19 October 2015

Why follow a spiritual teacher?

Been thinking about having brain surgery but it is a bit expensive. So thought about looking for someone a bit cheaper. Maybe someone who just picked it up from a book, maybe a weekend course or two. Ruth reckons its not a great plan; maybe better to pay a bit more and get someone qualified.

Then I thought maybe all I really need is someone to help me with my mind. Doubt the brain surgeon will improve things much anyway. So maybe I could do it all myself? Or maybe just learn from someone who read a book about mind power or went to a weekend course or two?

Ruth reckons its not a great plan; maybe better to seek out someone authentic, someone thoroughly trained in how the mind works and what the truth really is. Someone well qualified. But who? Who could I trust? How would I know they were the real deal?

So this week, why even bother with a spiritual teacher, and how to find one if you are interested.

Also, just to say we had a fabulous cancer residential retreat in the Yarra Valley last week. Great group of people, felt like one of the best programs yet. But now, only a few days until the last meditation retreat for 2015, and then a couple of weeks until the more specific cancer program - both in New Zealand; details below, but first



                      Thought for the day

                              When the student is ready 
                              The teacher will appear

                      Variously ascribed to the Buddha or Lao Tzu 
                                   - to whom the provocative rejoinder
                                   at the end of this post is attributed


The spiritual path is all about finding the truth.
Finding out the truth about what it is to be a human being, what is the purpose of this life, what meaning it has. And then aiming to live as much as possible in sync with that truth.

So why not go it alone? Why not learn directly from our own practice entirely, maybe with a few books and the odd weekend workshop thrown in? And there is plenty of stuff on the net…

Why are there sayings as in the Bible that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And why do knowledgeable people like the Dalai Lama say it is virtually impossible to realize the truth without an authentic teacher?

The clue to the answer is to understand something of the nature of the truth of which we are speaking. This truth is that reality which is not distorted by our own projections, fixations, habits, culture and so on.

The realization of this truth dwells in an experience that is beyond the domain of our own ego. It is even beyond words; it is the experience of how things are before our conceptual, active, unconscious and thinking minds attempt to put words to it.

A rich man tends to be caught up in matters of the world (and yes there may well be exceptions….). But without a genuine teacher, who will rein in our ego? How can we advance beyond an intellectual understanding of truth to a direct experience?


So then if we do decide we want a teacher, where do we go? 

The classified pages in our local newspaper?

Google?


The traditional saying has some real merit…

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

Sometimes in unexpected ways…



Having said that, there is a process worth knowing about. Traditionally, a student would visit prospective teachers and take time to check them out. At the same time, the teacher would check out the student to see if they were a fit.

This evaluation is important and worth taking good time over. However, once one commits to a teacher, there is great sense in persevering. Any genuine teacher will challenge your ego and in doing so will have you going through times where your ego kicks back hard. In doing so, the teacher themself is highly likely to come under fire.

Ego is very crafty. Very keen to stay in control. Very good at finding someone to blame or get angry with rather than be supplanted by a higher wisdom. So a good teacher will bring this out. A good teacher will reveal our hidden faults and challenge them; but then provide support and show the way to move forward.




Seriously, would we want a neurosurgeon fiddling around in our head who was self taught or not fully qualified?

I do not think so.

So when it comes to learning more about our mind and attempting to tame it, surely we need a well qualified, authentic teacher.




So then, in my own main teacher’s words

The most important thing is not to get trapped in what I see everywhere in the West, a “shopping mentality”: shopping around from master to master, teaching to teaching, without any continuity or real, sustained dedication to any one discipline. 

Nearly all the great spiritual masters of all traditions agree that the essential thing is to master one way, one path to the truth, by following one tradition with all your heart and mind to the end of the spiritual journey, while of course remaining open and respectful toward the insights of all others. 

In Tibet we used to say: “knowing one, you accomplish all.” 

The modern faddish idea that we can always keep all our options open and so never need commit ourselves to anything is one of the greatest and most dangerous delusions of our culture, and one of ego’s most effective ways of sabotaging our spiritual search.

