26 December 2011

A small miracle – and 2 fun links

Just a short Happy Christmas blog, recounting a rather remarkable Christmas miracle, and then links to two great short videos that are bound to cause a smile.

For many years I have always had a live Christmas tree. When my children were growing up, we had a new one each year and then planted it out. So on our old farm there developed the Christmas tree avenue, made up of all the different pine trees, cedars and like minded trees.

In more recent times, we have grown the Christmas tree on in a pot until it really is large enough to demand planting. So where Ruth and I live currently, there is only one ex-Christmas tree in the ground.

A couple of years ago our oldest grandchild was getting to the age of questioning Santa. Fancy that! Anyway, it was a hot year and a good deal of tree watering was required. Having checked the trees on Christmas Eve, I went out to water them on Boxing Day. Imagine this. Under the ex-Christmas tree were two deer horns! Each about 4 – 5” long, or 10 – 15 cms in the new money. They looked for all the world like baby reindeer horns!

Now you may think I’m dreaming, but never having seen such things in our area, or even heard of anyone else finding them, what are the chances? Not one, but two, they turned up Christmas Eve or night, under the Christmas tree and they are real deer horns.

Moral of the story? The grandchild still believes in Santa!

On a completely different note, one of our good friends has been holding a wonderful Christmas Eve get together for 38 years. The tradition is you do not bring anything other than an act to perform for the fairly large group that gathers. People sing, some even dance, others tell stories or jokes, and there is the occasional serious bit of input. A great community gathering.

This year Ruth and I assisted by two of the children decided to go all out and do the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore routine of the One-legged Tarzan. Some may remember seeing this when they first performed it on TV. I certainly do, but if you have not seen it before, check it out on the link and understand why when we do it some people just about wet themselves, while others are not sure how to react. Personally, I rather like the idea of becoming the next Tarzan, but I am still waiting for the call.

Finally, in a similar vein, check out The amazing expanding universe.

Happy Christmas, enjoy some regenerative time amidst the spirit of Christmas, and may 2012 be filled with good health, happiness and peace.

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.

05 December 2011

Ian Gawler Blog – Mindbody Mastery goes live


This is a bit like telling friends about the birth of a new child! After a great deal of engaging development and testing, the new downloadable Mindbody Mastery meditation based mind training program will be available within the week, and as a reader of my blog you can obtain it with a significant discount (see below). This comprehensive and innovative program has been designed to provide you with access to meditation anywhere, at anytime.

There will be a 3 minute video on the website and Youtube that you can view for a quick intro. The video has great meditation music as a backing and is like a meditation in itself! Also, you can go to YouTube and see another video that features the world class musicians actually making the recording.

It has been a great delight and a real stretch for me into new territory as Mindbody Mastery uses the best of modern technology in an easily accessible form (remember all this stuff was new to me a year or two ago so I made sure it really is easy to use!!).

If you do have some experience of meditation, the program will help you to review and deepen what you already know, as well as provide you with a range of innovative support for your practice.

For those who are new to meditation, and this program will make a great Christmas present, the initial intructions will guide you step-by-step, while again , the support package will actively assist you in establishing a regular practice. While I did include details of the actual program in an earlier Blog, below you will find details of the support package which is where the real innovations have been possible using the new technologies. This should have real appeal to younger people, while being readily accessible and really useful for those who are bit older and less techno savvy like me!

While I will be forwarding details of how to join to members of this blog personally, access will be via mindbodymastery.net, which is likely to be live later in the week.

So I do hope you will take advantage of this exciting new step in what I am able to offer, and please feel free to add your comments here or on the Mindbody Mastery website. A big thank you to my partner in this project, Saurabh Mishra, who has had the technological and the business acumen to put it all together. We have had a multitude of top quality people contribute directly or indirectly to this project and frankly, it is as good as we can make it! I hope you find it useful and that maybe it can help others you know as well.

As a further note, when you do check all this out, you will see that we have “de-personalised” the program. That is, my name does not feature all over it, but you will know where it came from!


What it is

The Mindbody Mastery Program is an online learning program that uses modern, web-based technology to provide readily affordable access to mind-body techniques that are known to generate clarity of mind, good health and great performance in all aspects of life.

This program is like attending a meditation group with a teacher on-line.

The techniques you will learn over an initial 8 week period are:

ϖ Relaxation   Concentration  Mindfulness  Meditation  Imagery  Contemplation
The program provides comprehensive support over a full 6 months to deepen your experiences with the techniques, and to assist you to establish a regular routine of practising them.

How it works

Mindbody Mastery has two components, the initial 8 week program and its fully integrated support package over 6 months.

1. The initial 8 weeks

The actual program content of Mindbody Mastery is presented via MP3 downloads that you can listen to via your smartphone, ipod, or computer.

Choice of accents and gender. A major feature of this meditation based program is that you can choose to listen to a male or female voice, being myself or my wife Ruth, or you can listen to a male Indian English accent or a female American. You can check out these accents via the free sample available via the website and which features the rapid relaxation exercise.

Over the initial 8 weeks, you will be introduced to, and supported to learn and apply 8 easy mind-centred techniques. At the start of each of these first 8 weeks, you will download two MP3 files. First, a short, spoken introduction to the theory and explanation of how to practise the specific exercise daily over the coming week. Second, the guided exercise itself.

Each exercise will build logically on those before it, and together they will provide direct access to rapid relaxation, increased powers of concentration, the practical skill of mindfulness, and the deep natural peace of meditation. Mindbody Mastery also includes the added benefits of guided imagery and contemplation. Click here for more detail regarding the content of each week’s session.

World Class Meditation Music. Another highlight of the program is that several of the exercises include original backing music from world-class musicians on cello, harp, flute and sarod (an Indian musical instrument similar to the sitar). You can view the making of this music on YouTube: Meditation Music, Mindbody Mastery.

2. The support package 

Relaxation. Concentration. Mindfulness. Imagery. Concentration. Meditation. These are all highly valuable skills. The Mindbody Mastery program introduces them all.

Then to help you to learn them, to deepen your experience with them, and to get into the habit of practising them regularly, we offer you at no extra cost, a 6 month, fully integrated support package. This exciting support package is a unique feature of Mindbody Mastery. It includes:

a) Extra downloads

At week 12, you will receive a bonus meditation download which features a brief meditation practice that can be used daily.

At week 16, those who are continuing to receive the email support, will receive a bonus, original meditation music download, specifically commissioned to enhance the Mindbody Mastery program.

b) Daily Email and Weekly SMS Reminders and Inspirations

During the first 8 weeks of the Mindbody Mastery program, your daily emails and weekly SMS reminders are designed to enhance your understanding of the theory and techniques of the program, along with inspiring and encouraging you to develop and maintain a regular practice of those techniques.

