bloody marvellous. In the Tibetan tradition, they say that at the moment of death, as our connection with our body and mind drops away, our spirit is truly free and at that moment we have our best chance of becoming fully enlightened.

So maybe the moment of death is something to put off as long as practical – life is so wonderful; but then when it comes, maybe it is something to relish.

So I will be curious. The blog on orgasm has been one of the most read blogs I have written (not nearly the most read!). What about this one? Did you read the blog on orgasm? Did you pass it on to anyone else to read? Will you read this blog on the moment of death, and will you pass it on to anyone else?

Any comments? If you are new to all this, click on the comments section below to add one yourself, or to read what others have to say. And here is the poem:

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.


NEWS


1. The Cancer Council is organising a series of fundraising bike riding events around the country with the branding of “Conquer Cancer”. More power to them.

2. Next week I will present details of the new project I have been working on for the last 18mths – Mindbody Mastery – an on-line meditation based mind training program that features relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, along with a comprehensive support package designed to help you develop and sustain these practices.

RELATED BLOG Orgasm, healing and wellbeing

                           On Enlightenment

RESOURCES




BOOKS    You Can Conquer Cancer: Ian Gawler. Chapter on Death and Dying

                The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: Sogyal Rinpoche. Provides widely accessible details on how to live well and die well


CD   Understanding death, helping the dying: Ian Gawler. Very useful to listen to with those you are close to as it can act as a catalyst to talk about this most important aspect of life that many people overlook in their conversations.


Programs/ Counselling: The Gawler Foundation

10 October 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Would you eat like a dog?

Why is it that so many authorities who are really serious about nutrition, and especially nutrition for healing, recommend a vegetable based diet with little or no meat?

To understand, we need to divert a little and consider dogs, cows and digestive systems.

Digestion

There are three types of animal digestive systems; carnivore, herbivore and omnivore. A classic carnivore like a dog is designed to eat a high meat diet. A classic herbivore like a cow runs on grass and us human beings; well we are omnivores trying to get the best of both worlds. Knowing about our own digestive system, and how it compares to the others, helps us to understand what we are wisest to eat, and what makes best sense when we are eating for recovery.

The Carnivore

A dog has a very specific anatomical set up to enable it to manage the food it eats. Here is the key point regarding meat. Digestion of virtually any food produces waste products. We eat a food like meat or a particular vegetable, we take what we can use from that food and we eliminate the leftovers, the waste products. With meat, the waste products are somewhat problematic; they are rich in nitrites and other potentially toxic bi-products of their digestion. Vegetables do not produce these problematic waste products.

If the metabolic waste products from meat stay in the bowel for long, they can be directly toxic to the lining of the bowel, or they can be absorbed through the bowel and become toxic to the rest of the body.

Now the dog is essentially a scavenging meat eater with a matching anatomy. It has sharp canine teeth for biting and ripping its potential meal into big pieces. Then it swallows quickly before anyone else can steal its share. Therefore it has modest chewing teeth at the back of its mouth and actually does little chewing unless on a bone or equivalent. Next it has just one, relatively compact stomach that secretes almost pure hydrochloric acid to liquefy the lumps of food it has gulped down.

Then the key point; every dog has a very short bowel, and as a result, what we call a rapid transit time. The transit time measures how long it takes food to go through the system; from front to back, or top to bottom.

Because of the potentially toxic nature of the metabolic waste products that come from the digestion of meat, the dog needs to get rid of them quickly. Hence short bowel, rapid transit time.

The Herbivore

By contrast, a classic herbivore like the cow has a very different digestive challenge. It is eating vegetable matter and with grass, needs to be able to digest cellulose. The cow therefore has a very different anatomy. Firstly, there is a need to start the digestive process by grinding the food very finely.  As a result, the cow has no serious biting teeth, but very serious grinders! Whilst the dog’s back teeth are permanent and static, in the same way that adult human teeth are, the cow’s back teeth constantly grow. Cows do so much chewing that they need to continually replace what has been ground down.

Next the cow has four stomachs! Four. The first is like a huge tank which mixes the finely ground grass with water and saliva and literally ferments it. In the process, cows produce large amounts of methane.

So these days, aware conservationists are joining the push to reduce meat consumption as the volumes of methane produced have a major impact on the atmosphere. Also, to grow an equivalent amount of beef protein compared to vegetable protein requires around 18-20 times more land area. Given the huge problems with the clearing of forests and utilisation of land, this is another major environmental rationale for less meat, more vegetable protein consumption.

Back to the cow; after the four stomachs the cow has a very long digestive tract and a much slower transit time than a dog.

The Omnivore

As humans, we are trying to manage eating just about anything, so our anatomical set up is a compromise. We have teeth that can bite and chew. We have one stomach with high acid content and an intermediate length of bowel. While the dog’s transit time is around 6-8 hours, the cow 2-4 days, the ideal human transit time is 18-24 hours.

For people, there is another relevant issue. Fibre in our diet does two important things that are relevant to this discussion. Firstly, fibre adds bulk and regulates transit times. Low fibre, longer transit time. Secondly, it acts as a sponge or a buffer. If we do eat something, or have some metabolic waste products form in our bowel that are potentially toxic, high levels of fibre act as a sponge to absorb the toxic material and usher it quickly out of our system.