Sogyal Rinpoche

Speaking personally, I did spend many early years “going it alone”. Reading books, meditating, reflecting, going to weekend courses. All very useful, but then one day I realized I needed more direct, more competent support and direction.

For me, when I first met Sogyal Rinpoche in 1985 there was an immediate sense that he knew far, far more than I did and that I could learn what I needed from him. Great blessing really to have that knowing. Yet even so, it took many years of being around him before I felt able to commit in the true sense of being a spiritual student. Maybe the ego has to get worn down a fair way to even get that far?

Anyway, it is clear different teachers appeal to different people. For me, the 30 year, on-going connection I have had with my main teacher (yes of course there have been others too) has been incredibly beneficial both personally and professionally, and next week some detail from the 3 month retreat I have just completed.



        Finally, more provocative thought for the day

               When the student is ready the teacher will appear. 

               When the student is truly ready... 

               The teacher will disappear.

                               Attributed to Lao Tzu


RELATED BLOGS
Why Tibetan Buddhism?

The View and why it matters

RESOURCES
Interested to meet Sogyal Rinpoche?
He is coming to Australia again in 2016 and will give Public Talks in Melbourne – Tuesday January 5th and Adelaide January 6th, along with the annual retreat at Myall Lakes.
DETAILS are still being finalised for some events, but LINK HERE

BOOKS
Autobiography of a Yogi - Yogananda. A spiritual classic that amongst other things documents Yoganada's quest as a young man in traditional, spiritual India to find his own teacher. This book has inspired millions on the spiritual path, self included :)

The Dragon's Blessing - Guy Allenby. If you are interested to know more about my own journey, this is Guy's biography that features much of my own spiritual quest.

NOTICEBOARD

The last meditation retreat and more specific cancer residential program Ruth and I will present in 2015 are both rapidly approaching. Both are in fabulous New Zealand :) 

Details of all coming programs  are on our website: www.iangawler.com/events, and here are these next two:

NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT - Coming very soon
Meditation Under the Long White Cloud   24 - 30 October 2015

7 day retreat at Mana Retreat Centre, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand


                 Take time out from the busyness of everyday life; spend time with your self
           Slow down, reflect, contemplate – regain perspective, vitality, balance and clarity
      Deepen your understanding and experience of mindfulness, contemplation and meditation

Full details, CLICK HERE


SPECIFIC CANCER RESIDENTIAL PROGRAM 
- coming soon

MIND-BODY MEDICINE and CANCER    November  2015    Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th


Five day Residential program in the beautiful surrounds of Wanaka, New Zealand
- an easy drive from Queenstown airport and very accessible for Australians

This program is open to anyone affected by cancer. Health professionals interested to learn more of this work are also welcome to attend.

While the focus of this program is on therapeutic meditation and nutrition, the power of the mind and emotional health, ample time will be given to answering any questions you may have relating to the Gawler program - exercise, positive thinking, healing, balancing medical options, successful ways of dealing with setbacks, sustaining your good intentions and the relevance of finding meaning in life to healing and recovery.

FULL DETAILS Click here

12 October 2015

How cancer forms and 7 things your own body can do about it

It comes as no surprise to know many people are deeply scared by cancer. For many, just about everything about it is one big scary mystery.

Yet science can tell us a good deal about why and how cancer develops, and better still, tell us about the multiple defenses our own bodies have against it. Great information on which to base a personal prevention or treatment program.

So this week, how we can work with the body to prevent or recover from cancer. Great information – please share and in doing so, reduce the fears and help raise confidence in our own bodies, our own capacities to prevent and recover from cancer.

This blog comes amidst the series of posts related to my personal retreat these past 3 months; next week, the next exciting episode! But first

            Thought for the day

Basketball is an intricate, high-speed game 
filled with split-second, spontaneous decisions. 
But that spontaneity is possible 
only when everyone first engages in hours 
of highly repetitive and structured practice
- perfecting their shooting, dribbling, 
and passing and running plays 
over and over again
- and agrees to play a carefully defined role on the court.

            Spontaneity is not random. 

