22 September 2012

You are the inspiration


This week, let’s go way “Out on a Limb” and share some of the wonderful inspiration that was offered via the recent blog survey. Also this week, a reminder of my Sydney workshops coming soon.

In some ways, the year to date has been challenging for me. For example, deciding upon how to respond to my secondary cancer diagnosis being questioned has been interesting! But now this avalanche of positive comment and really inspiring material from so many of you who keep in touch via the blog - it is highly motivating for me to make it as good as the blog can be, but first:

Thought for the Day

Make friends with your self
- then you will never be lonely

1. YOU ARE THE INSPIRATION
The response rate for the survey was surprisingly and wonderfully high. I toyed with the idea of reproducing it all, but decided on some representative highlights. One of the common pieces of feedback, that links with the original motivation for beginning the blog, has been the number of people who appreciate the sense of connectedness, even community through the blog and the knowledge so many like-minded people are reading it. I have depersonalized the comments, but otherwise left them as they came:
i) Your blog is a great tool for people to recognise a balance needs to be in place between our current medical system & what we call a 'lifestyle' approach which encompasses many elements. I am always heartened when I read your blogs & the many responses when I see contributions from those practicing medicine. Although a slow process, it helps me maintain faith that this balance is achievable. Your comments are always level headed…
ii) Thanks so much for this blog ian. it's a tremendous support in so many ways. i think the main benefit for me is that it inspires me to keep on keeping on with the wellness program. it's been six years since i joined the TGF program after my second breast cancer and as time goes on and i remain well, it becomes easier somehow to let the practices slip, especially around diet. there's so little support for that out there in the mainstream world of poor nutritional habits and addiction to fat, sugar and salt. another important benefit for me is that it helps me to feel connected to others who live this way. 
sometimes i feel so isolated, and this weekly connection reminds me that i'm part of a wonderful community of people growing their own food, and eating ethically, healthily and joyfully. my partner also subscribes to the blog, which is great for me, as he reads from you about the things i practice (and he participates in mostly) at home around food and lifestyle, rather than only from me - which increases the credibility of making these changes, sticking to them long term, and enjoying living this way!
iii) I am a great admirer of your work Ian. You took on this work and the education around it at a time when there was so little support and acknowledgement from mainstream health providers or society at large. Yet you stuck with it and we are now the ongoing lucky recipients. I work as a health professional, and, even though lifestyle changes around cancer management are still not mainstream, they are becoming more accepted and I am just very grateful for the groundwork you and others have laid, which makes my path that bit easier. I recommend your blog to all that come to my workshops or whom I see as patients as I see education as the key.
iv) I am 55 years old and not much of a computer person and am not sure how ended up getting this whole blog thing. But am interested in health and well being and have surprisingly enjoyed reading ians blogs. Mostly i have found i really enjoy and appreciate a sense of connection and greater awareness to the "world'" of health that i would never take the time to access or look into further. thank you
v) I had to retire after diagnosis of cancer. Ian's work and the public profile and communications have been very helpful for me. I am stable and now have clear scans after secondary spread which I believe is somewhat attributed to my feeble attempts to adopt some of Ian's thinking!! It would be great to attend a workshop, but I live in the UK.
vi) Ian's blog is one of the most useful contributions and communications in this area addressing what I hope and predict will be The Medicine of the 21st century. Very helpful to me as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist. And it's lovely to hear from him, personally.
vii) Having followed Ian since 1990 when my Mum had a brain tumor and getting the chance to meet him last year I just LOVE the man! To actually meet him and see his persona and calm nature has actually helped me become a much calmer person (along with meditation/reiki etc!) I don't actually have Ian on a pedestal (sorry Ian!) but his knowledge of healing & living & the reason he is alive today are so inspirational that I can't help but want to read all of his thoughts and challenge my mind & ask questions. 
I think in the time I have been reading his blogs (since they started) I have become so open to lots of points of views and I am now embracing life (got out of my rut!) and questioning my beliefs.I am also sharing his knowledge with the voluntary work I do with the Cancer Council in facilitating a Cancer Support Group in my local town. I bring in some topics to discuss so they too can see there are other ways to do things and you don't have to accept one point of view. I see these people walk out feeling a lot calmer that they can own their feelings/thoughts becoz they've been allowed to talk about them!!...
So Ian...I'm using your work in lots of ways and I'm so appreciative to be able to receive the blogs. Thank you ~thank you ~thank you~. I've also done your on-line meditation and have passed it on to as many as I know would be interested.(It still falls on deaf ears to others but one day I may win there too!~!) I've found it fabulous. Thanks again.
viii)And finally, one I will remember on those days when writing does not come so easily:
You keep me going when I feel I can't do it anymore. Your blog is like a personal helping hand. Thank you.
NEXT WEEK

More from the survey: who is reading the blog along with you, and some of your very useful suggestions.


