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.