                                  Malcolm Gladwell


Cancer genesis
Cancer cells form in the body after normal cells undergo damage to specific genes called oncogenes. When a cell in the body reproduces itself, it is the oncogenes that determine whether the new cell will become a healthy one or a cancer cell.

All cell lines – such as skin cells, breast cells, prostate cells and so on, have their own specific oncogenes. There are usually 2 to 4 of them and it takes a series of damages to convert a healthy oncogene into one that will cause cancer.

The causes of cancer
Research tells us that most of what causes this genetic damage is related to our lifestyle – what we eat, whether we smoke or not and so on. More details are in You Can Conquer Cancer. Obviously, avoiding the causes is the key to cancer prevention.

Our body’s defenses
However, even when oncogenes are damaged and activated, clinical cancer is not always the result. Many scientists are of the view that this genetic damage is occurring on a daily basis in everyone's body and the most conservative view is that potential cancer cells form at least 40 times during our lifetime.

Clearly, not everyone develops cancer and this is because the body has its own series of defenses that are designed to recognize potential cancer cells and destroy them before they become a problem.

Genes that repair genes
One of the first ways the body does this is that it has genes that actually have the job of repairing damaged genes.

Front line defense
Next, the immune system is the body’s front line defense system. It has many responsibilities including recognizing unhealthy tissue within the body, destroying or removing unhealthy tissue and restoring health.

Camouflage
With cancer, this is much easier when potential cancer masses are quite small, as one thing cancer does as it grows is to coat itself with what is effectively a camouflage layer that makes it difficult or impossible for the immune system to recognize it as a problem. Anything that disrupts this “camouflage”, opens the cancer to direct attack from the immune system.

Angiogenesis
Another critical issue for cancer to grow and become larger is that it needs to develop its own blood supply. This process is called angiogenesis and anything that disrupts it weakens the cancer. If angiogenesis is halted, the cancer is starved of nutrients and dies.

Metabolic disruption
Once cancer has developed into a significant mass, it has its own metabolic needs. Anything that disrupts this metabolism can weaken the cancer and if the disruption is severe enough, it will kill it.

A useful metaphor here comes from the garden where plants have their own preferences. For example, camellias thrive in acid soil and are severely weakened or die when planted in alkaline soils.

In much the same way, changing the milieu in the body, manipulating the metabolic environment in the body through things like therapeutic nutrition can have a direct influence on cancer cells.

Many of the ways in which therapeutic lifestyle approaches influence cancer can be explained by how they influence the above factors.

New biologically elegant treatments target the above factors, for example:

1. A great deal of research is going into how to reverse oncogene damage and switch the oncogenes back to normal.

2. Treatments aimed at enhancing immune function have been around for many years and continue to be actively researched.

3. Promising research has found a major protein that builds the cancer’s camouflage and targeted immunology offers the possibility of removing it, laying the cancer open to be recognized and attacked by our immune system.

4. Anti-angiogenesis agents are called angiostatins and some of these are already being used clinically while further research continues.

5. Many new targeted therapies aim to disrupt cancer’s metabolism.

Application through 
guided imagery

An understanding of how cancer develops is also very helpful for people aiming to use guided imagery and this is a large and exciting topic in its own right.

But as just one example, we know that in hypnotherapy the mind can be trained to stop bleeding.

If that same principle were to be used to stop blood flow to a tumour (ie to have an angiostatic effect and reverse what is shown in the above diagram), that tumour would be destroyed very quickly.

Exciting possibilities…. That are at the heart of what we call "Accelerated Healing" - see the related blogs below.

RESOURCES
BOOKS
You Can Conquer Cancer , Ian Gawler - chapters on causes of cancer, therapeutic nutrition and lifestyle, and guided imagery.

The Mind that Changes Everything , Ian Gawler – details on guided imagery

CD or Download
The Gawler Cancer Program – has all the above information plus more that you can share or listen to over and over to help with understanding and confidence.

