25 April 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: War and Peace and a Great Loss

Anzac Day in Australia and our thoughts turn to the sacrifices made in war so those living in this great country could continue to enjoy the great freedoms that we do.

But let us go "Out on a Limb" and consider how much better still it would be if there were no wars and no-one needed to die in this way.

The truth of it seems pretty obvious to me. You cannot impose peace on anyone.

The only way we will ever have a world at peace is when we have a world filled with people who have peace in their hearts.

So anything we can do personally to engender more peace in our own hearts, to be more at peace; every little step we can make in this direction, is actually working towards world peace.

I feel an enormous sense of gratitude for the freedoms that are so much a part of the Australian lifestyle. Every time I travel freely interstate, every time I reflect on the freedom of speech I have, every time I walk through one of our cities and see such cultural diversity working well, I give thanks for the sacrifices of my forebears.

My Grandfather was a stretcher-bearer at Gallipoli. He then fought in France as an Artillery Officer; being gassed and suffering stoically into his eighties.

During the Second World War my father flew in Hudson and Liberator bombers in the Pacific and managed to survive two pretty exciting crash landings.

One of his brothers died during his second mission for Bomber Command in Europe, while his other brother survived the war after having been torpedoed and pulled out of the water.

So much to be grateful for.

But now, for each of us, what can we do to honour the freedoms we enjoy, and what can we do to be more peaceful so that war becomes less likely?

What suggestions do you have? Here are a few things that occur to me:

1. Smile at someone who has a different skin colour or comes from a different country.

2. Smile at someone who has the same skin colour or comes from the same country.

3. Observe yourself. Did you smile with the same ease at both? Is there any awkwardness? Sometimes reverse racism (overcompensating) can be an issue, just like racism always is.

4. Can you generate more peace in your own heart? Meditation is such a good way to make peace with ourselves and as the great Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh said:

“Peace in ourselves
Peace in the world”.

5.Is there someone you can make peace with? What would it take?


DEATH OF A GREAT SPIRITUAL LEADER

Just as this blog was about to be posted, the sad news was received from India that Sai Baba died on Easter Sunday morning at the age of 84 following complications of an illness.

Many who know my own story will be aware of the pivotal role he played in my healing and I can say he was a great influence for good in my life. Sai Baba embodied love.

Next blog I will share some experiences. I feel a great sense of gratitude for having met him, for his presence in my life and for all the good works he achieved. I also feel at something of a loss right now as to how to mark the death of such a great spiritual figure; but we will light a candle, do some meditation and no doubt feel the acute paradox of thanks and grief.

Here is a quote from Sai Baba’s early days:

I have come to light the lamp of Love in your hearts, to see that it shines day by day with added luster. I have not come on behalf of any exclusive religion. I have not come on a mission of publicity for a sect or creed or cause, nor have I come to collect followers for a doctrine. I have no plan to attract disciples or devotees into my fold or any fold. I have come to tell you of this unitary faith, this spiritual principle, this path of Love, this virtue of Love, this duty of Love, this obligation of Love.

                                                             4 July 1968

RESOURCES


BOOKS: Peace is every step - Mindfulness in daily life: Thich Nhat Hahn

                Sai Baba - Man of Miracles  Howard Murphet

                Meditation An In-depth Guide: Ian Gawler & Paul Bedson



18 April 2011

Meditation in four easy steps

The process of learning to meditate can be summarised into four easy steps. Each one flows quite naturally into the next and together they combine to make up the technique we call Mindfulness-Based Stillness Meditation (MBSM).  Here are the four steps of MBSM in essentualised form:

    Step 1. Preparation.

In a conducive environment, take up a conducive posture, turn your mind inwardly and relax.

    Step 2. Relaxation.

Use the simplest, most practical technique that helps you to relax your body. Allow your mind to go with it. Let go. Effortlessly.

    Step 3. Mindfulness. 

As a natural sequence you could flow on to use the focussed mindfulness applications of mindfulness of sound, mindfulness of bodily sensations, emotions, thoughts and stillness. Or you could use the more open mindfulness that leads into simple, undistracted awareness – simply notice with bare attention whatever comes to your awareness, whether it be sounds, sensations, emotions, thoughts or stillness; whatever happens, simply being aware, open, and present.