NEWS 

1. MEDITATION AND HEALING - TWO FULL DAY WORKSHOPS IN SYDNEY

Including all the latest research on telomeres!

Saturday, 20 October, 2012

THE MIND THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING
     Meditation, the power of the mind, affirmations and imagery
When: 9.30am (for 10am start) - 4pm 
Where: Veterinary Science Conference Centre, Webster Theatre, Sydney University

Sunday, 21 October, 2012

HEALTH, HEALING AND WELLBEING: 
    Disease prevention, and the power of meditation and nutrition for healing and wellbeing
When: 9.30am (for 10am start) - 4pm 
Where: Veterinary Science Conference Centre, Webster Theatre, Sydney University

Bookings Essential: Call Sarah Tail 0418 22 0590 or Tina Rae (02) 4294 8361
Register on line: at www.rigpa.com.au 

On Saturday we begin by examining how the mind functions and how we can use this knowledge to best effect - how we can use the power of the mind in all areas of life. You will learn how to relax and experience a calm and clear mind, to use affirmations and imagery and to begin or to deepen meditation.

On Sunday, extend all this with more focus on healing and wellbeing. There will be heaps of practical information on what constitutes a sensible way of eating - both for good health generally and healing specifically. Then there will be more on the latest, fascinating and practical research showing how the mind can be used to generate healing and real happiness.

Both days will be highly experiential with a good theoretical basis. There will be time for questions and relevant resources like books and CDs will be available.

While each day is intended to be useful in its own right, and so attendance for one day is possible, ideally come to both days as they build on each other and make for a complete package. 


16 September 2012

Ian Gawler Blog: Poetry and downloadable Meditation

This week, another great poem to contemplate and some big news that makes Mindbody Mastery, the downloadable meditation program, even more accessible - and unbelievably cheap!

This week's Thought for the Day is the poem! It warrants reflection.


1. And now we will count to twelve . . .       Pablo Neruda


And now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still. . .

for once on the face of the earth
let's not speak in any language
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
(Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.)

If we were not so singleminded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.


2. Mindbody Mastery - the full meditation program now downloadable for less than $10 per month!!! And you will receive a further 10% discount as a member of my blog when you use the Code ijg2, so less than $9. 


It is amazing how cheap things can be on the net when done in this way. I know I helped put this together, but the value for money with this program is extraordinary.

In response to clear feedback, Mindbody Mastery is now available on a monthly payment plan - at less than $10 per month. For this you get 8 initial downloads, one per week, with clear and concise instruction on how to meditate, plus an exercise each week that is complete in itself, but builds into a full meditation practise. So all the key meditations I teach are there, and you have the choice of Ruth or my voice, or an American or Indian (English) accent to listen to.

Then there are regular extra downloads to build and support your practise as well as daily emails and weekly SMS messages to encourage, support and expand your knowledge and practise of meditation. As well, there is a specific blog, monthly webinars with myself and some great quests, and you can "ask the expert" if you need individual help.

What we know after the first 8 months of the program is that people who use it are meditating regularly and finding high levels of satisfaction with their practise. It really is like going to a personal meditation class on line, but in truth, probably receiving more support in the ongoing sense.

So if you are not already using it, link here to Mindbody Mastery and take your meditation to a whole new level. Use the code ijg2 and receive the bonus 10% discount.

NEWS 

1. MEDITATION AND HEALING - TWO FULL DAY WORKSHOPS IN SYDNEY

Including all the latest research on telomeres!

Saturday, 20 October, 2012

Title: THE MIND THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING 
When: 9.30am (for 10am start) - 4pm 
Where: Veterinary Science Conference Centre, Webster Theatre, Sydney University

Sunday, 21 October, 2012

Title: HEALTH, HEALING AND WELLBEING: 
    Disease prevention, as well as the mind, meditation and nutrition. 
When: 9.30am (for 10am start) - 4pm 
Where: Veterinary Science Conference Centre, Webster Theatre, Sydney University
Bookings Essential: Call Sarah Tail 0418 22 0590 or Tina Rae (02) 4294 8361
Register on line: at www.rigpa.com.au 

On Saturday we begin by examining how the mind functions and how we can use this knowledge to best effect - how we can use the power of the mind in all areas of life. You will learn how to relax and experience a calm and clear mind, to use affirmations and imagery and to begin or to deepen meditation.
On Sunday, extend all this with more focus on healing and wellbeing. There will be heaps of practical information on what constitutes a sensible way of eating - both for good health generally and healing specifically. Then there will be more on the latest, fascinating and practical research showing how the mind can be used to generate healing and real happiness. 
Both days will be highly experiential with a good theoretical basis. There will be time for questions and relevant resources like books and CDs will be available.
While each day is intended to be useful in its own right, and so attendance for one day is possible, ideally come to both days as they build on each other and make for a complete package. 