For the next 4 weeks, from week 9 to 12, the focus of the emails and SMS messages will be to deepen your understanding and experience of the main meditation method.

Over the next 8 weeks, from week 13 to 20, each of the 8 initial sessions of Mindbody Mastery will be revisited, again to deepen your understanding of the theory and the techniques, and to help you to develop mastery of each of those techniques.

Then from week 21 to 24, we will return to focus once more on the core meditation practise.

Finally, during the last 2 weeks, week 25 – 26, we will discuss and clarify the on-going integration of the Mindbody Mastery techniques into daily life.

c) Social media support, goal setting, surveys and feedback

We know that people stick with a new routine or lifestyle change better when they have a supportive peer group. And in this day and age, one of the most readily accessible peer groups is your online social media platform friends. So we have designed some smart features (initially for Facebook and later for other online social media platforms), to engage your online friends.
NOTE: These features will all be active once the program is released, and details will be on the website.

d) Access to interesting monthly webinars (commencing in February 2012).

e) A specific, Mindbody Mastery Blog focussing on meditation related material and featuring input from myself and guest bloggers.

f) Personal advice from experts where needed to further clarify your meditation practice (via email).

Of course, if you choose to simply practise the techniques in your own way, in your own rhythm, you can opt out of any elements of the support package.


There are two aspects to the research accompanying the Mindbody Mastery Program.

1. What the existing research says

It may well be helpful and comforting to know the evidence base for the Mindbody Mastery program.

It is good to be aware of the fact that there are now over 7,000 studies published worldwide attesting to the capacity for the meditation based mind techniques taught in the Mindbody Mastery program to improve physical, emotional and mental health, enhance spiritual values and improve performance in nearly every arena of human endeavour. Also, these techniques have been shown to make valuable contributions as adjuncts to existing treatment programs for many physical, emotional and mental health issues.

A summary of this research has been made available on the Mindbody website.

2. Formal, University based evaluation

The extensive support package, and use of web based technology for delivery make this program of real interest to the public and the research community. Therefore, formal research evaluation is being built into the program.

The research will be conducted by an eminent Australian University, and will assess any changes in state of mind, quality of life and a range of lifestyle behaviours of participants in the program. Under examination is the theory that as participants’ state of mind improves, so too may their lifestyle. For example, they may eat better, smoke and drink less alcohol, lose weight and exercise more. Of course, they may feel a whole lot better generally!

More details will be made available as the Research project commences in 2012.

Mindbody Mastery, Spirituality and Religion

While Mindbody Mastery focuses on training the mind and has no reference to any particular faith or creed, experience tells us that this program is highly likely to enhance spiritual values such as gratitude, kindness and altruism. These qualities are associated with greater self-care, family care and social responsibility. The program is compatible with any secular, spiritual or religious views.

Mindbody Mastery and its applications

Mindbody Mastery may well be something you will use yourself. Maybe it will be something to encourage members of your family to take up. Maybe you will refer it to other people you know, or your workplace, health related groups, sporting clubs; the program has a myriad of applications.

Mindbody Mastery has a generous Affiliates Program.

The cost and YOUR DISCOUNT

The program represents extraordinary value for money and I trust you will find it of real benefit as you use it. As a member of my blog you can access a 15% discount on the full price of $108 by entering the code IJG-SM, making the actual cost $92.80. I rather hope a few people will be receiving the program as a Christmas present. Great gift!

Do let me know your feedback, either via the Blog comment page or the Mindbody mastery website.

To finish, a reminder

Remember to breathe, let go, relax, smile.
Welcome to this present moment.
Enjoy Mindbody Mastery and flourish!


My website is being updated and a new version will be online in the New Year. However, in the next few days, details of the events I will be involved with publicly in 2012 will be updated on the current website.



BOOK: The Mindbody Mastery program is based on the book I wrote with Paul Bedson, Meditation – an In-depth Guide.

WEBSITE:  Once it is live, the website will be mindbodymastery.net.

21 November 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Random facts of kindness

This blog, two issues that demand attention. The first concerns us all and exposes how industrial animal farming is putting us all at risk – even if you are a vegetarian! There is a real need to be selective in how we produce our food and what we as consumers buy and eat. Then there is an issue for the therapists who read this blog and are concerned about mental health.

The new 'outbreak' film Contagion raises real concerns

Microbes are finally getting the attention they deserve: albeit through the glossy veneer of a Hollywood ‘outbreak film', Contagion. The film stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon and Laurence Fishburne and is loosely based on research by Nathan Wolfe whose new book, Viral Storm: the dawn of a new pandemic age, tells why modern life has made us more vulnerable, not less, to the threat of a global pandemic.

In the film, the origin of a deadly global virus is linked back to a nesting bat whose home is destroyed by forest clearing from a mining company. The homeless bat then infects a pig, which is slaughtered and the chef, who carries the pig blood on his hands, passes it on to an unsuspecting first victim (played by Gwyneth Paltrow).

Reproduced here with permission, is part of an article in The Ecologist that reports on the book which goes into detail, linking the threat of global disease pandemics and industrial animal farming.

Being a veterinarian myself, this issue is one I have been aware of and deeply concerned about for decades. When will my profession, the Government, the meat industry and the public act on this major health problem?

The fact is that cramped and stressed conditions in factory farms require the use of low level antibiotics to protect the animals. These drugs are euphemistically called “growth promotants” and they directly contribute to antibiotic resistance, making it more difficult to treat human as well as animal diseases. Eighty per cent of all antibiotics sold in 2009 were used on livestock and poultry, meaning that just 20 per cent were used for human illnesses. Seventy-five per cent of antibiotics are not absorbed by animals and are excreted in their waste, posing another serious risk to public health.

Wolfe has done his own research on factory farming, stating that more than half of the livestock produced globally now originate in industrial farm settings. The numbers of livestock boggle the mind: over one billion cattle, one billion pigs and over twenty billion chickens live on our planet.

Industrial farms can be more than settings to grow meat; they can be ‘incubators' for infectious agents that could move into human populations, he writes.

The Ecologist has reported widely on the growing threat of deadly antibiotic-resistant infections from animals to humans.

Yet the calls so far for the reduction of the use of antibiotics have gone largely ignored, primarily because factory farming would not be possible without them. For options and to read the full Ecologist article by Matilda Lee, click here. 

DSM 5 petition reflects concerns with the overdiagnosis and overtreatment of mental health conditions.

The DSM or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is published by the American Psychiatric Association and provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders.

A new edition, planned for publication in 2013, is attracting a good deal of controversy as the early drafts reveal significant changes from the current DSM 4.

An online petition against the new version, which began on October 22, is reported to have attracted 3,514 signatures by Nov 3 and over 6,000 by Nov 15.

