28 March 2011

Ian Gawler blog: WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE?

THE SEARCH FOR MEANING – 2

How do we make sense of the tragedies that visit our own lives or of those near and dear to us? If I get cancer, have I brought it on myself? If someone dies in an accident, is it an “accident”, or is it God’s will? When the horrific Japanese tsunami killed so many and left others miraculously alive, is it just random chance, a matter of fate, or is karma at work? Is there something or someone we can say is the real “cause” of the major events in our lives?

In the last blog we discussed the View, the two choices and their consequences.

The first choice:

It does not make sense, there is no consistent rhyme or reason to life’s events. Clearly the planning and the effort we do make affects what happens in our lives to some degree. In many areas of our lives we can observe a cause and effect relationship operating that links what we do with what happens later.

But then, can it be that accidents are purely accidents? Is there no "cause" to an accident? Can a person’s life be turned upside down by a pure accident? Does that make sense? Is it fair? Is it just? Was it the case that I may as well have been diagnosed with cancer as the person next to me? Can major life events occur as an exception to the cause and effect rule?

And what if this were true? It seems that such a notion leads fairly logically to the person involved feeling themselves to be a somewhat hapless victim of their circumstances. It would be easy to imagine such a person developing a pretty depressed attitude to life and their place in it.

If we are powerless before random fate, are we not best described as victims? If we can get cancer through just having “bad luck”, then what does that say about our chances of recovering? Is recovery basically a matter of luck too?

For me, that is why the fatalistic View is so unhelpful. It feeds the powerless victim mentality. This is also why I have railed against people being described as cancer “victims”. Happily this descriptive is not used nearly as much as it was in the early days of my work back in the early eighties.

The Second Choice:

For me, feeling empowered, being empowered, is a better choice; and in my experience leads to significantly better outcomes.

So how do we make sense of the big events in our lives? Where is the rhyme and the reason? Let us go “Out on a Limb” and consider the dual concepts many around the world believe provide the answers: reincarnation and karma.

While searching for meaning, one of the first questions concerns timeframe.

When I had all my troubles as a twelve year old, I could not make any sense of them in terms of this one life. There seemed to be no justice in one young boy being afflicted by three such major traumas. People often say a similar thing to me when confronted by cancer in young children - what did the child do to deserve that?

And just the word “deserve” plunges us deeper into issues to do with blame and guilt. What do you mean “deserve”? Did anyone deserve to get cancer? To be killed in an accident or a tsunami?

Not necessarily in my View. But maybe there is a relationship between what has happened in the past and what is happening now. If someone is a smoker these days, they know of the risks. Do they deserve to get cancer? Tough question; but you would have to say there is a very strong relationship between the smoking and the cancer.

But what about the kids that get big problems so early in life? And what about someone like Mozart and his prodigious talent? Maybe we need a bigger timeframe to understand all this.

The majority of the world’s population do believe in reincarnation; the notion that our human experience is not limited to just this one life. They hold the View that a part of us, that more essential part of our being, survives after this particular body we are in now dies, and then comes back in a new one. And this process is repeated over and over.

For many Hindus and Buddhists, reincarnation is as much a fact of life as the fact that the sun sets each day, passes into night and rises again each new morning. Some scholars are of the opinion that reincarnation was an integral part of the early Christian belief system too; only to be removed from the Churches doctrines at the council of Nicaea in AD325. Esoteric Christian groups like the Anthroposophists (who are involved in the Steiner schools and Anthroposophical medicine), still hold the belief to this day.

Many Buddhists say that reincarnation can be understood intellectually; that it is a logical premise, not simply a belief or an article of Faith.

What I found helpful as I came to learn more about reincarnation was that it did make sense of many of the apparent mysteries and inequalities I observed in life. For example, how was it that at such an early age, Mozart just knew how a piano “worked” and had written his first symphony by the age of eight? How is it that some children are born into such apparently tough circumstances, while others have it so easy? Again, is it all ultimately random chance? Just good or bad luck?

If we live in the world of the loving God of the Christians, how do we make sense of these apparent inequities? Where is the justice?

If we live in the logical world of the Buddhists, how can we make sense of all of life’s events in terms of just one lifetime? Sure we can observe a cause and effect relationship operating behind many of the things we do and the things we observe. Many of the things we do plan for, that we do work for do come to fruition in a predictable way. But what about those events in life where the cause is not so obvious? Are they just exceptions, or do we need a longer time frame to find the answers?

How come some people seem to do so many “bad” things and appear to get away with it in this lifetime? And how come, often enough, bad things do seem to happen to good people?