RELATED BLOGS
Accelerated Healing 101 - Part 1

Accelerated Healing 101 - Part 2

NOTICEBOARD

The last meditation retreat and more specific cancer residential program Ruth and I will present in 2015 are both rapidly approaching. Both are in fabulous New Zealand :) 

Details of all coming programs  are on our website: www.iangawler.com/events, and here are these next two:

NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT
Meditation Under the Long White Cloud   24 - 30 October 2015

7 day retreat at Mana Retreat Centre, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand


                 Take time out from the busyness of everyday life; spend time with your self
           Slow down, reflect, contemplate – regain perspective, vitality, balance and clarity
      Deepen your understanding and experience of mindfulness, contemplation and meditation

Full details, CLICK HERE


SPECIFIC CANCER RESIDENTIAL PROGRAM

MIND-BODY MEDICINE and CANCER    November  2015    Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th


Five day Residential program in the beautiful surrounds of Wanaka, New Zealand
- an easy drive from Queenstown airport and very accessible for Australians

This program is open to anyone affected by cancer. Health professionals interested to learn more of this work are also welcome to attend.

While the focus of this program is on therapeutic meditation and nutrition, the power of the mind and emotional health, ample time will be given to answering any questions you may have relating to the Gawler program - exercise, positive thinking, healing, balancing medical options, successful ways of dealing with setbacks, sustaining your good intentions and the relevance of finding meaning in life to healing and recovery.

FULL DETAILS Click here



05 October 2015

The View and why it matters

How have the disasters in your life shaped your View – the way you understand and approach life? Many people tell me how later on, in retrospect, the disasters in their lives seem to have been almost worthwhile. How can this be? What can we learn from this?

So this week, a very personal account of transformation; the story of how my life was shattered at the age of 12, then again at 24 and how these events radically changed my own View.

This then is the second in the series related to the 3 month meditation retreat just completed, but first






                      Thought for the day



                           Whenever doubt appears in the mind, 
                           Welcome it 
                           As a means of going deeper into the truth

 





Be a good boy. Say your prayers. Do the right thing. Then everything will be OK.
Seemed like a reasonable formula to this particular Anglican Christian 12 year old.
Sort of Sunday School naivety… but a View never-the-less.

View gets to have a capital V in this context because it is referring to the big stuff. Our View is all about how we understand life. Our philosophy. Our values. How we View the world and our place in it, what sense we make of life, the meaning we give to life and the consequent purpose we have in life. The big picture.

So my rather simplistic life View was shattered at age 12 by the sudden death of my mother, followed rapidly by the death of my beloved dog, and then an weird experience with a school teacher.

None of these events fitted my existing View. 
Of course I knew I was no angel, far from it, but I also knew that these 3 events did not make sense in the context of how my life had been lived to date. They did not fit the formula. I could not understand why such horrible events had befallen me.


So I did become angry. I fought with other boys at school regularly until I managed to channel the large amounts of energy I had into competitive sport.


But curiously there was no disillusionment, no turning away from the spiritual path. In fact, quite the opposite. These disasters and the energy they generated fuelled a powerful introspection and prompted the beginnings of a dedicated search for a View that made sense of the events of my life.

Lots of questioning. Reading a lot. First the Western classics, then searching amongst Eastern philosophical literature. A powerful mystical experience in the last year of school. And then amputation of a leg at 24. But by the time cancer turned my life upside down yet again, the search had already broadened the View.


There was no rejection of Christianity, but certainly a moving on from that foundation. Karma, the spiritual law of cause and effect, along with the notion of reincarnation made better sense of my life events and helped me to make some sense of the huge new changes coming my way.

This broader View enabled what in retrospect was a quite remarkable calm and stability through potentially life shattering changes. It supported me too to face the confounding truth that although I ended up recovering from as difficult cancer as could be imagined, and accomplished that utilising techniques that were revolutionary for the day (the mid seventies) such as therapeutic meditation and nutrition, there was no interest from the medical mainstream in what had helped me and what I felt passionately might help others.

In fact there was open hostility in those early days to the notion that people with cancer could do things for themselves that would not only help them to feel better and have a better experience of life, but would actually improve their long-term chances of survival. Even opposition to the notion that meditation generally could alleviate stress and improve life in many of its facets. Remarkable really.