The criticisms include the reduction in the number of criteria necessary to diagnose ADHD and the lowering of the diagnostic threshold for generalised anxiety disorder.

The DSM-5 taskforce’s consideration of several “unsubstantiated and questionable disorder categories” such as apathy syndrome, internet addiction disorder and parental alienation syndrome is also condemned.

One Australian signatory is Dr Godfrey Barrett-Lennard, an honorary fellow in the school of psychology at WA’s Murdoch University, who writes:

“The whole approach of rendering varieties of human distress under the heading of illnesses or pathologies is in my considered view... on the wrong track and seriously and even harmfully misleading.”

To read what Psychiatry Update (from Australian Doctor) has to comment on this matter click here, or to see the petition, signatories and comments, or to sign: click here.


MINDBODY MASTERY, the new downloadable meditation program, continues to near completion!

Due to the thoroughness of the ongoing support package that will come with the base 8 week program, there is a good deal of IT detail to establish and ensure that it is working well. This is nearly done and I hope to be able to announce the release date in a week, and that it will be around another week on from then.  For more details, click here.

31 October 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Telomeres, meditation and length of life.

If meditation can lengthen your telomeres, does this mean it lengthens your life? A major new study from America, involving Australian Noble Laureate Prof Elizabeth Blackburn, is one of a number of recent studies that tantalisingly suggests this may well be so.

What then are telomeres? Telomeres are sequences of DNA at the end of all our chromosomes that tend to become damaged and shorten each time one of our cells divide. With time and aging, the telomere length eventually drops below a critical length and then that cell can no longer divide properly and its death follows.

Telomerase is an enzyme that can rebuild and lengthen telomeres. Other research indicates that telomerase activity may be linked with psychological stress and physical health.

This new study, conducted by a big team at UC Davis and led by Tonya Jacobs and Clifford Saron, measured telomerase activity in the participants of a three month, intensive meditation retreat. Known as the Shamatha project, and with the retreat itself led by the renowned B Alan Wallace, participants meditated in group sessions twice daily, and in individual practice for six hours each day.

The most comprehensive scientific study of a meditation retreat yet conducted, there have been some very interesting findings. Firstly, telomerase activity was 30% higher in those on the retreat compared to their matched controls. There was a positive relationship between these telomerase changes and positive psychological changes.

Saron speaking with the due caution of a scientist says “ The take home message from this work is not that meditation directly increases telomerase activity and therefore a person’s health and longevity. Rather, meditation may improve a person’s psychological wellbeing and in turn these changes are related to telomerase activity in cells, which have the potential to promote longevity in those cells”.

Jacobs commented “this work is the first to show a relation between positive psychological change and telomerase activity.”

Having said that, some readers of this blog will be aware that Dean Ornish showed with his research into the effects of a lifestyle based approach for men with early prostate cancer, that as well as reducing PSA activity and significantly reducing the need for more major medical treatment, the lifestyle approach significantly increased the length of the men’s telomeres. It is of note that Ornish’s approach is very similar to the one set out in “You Can Conquer Cancer” and taught at the Gawler Foundation.

Also, this study may be the start to being able to scientifically understand the evidence from other observational studies that have associated meditation with increased physiological health and longevity.

Clearly there is the need for more study in this exciting field and how good it would be if some of the new research was funded and conducted here in Australia where we have such a rich tradition of the practice of therapeutic meditation.


MINDBODY MASTERY:  My new on-line 8 wk meditation based mind training program is due for release on November 24th. We are in the final stages of preparing the rather sophisticated website and system to deliver the program, along with the 6 mths of integrated support which includes email and SMS reminders etc.

A number of people have enquired re the cost. We are keen to make the program readily accessible and so the whole thing is costed at $108, although to members of my database and blog there will be a 15% discount, making the cost to you $91.80. Hopefully this is very good value for money and reasonable affordable. The program could make great Christmas presents.

The Gawler Foundation's Annual Conference Nov 19 & 20 The Hilton, Melbourne

This is a great conference that has been presented annually since 1984. There is an excellent line-up of speakers and the chance to spend a weekend amongst a diverse group of like minded people. The lunches provided are a vegetarian highlight and people seem to always leave inspired, informed and thoroughly satisfied with the event. I am presenting a Keynote  and a Workshop, so hope to see many old faces (even if they are young ones) and meet new people. It is wise to book soon as the workshops are filling.

You Can Conquer Cancer: I have Robina Courtin helping me currently to edit the almost fully rewritten new edition of my cancer book. First published in 1984, it has been revised twice in recent years, but this is its first really major rewrite and it will probably be released mid next year. Be reassured the current one remains very useful in my opinion. It is not that the basic information is being changed; it is being updated and modernised. It is 27 years old after all. Maybe its telomeres need a bit of a revamp!


RELATED BLOG  Mindbody Mastery

BOOKS Meditation – an In-depth Guide: Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson

               The Mind that Changes Everything: Ian Gawler

              You Can Conquer Cancer: Ian Gawler

CDs      The Gawler Cancer Program: Ian Gawler

PROGRAMS: The Gawler Foundation

RESEARCH:  U C Davis: Centre for Mind and Brain
                         The Shamatha Project

                         Dean Ornish and the Preventive Medicine Research Institute

10 October 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Would you eat like a dog?

Why is it that so many authorities who are really serious about nutrition, and especially nutrition for healing, recommend a vegetable based diet with little or no meat?

To understand, we need to divert a little and consider dogs, cows and digestive systems.


There are three types of animal digestive systems; carnivore, herbivore and omnivore. A classic carnivore like a dog is designed to eat a high meat diet. A classic herbivore like a cow runs on grass and us human beings; well we are omnivores trying to get the best of both worlds. Knowing about our own digestive system, and how it compares to the others, helps us to understand what we are wisest to eat, and what makes best sense when we are eating for recovery.

The Carnivore

A dog has a very specific anatomical set up to enable it to manage the food it eats. Here is the key point regarding meat. Digestion of virtually any food produces waste products. We eat a food like meat or a particular vegetable, we take what we can use from that food and we eliminate the leftovers, the waste products. With meat, the waste products are somewhat problematic; they are rich in nitrites and other potentially toxic bi-products of their digestion. Vegetables do not produce these problematic waste products.

If the metabolic waste products from meat stay in the bowel for long, they can be directly toxic to the lining of the bowel, or they can be absorbed through the bowel and become toxic to the rest of the body.

Now the dog is essentially a scavenging meat eater with a matching anatomy. It has sharp canine teeth for biting and ripping its potential meal into big pieces. Then it swallows quickly before anyone else can steal its share. Therefore it has modest chewing teeth at the back of its mouth and actually does little chewing unless on a bone or equivalent. Next it has just one, relatively compact stomach that secretes almost pure hydrochloric acid to liquefy the lumps of food it has gulped down.

