15 February 2020

Has-Ian-Gawler-retired? And what is he doing now?

“But I thought you had retired?”

I hear this a lot as I go about my work (and am about to turn 70!) and understand it can be confusing, given I have retired from quite a few things. However, I am still actively engaged in several big projects, so thought clarification may be useful, but first


            Thought for the day

      Praise and blame,
      Fame and shame,

      Gain and loss,

      Pleasure and sorrow,

      Come and go like the wind. 

      To be at peace, 
      Rest like a great tree

      In the midst of them all. 

                            The Buddha 

You have to love great trees…

Anyway, I did write something on this topic a couple of years ago, pointing out we all have “retired” from many things. Many transitions. In fact, moment-by-moment everything is changing, so we could say we are “transitioning” all the time; even though we may not notice it so obviously.

Certainly, some transitions are way more obvious. How do we name them? Retirement? Moved on? Forced out? Found something new? Left it behind? Joyful change? Divorce?

What is next???

Here is a list of some of the major “retirements” made over the years…

1975   Retired as an equine veterinarian and retired as a committed athlete - having a leg amputated will do that

1984   Retired altogether as a veterinarian - to concentrate upon developing the Foundation, cancer programs and teaching meditation

1990   Took a year off to reflect on the work and planning the residential centre and programs

2009   Retired from full-time job at the Gawler Foundation

2017   Presented last cancer residential program

2018   Presented last residential meditation retreat at The Foundation


1. Working with Ruth - retreat and trainings

i) Meditation retreat

Ruth has asked me to co-lead her meditation retreat this year Pre-Easter along with the sublime Melissa Borich and I readily accepted. We all love working together and this year the focus will be on how meditation leads to bliss and joy. There is so much anxiety about at present; so much doom and gloom. However, there is a font of joy within us all that is quite blissful and when experienced, does give us the strength, optimism and motivation to continue to do good in our world.

At the Foundation April 3 – 9 

ii) Meditation Teacher training at the Foundation
Again, with Ruth I will lead this year’s trainings for the Foundation. Paul and Maia Bedson have taken a year’s leave so we have been asked to step in and again, happily accepted. We both love teaching teachers – a real delight and 2 great programs will be offered :

                    Teacher Training focused upon meditation itself – April 27 to May 1

                    Teacher training focused upon contemplation. Contemplation is a   wonderful skill yet rarely taught in any detail, so this is a good opportunity to extend your range as a teacher of meditation – September 7 – 11

2. Meditation App
The meditation app I have been working on for quite a few years with my partner Saurabh Mishra is currently being re-focused to more specifically address the needs of people dealing with chronic degenerative disease. More about this soon…

3. Meditation retreats for younger adults
Have been working on this visionary and large project with Martin Hosking for several years now and it is gaining a good deal of momentum; likely to begin programs next year and close to having more details to share…

4. Public speaking 
Am open to the occasional public speaking event or conference appearance.

On the personal front

I continue with painting classes and the garden is flourishing.

Also, as well as having 3 considerable areas of work, there is a clear sense of more time being available for the more personal things including time with family and friends.

But overall, a greater emphasis on study and practice.

And throughout, moment-by-moment, the little transitions are constantly flowing.

Doors opening...   Doors closing...

28 January 2020

The power of intention – and 4 simple steps that activate it

So January is moving into February and the honeymoon period is over for New Year’s resolutions. Did you make one this year? Has it been accomplished? Or forgotten? Or was there simply a sense of futility and none made this year?

Seems New Year highlights the difficulties most of us have with good intentions, so let us consider what might help… Let us consider the power of intention and how to activate it effectively, but first

    Thought for the day

He who knows the Bliss of Brahman, 
Whence words together with the mind turn away, 
Unable to reach It
He is not afraid of anything whatsoever.

He does not distress himself with the thought: 
Why did I not do what is good? 
Why did I do what is evil? 
Whosoever knows this regards both these as Atman; 
Indeed he cherishes both these as Atman.

Such, indeed, is the Upanishad, the secret knowledge of Brahman. 

                 From the Taittiriya Upanishad

Might take some contemplation this particular Thought for the day. Seems to be saying whether we do good or evil – no problem… Really???

