28 October 2013

Ian Gawler Blog: Portrait of the survivor

What image do you have of a long-term cancer survivor? What have their stories to offer? What can we learn from them about life and about survival?

This week we find out, as well as having the extraordinary opportunity to view amazing portraits taken by world-class photographer Robbie Merritt of long-term survivors. These portraits will form a truly remarkable exhibition You Are Beautiful coming soon in Perth, and to celebrate I have asked the CEO of Cancer Support WA (CSWA), Mandy BeckerKnox to share an insight that came courtesy of one of these survivors.

Each portrait is linked to that persons story - very inspiring and informative - and a fundraising initiative for CSWA, so if you want to support a great organisation, link here to donate.

Also, a small request. I have been asked to help set up a public Facebook page to promote the workshops I will present in Auckland in a few weeks. Apparently it helps to be “Liked”!!! So please go to the new page, (I will now be adding interesting and topical new info there too from time to time) and “Like” me! Link here.

All the New Zealand events for the tour Ruth and I head off for in a couple of weeks are featured on this new Facebook page, so if you do know anyone interested, please share the link with them.






But first


Thought for the Day
People are like stained-glass windows.
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out,
But when the darkness sets in,
Their true beauty is revealed
Only if there is a light from within
               Elizabeth Kubler-Ross




Geoff Barbour
Long term survivor of advanced lymphatic cancer
First diagnosed 1997, no medical treatment




How asking yourself a simple question could save your life by Mandy BeckerKnox

A wise friend told me about a very simple method she used for healing herself of secondary melanoma 25 years ago. She was in a difficult predicament, given a few months to live with no medical treatments available to her. Not ready or willing to die, she realised her life was in her own hands.

Willing to do whatever it took to be well again, she asked herself a profound question before eating or drinking anything. She asked the same question of her thought processes, of her relationships, before undergoing any treatment, and in fact before she did anything.

 The question was simply “is this life-giving, or life taking?’ If the answer was life-giving, then she would wholeheartedly embrace that choice. If the answer was life taking, she found the strength and willpower not to follow through on that choice.







Father and daughter team, Ross and Lisa Taylor.









Ross diagnosed with secondary melanoma over 20 years ago.
Lisa also had her partner diagnosed and die of a brain tumour - an extra-ordinary caring role.


There were only two possible answers to this question … there were no maybes, buts, this times or I don’t knows – it was either yes this is life giving, or no this is life taking.

In addition to following through on her life-giving choices, she was willing to explore as many healing modalities as possible, to make sweeping lifestyle changes, to meditate, to develop intuition and to give it a voice.





Mike Sowerby - whom I first met when he was a 3rd year vet student in 1979, just diagnosed with kidney cancer. 

Mike became the first new therapist I worked with in the early '80s, and now he works with the CSWA.

Mike had no medical treatment.











It was her soul’s journey to survive cancer and to become a healer and facilitator herself, inspiring and giving hope to many other people facing the same devastating prognosis.


In case you are wondering who this wise friend is,
it is the wonderful Cathy Brown,
Cancer Support WA’s wellness facilitator.

                    Cathy Brown was diagnosed with metastatic 
                    melanoma 20 years ago. Cathy was one of 
                    our co- facilitators on our recent 
                    Meditation in the Desert retreat.

Cathy and the team of wellness and healing professionals at CSWA understand what it takes to be well and have developed a program and many resources to support people on their healing journey. That team is there to guide you through the program and to help you find the inner resources to be well and to heal.

We wish you all the best and hope to see you soon!

Mandy BeckerKnox
Chief Executive Officer, CSWA


YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL – the exhibition, is Australia's first 100% glass photographic exhibition celebrating the inner beauty, resilience and strength of West Australians touched by cancer.

Organised by Cancer Support WA in partnership with celebrity photographer Robbie Merritt, Panther Graphics and other sponsors, the purpose of You are Beautiful is to bring awareness to the untold stories of people with cancer, and to raise funds for Cancer Support WA.

​The YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL exhibition features large scale portraits of 100 West Australians who have been touched by cancer. Each portrait reveals the story of each person by drawing out their unique beauty and emotion. Each portrait is accompanied by the personal story of each person featured.

The YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL Photographs are being displayed at Central Park Building, 152-158 St Georges Terrace, Perth from 2nd to 8th November, Central Park  and a smaller selection will be displayed from 18th to 29th November at Brookfield Place, 125 St George's Tce, Perth WA. Entry to the exhibitions is free.

RESOURCES
1. Refer to my website where there is more related research and suggestions on how to manage a cancer diagnosis.

2. My book: You Can Conquer Cancer

3. My CDs (also available as downloads)
The Gawler Cancer Program
What to do when someone you love has cancer

RELATED BLOGS
Cancer survivors? Cancer thrivers!!!

Cancer survivors come to Today Tonight

Recovery from cancer is possible

NOTICEBOARD

Ruth and I will be presenting a range of public talks, workshops and retreats around New Zealand
in November/December.

We start with an evening Public Talk in Auckland on Thursday November 14th (which will be followed up by a weekend in Auckland on November 30th and December 1st), then there are a range of other events.

We are delighted to be including our first meditation retreat in New Zealand (which quite a few Aussies have also booked for already!) - December 2 -8.

Please do let anyone you may know in NZ about the visit -  all the details are on my new public Facebook page: Dr Ian Gawler,    or the website.



21 October 2013

Ian Gawler Blog: Key medical terms - What is in a name?

When I began one of the world's first cancer self help groups in 1981, what I was doing was often described as "Alternative Medicine". Back in those early days, this seemed fair enough.

What I was teaching was new and it was different to what the mainstream doctors were doing. However, it was not meant to involve a choice as in "do one alternative or the other; do the medical stuff or the self help stuff". It was just different.

But then things began too shift. Somehow, some key people in mainstream medicine decided there was a conflict between what the doctors could do for people with cancer and what those people could do for themselves. Perhaps they were worried people would make the choice to not go with the medical stuff.

Whatever the thinking, instead of seeking to combine the best of what the doctors could do with the best of what the patients could do for themselves, they adopted a combative, exclusive view. They began to strongly express that when it came to recovery from cancer, the only hope lay in what the medical system could do for its patients. The self help options were denigrated.

While this always struck me as a weird and most unfortunate misunderstanding, it sadly led to what some now interpret as a very unhelpful turf war, initiated by those same medical authorities. To be clear about this, I have done all possible to avoid such a conflict. I have maintained constantly since 1981 that in my view the best results for people with cancer will always be achieved by a collaborative approach that combines the best of what is available. However, it is also true that I regard the contribution of the patient, their families and friends as crucial and I have no doubt that frequently this combined contribution has made the difference between life and death.

One way that the self help movement was put down was to brand the word "alternative" as a pejorative. That means "alternative" become a term of medical derision, and all too frequently it is still used as such. The way the word "Alternative" is used these days, it  smacks of quackery and danger.

To attempt to brand people working hard to help themselves as being involved in "quack alternatives" is clearly very unhelpful. In my view it is actually irresponsible as well as being an extremely inaccurate way to describe what I advocate and teach.

In response to all this, more balanced doctors and self help advocates use far more constructive terminology. So we have moved on to "Holistic Medicine", "Complementary Medicine" and "Integrative Medicine". Currently, the best and most accurate way to describe what I advocate and teach - the self help approach - is "Lifestyle Medicine".

However, it seems to me we are now in a position where all of these medical words tend to be bandied about a bit recklessly - in the media, amongst the professions and privately. So this week it seems useful to clarify the definitions. But first





Thought for the day
A joyful heart is good medicine
But a broken spirit dries up the bones
              Proverbs 17:22









1. MEDICAL DEFINITIONS
Currently there are many terms used to describe different ways of offering healing and wellbeing: Conventional Medicine, Traditional Medicine, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Lifestyle Factors and so on. Often these words are used in a loose way that can be confusing.

What follows is an attempt to draw together the best and most widely accepted working definitions for these different modalities. The hope in that this may bring more understanding and help with the words being used more accurately and more clearly.