Then the key point; every dog has a very short bowel, and as a result, what we call a rapid transit time. The transit time measures how long it takes food to go through the system; from front to back, or top to bottom.

Because of the potentially toxic nature of the metabolic waste products that come from the digestion of meat, the dog needs to get rid of them quickly. Hence short bowel, rapid transit time.

The Herbivore

By contrast, a classic herbivore like the cow has a very different digestive challenge. It is eating vegetable matter and with grass, needs to be able to digest cellulose. The cow therefore has a very different anatomy. Firstly, there is a need to start the digestive process by grinding the food very finely.  As a result, the cow has no serious biting teeth, but very serious grinders! Whilst the dog’s back teeth are permanent and static, in the same way that adult human teeth are, the cow’s back teeth constantly grow. Cows do so much chewing that they need to continually replace what has been ground down.

Next the cow has four stomachs! Four. The first is like a huge tank which mixes the finely ground grass with water and saliva and literally ferments it. In the process, cows produce large amounts of methane.

So these days, aware conservationists are joining the push to reduce meat consumption as the volumes of methane produced have a major impact on the atmosphere. Also, to grow an equivalent amount of beef protein compared to vegetable protein requires around 18-20 times more land area. Given the huge problems with the clearing of forests and utilisation of land, this is another major environmental rationale for less meat, more vegetable protein consumption.

Back to the cow; after the four stomachs the cow has a very long digestive tract and a much slower transit time than a dog.

The Omnivore

As humans, we are trying to manage eating just about anything, so our anatomical set up is a compromise. We have teeth that can bite and chew. We have one stomach with high acid content and an intermediate length of bowel. While the dog’s transit time is around 6-8 hours, the cow 2-4 days, the ideal human transit time is 18-24 hours.

For people, there is another relevant issue. Fibre in our diet does two important things that are relevant to this discussion. Firstly, fibre adds bulk and regulates transit times. Low fibre, longer transit time. Secondly, it acts as a sponge or a buffer. If we do eat something, or have some metabolic waste products form in our bowel that are potentially toxic, high levels of fibre act as a sponge to absorb the toxic material and usher it quickly out of our system.

Now you probably understand the average Western diet has been high in meat and low in fibre. This means more toxic waste products, less buffering or absorption from fibre and slower transit times. A great recipe for provoking all bowel diseases and some others in the body generally.

Clearly, humans can manage eating meat, but anatomically, we are better designed for vegetable proteins.


1. Had a great weekend leading a meditation teacher training and retreat for Health Professionals with Zen monks from Thich Nhat Hahn’s tradition at the Gawler Foundation’s Centre in the Yarra Valley. There is the wonderful concept of noble conversation amidst noble company, and this was certainly the case as a delightfully diverse group of practitioners gathered and we explored what is a real priviledge, the opportunity to teach another person meditation.

2. I have been in discussion with the Foundation about contributing to some of their programs next year, and next week will outline these plans.


RELATED BLOGS     Food for Life

                                 Big Mac or a salad?

                                 What fuel goes into your tank?

BOOKS    You Can Conquer Cancer  Ian Gawler – contains full dietary recommendations for those who are well, and for those who are recovering from cancer

               The China Study     T C & T M Campbell -  Excellent recent research and protein information.                

CDs   Eating Well, Being Well   Ian Gawler – Details the Wellness Diet –a sound diet for all

         Eating For Recovery   Ian Gawler -  Details the Healing Diet for those interested in using their nutrition therapeutically to assist recovering from cancer.

03 October 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Alcohol, health and wellbeing

I am often asked about the relative benefits of drinking alcohol. Is it OK for our health, or does it come at a cost? And does it make a difference if someone is dealing with major illness, particularly cancer? And what about pregnancy? Let us “Go Out On A Limb” and investigate.

The common forms of drinking alcohol are beer, wines and spirits. The accurate level of alcohol in individual drinks varies according to the source and the method of preparation. What follows are general indications only.

Approximate percentage of alcohol content in various drinks

Product                 Approximate % of alcohol

Fruit Juice                    Less than .1%
“Non alcoholic” beer      Around .5% or less
Light beer                     Around 3%
Standard beer               4-5%
Stout                            5-10%
Cider                            4-8%
Wine                            10-15%
Sparkling wines             8-12%
Port                              20%
Liquors                         15-55%
Spirits                           Around 40%
Rum                             35-50%
Whisky                         50-60%

Alcohol is widely used as a social lubricant; it relaxes users, can help to disinhibit them and to facilitate talking and interacting more easily. These facts may well explain some large population studies that have shown moderate alcohol consumption can be associated with a modest range of positive health benefits. We know healthy relationships and social interactions are good for health generally; maybe drinking alcohol facilitates people talking more openly and gaining these benefits. Also, there is some suggestion alcohol stimulates prostaglandin activity and this could explain the positive effects.

However, we can be in no doubt there can be real costs involved.

Immediate side effects of too much alcohol include dehydration and drunkenness. Importantly, alcohol also stimulates insulin production, which accelerates glucose metabolism and can lead to low blood sugar levels.

Alcohol consumption generally has been associated with a higher risk of several of the cancers of the digestive tract. This is a major issue requiring consideration with beer as chemically brewed beers have been directly linked to an increased incidence of colon cancer. Therefore drink only naturally brewed beers if you drink any. Coopers beers are all naturally brewed. As another option, there are very low alcohol, naturally brewed beers that taste good. In Australia, Coopers Birrells brand is excellent and can be purchased in Supermarkets.

Other long-term side effects, apart from a huge raft of unfortunate and often dangerous social side effects, are liver and brain damage. Cirrhosis of the liver comes about because the metabolism of alcohol puts heavy demands on the liver. Anything that causes liver damage is a real problem for anyone, but particularly for people dealing with cancer. Many people with cancer are considered by natural medicine authorities to have underactive livers. Also, for all of us, the liver is crucial to many key metabolic functions and the healing process generally.

So let us be clear about this. Any alcohol consumption places a demand on the liver. For people who are well, the liver generally recovers if it is not hammered too hard or too often, but it does need to recover. So if you want optimum health, and particularly if you are in a healing phase of life, be very judicious with your consumption. I believe that those seeking to help themselves to recover from active cancer are better off avoiding alcohol altogether.

It is worth noting that the official recommendations now say that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and that even if women are only considering becoming pregnant they are best advised to abstain.

Alcohol Recommendations

On the Wellness Diet, social drinking a few days per week is acceptable.

Ensure regular alcohol free days.

Consider using very low alcohol, naturally brewed beer.

On the Healing Diet, alcohol is not recommended, primarily because of its effect on the liver. Pregnancy and alcohol do not mix.

Overall (and General- individual needs vary) Fluid Recommendations

Drink 2 litres of fluid, combined from all sources (water, tea, juices, soups) per day.