10 September 2012

Ian Gawler Blog: The history and practise of meditation – Part 2

This week we conclude the guest blog from Ma Devi, board member of  The Australian Teachers of Meditation Association (ATMA), on the history and practise of meditation. Also details of the weekend workshop I will present in Sydney in October, next month. I will be fresh back from attending a wonderful meditation retreat myself, so it may well be useful! But first

Thought for the day:

The purpose of meditation is to awaken in us the sky-like nature of mind, and to introduce us to that which we really are, our unchanging pure awareness that underlies the whole of life and death.

In the stillness and silence of meditation, we glimpse and return to that deep inner nature, which we so long ago lost sight of, amid the busyness and distraction of our minds.

                                                                                                           Sogyal Rinpoche

Meditation For Enlightenment 

The significant aspect of Eastern philosophies is that they give a sadhana, a means for ending suffering and attaining peace.  Practices and techniques can be applied in every circumstance. Most importantly, there is a technique and practice for every type of person.

The Buddha was the first major Hindu Guru who influenced the rise of meditation in India. Traditionally Brahmin priests acted as intermediaries between the individual and the Absolute. The Buddha’s teaching broke with this tradition. The individual could now discover ‘illumined mind’ or higher Consciousness within.

The Buddha’s teachings pervaded Asia and now they have permeated Western culture as well. Teachers of Zen, Mahayana, Tibetan and Theraveda traditions, like Suzuki Roshi, the Karmapa, SN Goenka, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, the Dalai Lama, Kalu Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa, Sogyal Rinpoche and others have continued the Buddha’s teachings and established meditation centres in the West.

The idea of Enlightenment has been a natural part of Buddhist and Hindu society since it began. Gurus, meditation, and spiritual philosophy are a natural part of  life. There have been many Gurus, even before the Buddha, throughout history that have attained enlightenment, taught the path to others and transformed lives.

More recently in the 19th and 20th C Ramana Maharshi, Guru Maharaji, Swami Satyananda, Satya Sai Baba, Swami Satchitananda, Swami Muktananda, Swami Chinmayananda, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Osho, Anandamayi Ma, Bhagawan Nityananda and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, are all Hindu Gurus whose influence still resounds in the Western world.

The spiritual paths laid down by Gurus include achieving a higher state of consciousness or enlightenment, understanding and connecting to the inner Self, awakening to a higher power, developing and increasing compassion and loving-kindness, and receiving spiritual inspiration or guidance from Self, God or Guru.

Meditation and Self-development

Not only was there an influx of meditation during the 60s and 70s but psychology also took on new meaning as a transpersonal element entered the culture. Suddenly everyone wanted to ‘raise their consciousness.’ Innovators like Carl Rogers, Fritz Perls, Roberto Assagioli, Oscar Ichazo, Virginia Satir, Werner Erhard and others offered a simpler and practical understanding of the mind and the emotions compared to Freudian Analysis. Many were students of Jung who expanded his teaching. Therapists began to use art, the breath and psychodrama as a means of clearing emotional ‘baggage’.
Meditation As A Secular Practice.

Meditation, Physiology, Healing and Psychology

Although traditionally practiced as a spiritual discipline, meditation in the modern context, has gained valid attention because of the mental and physical health benefits associated with its practice. Today, certain forms of psychotherapy are also associated with meditation. Thus different meditative disciplines encompass a wide range of spiritual and non-spiritual goals.

In more secular, therapeutic or personal development contexts, the benefits of meditation include achieving greater focus and improved performance, enhancing creativity or self-awareness, cultivating a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind, managing chronic pain, depression and anxiety, and providing a range of physiological and metabolic benefits for the cardiovascular, immune and neurological systems.

Meditation techniques have been incorporated into a range of counseling and psychotherapy approaches, such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Originally used with systematic desensitization, relaxation techniques are now used with other clinical problems. A range of other techniques and forms of psychotherapy such as hypnosis, biofeedback, Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), EMDR, and multimodal therapy all employ the use of meditation as an individual therapy technique.

The side effects of meditation include the relaxation response that works toward achieving mental and physical relaxation to reduce daily stress. This reverses the increasingly common and deleterious effects of the chronic over-activation of the stress response (known as high ‘allostatic load’).