1. Orthodox or Conventional Medicine and/or therapies1
Orthodox or conventional medicine generally describes medical interventions taught at medical schools, generally provided at hospitals, and meeting the requirement of peer accepted mainstream medicine and standards of care.

2. Evidence Based Medicine2
The conscientious and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. The practice of evidence based medicine means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research. By individual clinical expertise is meant the proficiency and judgement that individual clinicians acquire through clinical experience and clinical practice.

3. Allopathic Medicine3
The system of medical practice that treats disease by the use of remedies that produce effects different from those produced by the disease under treatment.

The term ‘allopathy’ was coined in 1842 by CFS Hahnemann to designate the usual practice of medicine (allopathy) as opposed to homeopathy, the system of therapy that he founded based on the concept that disease can be treated with drugs (in minute doses) thought capable of producing the same symptoms in healthy people as the disease itself.

4. Integrative Medicine4
The blending of conventional and natural/complementary medicines and/or therapies with the aim of using the most appropriate of either or both modalities to care for the patient as a whole.

Integrative Medicine considers the person’s body, emotions, mind and spirit. Integrative Medicine is open to integrating the services of a wide range of health practitioners and modalities in a way that is often described as Holistic Medicine.

5. Holistic Medicine and/or therapies5
These combine complementary and conventional approaches that support the physical, social, psychological, emotional and spiritual wellbeing to help achieve optimal health. The holistic or health model looks at maximising or supporting all aspects of a person’s health that may lead to the disease being healed by the body. Health promoting and lifestyle advice, such as advice in dietary changes, stress management, exercise, and the environment, are integral to holistic medicine.

6. Lifestyle Medicine6

The application of environmental, behavioural, medical and motivation principles to the
management of lifestyle related health problems in the clinical setting.

7. Lifestyle Factors7
These come under the umbrella of Integrative Medicine and are concerned with what a person can do for themselves in the context of their daily life. Lifestyle factors contrast with complementary therapies which better describe a therapy provided by a therapist, or a compound taken by the patient. (eg. Supplements/herbs)

Lifestyle factors or therapies include physical factors such as nutrition (food/juices), exercise, exposure to sunlight and creative activities.

They also utilize Mind-Body Interventions which can include psychosocial activities, group therapy, mind training (positive thinking, affirmation, imagery etc), meditation, Yoga, Chi Gong, Tai Chi, healthy emotions: (relationships, communication, laughter, forgiveness, etc) personal development and transformation.

Lifestyle factors also encompass spiritual pursuits such as exploring meaning and purpose in life, prayer, spiritual healing, religious practice and spiritual development.

8. Complementary & Alternative Medicine8
In the United States, the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), defines CAM as a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine, as defined by our medical peers.

Unlike in America, in Australia, Complementary Medicine and Alternative Medicine tend to be spoken of quite separately.

9. Complementary Medicine9
Any therapeutic practice that does not satisfy the standards of the majority of the orthodox medical community in Australia, that is not taught widely at Australian medical schools and that is not generally available at Australian hospitals.

According to Dr Vicki Kotsirilos10 this definition varies cross culturally with more medical schools – both in Australia and overseas – offering courses in complementary medicine.

Dr Kotsirilos goes on to say that the diversity of these therapies makes them difficult to categorise as a group, yet they are often collectively referred to as ‘complementary’, ‘alternative’, ‘integrative’, ‘unorthodox’, ‘unconventional’, ‘unproven’, ‘natural’, ‘traditional’ and ‘holistic’ medicine, and are contrasted with ‘conventional’, ‘mainstream’, ‘allopathic’, ‘orthodox’, ‘conventional’ and ‘scientific’ medicine.

According to the NCCAM, CAM can be grouped as:

i. Alternative Medical Systems: include naturopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and homeopathy.

ii. Mind-Body Interventions: include patient support groups, cognitive-behavioural therapy, meditation, prayer, mental healing, and therapies that use creative outlets such as art, music, or dance.

iii. Biologically Based Therapies: include herbs, foods, vitamins, minerals, and dietary supplements.

iv. Manipulative and Body-Based methods: include therapeutic massage, shiatsu, chiropractic, and osteopathy.

v. Energy Therapies: include acupuncture, therapeutic touch, reiki, Chi Gong, electromagnetic fields, magnetic fields, kinesiology.