Make healthy choices – with water, tea and coffee substitutes and alcohol.

Add juices to the Healing Diet and consider their use on the Wellness Diet.


RELATED BLOGS     What fuel goes into your tank?
                                  Big Mac or a Salad?

BOOKS    You Can Conquer Cancer  Ian Gawler – contains full dietary recommendations for those who are well, and for those who are recovering from cancer

CDs   Eating Well, Being Well   Ian Gawler – Details the Wellness Diet –a sound diet for all

          Eating For Recovery   Ian Gawler -  Details the Healing Diet for those interested in using their nutrition therapeutically to assist recovering from cancer.

19 September 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Food for life – what to eat when

One useful way to decide what is the best eating pattern for us to follow, is to consider what phase of life we are in.

When we were developing as a foetus inside our mother’s abdomen, both of us had very specific nutritional requirements. As a child and adolescent, we needed about 25% more food on a weight for weight basis to take account of our growth rate. Some parents would say, for teenage boys it is way higher! Certainly if we are engaged in physically demanding sport or work, we need significantly more than someone who sits behind a desk all day.

When we are basically well, it is what we eat mostly that is important. The fact is that as human beings, our bodies are reasonably adaptable. If you eat well at home through the week and then go out on the weekend and play up a little, there is little likelihood of harm. If you play up every night, then the risks begin to build fairly rapidly.

So again, when we are well, what we eat mostly is important. However, when we are dealing with major illness, what we eat all the time is important.

This statement is made based on my years of clinical experience, and is reinforced by the one randomised, lifestyle-based cancer trial published to date. Dean Ornish first won acclaim back in the nineties for publishing data that demonstrated how it is possible to reverse coronary artery disease using a basically vegan diet, exercise, meditation, yoga, emotional healing and group therapy – a program very similar to the one I helped to develop at the Gawler Foundation.

Ornish then went on to investigate the same program with men diagnosed with early prostate cancer (in what essentially in those days was called the “watchful waiting phase”). The results were compelling. Not surprisingly, the cancer advanced for virtually all the men in the control group; their PSA’s (a blood marked of prostate cancer activity) went up, the aggressiveness of their cancers went up and several required major medical treatments.

Those men who made modest lifestyle changes stabilised their condition, a significant benefit in its own right. However, those who made major lifestyle changes and diligently maintained them were able to reduce their PSA’s, reduce the aggressiveness of their cancers and after one year, none had required medical intervention. After three years, the benefits were still highly beneficial in a way that was statistically very significant, although a small number of the diligent men had required more medical treatment.

In nearly all areas of life, how we apply ourselves will make a difference. Do nothing and the natural course of events is likely to follow. Do nothing in response to cancer and it is highly likely to progress. Intervene; use your own resources, and remarkable outcomes become possible.

So when faced with active cancer, the recommendation is to take what you eat seriously. It can really help. But if you think “I will eat well long enough to get well, and then go back to junk food”, you are missing the point.

The first thing when faced with cancer is to recover. Then we aim for a long, happy and healthy life. What we eat provides the raw ingredients for healing as well as a healthy old age.

For everyone, what we eat will make a huge difference to our life, both immediately and for the future.
Perhaps the secret to a good life is as simple as "eat good food and meditate".

RELATED BLOGS     Big Mac or a Salad

                                Eating for Recovery

                                What Fuel Goes into your Tank?


BOOKS:  You Can Conquer Cancer; Ian Gawler- contains nutritional details and the basis of how to eat well for those who are well and aim to stay that way; as well as those seeking to recover from cancer

CDs: Eating Well, Being Well; Ian Gawler – a thorough introduction to the Wellness Diet which is suitable for most people and families
Eating for Recovery; Ian Gawler – details the Healing Diet recommended for those dealing with cancer (and which builds on the previous CD, eg people with cancer are recommended to obtain both CDs)

PROGRAMS and COUNSELLING on food matters: The Gawler Foundation

12 September 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: 9/11,Transformation, and mindfulness of people.

Ruth and I had the good fortune to receive an award at a recent Inter-faith function where the aim was to mobilise the energy around the extraordinary events of 9/11 to promote Inter-faith understanding and cooperation.

The awards are an annual event inaugurated last year in the best spirit of Australian multi-culturalism. Swami Shankarananda, a Jewish New Yorker intellectual, met Muktananda, the then head of Siddha Yoga in his early days and is now teaching Hindu philosophy and practices to a wide audience in outer suburban Melbourne. Along with his wife Devi Ma, Swamiji runs a very vibrant centre in Mt Eliza with a strong emphasis on meditation, chanting and finding joy in the spiritual path.

The award night was a real delight, bringing together local leaders from all the major faith traditions. We had a Jewish cantor singing prayers, an operatic quality rendition of Ave Maria and Hindu chanting, along with silent meditation.

Where were you when you first heard of the twin tower attacks?

Ruth and I were coming home from a wonderful evening where Paul Kraus’ fabulous book ‘Surviving Cancer” had been launched by the Gawler Foundation. Along with a group of long term cancer survivors whose stories are featured in the book, Prof Chris O’Brien had spoken in glowing and eloquent terms of drawing on the Foundation's inspiration and knowledge to mobilise his own efforts; using meditation and other lifestyle factors in his efforts to recover from his own very difficult cancer.

That evening had been one of the most uplifting in the Gawler Foundation’s history, and then, on the radio, complete incredulity. Could this be real? Then on the TV. Was it an Orsen Wells like black-hearted trick to be playing these images? And then, the realisation the towers had really fallen, so many people had died, and all our lives were in the process of changing.

So 10yrs later, what has happened? According to The Age, Australia is estimated to have spent $30 billion fighting terrorism; the USA $4 trillion! Prof Mark Stewart, a Newcastle academic puts the risk for an Australian actually being killed by a terrorist attack at 1 in 7 million per year, about the same risk as being killed by lightning.

Of course, for anyone who was directly affected by 9/11, the Bali bombings or any other act of terrorism, the consequences have been severe and probably ongoing.

But for the population at large, do we need to keep spending such huge amounts on anti-terrorist activities, including fighting in countries not our own? Maybe it is time to give more time and resources to reducing fear and bringing people together in peace and understanding.

One of the challenges is to not sound clichéd in this arena. At the award night, a remarkable young Buddhist monk managed this very well. Thubten Gyaltsen was acknowledged and awarded for his Inter-faith work amongst young people. He recounted the day he heard Osama Bin-Laden was killed by US forces. The TV was replete with images of young Americans dancing and chanting in the streets, claiming to be young Christians and deliriously happy with the death of this man.

Then he went to an evening function in the Muslim community where the keynote speaker’s first name was also Osama. This man spoke with fervour and passion about the need to be of service throughout the local community, to make alliances with all the faiths, to bring understanding and peace to their own people and their new home country.