Maybe we need to read the first line again – “He who knows the Bliss of Brahman”. This quote of course comes from the Hindu tradition, (“She” might have been a nice touch) but you find similar statements in all the great traditions; and they all seem to fly in the face of common sense. Surely it makes a difference what we do. Surely we have a “right” to be distressed if we know we have done evil.

How can that not be so???

Now, not meditating daily may not equate with pure evil, but in my experience many people beat themselves up over this almost as if they have done, or are doing something quite abhorrent.

So here is the thing.

Knowing the “Bliss of Brahma” is akin to being enlightened – with is all about knowing Truth on a deep level.

And it may well be on that deep level good and evil do not exist.

But for us mere mortals aspiring to know more of the Truth, on the path to knowing more of the Truth (which is what spiritual practice and meditation is really about); well for us, good and evil are as real as the head on your shoulders.

So in this relative world, how to get our good intentions done? First, consider this… Most people I meet when they get to that point of being honest with themselves, will tell you a curious thing. For most of us there is this weird fact. Most of us find it easier to do things that are not good for us, than to do the things that are good for us.

Go to a movie or a spiritual teaching? Meditate or watch TV? Eat healthy food or … ? No doubt we all have our own choices that seem to direct us towards the dark side.

So the good news is this is a common phenomena. It is not like you are the only one. You are in good company. However, this good news does not mean we do not have a collective problem. We do. So what to do about it???

There are many books written on getting the job done.

Positive Thinking books.

Motivational books.

Inspiring books.

Might have written something like this myself…


But here is the big tip.

Action starts with intention.

A powerful intention is almost unstoppable.

I remember a friend with cancer who was asked how he maintained his way of eating and regular meditation practice over years. “Easy” he said, “I have not forgotten my life depends upon it”.

Many people in my experience compromise their good intentions. “I will do it when I can.” “I will do it when everything else is done.” “I would do it know, but it might upset someone”. Stuff like that. Or they forget. Or life gets in the way… Sound familiar?

If it does, and if maintaining a good intention has been tough for you, maybe it is time to revisit the intention and ask 4 key questions

1. How clear is the intention? 
The clearer it is the more likely you will follow through. The closer you can express the intention in a few words like an affirmation, the better. “I really enjoy Meditating for 20 minutes every day.”

2. How important is this? 
Is it a matter of life and death, or is it an optional extra? Answering this one is crucial.

3. How can I remember how important it is? 
Who do I tell and ask for help with this? Do I write it down? Put reminders on my phone?

4. How do I reinforce the intention? 
People? Groups? Books? Apps? Podcasts? Blogs?

Bon chance!

REFERENCE   :   The Mind that Changes Everything

30 December 2019

The most important thing to understand about our own mind

When it comes to our own mind, what is the most important thing to learn? As a meditation teacher, what is the most important thing to teach?

Important questions given in 2020 Ruth and I will lead a 7 day meditation retreat and two 5 day meditation teacher training programs in the Yarra Valley. Also in 2020 I will turn 70 and it will be my 40th year of teaching.

So after all those years of personal practice and teaching, quite simply the most important thing is this. The mind has 2 aspects. Get that, understand that, live in the light of that knowing, and all else will fall into place. So this week, a short piece on the 2 aspects, then details of the 2020 program of retreats and meditation teacher training for Ruth and myself, but first

        Thought for the day

      I think 99 times and find nothing.

      I stop thinking,
      Swim in silence, 
      And the truth comes to me.

                           Albert Einstein

Our mind has two aspects. How do we know that? What is the big deal?

Well first, these 2 aspects are the Active Mind and the Still Mind.

These 2 aspects can be compared to the blue sky and the clouds.

The clouds act as a metaphor for our active thoughts and emotions that come and go and change all the time.

They can range from beautiful and serene to wild and turbulent.

The blue sky is a metaphor for that aspect of mind beyond all the activity of thoughts and emotions wherein dwells a stillness.

This still aspect of the mind is the natural home of profound peace, clarity, wisdom and compassion.

The key point is that under normal circumstances, most of us function with a life view based upon identifying with the Active Mind. As such, we mistakenly approach life as if we and things around us exist independently of each other, are permanent and are singular.