   Step 4. Stillness. 

As you rest in this undistracted awareness you notice the movement – the activity or phenomena that occur within you and around you, and you notice the all-pervading background of stillness. Increasingly the stillness becomes more familiar. You smile as you are warmed by the comfort and easy that flows with this knowing, this experience of the essence of meditation.

Putting MBSM even more simply:

Having prepared well, we relax.

Relaxing more deeply, we become more mindful.

As our mindfulness develops, the stillness naturally reveals itself.

We rest in open, undistracted awareness.

This is Mindfulness-Based Stillness Meditation.

 Meditation – the Direct Approach.

Remember, meditation can be practised using the Direct Approach of no method, or the Gradual Approach that relies upon learning and using techniques. Having summarised the specific technique, the four steps of MBSM above, here is the essence of the direct approach to meditation.

There is nothing to do. Simply be aware. Open. Undistracted. Aware.

It is as simple, and as difficult as that.

Happy meditating!

BRISBANE AND THE NEW BOOK

On a personal note, it was a delight to be back in Brisbane last weekend, presenting workshops at that wonderful place, the Relaxation Centre. After a year of other things, it was a real pleasure to reconnect with Lionel Fifield and all his amazing volunteers, to meet up with people who had been to previous workshops or attended Foundation programs and to meet a whole bunch of new people.

It was also exciting to hold the first copy of the new book and to present a day on "The Mind that Changes Everything". I must say that it does give a great structure to a workshop on how the mind works and how we can use it to best advantage and I look forward to doing it again in other parts of the country. All the advance copies we were sent sold out at the first evening talk which was like the good and the bad news in that there were none available for the later events, but the book will be in the shops or available on line in a few weeks

RESOURCES


BOOKS:          The Mind that Changes Everything - Ian Gawler

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

CD:                  Meditation – a Complete Path – Ian Gawler

DVD:               Meditation Live – Ian Gawler


RELATED BLOGS:  Meditation – How much is enough?

                                      Meditation and Satisfaction


COURSES:       Residential & non-residential: The Gawler Foundation

WORKSHOPS with Ian:   www.iangawler.com

11 April 2011

The Mind that Changes Everything

There is a bit of excitement in the house this week as the first copies of my new book, “The Mind that Changes Everything”, published by Brolga Publishing, will be available in the next few days. 

What is it all about?

Consider this. Whatever you do begins with a thought. Reading this blog seemed like a good idea at the time. Whatever you are sitting on right now began in someone’s mind as a thought: I will build a chair that looks and functions according to the image I have of it in my mind. 

Whatever you do next will be determined by your mind. What you will have for your next meal begins with a thought. The next person you spend time with, the next outing with friends and family, the next business decision, the next holiday, the next purchase; on and on.

Everything begins with the mind. And all the experts say we only use a fraction of our mind's potential.

However, there is more to it than this. While everything we do begins in the mind, what we complete, what we achieve, what we let go of, what we abandon; all these outcomes are largely the function of our own mind.

Truly, it is the mind that changes everything.

And when it comes to the mind, have you ever wondered how some people seem to keep a clear head?

In sport, these people just seem to know how to be in the right place at the right time; and they perform at their best when the pressure is on.

Maybe you have noticed how some people seem to be comfortable and at ease in any company – whether at formal meetings or informally with friends, even strangers. They just seem to know what to say. How to be. They seem confident, relaxed; engaged and clear. Very appealing.

Maybe you have observed these clear-headed people in business. They are the ones who consistently are making good decisions. They enjoy their challenges, remain cool and calm. They have clarity amidst complexity, make decisions with assurance and have the confidence to follow things through to completion.

Then again, you probably have heard stories or know of people who used their minds to bring about great changes in their health and their lifestyles. Those who found a way to give up smoking, lose weight, overcome serious illness or perhaps the greatest achievement of all, to live a long life, free of illness, abounding with really good health, a high level of resilience and a joyful sense of wellbeing.