The challenge must be to go beyond stereotypes, to transform fear and to build cross-cultural and Inter-faith relationships. One simple way I have found to work on this is what I call:

Mindfulness of people

This is a simple exercise. You smile warmly at everyone you meet, whether on introduction from a trusted friend, whether at a business meeting or as you pass them casually in the street. The easy mindfulness bit is to give them your full attention for the few moments the smile takes; the tricky part is to notice your mind as you offer the smile. You aim to notice what response you have to smiling at everyone, regardless of their size, shape, age, gender, colour race, creed etc

When you can genuinely say the feeling that goes with smiling at everyone is the same, you have achieved something quite difficult I would suggest, but something incredibly worthwhile. The advanced practice is to remain unaffected by whatever judgements you get the impression the other person is making of you!

Like all exercises such as this one, it takes effort and practice; and any progress you make is valuable.

As for the award, it acknowledged the contribution Ruth and I have made through teaching and popularising meditation. In Swami Shankarananda’s words:

“We give awards each year for interfaith activity. It started when I decided to reverse the significance of September 11 by thinking of it as, instead of a dark day for interreligious relationships, a day for the celebration of interreligious dialogue.

“Last year we gave the "Sanatana Dharma Award" to Father John Dupuche in recognition of all his work in the field. This year we would like to give the award jointly to both of you.

“Sanatana Dharma is translated as "the eternal religion". It refers to the kernel of oneness that is behind all the different religions. In my mind, meditation is the highest expression of Sanatana Dharma because it comes under no trademark, is the private property of no single religion and is equally beneficial, like sleep, to Hindus, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and even atheists.”


1. Weekend workshop in Melbourne: 17 & 18 September
     Bookings through the Gawler Foundation

2.  Healing Meditation Retreat and Training for health professionals – with monks from Thich Nhat Hahn’s tradition
     Bookings through the Gawler Foundation



1. Meditation – An In-depth Guide: Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson

2. The Miracle of Mindfulness: Thich Nhat Hahn


1. Deepening your meditation (for mindfulness exercises): Ian Gawler

2. A Woman’s Voice: Ruth Gawler leading mindfulness and meditation exercises


1. Go with the flow or intervene

2. The brain, the mind and relationships

05 September 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Mindfulness in daily life.

We notice whenever someone is present; when they give us their full attention. This is mindfulness. What a wonderful present to give to another human being, our full attention, our mindfulness!

To learn to become more mindful, we can begin by practising what we call focussed mindfulness. This is as simple as formally paying attention to the sounds around about us, to our breath, our body; whatever we choose to focus upon with our attention, while at the same time, we remain like a non-judgemental observer, free of judgement, free of internal commentary.

There is a natural peace in simply being mindful. We practise and begin to appreciate this. With our minds open, curious, aware; we notice whatever it is that we have chosen to focus upon. No need to force anything, or deny anything. Open. Aware. Free of judgement. Mindful. So easy.

Of course, when we aim to be mindful, our mind can wander; we can become distracted or simply “space out”. Again, we benefit from noticing this. Whenever necessary, we bring our mind back to the focus of our mindfulness.

Remember too the benefits of relaxation. Everything is easier in a relaxed body. So as we practise mindfulness, we will benefit from consciously relaxing our bodies.

Open mindfulness is the next step. This is as simple as being fully aware of whatever comes into our awareness at this particular moment. And this particular moment. And this... and this... and so on.

No more, no less. Rather than choosing to focus on something in particular as we do with focussed mindfulness, now we simply notice whatever it is that comes to our attention. This is open mindfulness.

Experiment with open mindfulness in the course of your normal day. To begin with, it may help to notice when you are being mindless! This is when you are doing something and your mind is elsewhere; dwelling on the past or fantasising about the future. Know this to be normal. Know this is why we train to be more mindful. Smile, be gentle with yourself and come back to this present moment. Pay attention; give your full attention to whatever it is that you are doing.

Notice too, that there is no stress in the present moment. No anxiety either. For stress or anxiety you need to think about, and be affected by, the past or the future. In the present there is only peace.

As we practise and learn to be more mindful, we learn to give more attention to the present moment. Of course, memories from the past are still useful, and planning for the future makes good sense. But now we do not dwell on them. We remember the past with an increasing fondness. We do all we can towards an ideal future, and we learn to combine this with going with the flow.

The formal practice of mindfulness translates directly into daily life. The more we learn to give our full attention to what ever or who ever we are engaged with, the better everything flows. This is why mindfulness is such a good practice to learn and develop in formal sessions, and then to take with you into daily life.

Of course, mindfulness is one of the four key steps that lead into meditation. Remember this? Preparation, Relaxation, Mindfulness, Stillness:

Being well prepared to begin meditation we naturally feel more relaxed. As we become more relaxed, we become more aware. We become more mindful. Mindfulness naturally leads into the deeper stillness of meditation.

So many good reasons to develop mindfulness.


1. I am currently updating "You Can Conquer Cancer". If anyone has any comments or suggestions, I would love to hear from you via info@insighthealth.com.au.

2. Two weeks to the Melbourne weekend workshops, where for the first time in years I will spend one full day focussing on nutrition and eating well. It will be a pleasure to present what I believe and why I believe in when it comes to food. The day will be fun and the food can be easy and delicious! Should be good for anyone interested in healthy and healing food - whether for the average person, family or for those with specific needs for healing.


1. Go with the flow or intervene

2. Meditation in four easy steps


1. BOOKS: Meditation an In-depth Guide; Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson

               The Miracle of Mindfulness; Thich Nhat Hahn

2. CDs:       Meditation - a complete guide; Ian Gawler

               Deepening your meditation; Ian Gawler, complete with the amazing backing of world renowned didgeridoo player, Marshall Whyler.

3PROGRAMS and the Melbourne Workshops: The Gawler Foundation

22 August 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Recovery from cancer is possible.

It is possible to recover from cancer. Cancer can be cured. Medicine can do quite a bit. You can do the rest. These are facts. It is possible. Cancer can be cured.

On September the 17th and 18th I will be presenting a weekend workshop with The Gawler Foundation in Melbourne. The Saturday will be on Relaxation, Mindfulness and Meditation; while the Sunday will be on Food and Nutrition: Eating Your Way to Health. 

However, the weekend coincides with a major milestone. On September the 16th it will be 30 years since the first ever Melbourne Cancer Support Group meeting. I well remember that day. Sitting in the lounge room of a fairly large suburban house, in front of 30 anxious, fearful participants, I was probably as nervous as they were.