In reality, in truth, however, if we analyze life we find it to be highly inter-dependent, changing all the time, and multiple in its character.

Now it can take a while to make this analysis – even in theory, It can take longer to really “get it” and to do something radical yet freeing; something that actually ensures long-term happiness. And that is to shift our life view from the Active Mind to that of the Still Mind.

The reason this is so important is that when we function from the perspective of the Still Mind, we natural see how we are all inter-connected and we naturally become very caring for those around us and for our environment. We are all in this together. This perspective quite naturally brings out our good heart. Almost effortlessly we become more loving. Unconditionally loving.

Hence the need for retreats.

Take time away from the business and full on engagement with the Active Mind and all that goes with it, and spend time re-connecting with the Still Mind.

To do this we need the theory and the practice.

We need time to build our understanding.

We need time to establish our practice and our direct experience of the truth of what we are learning.

Now of course, the reality is that with meditation we have the opportunity to get to know both aspects of our mind better. As well as reconnecting with the Still Mind, we can observe what our Active Mind is up to, take more control of it, use it more effectively for good and lighten up on the problems it so often leads us into.

In meditation we get to connect more deeply with our own innate stillness, and in doing so, we connect with what we are actually capable of, our greatest potential, and our inner wisdom.

So for Ruth and myself, this is at the heart of what we teach.

No wonder it is our passion.

Ruth has asked me to help lead her Pre-Easter meditation retreat so I have agreed.

And we have been asked to present the Meditation Teacher Training program at the Foundation for 2020.

This too is a passion, especially as in 2020 as well as providing a pure meditation teacher’s training, we will also present a training around teaching contemplation – another area of great interest and joy for me.

So here are the details…


7 day Residential Meditation Retreat with Ruth and Ian Gawler and Melissa Borich 

Modern culture has taught us to look externally for solutions to feeling better… substances we can take, new and exciting experiences, the acquiring of new ‘things.

However, to regain balance and cultivate reliable, sustainable joy, we learn to go within.

Meditation provides real answers.

And all of this amidst the nurture and beauty of the Yarra Valley Living Centre…

Dates     Friday 3rd to Thursday 9th April (pre-Easter)

Venue   The Yarra Valley Living Centre, 55 Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria

More details   CLICK HERE

Inquiries and Bookings    Call 1300 651 211   or  www.gawler.org

MEDITATION TEACHER TRAINING   with Drs Ruth and Ian Gawler

Ian and Ruth have been teaching teachers of meditation for decades. This is a unique opportunity to learn from them directly in two 5 day residential trainings – Module 1 on meditation, Module 2 – contemplation. Attending both modules will meet the requirements for provisional membership of the Meditation Association of Australia. Both trainings will be highly experiential and be based upon comprehensive manuals.

Venue     The Yarra Valley Living Centre,  55 Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria

Dates     Meditation Teacher Training 27 April – 1 May, 2020 ; Full details  : Click here

          Contemplation 7-11 September, 2020  ;  Full details :  Click here

Inquiries  and Bookings   Call 1300 651 211 or www.gawler.org

18 December 2019

Tough relatives? The emotional challenges of Christmas – and a simple solution

So here is the challenge. Honour the celebration of Christmas, honour the gathering of family and friends, cope with people we have difficulty with, and yet honour our own emotional health and wellbeing.

While many simply love Christmas; others find it leaves them feeling stressed out, sad and disappointed.

So this week we go way Out on a Limb to consider the emotional side of Christmas, plus news of a meditation retreat I will contribute to with Ruth and Melissa Borich and meditation teacher training in 2020, but first


              Thought for the day

                          Love is our true destiny.
                          We do not find the meaning of life
                          By ourselves alone
                          - we find it with another.

                                               Thomas Merton

I love Christmas.

I love the metaphor. Christ embodies love. Christmas celebrates His birth. Christmas is a festival celebrating the birth of Christ which metaphorically represents the birth of love within us all. Bring it on!!!

For me Christmas is a time to check in with any forgiveness needed, to be reminded of who to express gratitude towards, how to manage gifts in a world where most people already have too much stuff, and most importantly, consider how I might be more loving now and in the coming year.