Anyway, starting cancer self help groups in 1981 and teaching meditation quickly led to the realisation that the mind was the key – if there was ever any doubt. 


Meditation emerged as the primary technique, along with positive thinking principles, healthy emotions, affirmations and guided imagery.

At the same time, psychotherapy that flowed relatively gently throughout the group process helped many people to further transform their suffering into a deep sense of wellbeing.

After starting this work in 1981 with cancer related groups and in teaching meditation to those whose health was basically sound, it soon became apparent that there was a need to learn more about the mind. Also, how to teach meditation more effectively? And how to develop a practical yet spiritually orientated form of psychotherapy?

Enter the Tibetans. As explained in last week’s post, the Tibetans have focussed the energies of their whole culture in this direction for over a thousand years.

Now curiously, Tibetans do not call themselves Buddhists. No, they call themselves nangpas. A what? Nangpa translates as “an insider”. It means that yes, a nangpa is a follower of the Buddha’s teachings, but more specifically, a nangpa is one who turns their mind inwardly with the aim of arriving at a definitive conclusion about the nature of all phenomena by recognising the natural state of their own mind.

This is a personal investigation, informed by traditional teachings that are taught, supported and guided by an authentic teacher and that are designed to provide a direct experience of an inner truth.

The Dalai Lama provided the first introduction, coming to Melbourne in 1983 and giving 3 days of teachings. A new door opened. Then Sogyal Rinpoche (author of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying) came in 1985 and made an instant impression. Funny, wise, profoundly knowledgeable. Very aware of the Western mind. A great teacher leading to a long connection.

As pointed out in the last post, you can study Tibetan Buddhism as a mind science, as a philosophy or it can become a spiritual path in its own right. For me it has been intensely satisfying as all three, so next week, let us delve into a deeper question : “Why follow a spiritual teacher?” Why not just work the answers out on your own???

RELATED BLOGS – The meditation retreat series
1. Why Buddhism?

RESOURCES 

BOOKS

The Dragon’s Blessing – Guy Allenby. If you are interested in more details around the essentialized story above, the biography goes into it in some detail.

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying – Sogyal Rinpoche. The spiritual classic that has sold around 3.5 million copies, inspired and supported many people along their path.

NOTICEBOARD

Details of all coming programs Ruth and I will be presenting are on our website: www.iangawler.com/events, and here are the next few:

NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT
Meditation Under the Long White Cloud   24 - 30 October 2015

7 day retreat at Mana Retreat Centre, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand


                 Take time out from the busyness of everyday life; spend time with your self
           Slow down, reflect, contemplate – regain perspective, vitality, balance and clarity
      Deepen your understanding and experience of mindfulness, contemplation and meditation

Full details, CLICK HERE


SPECIFIC CANCER RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS

CANCER and BEYOND     October  2015     Monday 12th to Friday 16th 

Finding peace in the Healing Process

Five Day Residential Follow-up Program at the Gawler Foundation in the Yarra Valley


This program is specifically designed for those with cancer along with their support people who have attended a previous Gawler Cancer Foundation program or equivalent such as with Sabina Rabold, CSWA, Cancer Care SA, CanLive NZ, or with the Gawlers themselves.

A unique opportunity to meet with like-minded people once again, to consolidate what you already know, to learn more from the combined knowledge, experience and wisdom of Ian and Ruth, to reaffirm your good intentions, and to go home refreshed and revitalised.

FULL DETAILS Click here 

MIND-BODY MEDICINE and CANCER    November  2015    Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th


Five day Residential program in the beautiful surrounds of Wanaka, New Zealand
- an easy drive from Queenstown airport and very accessible for Australians

This program is open to anyone affected by cancer. Health professionals interested to learn more of this work are also welcome to attend.

While the focus of this program is on therapeutic meditation and nutrition, the power of the mind and emotional health, ample time will be given to answering any questions you may have relating to the Gawler program - exercise, positive thinking, healing, balancing medical options, successful ways of dealing with setbacks, sustaining your good intentions and the relevance of finding meaning in life to healing and recovery.

FULL DETAILS Click here