10. Alternative Medicine11
Alternative medicine has two aspects:
i) Proven Alternative Medicine which includes alternative medical systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. These alternative medical systems represent a different paradigm of health care when compared to Conventional Western Medicine.

ii) Unproven Alternative Medicine – sometimes described as Unorthodox or Unconventional or Unproven Medicine and or therapies. This generally describes medical interventions that are not widely taught at medical school, not generally provided at hospitals, and are outside peer accepted mainstream medicine and standards of care. Examples include aromatherapy, intravenous chelation and ozone therapy.

11. Traditional Medicine or therapies12
Well documented or otherwise established medicine or therapies according to the accumulated experience of many traditional health care practitioners over an extended period of time.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) provides a specific definition: ‘traditional use refers to documentary evidence that a substance has been used over three or more generations of recorded use for a specific health related or medicinal purpose’.
Traditional therapies include traditional Chinese medicine, traditional Ayurvedic medicine, western herbal medicine, homeopathic medicine, indigenous medicines, and aromatherapy.

12. Natural Medicine or therapies13
Substances or therapies that work with the natural processes of the body by restoring or correcting organic functions; or modifying organic functions such as modifying those functions in a manner that maintains or promotes health. They generally support the body’s healing mechanisms rather than taking over the body’s processes.
Examples of pharmaceutical medication originally derived from natural medicine include digitalis from the herb foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), and asprin(salicylate) from willowbark (Salix alba), which contains that active ingredient salicin.

COMMENT
Using these definitions, Integrative Medicine can be understood as an umbrella term which includes current Western Orthodox Medicine and Complementary Medicine. Alternative Medicine is posed as a choice to Conventional Western Medicine. This may be a well founded, proven alternative therapy such as whether to use Western Medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat a specific condition (where two quite different approaches are established as having good results) via different and therefore alternative methodologies; or an unproven alternative therapy such as using shark cartilage to treat primary cancer.

2. THE AIM OF TREATMENT 
Curative Treatment14
Aims to render the person clinically free of detectable cancer and to restore the person to their normal life expectancy.

Palliative Treatment15
Palliative care is an umbrella term for assisting those approaching death. It is a fundamental need and right. This term is generally used in the context that death is imminent and inevitable; and the application of palliative care aims to make dying as easy and comfortable as possible.

Palliative treatment is non curative by definition. It aims to extend life, eg. increase survival time, ameliorate symptoms, and increase quality of life.

REFERENCES
1. Medical Benefits Schedule, Item Statistics reports

2. Sackett DLR, Rosenberg WM. Gray JA, Haynes RB, Richardson WS. Evidence based
medicine: what it is and what it isn’t. BMJ 1996;312:71-2.

3. Webster’s New World Medical Dictionary

4. The RACGP-AIMA position paper on Complementary Medicine, available on www.racgp.org.au/advocacy/position-statements

5. Kotsirilos V Complementary Alternative Medicine AFP 2005;34: 1-3

6. Egges G North Ryde:McGraw Hill (2008) Lifestyle Medicine.

7. Gawler I.J. 2009 Presented at RACGP Annual Conference 2006.

8. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health,
Bethesda, Maryland 20892 USA. Available at: www.nccam.nih.gov

9. Easthope G Alternative, complementary, or integrative? Complement Ther Med 2003: 11:2-3C
10 Kotsirilos V. – ibid

11.Gawler I.J ibid

12.Therapeutic Goods Administration. Levels and kinds of evidence to support indication and
claims for non-registrable medicines including complementary medicines and other listable
medicines. TGA, October 2001

13.Kotsirilos V. – ibid.

14. Caociato DA. Manual of Clinical Oncology 5th Ed 2004
15.Gawler IJ ibid


Other Useful References:
1. Kotsirilos V. Complementary & Alternative Medicine – Part 2 AFP 2005; 34:689-691

2. Kotsirilos V. GP’s Attitude toward Complementary Medicine AFP 2007: 36: 1-2

3. Complementary Medicines Information Use and Needs of Health Professionals: General
Practitioners and Pharmacists December 2008 – National Prescribing Service Ltd.
4. Model guidelines for the use of complementary and alternative therapies in medical
practice. A Policy Document of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States. Dallas: Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States, Inc. 2002.
5. Marc S. Micozzi. Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Churchill Livingstone Inc. 1996.