Yet Christmas can be difficult for many.

How to manage what can often be complex gatherings of families and friends that include people with whom we may well have complex histories?

Well, many seem to approach such events attempting repression and fearful of unwanted explosions.

So a tip straight out of mindfulness – with a touch from the wisdom teachings.

It is very difficult to manage our own emotions well, let alone manage someone else’s. Particularly when it comes to people we need to see and who have expected patterns of behaviour we do not like, try this.

Leave them be. Given no physical abuse takes place (and that is clearly not OK), try acceptance. If Uncle Roger has been like he is for 40 years, chances of him being different in 2019 are slim. Same with Aunty Flo or whoever else is the worrying one.

If the need is to attend an event where they will be present, accept well in advance what they are like. Expect them to behave in their same old way. And if by chance they have seen the light you would like them to see since last meeting, and they do happen to behave in some miraculously different way, well simply accept that as a bonus.

But given they are as usual, try delighting in what they are like.

Yes, rather than sinking into aversion, try actually delighting.

Be aware, be present, observe how they are and at the same time, do what you can to let go of any judgement and commentary.

Rather than reacting, rather than railing against their behaviour; recognize it, accept it and a bit like a wise old woman watching children play, smile and maybe even laugh a little.

Can you feel the difference in this attitude?

Can you feel into the different atmosphere this approach will create? Instead of fear, dread, maybe loathing, there comes acceptance, humour, maybe even some warmth.

At the end of the day you may well find yourself thinking or saying to someone close, “Did you see old Uncle Roger today. Just like always; it is almost comical the way he behaves.”

And you know what, Christmas would not be the same without him.

And maybe there comes a smile…

This is love in action, mindfulness style. This is love in action using our will to manage our heads – and our hearts.

So may the true spirit of Christmas touch you deeply, and may this awakening of love be felt more strongly in all our lives both now, through the festive season and into and throughout 2020.

                  Happy Christmas!

EVENTS in 2020
Sometimes people appear confused when I turn up working, given I seem to be getting older and have retired from various commitments. Please be clear, I have not retired from everything!

I did retire from my fulltime job at the Foundation 10 years ago this week. I have reduced my public speaking significantly and I have not led any meditation retreats for a couple of years. But 2020 promises to be quite active.

MEDITATION RETREAT  -  pre-Easter - Reclaiming Joy.

Ruth has asked me to join her along with Melissa Borich to co-present her popular pre-Easter retreat.

Details : CLICK HERE.


Ruth and I will present the 2020 meditation teacher training program for the Foundation in two parts.

I must say how pleased I am to be involved in this again in 2020 as I simply love training.

Also delighted as this time, as well as 5 days of residential training specifically on teaching meditation, we will present another 5 day specific training on contemplation.

Little is written on this super useful subject, and I have not heard of any other trainings that do focus upon it.

Details : CLICK HERE

In other arenas, the meditation app I have been involved in developing is being made more specific to assist people to overcome some of the key challenges associated with chronic degenerative disease.

Then there is another major meditation project intended to help younger people learn more about meditation and Perennial Wisdom via a residential program in a beautiful and inspiring natural setting, but more on those things soon…

22 November 2019

Two types of soy receptors and how they affect your cancer risks

Perhaps more than anything else to do with food, people ask me about the cancer risks associated with soy. Is it safe? Is it dangerous? Is it even helpful?

Well, the research gets clearer and clearer, while the social media and some health practitioners seem to get more and more confused. So this week, vital new insights into why soy acts the way it does – and what that means for our health, plus details of Ruth's pre-Easter meditation retreat with Melissa Borich that I will be joining next year - April 3rd - 9th, but first

       Thought for the day   

Meditation enables me to feed myself - the soul 
With spiritual knowledge that gives me 
The experience of peace, purity, wisdom, love and lasting happiness. 

It gradually restores in me the confidence and dignity 
To live in the light of my original nature 
And awakens hope in the self.

                         Sister Jayanti

One thing is certain, oestrogen is not all bad. It is the main female hormone and is closely tied to so many of women’s wonderful qualites. Men produce it too but in much smaller quantities (just as women produce some testosterone). Also, oestrogen does reduce menopausal symptoms, improve bone health, and reduce hip fracture risk.