Maybe reincarnation is a part of the answer and worth taking into account. Maybe it warrants reflection? Maybe you have a comment or want to share these ideas with someone else?

Next week, what about karma? Who or what is responsible for what happens to us and those we love?

RESOURCES


BOOKS


The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: Sogyal Rinpoche. Excellent elaboration of reincarnation and karma.


The Dragon’s Blessing: Guy Allenby. My biography that recounts how my own View emerged and developed, how it informed the tough times and the bountiful ones.

You Can Conquer Cancer: Ian Gawler. For the chapters on death and dying and philosophy.

Coping With Grief: Mal McKissock. Very useful and succinct manual on grief. A must read as a life skill.

CD

Understanding Death, Helping the Dying: Ian Gawler. Good to listen to with those you are really close to and use as a focus for discussion.

Counselling and Groups

NALAG National Association for Loss and Grief

21 March 2011

Why do some people live and some people die?

THE SEARCH FOR MEANING

There seems to have been one horror after another recently. Underneath the collective grief felt by just about everyone, lurks the question, how do we find meaning amidst the calamity?

The floods around Australia, the Christchurch earthquake, the Japanese earthquake and its devastating tsunami, the violent changes in the Middle East. And underneath all this, underneath the daily news, underneath the personal traumas of cancer and heart attacks and road accidents, underneath the tough events of daily life, lurks the question: Why me? Or is it: Why her? Or is it: Why do bad things happen to good people? How do we find meaning amidst our personal and collective traumas?

Out of the floods or the earthquakes emerge heart-warming and miraculous stories of survival. Then often enough we hear how the person next door, or the person clutching at the survivor’s hand did in fact die
.
Who could not have been deeply affected by the young Japanese man describing holding his father’s hand on one side, his mother’s on the other, only to lose grip and have them both swept away.

In the cancer field, I have observed people doing all it would seem they could do, only to have some live, some die.

What do we make of all this? Do we dare to question it? Do we dare to ask: Why is this so?
Can we go Out on a Limb and ask: Is it just meaningless, random chance or is there a way to understand it all. Is there a rhyme and a reason to it?

First let me say that in my experience, when people are feeling grief strongly, this is often not a useful conversation. Some find it quite confronting.

Who has seen Nicole Kidman’s recent film “Rabbit Hole”? There is a poignant scene where, with her husband, both grief stricken by the accidental death of their 4yr old son, she is sitting in a grief group.

One of the other mothers ventures forth with something like “God just had to take our daughter”.

There is a suitably long pause before she follows with “He needed another angel”.

Nicole boils over, “Why didn’t he just make another one? He is God after all. Just a snap of the fingers, easy as that!” Then she gathers up her husband and walks out.

What we are talking about is the View. The View is the philosophical construct we all have as individuals that informs how we interpret, make sense of, and function in our lives. Whether we are atheists, agnostics or passionate believers in something; those attitudes form our View.

So for the mother above, she appeared to take real solace from believing that God had taken her daughter to be another of His angels. That was her View and it informed her life. It clearly was not Nicole’s character’s View. Maybe for her, it was not even the right time to be contemplating Why? and certainly, rather than comforting her, that notion affronted her.

What then is your own View on how life works? And how does this View inform how you interpret calamity? And the good stuff? Because clearly, some people seem to get all the breaks, have everything go well for them.

My mother died when I was 12. My beloved friend, cleverly disguised as a dog, was run over and killed a week later. Another week later, while on a church school religious retreat, I woke up in my bed with a paedophile, cleverly disguised as one of the male teachers, rubbing up against my back.

My existing View was not up to all this. It did not make sense. I knew I was no angel, but all this did seem a little over the top; certainly a little much for the fairly sheltered life I had been leading up to that time.

THERE ARE TWO CHOICES

Either it makes sense, or it does not. Either there is a way to explain life’s major events, or there is not. Either there is a rhyme and a reason running through all this, or there is not. It has to be one or the other.

The conclusion I came to as a 12 year old was there had to be an explanation, I just did not know what it was. I think I sensed that to take the opposing View, that life is just a series of random, unconnected, unrelated events was simply an invitation to depression and nihilism.

If what we are experiencing now are random events, and as such do not relate to what has occurred in our past, then why would what we do now matter all that much? Does not that View make us powerless before random acts of life, and render us powerless to influence our future?

Now some tell me that it is not depressing, it is just a matter of accepting that is the way that it is. There is nothing more to it; no need to worry, do not take it personally, just accept it and get on with making the most of what life does dish up.