From the point of view of psychology and physiology, meditation can induce a heightened state of consciousness – i.e. it raises awareness. Relaxation, concentration, an altered state of awareness, a suspension of discursive thought, and the maintenance of a self-observing attitude are sometimes cited as the behavioral components of meditation. It is also accompanied by a host of biochemical and physical changes, such as altered metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, immune function, genetic function and repair, and brain anatomy and function.

Meditation has been used in clinical settings, but its use in the mental health and emotional regulation settings have probably created more interest than any other single field. Other areas of application include the enhancement of performance in sporting, business and academic settings.

Interestingly,from a purist spiritual or philosophical perspective, the physical, behavioral and psychological benefits of meditation could be seen as ‘side-effects’ rather than the central aim of the practice.

The Future of Meditation 

Meditation continues to expand in every culture around the world. An American survey in 2007 showed that over 20,000,000 people had either tried meditation or were meditating.
Lawyers are turning to meditation to deal with the stress of the legal world.
 
In 1977, one Hindu yogi said that if 1% of a population of more than 10,000 people practiced meditation it would have an impact on the collective consciousness of a society. This impact, he posited, would result in a reduction of violence in the community and on armed conflict throughout the world.

When we commit to a meditation practice it not only alters the chemistry of our own thoughts and feelings but it can positively affect those around us. The energy of meditation builds within us as we practice and the happier and more peaceful we become, the more positive our life becomes.

Meditators understand the enormous benefits from a meditation practice and are eager to share this knowledge with as many people as possible. When we begin a meditation practice we join a worldwide community of people who are committed to peace, love, wisdom, compassion and joy. We encourage you to become a part of this global village.


RELATED BLOGS
Meditation in 4 easy steps

Mindbody Mastery

RESOURCES 
1. I encourage all teachers of meditation to join and support ATMA. Click here for ATMA’s excellent website. Good for teachers themselves, and if you are looking for a registered meditation teacher.

2. Ma Devi along with Sami Shankarananda (author of "Happy for No Good Reason" and other excellent books) also runs the Shiva School of Meditation and Yoga in Frankston Victoria, and is an ex President of the International Yoga Teachers Association.

3. Mindbody Mastery - downloadable meditation program

4. Meditation – an In-depth Guide - my most recent book on meditation

NEWS 

MEDITATION AND HEALING - TWO FULL DAY WORKSHOPS IN SYDNEY

Saturday, 20 October, 2012

Title: THE MIND THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING 
When: 9.30am (for 10am start) - 4pm 
Where: Veterinary Science Conference Centre, Webster Theatre, Sydney University

Sunday, 21 October, 2012

Title: HEALTH, HEALING AND WELLBEING: 
    Disease prevention, as well as the mind, meditation and nutrition. 
When: 9.30am (for 10am start) - 4pm 
Where: Veterinary Science Conference Centre, Webster Theatre, Sydney University
Bookings Essential: Call Sarah Tail 0418 22 0590 or Tina Rae (02) 4294 8361
Register on line: at www.rigpa.com.au 

On Saturday we begin by examining how the mind functions and how we can use this knowledge to best effect - how we can use the power of the mind in all areas of life. You will learn how to relax and experience a calm and clear mind, to use affirmations and imagery and to begin or to deepen meditation.
On Sunday, extend all this with more focus on healing and wellbeing. There will be heaps of practical information on what constitutes a sensible way of eating - both for good health generally and healing specifically. Then there will be more on the latest, fascinating and practical research showing how the mind can be used to generate healing and real happiness. 
Both days will be highly experiential with a good theoretical basis. There will be time for questions and relevant resources like books and CDs will be available.
While each day is intended to be useful in its own right, and so attendance for one day is possible, ideally come to both days as they build on each other and make for a complete package. 

03 September 2012

Ian Gawler Blog: The history and practise of meditation


This week, we feature a guest blog from Ma Devi, a board member of the Australian Teachers of Meditation Association (ATMA). She has expanded on the piece I wrote in the introduction to Meditation – An In–depth Guide, providing a fascinating background to meditation. But first:

Thought for the Day:
     "What day is it?" asked Pooh.
     "It's today," squeaked Piglet.
     "My favourite day," said Pooh.

Just what is meditation?

In its broadest and most universal definition, meditation is a discipline that involves turning the mind and attention inward and focusing on a single thought, image, object or feeling.

Meditation is sometimes called attention regulation (or attention training). Various meditation practices can be further defined according to the object of meditation, whether the mind is focused on the breath, the mantra, the body, a deity, or an attribute like stillness, peace, love, etc.