However, oestrogen clearly also has a dark side. It is associated with increasing blood clots in the heart, brain, and lungs, and more troubling still, with breast cancer.

How oestrogen has its effect is due to the fact various types of cell within our bodies have receptors on their surfaces that respond to oestrogen.

When oestrogen comes in contact with these external receptors, an internal reaction is triggered that in bone tissue is healthy, in breast tissue - unhealthy!

Now the old theory related to breast cancer risks – one I have shared a lot - is that phyto-oestrogens, plant based oestrogens like genestein in soy beans, compete with a woman’s own estrogens, effectively block the natural oestrogens and in doing so inhibit breast cancer growth. In this theory, the oestrogen-blocking ability of phytoestrogens explained their unhelpful effects, yet can we explain their helpful effects on other tissues like bone?

So here is where both the body and plants are so amazing. First the body. Recent research has established there are 2 types of oestrogen receptors. The recently discovered ones are being called estrogen receptor beta…to distinguish them from the ‘classical’ oestrogen receptor alpha”.

As for the plants, soy phytoestrogens preferentially bind to the beta receptors, and you can probably guess… the beta receptors have the positive effects; the alpha receptors the unhelpful effects.

Natural oestrogen from the body tends to bind to the alpha receptors.

What does this all mean in real life? If you say eat a cup of soybeans or its equivalent in natural soy products like tofu, there is very little alpha activation, but lots of beta activation.

By contrast, chemical oestrogen supplements increase the risk of fatal blood clots by causing the liver to release high amounts of clotting factors. And again, you can probably guess – our livers contain only alpha estrogen receptors, not beta receptors. In theory if you ate a huge amount of soy – like 30 cups (as maybe you might in a concentrated supplement) well that could be a problem but at the concentrations associated with normal soy consumption, no problem.

The effects on the uterus also appear to be mediated solely by alpha receptors, which is presumably why no negative impact has been seen with soy. So, while oestrogen-containing drugs may increase the risk of endometrial cancer up to ten-fold, phytoestrogen-containing foods are associated with significantly less endometrial cancer. In fact, protective effects are recorded for these types of gynaecological cancers in general: a study showed women who ate the most soy had 30% less endometrial cancer and appeared to cut their ovarian cancer risk nearly in half.

Soy phytoestrogens do not to have any effect on the lining of the uterus and can still dramatically improve some menopausal symptoms.

In what is probably the most robust study to date, researchers compared the soy phytoestrogen
genistein to a more traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) regimen.

 Over one year, in the spine and hip bones, the placebo group lost bone density, while it was gained in both the soy phytoestrogen and HRT estrogen groups. The “study clearly shows that genistein prevents bone loss…and enhances new bone formation…in turn producing a net gain of bone mass.”

The main reason we care about bone mass is that we want to prevent fractures. Is soy food consumption associated with lower fracture risk? Yes. In fact, a significantly lower risk of bone fracture is associated with just a single serving of soy a day, the equivalent of 5 to 7 grams of soy protein or 20 to 30 milligrams of phytoestrogens, which is about a cup of soymilk or, even better, a serving of a whole soy food like tempeh, edamame, or the beans themselves.

Fracture data has not been determined for soy supplements. “If we seek to derive the types of health benefits we presume Asian populations get from eating whole and traditional soy foods,” maybe we should look to eating those rather than taking unproven protein powders or pills.

Finally, is there anyone who should avoid soy? Yes, if you have a soy allergy. That isn’t very common, though. A national survey found that only about 1 in 2,000 people report a soy allergy, which is 40 times less than the most common allergen, dairy milk, and about 10 times less than all the other common allergens, such as fish, eggs, shellfish, nuts, wheat, or peanuts.

Happy eating


Ruth has asked me to contribute to the meditation retreat she will present with Melissa Borich pre-Easter next year. Not possible to refuse, so looking forward to being involved once again and joining these two extra-ordinary women.

Here is the link to Reclaiming Joy : 3rd – 9th April 2020


Is soy safe – Part 1 

Is soy safe – Part 2

The latest on soy and breast cancer