Never having been in a group before, let alone led one, here I was suggesting to these adventurous souls that just like me, they might be able to recover. Like me, all present quickly saw the rationale in the fact that if it can be done once, maybe it can be done again. A glimmer of hope was kindled and as the weeks moved on, despair gave way to optimism, futility was transformed amongst the active program that unfolded and developed, and life really did begin anew.

When these groups began in ’81, I had three main motives:

1. Cure cancer, live well.

When I wrote You Can Conquer Cancer, some people preferred to interpret the “conquer” bit not so much as recovering physically, but triumphing in your mind by not letting the cancer get the better of you. That is not all that I meant. I meant: YOU CAN CONQUER CANCER! You can experience a cure, and sure you will still have to die of something, but something other than cancer!

The real reason for such a strong title was just that. To state clearly what I believed then and do so even more today; and to confront the widely held view of the day that you get cancer and die.

So how real is this? Well firstly, medicine can do quite a bit. Average survival from all cancers after 5 years is now around 65%. However, if we take breast cancer as a specific example, for women diagnosed from 2001-06 in the UK, average 5 year survival is quoted at a higher than average 82%. But at 10yrs, the figure is down to 73% and at 20yrs it is 64%. Of course these figures vary a good deal depending upon the age of the woman and the stage of her disease at diagnosis, but they reveal the problem. For the average person, the possibility of dying from cancer increases as time goes on.

So what to do? It seems clear to me.

i) If you have a medical cure on offer:

Focus on that and then help yourself by doing all you can to get the best result possible, with the least side-effects and the best quality of life.

ii) If there is no prospect of a medical cure, or you have had treatment and are like so many people who have had initial cancer treatment and are then left hoping for the best; instead of just hoping for the best, do the best: use your own resources to help your body to heal and maintain itself.

The details of how to help yourself are in You Can Conquer Cancer.

Now there is a challenging issue here that is worth giving voice to. Do these very hopeful words of mine raise the possibility of false hope or imply that if someone’s cancer does progress adversely they have done something wrong, or worse, there is something wrong with them?

In my experience this raises a hugely complex range of issues, the detail and application of which have been of great concern and interest to me for many years and which I wrote about recently in three successive blogs (see links below).

2. To play a part in developing a more Integrative approach to cancer management.

Progress? Some things have changed for the better, some are still as stuck as ever. 
Integrative Medicine is probably what good medicine always has been. It focuses on the whole person; body, emotions, mind and spirit; and it works within a collaborative, multidisciplinary environment where the patients needs are first and foremost, and the turf wars of specialties are put aside. 

However, happily there is now an official body to represent doctors interested in this field, the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association (AIMA), and one of the best things I believe I ever did, which was to found the Mind, Immunity and Health series of conferences for health professionals, has morphed into AIMA’s annual conference.

However, not everyone was, or is happy. In the early days of AA, it seemed that the notion of patients getting together and doing something in terms of outcome that the medical profession could not, such as overcoming alcoholism, was an idea some felt better blindly attacking, rather than investigating and supporting. Same for our cancer groups. 

So fairly frequently I have been called upon at Conferences and in the media to come together with often quite hostile senior medical figures to defend what we were doing. Given that 30yrs later some of these people are still at it, I sometimes wonder if I was too polite, too conciliatory, too keen to have doctors and patients working together. Not so long ago, even my ex-wife joined one of these figures (Prof. Ray Lowenthal) in an attempt to discredit me in the MJA.

Happily, the research is mounting, albeit most of it done outside of Australia. If I have one regret looking back, it is in not being able to solve the research dilemma. While for some years now the Gawler Foundation has had its own Post Doctoral Research Officer, and the Foundation has combined with a number of useful published research projects over many years, the most notable by Nicola Reavley; despite many efforts and grant applications, an outcome study investigating the programs effect on survival times is still to be done. 

If you want the truth, the thing that amazes me most about this is that those who claim to be scientific, have not recognized the large number of long term survivors associated with this cancer work and offered to establish research to investigate them more fully. It seems medicine these days is very scientific when the prospect of financially lucrative patents are involved, but not so when relatively free lifestyle techniques are the issue.

Around 20 years ago Lowenthal challenged me to provide the 50 best examples of long term survivors for scrutiny during an ABC program. That I did, but then he said the money was unavailable to fund the investigation. 

Maybe it is time for a challenge of my own. When will funding be available to answer this question so many people in the public want an answer to, and why should I or the Foundation be expected to fund or even drive such research when it is so complex and so expensive? Surely there is enough evidence and interest to warrant public resources including funds being allocated to such a project. 

I cringe when I hear what some well meaning fundraising is directed to. Please, if you are involved in fundraising for cancer, it is time to start insisting on how the money is used and what sort of research it funds.

3. Transform suffering.

Cancer causes a good deal of immediate and very real suffering. Yet so many people I have worked with say that getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened to them. How can this be? The suffering, the risk of dying, the fear of dying, is initially so strong, so real, that it provokes either a complete freak out, or when well supported, a complete review of life, its priorities, its meaning and its purpose. This has been a deeply rewarding part of the work; seeing people transform really challenging, really difficult situations into something quite wonderful.

Heartfelt thanks

So, enough for now. Just time to thank all the amazing people who sat in groups with me over those many years, the staff and volunteers I worked with, all the media people who have been so constructive and helpful, the many other people who sat on successive boards, helped with fundraising, gave their support to me and to the Foundation.

Where am I at? 

Clearer than ever! You Can Conquer Cancer! I feel no need to apologise for such a strong statement. In my experience, it is a fact! Cancer can be cured.

Recovery from cancer is possible.






25 July 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: On Pilgimage

 “A pilgrim is one who makes a certain kind of journey, not one who arrives at a certain destination.”

Pilgrims the world over have found journeying to places and to people of spiritual power a fulfilling external metaphor for the inner journey. Often arduous, and involving travel to strange and exotic lands, pilgrimages are a traditional way of seeking deep natural peace and a heightened sense of meaning in life.

The concept of pilgrimage is found in all the great religious traditions. In this modern day when people have the potential and resources to travel more freely, widely and quickly than ever before in history, pilgrimage provides a reason for travel that goes way beyond the mundane. As the pilgrim travels across the landscape, journeying often to a land of their dreams, an inner process inevitably unfolds, commonly bringing a state of transformation and even transcendence.

Pilgrimage involves going to a place that is real enough, but also sacred. And through the inner process, one brings something home from a pilgrimage that is likely to be quite different from mundane travels. While some make "pilgrimages" to where Elvis lived, Jacko was born, or historical events took place; common tourism can seem to be like attempting to "see the world" but frequently involves returning exhausted, with lots of photos but without much in the way of real nourishment.

