19 December 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Love, Christmas and the whole damn thing!

First, a brief reminder Mindbody Mastery (click here to connect to the website), my recently released downloadable meditation program will make a wonderful Christmas present and if you use the code IJG-SM you will receive a healthy discount as well. With its initial 8 week program and 6 months of support to establish and deepen your practice, I do hope many of you will use it and feel the benefits.

And then Christmas. This is the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Christ quite literally represents the embodiment of pure love. Unconditional love.

Now there are many forms of love in this world of ours. There is love for a parent, for a child, for a lover, for our self, an animal, a thing, a cause etc.

These worldly loves often have an element of the relative about them. Relative in the sense that they are related to attached conditions: I will love you if… (you love me back, make me laugh, look after me...etc). I will love you when… (you have a better job, loose some weight, do not get so angry…etc). I love you because…(you do this for me, you make me look good…etc), etc, etc. In this sense, for many of us, if we do take the time to reflect on it, love can have some aspect of being more like a deal than a pure state of mind.

It is easy to observe many people are confused by these different aspects of love. This was often apparent after people came to any of the Gawler Foundation programs, particularly the residential ones.

The fact is that these programs reliably bring out the best in people. Participants quickly come to really care for each other. The staff consistently put their own issues aside and really care for the participants. People begin to feel something of that unconditional love.

As an aside, it is my sense it is just this, the experience of unconditional love, that often explains the wonderful, positive and often profound transformations that occur during the programs in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and wellbeing of participants.

But then, as these people head home, often they experience the confusion that many others feel independently of attending such a program. If pure love is unconditional, and I want to love all, how do I manage the difficult people in my life?

The key resides in understanding the difference between relative and absolute. This is one of the great gifts of examining our minds. When we do so, we realise there are such things as the relative and the absolute. On the absolute level we all have an intrinsic goodness, an intrinsic purity. In Christianity we say we are made in God’s image. Cannot get much purer than that. In Buddhism we say that in their essence, everyone has Buddha nature – again that notion of fundamental goodness and purity.

Yet on the relative, worldly level it is clear peoples’ actions, emotions and thoughts can be complex and often problematic. The fact is some relationships can be very difficult, even quite toxic and there may well be a need to discriminate about whom we hang out with!

Now it is true that difficult relationships can teach us so much about ourselves, about patience, tolerance, compassion etc. And enduring some relationships can lead to healthy outcomes for all. However, in some situations it can be clear that to remain in a relationship will only create more problems and it may well be the loving thing to avoid such a relationship.

Personal awareness requires discrimination. It is not about suffering endlessly, it is not about neglecting the treatment of illness or the working on difficulties. It is about right action. Working as much as possible from a position of unconditional love, recognising the fundamental goodness in all and so having a deep respect and real compassion for all, while at the same time recognising the limitations of others and ourselves. Doing the best we can and making every effort to continue to learn and to be a better person. To be increasingly comfortable with our own capacities and those of others.

Christmas then is a perfect time to contemplate the place of love in your life. To consider when for you love is unconditional, when it is more like a deal with its conditions, and when it is better avoided. Christmas often brings families together in a way that these issues are brought to the fore, so be gentle on yourself and others, take time to contemplate and meditate, and may you experience something of the true meaning of Christmas – unconditional love.


Mindbody Mastery: link here to the website and remember when you register to use the code IJG-SM so you receive your discount.


  1. It's amazing how painful this business of love can be...the feelings of Christmas can be such a mixed bag. But it is good you highlight the real agenda for Christmas Ian. Loving unconditionally as he did. Thank you.

  2. Dearest Ian, for several years now I refuse to take part of any of the usual xmas activities. No presents, no cards, blah, blah, blah. It's funny to observe the rapidly dwindling number of cards I now receive. From more than you could look at all at once to 3 so far. What a relieve! What a perfect opportunity to practice and give Patience, Generosity in many ways, Tolerance and Loving Kindness. And what's more ....it doesn't land in the rubbish bin. Ian, thank you for your Blogs, every single one of them is a present! Wishing you a peaceful time ahead and a trouble free, healthy and inspiring 2012. Much love, Christel.

  3. Many thanks Ian ,as always your blog is so timely. I will take all your wisdom to our sometimes challenging family gatherings this Christmas.
    I can't tell you how much I appreciate "Out on a Limb". Your blogs are a gift and I will always be so grateful to recieve them.

  4. Every best wish to you, Ian, Ruth and family, for a truly happy, peaceful and loving Christmas and 2012. Lee