The goal of meditation varies according to the technique that is practiced. Some techniques instill peace, some reduce stress, bring insight or enlightenment, some instill confidence and creativity, some work with thought and feeling patterns, some answer the most basic and mundane questions, some answer the most soul searching and mystical questions, and some do it all.

The early history

It is difficult to trace the history of meditation, but there were several seals dating to the mid 3rd millennium BC, discovered in India at Indus Valley Civilization sites. They depict figures in positions resembling a common yoga or meditation pose, showing “a form of ritual discipline, suggesting a precursor of yoga,” according to archaeologist Gregory Possehl. Historians also know that techniques for experiencing higher states of consciousness in meditation were developed by the shramanic traditions and in the Upanishadic tradition of Hinduism.

Originally meditation practices were largely aimed at spiritual enlightenment, a central part of which was the alleviation of suffering. Since then the practice of meditation has traversed virtually every culture and religion, although a rise in materialism coincided with a decline in spiritual practices. The beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th C caused a lapse of interest in meditation in the Western world.

Meditation in the West

Perhaps the earliest noteworthy Western contributor to meditation in the early part of the twentieth century was the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung who explored and drew upon Yoga and other Eastern philosophies and practices in forming his ideas.

However, in the 60s and 70s a meditation revival began with the advent of Hindu and Buddhist teachers travelling the Western world teaching Hatha yoga, Kundalini Yoga, meditation, Zen, Dzogchen, Sufism, Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, the yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Kashmir Shaivism, and other philosophies.

Hence, Western contemplative traditions have largely been influenced by Eastern Gurus, both Hindu and Buddhist. Experimentation with meditation grew significantly during this period, especially in America as the practice of Yoga took on new significance. Meditation began to find its way into a Western vernacular.

Meditation for Stress Reduction and Relaxation

As Hindu and Buddhist teachers were travelling West, a number of Western thinkers were travelling East in search of enlightenment and to study Eastern philosophies. And so modern relaxation techniques and a variety of concepts of meditation began to emerge.

The German psychiatrist Johannes Schultz created the relaxation technique and Autogenic Training, and the American physician Edmund Jacobson produced Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), both still popular today.

In 1963 the Australian psychiatrist, Ainslie Meares published his Atavistic Theory of Mental Homeostasis,pioneering the concept of therapeutic meditation (now known as Stillness Meditation Therapy) for the treatment of anxiety and pain, and which he further applied to the management of cancer. In the early 1970s the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement popularized meditation to a wider audience and was influential in fostering some of the early research activity.

In the late 1970s American medical biologist, Jon Kabat-Zinn integrated Buddhist teachings with Western science to establish Mindfulness Meditation for the purpose of stress management. In recent times his work has influenced research into meditation as a healing modality and in the 2000s there has been a literal explosion in interest in the clinical and research applications of meditation, much of this being fostered by the Mind and Life Institute.

While all meditation approaches involve relaxation of body and mind, different styles may be used for individual preference or purpose.

NEXT WEEK: Join us for Part 2 as we explore meditation for personal development and enlightenment, its secular and practical applications.

RELATED BLOGS
Meditation in 4 easy steps

Mindbody Mastery

RESOURCES 
1. I encourage all teachers of meditation to join and support ATMA. Click here for ATMA’s excellent website. Good for teachers themselves, and if you are looking for a registered meditation teacher.

2. Ma Devi along with Sami Shankarananda (author of "Happy for No Good Reason" and other excellent books) also runs the Shiva School of Meditation and Yoga in Frankston Victoria, and is an ex President of the International Yoga Teachers Association.

2. Mindbody Mastery - downloadable meditation program

3. Meditation – an In-depth Guide - my most recent book on meditation

NEWS

1. New book on meditation and research highly recommended:

“Dr. Norman Rosenthal’s "Transcendence: Healing and Transformation 
through Transcendental Meditation" is a profoundly important book about a topic 
that you need to know a lot more about. Moreover, it has been written by an 
internationally respected psychiatrist and 20-year senior researcher at the 
National Institutes of Mental Health who first described “Seasonal Affective
 Disorder.

Dr. Rosenthal is one of those rare professionals who is able to mix
 authority and accuracy with riveting stories that read like a novel. In "
Transcendence", he has given us all a gift that will enlighten, entertain, and perhaps 
even transform.”

Mehmet Oz, M.D., Emmy Award-winning host of The Dr. Oz Show and Vice Chairman and Professor of Surgery, New York Presbyterian-Columbia University.

2. The new edition of You Can Conquer Cancer is now due in November, having been delayed a little by completion of the new Index.