07 November 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Where does your power come from?

Some people are naturally positive in the way they approach life. I have known many others, who recognizing they were somewhat lacking in this quality, set out to acquire it. Some actively trained their minds using positive thinking techniques. Others learnt to meditate, developing clearer, calmer minds and then the positivity simply flowed.

Let go “Out on a Limb” and discuss the relative merits of the two approaches. What works best? Positive thinking or meditation? Or is it more effective to do both at the same time? What is your experience? This is an area where your feedback in the Comments section below would be particularly welcome.

Positive thinking can be developed through act of will. Just as we can decide to study computers or to play golf, we can use our will to become more positive. Developing the power of the mind in this deliberate, systematic way involves using our intellect to study how our mind works and how we can use it more efficiently and effectively.

This is like making a cake – it does take some effort on our part, but if we know the recipe and follow it, we can produce a predictable outcome. Also, the more cakes we make, the more we practice, the better our cakes become.

Meditation provides an interesting contrast. The act of will with meditation is to actually do it. It takes will to make the time to practise. However, when we do practise, meditation is more about letting go than of making an effort. The less we “try”, the better it seems to flow.

As you will know if you have done some meditation, meditation is less about doing and more about being. Being at rest, yet aware and undistracted. When we learn to meditate by relaxing our bodies and calming our minds, as in the Mindfulness-Based Stillness Meditation method I teach, the mind settles, and when we remain undistracted with our attention in the present moment, stress and anxiety dissolves. Maybe an awareness of a deeper stillness dawns, bringing with it a natural clarity. We feel an inner peace. An inner confidence and a natural positivity flows.

So we could say positive thinking methods makes being more positive happen, while meditation allows it to happen.

So what to do? Experience tells me people are naturally drawn, or is that attracted?, to what they need. This is especially so if one does happen to have some clarity of mind.

It makes sense therefore, that some people start by deliberately developing and practising affirmations and imagery. Others maybe recognise their need to calm their minds and regain some balance through meditation first, while they trust this too will lead to a more positive state of mind.

Certainly we can do both things at once. Affirmations, imagery and meditation are synergistic. Perhaps the real secret is to be flexible, aware and open so that we can recognise what we need when. Either that or have a good advisor.

It may be worth mentioning one potential trap. Some people become so enthused about “being positive” that their will becomes dominant and their perspective narrow. Meditation balances the will, adding resilience while it also brings more openness, flexibility and creativity.

So what works for you? What have you turned to when you needed more positivity? Positive thinking? Meditation? We have not discussed here the role of family or friends. Were there particular people or books you benefited from? What lifted you? What inspired you?

Anything to share?


1. Mindbody Research 

My new on-line meditation based program, Mindbody Mastery, is just a few weeks away from release. One of the features on the website for the program will be a detailed summary of the research published on meditation. Actually it will be more than that as people tend to validate what they do in different ways. Some like to know the history, how things have stood the test of time. Others like personal accounts, the testimonies, the stories and experiences that come from respected authorities, from their families, friends and the wider community, along with personal recommendations and inspiration. And of course, it is not only the scientists who are interested in what the formal research has to say.

So in support of the Mindbody Mastery program we will consider the evidence relating to meditation in general and the program specifically by examining:

1. The History of Meditation.

2. The Evidence Base for Meditation and the different elements of the Mindbody Mastery Program.

3. Personal Testimonies.

So once the program is up and running, you may find this a useful resource – most of the actual research section has been collated by Dr Craig Hassed from Monash University.

2. The Gawler Foundation Conference is only a week or so away, a great opportunity to refresh and refocus on integrative health with like-minded people.

3. Sogyal Rinpoche will be back in Australia soon and is giving a public lecture in Melbourne on the 20th of December and the meditation retreat at Myall Lakes in January.



Mindbody Mastery

The mind that changes everything

Go with the flow or intervene?


Meditation – an In-depth Guide

The Mind that Changes Everything


Mind Training

Meditation – a Complete Guide


  1. I try not to think of positivity as something I 'need'as I'm trying to overcome the attitude that I must work at everything in life, including happiness, if I am to succeed. Stephanie Dowrick has recently called this a fear of insufficiency.
    My experience suggests to me that this encourages an anxious, obsessive drive towards self-sufficiency that has served me quite badly at times. So I am finding that relaxing the body allows positivity to come in through the gentle affirmations offered by meditation leaders (usually for positivity for others!) and most happily, permits more space in my day for a natural disposition to positivity to re-emerge from under all the planning and overthinking.
    Your books have been a terrific support in this respect.

  2. I think it's a bit like a compass bearing on a ship or aeroplane. The more you meditate the more you are naturally empowered to do what is good for you and other people.

  3. I believe positive thinking helped me overcome Leukaemia at age 20. Along with the indestructibility and arrogance of youth, it may have assisted the chemo and Bone Marrow Transplant to let me live a very happy life.
    30 Years later I now have a battle with Stage IV Lung cancer. This time I see things a bit differently.. In my mind Positive thinking works from the outside in. Meditation feels like it works from the inside out. Both methods are important, but if my immune system is going to give its best then I think it needs the message to come from within. Meditation also gives me peace “in’ mind which frees up much needed space for the positive thinking to percolate.
    To expect a cure for my disease would be returning to the arrogance of my youth. However, I am determined to have the opportunity to overcome it. I have developed a greater respect for the calmness, and the strength that meditation, and Qigong can provide. For me, these disciplines provide avenues for hope and determination, not just expectation.

  4. I find that a moving meditation, like walking; Tai Chi or Qigong seems to suit me, also the calmness and positiveness I receive through my church, Unity of Melbourne, wherein we practice a very short meditation during the service, is very calming.

  5. Meditation and lots of reading have helped me enormously. Not only your books but those of Thich Nhat Hanh and Sogyal Rinpoche.
    For me passion has lead to positive.

  6. This has been good to reflect on. Having been into positive thinking and meditation for over 20yrs, I can see how in the early days my will and positive thinking got things done. I would make very deliberate choices and then just go for it. As I have meditated more, what to do has come more out of the meditation than the will. It is like when I have a problem, I meditate and what to do seems pretty obvious, and because it is so obvious it is easy to do what is needed and it seems to take little effort. There is something more natural about the way it works now. Thanks for this blog, it has been useful.

  7. Meditation has given me the ability to observe my thoughts and make better choices about how I think. I have found that affirmations work for me while I am doing them, but as soon as I stop I tend to go back to old habits. Meditation has given me access to inner stillness and peace which remains with me even at times my Practise is infrequent. I think both styles are helpful but meditation seems to make a much more permanent change which emerges rather than being directed by will.

  8. I have found throughout my working life and now part-way through treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia that focusing on things that are in my control helps to maintain a positive attitude and general feeling of well-being. This includes maintaining a regular exercise regime,a deliberate move to a vegetarian diet (hard changing habits of a life-time!)and taking as much personal responsibility as possible for treatment processes and adjunct routines. In the past I have found Tai Chi as well as meditation techniques valuable and am beginning to re-discover their benefits. I have found blogging also helps express thoughts and feelings while keeping far-flung family and friends up-to-date. Lastly whilst remaining open to future options, I try not to over-plan and to remain flexible - after all many of the possible options do not come to pass!!

  9. Great to see that you have reached out to people who cannot come to you for lessons on how to meditate. Including USA and India! Wow :) That is a whole new level of outreach and support for your good work.

  10. meditation can make us live longer than we expected.
    music and meditation