But think of it. If life is random, if there is no cause and effect relationship between our past actions and current situation; if it is all random then we are virtually powerless. Why not take up the nihilistic view of eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die?

For me, even as a 12yr old, that choice seemed rather bleak. If the two alternatives are that life is random and we are powerless, or there is a rhyme and a reason to life that we can learn about and put to good use, and if we cannot be sure which one is really the truth, why not go for the rhyme and reason choice?

At least it is empowering. Also, for those interested in being scientific, it matches with all that is observed in the physical world. There is a fundamental law in physics that says that for every force there is an equal and opposite force. Newton's Third Law sounds a lot like actions have consequences.

If to answer this question rested on making a choice out of belief or faith, I would go with the choice that has the best outcome.

But I do think logic comes into this too. So many things we think and do, do have observable consequences; whether they be profound or subtle, immediate or slow to mature.

Plant an acorn in the right conditions and you can be pretty certain where to find an oak tree in years to come. And you will not find apples growing on its branches.

Do we dare then to think about why some people live and some people die?

The problem with even asking the question is that in the Western world, even just thinking about the question, even just getting a sniff of it, propels some people straight into guilt and blame and shame and wanting to defend people and attack people and to feeling anger and feeling a whole range of heavy duty emotions.

In my experience it is tricky.

Certainly I have been in groups where people have exploded over this one.

So actually, I am going to leave it here for this week. What is your own reaction to the question? Do you have a View about it? What about family or friends? Know someone you want to share this blog with?

How do you interpret calamity and how do you interpret bounty when it does come your way?

Next week, Out on a Limb will go deeper into that big question: Why do bad things happen to good people?

RESOURCES

BOOKS

The Dragon’s Blessing: Guy Allenby. My biography that recounts how my own View emerged and developed, how it informed the tough times and the bountiful ones.

You Can Conquer Cancer: Ian Gawler. For the chapters on death and dying and philosophy.

Coping With Grief: Mal McKissock. Very useful and succinct manual on grief. A must read as a life skill.

CD

Understanding Death, Helping the Dying: Ian Gawler. Good to listen to with those you are really close to and use as a focus for discussion.

Counselling and Groups

NALAG National Association for Loss and Grief

The Gawler Foundation

14 March 2011

Lost in translation

A blog in two parts – coming workshops and then details regarding translations of the books - with a request for help.

Over the next few months, Ruth and I will travel around the country while I present a series of public lectures and workshops. It will be a good opportunity to catch up with people we know, those who are interested in our work and to meet new faces.
Maybe you know someone in the areas we are visiting; if so please forward this information.
 Full details will be on my website, iangawler.com in April, but here is the basic information. Brisbane is presently open for bookings and the other events will be soon, and I'll keep you posted.

 IAN GAWLER'S SPEAKING ARRANGEMENTS - 2011

BRISBANE

April 14: Evening Public Lecture,  7.15-10pm
Medicine of the Mind - learn and practice techniques that reliably dissolve stress, facilitate healing and generate profound long-term wellbeing.

April 15: Day workshop, 10-4pm
For Health Professionals: Lifestyle Coaching for Major Illness.

April 16: Day Workshop 10-4pm
The Mind That Changes Everything – relaxation, meditation and imagery techniques for health, healing and wellbeing.

April 17: Day Workshop 10-4pm
Lifestyle and Healing with major illness – for everyone

Organiser and Venue: The Relaxation Centre of Queensland,
                                    15 Sth Pine Rd Alderley  Tel 07 38563733
Program and bookings - as above or  www.relaxationcentreqld.com.au/rel/

MELBOURNE

May 12: 6.15-8.00pm  Evening conversation
              Kinfolk Café, 673 Bourke St. Melbourne

Organisers: Kinfolk Café: kinfolk.org.au/

SHEPPARTON

May 21: Day workshop 10-4 pm
The Mind That Changes Everything – relaxation, meditation and imagery techniques for health, healing and wellbeing.
Venue: Personal Learning Centre, Shepparton High School, 31-71 Hawdon St, Shepparton
Enquiries: (03)5821 4322
Organisers: Emlyn Cruikshank. Fundraising for Shepparton World Challenge
                    www.sheppartonworldchallenge.tumblr.com
Bookings Essential: online or cheques payable to 'Shepparton High School - Ian Gawler's Workshop for World Challenge' sent to the school. 

MELBOURNE

June 4: Day workshop, 10-4pm
The Mind That Changes Everything – relaxation, meditation and imagery techniques for health, healing and wellbeing.