RESOURCES
1. Refer to my website where there is more related research and suggestions on how to manage a cancer diagnosis.

2. My book: You Can Conquer Cancer

3. My CDs (also available as downloads)
The Gawler Cancer Program
What to do when someone you love has cancer

RELATED BLOGS
The Cancer Council, the survivors and the book

Recovery from cancer is possible

NOTICEBOARD
Ruth and I will be presenting a range of public talks, workshops and retreats around New Zealand in November/December.

We start with an evening Public Talk in Auckland on Thursday November 14th (which will be followed up by a weekend in Auckland on November 30th and December 1st), then there are a range of other events.

We are delighted to be including our first meditation retreat in New Zealand (which quite a few Aussies have also booked for already!) - December 2 -8.

Please do let anyone you may know in NZ about the visit - a link to last week's blog gives all the details - Colour therapy and New Zealand - or go to my new public Facebook page: Dr Ian Gawler, or the website. So much technology!!!


14 October 2013

Ian Gawler Blog: Colour therapy and New Zealand

This week some extra-ordinary colour therapy courtesy of a flourishing garden, along with details of the meditation retreat in, and tour of New Zealand Ruth and I will embark upon in November and December. Plus reminders of impending talks in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, along with a small request and a treat!

If you do know anyone for whom these events may be useful, please do share this post with them. I am still convinced that helping someone else to learn or deepen their meditation is one of the most useful things we can do.

But first
Thought for the Day
It takes dedication, hard disciplined work, and intensive training
Before a dancer can move with unearthly grace
And perform feats that are impossible for an untrained body.
In the same, way, people have found when they practice compassion assiduously,
All day and everyday,
They achieve new capacities of mind and heart
                   Karen Armstrong



Ruth and I love going to New Zealand. Great country, great people, great reception. There seems to be a real openness and enthusiasm for Mind-Body Medicine, Complimentary therapies and Lifestyle Medicine. My sense of this is that both the public and the professions, including the doctors, are more open and embracing than in Australia.

It would be interesting to get comments/impressions from any of you who do move back and forth across “the ditch”; what is your experience of this?

We have been invited to present a range of programs – from retreats to a free public workshop in Christchurch for those affected by all the devastation that has come to that city.

So we hope to be able meet up again with those we have met on previous visits, and to continue to make new friends along the way. The events begin in

AUCKLAND: Evening Public Lecture: Medicine of the Mind - Thursday November 14th.
Here the conversation will be around how to let go of stress, activate healing and maximise performance in all you do. The latest research findings will be presented, along with how they can be applied. The power of the mind at work in everyday life. Time to relax and meditate together as well! There will also be a weekend workshop in Auckland Nov 30, Dec1 - see below.
Full details, CLICK HERE


Next comes
ROTORUA: Health, Healing and Wellbeing - November 16th
Here the focus will be more on the prevention and recovery from illness. I will aim to present the essence of what I have found most helpful over the 30 plus years I have worked in this field. Given we have a full day together, there will be plenty of mindfulness and meditation practice interspersed throughout. Full details, CLICK HERE


WANAKA RETREAT – Cancer and Beyond -  November 18 – 22
This five day follow-up cancer program is specifically for people who have attended a CanLive program in NZ, or Gawler Foundation program. This program is currently fully booked, but there may be a cancellation. Full details, CLICK HERE


CHRISTCHURCH Inner peace, Outer health. Sunday November 24th.
A free day workshop made possible by CanLive. An offering to all those affected by the traumas that have beset Christchurch and surrounds in recent times. I will speak of stress management in the conventional sense, as well as what I find to be the more profound possibilities with mindfulness and meditation. We will discuss recovery from major trauma and how it may be possible to find peace and clarity amidst troubled times. Full details, CLICK HERE


NELSON: Mind-Body Medicine in daily Life - Evening of November 26th.
Ah, Nelson. Now there is a place! And the chance to speak about relaxation, meditation and creative imagery for health, business, healing and wellbeing, with a focus on how to deepen the experience of meditation – and some practice together.
Full details, CLICK HERE



AUCKLAND: Weekend workshop: A New Way of Living
A way of living that generates good health, profound healing and long-term wellbeing.
Saturday November 30th: Meditation and the power of the mind
Meditation has a long history at the heart of spiritual practice. Then there is a more recent and rapidly evolving modern, scientific history.