Now you probably understand the average Western diet has been high in meat and low in fibre. This means more toxic waste products, less buffering or absorption from fibre and slower transit times. A great recipe for provoking all bowel diseases and some others in the body generally.

Clearly, humans can manage eating meat, but anatomically, we are better designed for vegetable proteins.

NEWS

1. Had a great weekend leading a meditation teacher training and retreat for Health Professionals with Zen monks from Thich Nhat Hahn’s tradition at the Gawler Foundation’s Centre in the Yarra Valley. There is the wonderful concept of noble conversation amidst noble company, and this was certainly the case as a delightfully diverse group of practitioners gathered and we explored what is a real priviledge, the opportunity to teach another person meditation.

2. I have been in discussion with the Foundation about contributing to some of their programs next year, and next week will outline these plans.

RESOURCES


RELATED BLOGS     Food for Life

                                 Big Mac or a salad?

                                 What fuel goes into your tank?

BOOKS    You Can Conquer Cancer  Ian Gawler – contains full dietary recommendations for those who are well, and for those who are recovering from cancer

               The China Study     T C & T M Campbell -  Excellent recent research and protein information.                

CDs   Eating Well, Being Well   Ian Gawler – Details the Wellness Diet –a sound diet for all

         Eating For Recovery   Ian Gawler -  Details the Healing Diet for those interested in using their nutrition therapeutically to assist recovering from cancer.

03 October 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Alcohol, health and wellbeing

I am often asked about the relative benefits of drinking alcohol. Is it OK for our health, or does it come at a cost? And does it make a difference if someone is dealing with major illness, particularly cancer? And what about pregnancy? Let us “Go Out On A Limb” and investigate.

The common forms of drinking alcohol are beer, wines and spirits. The accurate level of alcohol in individual drinks varies according to the source and the method of preparation. What follows are general indications only.

Approximate percentage of alcohol content in various drinks


Product                 Approximate % of alcohol

Fruit Juice                    Less than .1%
“Non alcoholic” beer      Around .5% or less
Light beer                     Around 3%
Standard beer               4-5%
Stout                            5-10%
Cider                            4-8%
Wine                            10-15%
Sparkling wines             8-12%
Port                              20%
Liquors                         15-55%
Spirits                           Around 40%
Rum                             35-50%
Whisky                         50-60%

Alcohol is widely used as a social lubricant; it relaxes users, can help to disinhibit them and to facilitate talking and interacting more easily. These facts may well explain some large population studies that have shown moderate alcohol consumption can be associated with a modest range of positive health benefits. We know healthy relationships and social interactions are good for health generally; maybe drinking alcohol facilitates people talking more openly and gaining these benefits. Also, there is some suggestion alcohol stimulates prostaglandin activity and this could explain the positive effects.

However, we can be in no doubt there can be real costs involved.

Immediate side effects of too much alcohol include dehydration and drunkenness. Importantly, alcohol also stimulates insulin production, which accelerates glucose metabolism and can lead to low blood sugar levels.

Alcohol consumption generally has been associated with a higher risk of several of the cancers of the digestive tract. This is a major issue requiring consideration with beer as chemically brewed beers have been directly linked to an increased incidence of colon cancer. Therefore drink only naturally brewed beers if you drink any. Coopers beers are all naturally brewed. As another option, there are very low alcohol, naturally brewed beers that taste good. In Australia, Coopers Birrells brand is excellent and can be purchased in Supermarkets.

Other long-term side effects, apart from a huge raft of unfortunate and often dangerous social side effects, are liver and brain damage. Cirrhosis of the liver comes about because the metabolism of alcohol puts heavy demands on the liver. Anything that causes liver damage is a real problem for anyone, but particularly for people dealing with cancer. Many people with cancer are considered by natural medicine authorities to have underactive livers. Also, for all of us, the liver is crucial to many key metabolic functions and the healing process generally.

So let us be clear about this. Any alcohol consumption places a demand on the liver. For people who are well, the liver generally recovers if it is not hammered too hard or too often, but it does need to recover. So if you want optimum health, and particularly if you are in a healing phase of life, be very judicious with your consumption. I believe that those seeking to help themselves to recover from active cancer are better off avoiding alcohol altogether.

It is worth noting that the official recommendations now say that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and that even if women are only considering becoming pregnant they are best advised to abstain.

Alcohol Recommendations

On the Wellness Diet, social drinking a few days per week is acceptable.

Ensure regular alcohol free days.

Consider using very low alcohol, naturally brewed beer.

On the Healing Diet, alcohol is not recommended, primarily because of its effect on the liver. Pregnancy and alcohol do not mix.

Overall (and General- individual needs vary) Fluid Recommendations

Drink 2 litres of fluid, combined from all sources (water, tea, juices, soups) per day.

Make healthy choices – with water, tea and coffee substitutes and alcohol.

Add juices to the Healing Diet and consider their use on the Wellness Diet.

RESOURCES


RELATED BLOGS     What fuel goes into your tank?
                                      
                                  Big Mac or a Salad?

BOOKS    You Can Conquer Cancer  Ian Gawler – contains full dietary recommendations for those who are well, and for those who are recovering from cancer

CDs   Eating Well, Being Well   Ian Gawler – Details the Wellness Diet –a sound diet for all

          Eating For Recovery   Ian Gawler -  Details the Healing Diet for those interested in using their nutrition therapeutically to assist recovering from cancer.