June 5: Day workshop 10-4pm
Health, Healing and Wellbeing - practical techniques, inspiration and direction for everyone affected by major illness – including families, friends and Health Professionals.

Venue: Northcote Town Hall, 189 High St. Northcote
Organisers: Rigpa Melbourne
Brigitte 0418587779 and Gillian 0414 999 604


DARWIN


June 25: Day workshop 10-4pm
The Mind That Changes Everything – relaxation, meditation and imagery techniques for health, healing and wellbeing.

June 26: Day workshop 10-4pm
Health, Healing and Wellbeing - practical techniques, inspiration and direction for everyone affected by major illness – including families, friends and Health Professionals.

Venue: Chung Wah Community Hall, 25 Woods St Darwin City

Organiser: Alex Erlich - 0425313501 or  gawlerindarwin@gmail.com

BUNBURY

June 29: Day workshop 10-4pm
Medicine of the Mind - learn and practice techniques that reliably dissolve stress, facilitate healing and generate profound long-term wellbeing.

Venue: The Koombana Sailing Club, Anchorage Cove, Bunbury
Sponsors: The Brady Foundation
Organiser: Jon Morris- jmorris@abilityone.com.au

PERTH

July 2: Day workshop 10-4pm
The Mind That Changes Everything – relaxation, meditation and imagery techniques for health, healing and wellbeing.

July 3: Day workshop 10-4pm
Health, Healing and Wellbeing - practical techniques, inspiration and direction for everyone affected by major illness – including families, friends and Health Professionals.

Venue: Christchurch Grammar School, Queenslea Drive, Claremont
Sponsors: The Brady Foundation
Organiser: Jon Morris - jmorris@abilityone.com.au


BOOK TRANSLATIONS

You Can Conquer Cancer has been translated into about 14 languages. “About” because I never kept a full record and the Publisher’s version was lost in translation during a business move.

What follows is the list of what we know, although we think YCCC went into Hindi in India. Does anyone know for sure of any other versions than those listed?

Also, we do often receive requests for translations, however, many of those listed are out of print and may only be available on the second hand market. The Gawler Foundation Resource centre tries to keep the available translations.

TRANSLATIONS & OVERSEAS EDITIONS OF IAN GAWLER’S BOOKS

YOU CAN CONQUER CANCER - 14 translations

First published by Hill of Content, Melbourne, 1984 and new edition by Michelle Anderson Publishing, Melbourne, 2001.

German: Peter Erd, Munich, 1985 and 1990

USA and UK: Thorsons, Vermont, 1987

Spain: Sirio, Malagu, 1988

Israel (Hebrew): 1989

Sri Lanka: Daya Jayasinghe, Pitakotte, 1989

Poland: Wydawnictwa, Warsaw, 1992

Czechoslovakia: Pavla Momcilova, Cestlice, 1993

Netherlands: Uitgeverij Ankh-Hermes bv, Deventer, 1995

Norway: Oversattning Leif Edstrom, 1995

Thailand: Folk Doctor Publishing, Bangkok, ?

Indonesia: Pustaka Sinar Harapan, Jakarta, 1997

Japanese: Shunjusha, 2003

The book has been printed in the following translations, but we do not have records of the publications:

Russia

Korea


PEACE OF MIND - 5 translations

First published Hill of Content, Melbourne, 1987 and new edition by Michelle Anderson Printing, Melbourne, 2002.

Gt. Britain: Prime Press, Bridport, 1989

German: Scherz, Bern, 1990

Brazil: Editoria Gaiai, Sao Paulo, 1995

Hungary: Hunga-Print, Budapest

Italy: Meditare: Armenia, Milano, 2012


MEDITATION – PURE AND SIMPLE - 1 translation

First published by Hill of Content, Melbourne, 1996

French: Vivez Soleil, Chenebourg, 1996


MEDITATION – AN IN-DEPTH GUIDE written with Paul Bedson

First published by Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2010

USA Edition: Published by Tarcher, 2011

07 March 2011

Relaxation in daily life

Met a guy recently who said he was really busy. Quite a bit stressed and his head was full to overflowing. Said he was going to take a half hour break and settle himself by reading the paper.

He got me to wondering about relaxation in daily life. What does it for you? In this blog is a great technique that works for many, but how do you relax and regain a level keel when the pressure is on and things seem out of balance?

Seems to me there are many ways people seek to relax. Some work really well and have no downside, others come at quite a cost.

