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