What we all know is that a few rare individuals have this gift naturally. They just seem to have this quality, this capacity to use their minds really effectively.

But here is the good news, the really good news. This capacity, the capacity to keep a clear head in good times and bad and to use our minds to better effect, this capacity can be acquired. It is a skill that can be learnt and with practice, it can become a natural part of our lives – a natural part of who we are. How we are.

This then is the gift of learning how to train your mind. And in all truth, perhaps this is the greatest gift you can give to yourself or to someone you care about. The skill of learning how to calm and clear your mind, and in doing so, learning how to be much more fully in control of your body and your mind, and the situations that unfold around you.

What we are talking of here is definitely a science. A mind science. It is just like choosing to become physically fitter, going to the physical gym, running around the park, training your muscles. Here we go to the mental gym. Train our mind, enjoy it becoming fitter, more capable; get the best out of our mind and its potential.

How do we do it?

Those of you who already have done a little meditation will know that the mind has two aspects. Firstly, there is the active, ever changing thinking mind, with its conscious and sub-conscious realms. Then there is that more profound, more constant nature of mind that we experience in the quiet stillness of meditation. Accessing meditation was the focus of the book I wrote with Paul Bedson, “Meditation – an In-depth Guide”.

While we did include in that book the key elements of both contemplation and imagery, this new companion book, “The Mind that Changes Everything”, goes more deeply into how the active mind works and the techniques that enable us to use it more effectively. The focus therefore is on understanding and using the practice of imagery.

Imagery is defined as the conscious development and repetition of mental images for a creative purpose. The truth is we live in a world of images.  Images flood the world around us, being projected by television, film, photography and life itself.

Everything we experience, everything that registers with our senses, forms an image that is taken in to be stored in our memory.  Internally we think using images, remember using images, create using images.  Our whole life is affected dramatically by the images that come to us or that we produce ourselves.  Images have a major impact on health, healing and wellbeing.

“The Mind that Changes Everything” is all about how we can more fully understand all this and then use imagery as a crucial element in the process of training and using our minds to make the most out of all we do in life.

My hope is that you will find this book very accessible and very practical. While I have read widely on the subject, studied it, attended other people’s workshops, and learnt directly from some remarkable teachers, the essence of the book comes from the lessons learnt by both ordinary and remarkable people who have used the creative power of their minds to good effect.

Along with 48 imagery-based techniques for training and using the mind potently, the book contains many great stories from people who have achieved remarkable things using these techniques for their sport, business, relationships, healing and wellbeing.

“The Mind that Changes Everything” is a book intended for a wide audience, so I hope you, your family, friends and colleagues will enjoy it and find something useful in it.

The official release date is the first of May, so it may be a while before you find it in the shops. However the Gawler Foundation and Brolga Publishing will be able to fill orders over the net.

Happy reading!


RESOURCES

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

CDs                     Mind Training 2 CD set by Ian Gawler
                            Mind-Body Medicine  The 2 key imagery exercises led by Ian Gawler including one accompanied by the harp of Peter Roberts

IAN'S WORKSHOPS  around Australia.

RELATED BLOGS 
                           The brain, the mind and relationships Nov 2010

                           Go with the flow or intervene  Nov 2010

04 April 2011

Ian Gawler blog: KARMA – is it all in the mind?

Next week I am in Brisbane for a series of talks; (see the details on the website or click on this page), but this week, the topic is karma.

In simple terms, karma is a concept that directly links cause and effect. Karma says things happen for a reason; that the things that occur in our life have a cause.

So, is karma the reason I got cancer? Is karma the reason one person lives and another dies when both are faced with similar circumstances?

Karma does respond to these challenging questions, and says that in life there is a rhyme and a reason. So what can we know about karma? And how relevant is it to this life of ours? And those around about us?

This is the third blog dipping into these questions and the comments on last week’s topic on reincarnation have been very interesting. If you are new to blogging like I was when I started this blog 6 months ago, you click on COMMENTS below any blog and then you can read comments made, or add your own. You probably know that. It was news to me!