Currently, astute leaders in all fields are recognizing that the mind is pivotal in whatever field of expertise you care to examine. In sport, business, relationships, health, healing, wellbeing; the mind decides what we do, how proficient we become and how much enjoyment we experience. Train the mind and everything gets better.

Meditation provides the key to training the mind and as such is the key to the future. Support it with the practices of relaxation, mindfulness, imagery and contemplation, and we can directly and reliably tap into the incredible power of the mind.

This day will gently blend facts and experience, knowledge and wisdom. I love it!
Full details, CLICK HERE

Sunday December 1st: Living Well, Being Well –
We all want to be healthy and happy. Many people have heard stories of people who have recovered against the odds from cancer and other major illnesses. Many know of, or are dealing themselves with major illness. Carers and Health Professionals are always thinking of how they can be most useful.

What to do? What works best? How do complementary and natural therapies work with conventional medicine? And what about prevention? What is best to eat – for good health and for recovery? How can we be really well and experience long-term good health and happiness?

Today the focus is on presenting the evidence, sharing years of experiences and providing practical answers. Learn how our lifestyle can powerfully affect our health and our capacity to heal – and how to get the best from our own potential.
Full details, CLICK HERE



MANA RETREAT CENTRE on the COROMANDEL PENNINSULA
Meditation Under the Long White Cloud. December 2nd – 8th.
This seven day meditation retreat will be the first Ruth and I will have presented in New Zealand. We love these retreats. A wonderful time to be amidst like-minded people, to assist with deepening your understanding and experience of relaxation, mindfulness and meditation; and then guiding you into the direct experience of inner peace.

Some may join us from Australia and places further afield, but if you are thinking of coming, it will make sense to book soon as all our retreats of late have been fully booked.
Full details, CLICK HERE


THE REQUEST
The organisers for the Auckland talks have requested me to help them set up a public Facebook page that they can use to help promote the events there. As time goes on, I will be able to use this to send out other interesting info and event news and all the things people do on Facebook – God help me!!! – but it seems “Liking “ the page is helpful.

So, if you care to, please pause for a moment, smile, and like me! Now you are laughing a little, please do the liking by CLICKING HERE! Then please send it on to anyone who may be interested.
Many thanks!




Here is the blank canvas 
The veggie garden
prepared over winter
awaiting the Spring planting




NOTICEBOARD
i) MELBOURNE: Mind-Body Medicine in daily life - Sunday October 20th, 10 – 4.30pm
Day seminar with Ian Gawler and Dr Nimrod Sheinman
Be inspired, be informed, deepen your experience of mindfulness, creative imagery and meditation.

Nimrod is a world authority in Mind-Body medicine and an expert with creative imagery and mindfulness. A healthy lunch is included in the modest fee for the day.
Full details, CLICK HERE

ii) BRISBANE November 4,5 and PERTH November 7,8
The famous Happiness and its Causes conference is going on the road and I will be presenting keynote addresses and half day workshops at both venues. My keynote topic is dealing with stress and anxiety; the workshops are on meditation.

Full details,  BRISBANE CLICK HERE  ,  PERTH CLICK HERE

NOW FOR THE BONUS TREAT
Try clicking on this: The pause that refreshes - the wildest way yet to encourage people to meditate!


07 October 2013

An open heart

Sitting to meditate at home a few days ago, I found tears pouring down my face. Pouring. Flowing freely. Yet no distress. Just lots of tears.

I had just learnt that Mark, a delightful young doctor from Hong Kong had succumbed to the same cancer I used to have. So what were the tears? Common grief? Sadness? Despair? Self identification?