The expensive ones include things like smoking and drinking alcohol, but let’s go out on a limb here and say that does not necessarily make them bad things. Just expensive. If the best way a person has to relax is to smoke or drink alcohol, and if they get stressed out and do something really unhelpful, really damaging or just plain dumb; then maybe if the smoking and booze do succeed in bringing relaxation, then they are actually relatively helpful. Just expensive.

So perhaps it is useful to consider how stress and anxiety do affect you, if at all, and then how expensive are the methods you use to manage them. I am sure some people find taking out their stress via anger, and yelling at others, abusing others, works quite well for them. But maybe as a methodology it is just a bit expensive.

What then are some low cost strategies for finding relaxation in daily life. Well, walking is well tried and tested. And it has a myriad of positive “side effects”! A few deep breaths can work wonders. Laughing is about the same cost as smiling and both seem to work well. What works for you? It would be interesting to get some feedback on this.

Certainly one of the easy ways is to learn and practise a simple rapid relaxation technique. A reliable way to do this is by taking a somewhat deeper breath in, gently sighing the breath out and feeling the whole body relax in the process.

This is an easy skill to learn, and once you know it , it provides a quick way to relieve tension and stress. What is required is to link a more formal meditation practice with this very quick relaxation trigger. The meditation technique needs to teach you how to relax the body ( as with the progressive muscle relaxation) and calm the mind (as with most meditation techniques).

Then you need an intermediary process to give the same effect of relaxing the body and calming the mind really quickly. It still makes sense to meditate more formally each day, but with this rapid relaxation you can take the benefits into daily life.

Here than is the linking exercise  from Meditation – an In-depth Guide -the Rapid Relaxation Exercise. It only takes a few minutes and is best done sitting in a chair with your back fairly straight. It works well to read the exercise through, familiarize yourself with it for a few moments, and then give it a go. (It is available on the CD Relaxation for Everyone).

So if you would like to try it, take a moment to adjust your position, ensuring your back is as upright as is comfortable.

THE RAPID RELAXATION EXERCISE:

Place your feet flat on the floor, a little apart, and then find where your hands are most comfortable—probably just resting on your thighs or cupped in your lap. Just notice what works best for you, and then, when you are ready, let your eyes gently close.

Now, take a deep breath in . . . and gently sigh the breath out . . .gently making the sound ahhhhh ( you can do this under you breath if you want to do this exercise in a public space – it is great for on the way home in bus, tram or train!). . .

As you sigh the breath out, you will probably notice a wave of relaxation flowing down through the body with the outbreath. . . the muscles softening . . . loosening . . . relaxing . . . releasing . . . just simply letting go.

Do that once again . . . another, deeper breath in . . .gently sighing the breath out . . . ahhhhhhh . . .

And then just allowing the breath to take up whatever rhythm feels comfortable for you at the moment . . . quite effortlessly . . . effortlessly . . . just feeling the ease of it all . . .

Now notice the feeling of letting go a little more with each out breath . . . each time that you breath out…just simply letting go…more and more…deeper and deeper…letting go…

And now, move your back a little from side to side in a gentle swaying motion . . . just enough to feel your spine moving across its point of balance . . . And as you do that, feel the muscles along either side of the spine softening and loosening . . . relaxing . . . releasing . . . and then the spine coming to rest in its point of balance . . .

Another deeper breath in . . . gently sighing the breath out . . . ahhhhhhh . . . just simply letting go.

Then move the head a little from side to side . . . again just a gentle swaying motion . . . just enough to feel the head moving across its point of balance . . . And as you do that, feel the muscles along either side of the neck softening and loosening . . . relaxing . . . releasing . . . And the head coming to rest in its point of balance . . . Another deeper breath in . . . gently sighing the breath out . . . ahhhhhhh.

And now moving the head a little from front to back . . . and then tilting it a little from side to side . . . Feel the ease of the movement . . . almost like the head is a helium balloon just floating there . . . and the neck, like a string, gently holding it in place . . . And then the head coming to rest in its point of balance . . . Simply resting now in that point of balance . . . quite effortlessly . . . effortlessly . . . just feeling the ease of it all . . . the ease of it all . . . just going with it . . . going with it . . . simply letting go.

Again, sit quietly for as long as you choose . . . Then, when you are ready, just let your eyes gently open.

Once you have mastered this step, it is easy to really cut to the chase. Deeper breath in, gently sigh the breath out, relax and let go. Simple as that.

Questions or feedback always welcome.

Happy relaxing.

RESOURCES

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

CDs: Meditation- a Complete Guide - Ian Gawler

         Relaxation for Everyone - Ian Gawler

Meditation programs; The Gawler Foundation

         Ian's coming workshops

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