The word karma comes from the sanskrit language and commonly is translated to mean “action”; sometimes as “effect” or “fate”. The Oxford defines karma as the sum of a person’s actions; especially the intentional actions; and karma is regarded as determining that person’s future states of existence. The Oxford also speaks of the fate or destiny that follows as effect from cause.

We can certainly see evidence of cause and effect in many aspects of our lives. Drink too much alcohol and we are highly likely to become drunk. Be drunk and drive, we are highly likely to have an accident. Alcohol and accident; cause and effect.

But if we look into the circumstances or the states of mind behind why someone gets drunk, and then drives while drunk, it rapidly becomes very complex.

What is that? Drinking and driving? When I was young, it was just what we did. Talk about good karma; it is a miracle some of my old friends are still alive. And why was I never attracted to becoming drunk and some of my friends were into it? And today? With all the education around drinking and not driving, what is the state of mind; what can we say is the cause for someone who does?

Karma is the spiritual law that says our actions have consequence. There are different types of karma.

1. Immediate: like drink too much and have an accident. Hit someone and get hit back. Exercise more and lose weight. Immediate cause and effect.

2. Delayed: this is where the timeframe is extended and maybe even includes reincarnation. Maybe a lot of effort went into learning to play a piano in one lifetime, then Mozart pops up and writes his first symphony before he is ten.

3. Metaphorical: maybe someone does not want to see the difficulties around them, and while in this life we may say they are blind to someone else’s need, in the next life they are literally blind.

4. Educational: this is my term for how we progress and learn in life. So maybe in this life we were really hard on someone in a particular way. Next lifetime, the situation is reversed. We now get to experience the impact of that difficulty in our own life.

Now this aspect of karma could be viewed as being rather punitive, but it is more useful to see it as a learning opportunity. We get to experience why that past action was so unkind, and we get to learn, we get to experience why it makes sense to function more lovingly, more constructively.

Who’s Karma?

Some say karma is entirely personal and that whatever happens to you is entirely of your own doing. Everything in your life is caused, is created by your own karma.

This view seems particularly prevalent in New Age circles where the individual is given great prominence. But think of this. Consider how much your circumstances are affected by the family that you are in, the friends you have, the tribe or community you belong to, the culture, the race you happen to be a part of, the nation you live in. Just the fact that you are a member of the human family, rather than being a dog or a cat is pretty significant!

Being born into a wealthy Melbourne family compared to a poor family in the Gaza strip seems to be extraordinarily different. Whether one is good or bad, better or worse; it is unwise to say, but it certainly is different.

Karma then is complex. For me, it speaks of starting points and tendencies.

It may seem good karma to be born into a wealthy family, but maybe one individual squanders the opportunities and becomes a drug addict. Maybe the brother or sister becomes a world leader or a major philanthropist. Maybe the kids in the Gaza strip family do something similar; one becomes a suicide bomber, another a peace activist.

While the Dalai Lama loves science and is a great scholar, he says that in life there are two things that are not worth spending a lot of time pondering because they are so complex. One is karma and the other is past lives.

However, he also quotes the Buddha who did say that if you seek to understand your past, look at your present circumstances. If you seek to understand your future, look at your present actions, and particularly the motivation and attitude that accompanies those actions.

What this implies is that the circumstances we find ourselves in now, along with the potential those circumstances hold, is the sum total of our past. There is a cause behind our current conditions and it lies in our past actions. What is also being said is that what we do today, why we do it, and how we do it, will have consequence for the future. What we do does make a difference.

So even though karma is complex and has some air of mystery about it, here is why I like it:

1. It helps to make sense of life. It informs my View.

2. It provides personal accountability. What you think and do, good or bad comes back to you and shapes your future. You may cheat the law, but not your karma.

3. It offers real hope. What we do today can lead to a better tomorrow.

4. No effort is wasted. If we do the best that we can in this life, even if we die before seeing any benefits, in the next life we may well be the better for it and so will those around us.

May your karma include a long and happy life.



RESOURCES

RELATED BLOGS


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