Maybe. But actually most came courtesy of a profound insight. An insight you may well also value.

This week then, let’s go Out on a Limb in a real sense, be brave, and consider how a realistic and healthy understanding of death can actually have a positive effect on our lives and particularly our relationships.

And a reminder – less than 2 weeks to go before my day workshop in Melbourne with Dr Nimrod Sheinman – a world authority on Mind-Body Medicine, mindfulness and the application of guided imagery. For details, CLICK HERE. But first




Thought for the day
Of all the sad things I see
The worst of it 
Is the fear of death
            Sogyal Rinpoche










It had been my good fortune to come to know Mark a little. It was easy to appreciate his many fine qualities; particularly his love of life and his commitment to staying alive.

My response to his death was echoed eloquently by a woman in one of my groups a few days later when she commented on the death of one of our much loved members recently:

“Death sucks!”

Our friend had lived for many years with a vibrancy that belied the severity of her illness. All she was doing to look after herself kept her feeling well right up to the time of her death. According to her family, she also died well.

Maybe as a result of all this, her death came as more of a surprise. Some people were shocked. Like that of Mark, her love of life, her enthusiasm, her energy – her vibrancy…..





Yet death does come to us all. Clearly some do die of cancer. Some die of other things. One thing is for sure. We will all die one day.

One day.

We do not know when.






So here is the point. Faced with the reality of death, faced with the grief of loss, even just the anticipatory thought of loss, it is so easy to become fearful and defensive. And to close our hearts.

It seems clear that for many of us, in an attempt to defend our emotions and to protect our selves from emotional pain, we attempt to build barriers, to wall off the heart.

Yet if we do close our hearts, one thing is certain. Relationships will always suffer. Always be compromised. Always be filtered through those barriers. Always be closed to some degree. Close the heart and we may well miss the most important parts – the closeness, the intimacy of relationships.

In my view, it is exactly because we do not know how long we may have with those we know, those we love, that it makes sense to do all we can to keep our hearts open and to get the best from whatever time we do have with them.

However, it takes a brave heart to be open. There are bound to be times when the tears flow. But then, there is the chance for open relationships. Real engagement. Real sharing. Real intimacy.

People often ask me how I have sustained working amidst the emotional intensity of cancer for so many years. So many have died. The answer is simple. Learning to keep an open heart.

For those working with people with major illness this means not hiding behind some fey clinical detachment. Some cool professional persona.

For myself, after over 30 years in this field, it is because of the reality of death that I remain keen and open to make friends with as many of the people I work with as I can.

Now I am not sure how this would be possible without the practical support offered by some profound and direct inner experience.







Maybe some gain a sense of these possibilities courtesy of working with, being with someone of stature. Being inspired by, or modelling themselves upon someone like Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama or even someone on a more local, personal scale.









But speaking personally, this is what I have found as a real blessing through the deeper experience of meditation. When we do manage to meditate more deeply, the heart does open and we can come to experience the direct knowing that there is a part of each one of us that is beyond the pain of loss, a part of us that is pure and enduring. A part that is capable of remaining open and in a real sense, not being hurt.

Even so, it is a brave choice to aim for an open heart. But this is a choice that offers the possibility of deep contentment, deep satisfaction.

This insight came courtesy of the truth that life is so fragile, but at the same time so precious, so wonderful, so valuable. This insight, that came as a result of contemplating death, is that rather than closing our hearts, it makes much more sense to actually open the heart.

So death reminds me to open my heart. And sometimes tears flow quite naturally.

So what is your experience? Any comments? Anything to share? This may be a good blog to share and discuss with family and friends. Or add a comment below.


RELATED BLOGS
Non-meditation; A personal account

NOTICEBOARD
Day seminar with Ian Gawler and Dr Nimrod Sheinman 
Be inspired, be informed, deepen your experience of mindfulness, creative imagery and meditation.

IN MELBOURNE     Sunday October 20th

MIND-BODY MEDICINE in DAILY LIFE
Nimrod is a world authority in Mind-Body medicine and an expert with creative imagery and mindfulness. A healthy lunch is included in the modest fee for the day.

For details and to book, CLICK HERE