However, pilgrimage sites are often “out of this world”. The majesty of Westminster Abbey or St Peters in Rome, Bethlehem in Israel, the sacred peaks of the Himalayas, the teeming ghats of the river Ganges, the mysteries of Mecca, the cradle of Buddhism at Bodghaya, the great copper-coloured mountain that is Uluru (or Ayer’s Rock); all places where the earth meets the spirit, all places where for ages past pilgrims have journeyed. These are places of peace and tranquility, whose spiritual presence is tangible to even the most hardened soul.

How then does one decide upon a pilgrimage? I suspect the answer is you just know when the time has come, along with where you will go and when. Of course, these days there are likely to be all sorts of rational arguments against going – work, family, financial pressures. But when this time comes, it is important to listen to your heart, make the leap, commit, plan and set off.

A great example in current time is provided by John Bettens. In April 2011 John commenced a walk from Rome to Santiago de Compostela in the north-west of Spain, a pilgrim’s walk of about 3,000 kms. John has been walking the Camino as it is popularly known; or to give it its full title, the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James). This is one part of a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish) in Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.

Remarkably, John has completed most of his epic alone while dealing with two types of cancer - prostate and follicular lymphoma, and will have walked around 2500kms when he finishes in Santiago on the 5th August. The route has taken him up the west coast of Italy to Genoa. From there he headed west across the breadth of France, and upon reaching Spain, John took the northern way which follows the coastline along the Bay of Biscay.

He has also aimed to raise money to support the work of the Gawler Foundation (it is easy to donate via his website – see the link below) and to raise awareness about holistic healing for those experiencing cancer, and the benefits of integrated care which values nutrition, meditation and belief in the path you choose.

Maybe you would like to catch up on his progress and support him by sending a message– see the link below. Maybe you feel inspired to embark upon your own pilgrimage. Or, if you have been on a pilgrimage already, maybe you would care to share something of the experience in the comment section below.


John Bettens’ blog

Walking the Camino


Retreat and go forward


1. BOOKS:  Anyone looking for translations of my books that are out of print or translated into foreign languages; or second hand books generally, might find what they are looking for at abebooks.com

2. CANCER GROUP IN DARWIN:  Sue Brownlee is leading a Living Well – Cancer Healing & Wellbeing Program in Darwin from 1st October 2011.  Sue is a long term Darwin resident, with a background in counselling, community education, and non-profit organisation management.  Additionally, she is a Zen Shiatsu therapist and meditation teacher.  Sue is trained and approved by the Gawler Foundation to deliver this Program and it will be an excellent follow-up for those who atended my recent workshops in Darwin.

The Program will be held at Carers NT, 59 Bayview Boulevard, Bayview from 10am–1pm on Saturdays.  Sue is happy to talk with you, and can be contacted on 0439498636, at mindfulpractice@gmail.com, or more information can be found at naturaltherapypages.com.au/therapist/susanbrownlee/30485.

27 June 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Who is pulling your strings?

“Roxon rejects plea on drugs.”

MS Australia blocks access to lifestyle therapy.

The first headline actually came from the front-page of The Age, 21st June 2011. Have not seen the second one yet, but the first made me wonder why? How come the drug companies are so good at getting widespread coverage, when non-patentable things like therapeutic lifestyle changes are ignored?

Maybe it is because of a perceived lack of evidence. Well, consider this. The published research that evaluated the outcomes for people with MS who attended the Gawler Foundation’s residential program Prof. George Jelinek and I established, demonstrated results that no known drug comes close to matching.

This research re-tested people one year and 2.5 years after attending the program. Over this period, the normal expectancy for people with MS is that their mental health and physical health would both steadily deteriorate. Whether on drug treatment or not, and in the absence of a definitive meta- analysis of the wide number of studies that have examined this question broadly, it seems reasonable to suggest that the average deterioration in physical and mental health over this time frame would be about 5%.

So what did our people show? After one year, the specific MS mental health composite figure (a figure that aggregates a number of relevant psychological assessments) had improved by 13%. Was it all in the mind? How about this? The physical health composite figure actually improved by 15%!

What about at 2.5 years? Better or worse? Did the benefits stick? Well no, they got even better! The mental health composite was now up by 15%, physical health by 17%.

There is no known MS drug that has shown these levels of benefit. In our study, the people did not get worse, they got statistically significantly better! Can you imagine the front-page news that such a break-through drug would produce? So what happened with our research?

Well first, it was quite hard to even get a medical journal to publish it. Then, no front-page news. Not even any page 17 news. We were fortunate that the ABC’s 7.30 Report ran a good story on George and the results; but then no other media took it up.

And MS Australia? Well the Gawler Foundation had arranged with their Blackburn office to recommence presenting the 12 week lifestyle based program that was presented there back in the early days when we first commenced the residential programs. But that was cancelled.

MS Australia to their credit used to hand out copies of George’s book to any newly diagnosed MS patient that asked for it (many of these books were actually paid for by a private benefactor). That service was also stopped.

It would be nice to think there was some sound reason for these two cancellations; but they did cause me to wonder. If a drug was blocked or withdrawn that was as effective as this program, we would have the headlines like at the heading of this blog.

Are the drug companies so good at convincing the public, the health professionals and the media that health solutions are their exclusive domain and the only thing worth taking seriously?

Surely it is obvious that Nicola Roxon rejected the new drugs requested for the PBS because the Government simply cannot afford them. Surely it is obvious that lifestyle related disease is lowering life expectancies generally and fuelling the explosion in chronic degenerative diseases. Surely it is obvious that the treatment of chronic, degenerative, lifestyle related diseases starts with a healthy, therapeutic lifestyle. Surely it is obvious that a lifestyle program is relatively cheap and very cost effective. The MS research demonstrates the potency of such a remedy.

What is missing is widespread support for the uptake of a therapeutic lifestyle – as a treatment. All too often we still hear of people with MS or cancer who are taking their lifestyles seriously being dismissed by their friends. “There, there dear, a little bit of this won’t hurt you”. Rubbish. Do it often enough and it may well incapacitate you if you have MS, or even kill you if you have cancer. How often do we hear of well-meaning, but one has to conclude uninformed doctors dismissing the therapeutic benefits of lifestyle changes?

It is about time families, friends, health professionals and the media gave the therapeutic benefits of lifestyle changes their due recognition and active support.

For the doctors, anyone diagnosed these days with either MS or cancer needs to be counselled at first diagnosis regarding their lifestyle, just as would happen for anyone diagnosed with heart disease or type2 diabetes. I contend that given the evidence, not to do this probably constitutes professional negligence. If there was a drug with the same benefits, and it was not recommended, that would be negligent, so why not with lifestyle intervention?

For the media – for goodness sake, get past the incessant publicity machine of the drug companies and support people in need. A healthy lifestyle offers so much, yet making personal change is not so easy and I suspect many people do not even know how potent it can be. Here the media has the potential to be a driving force in improving recovery rates from major illness, and to preventing them as well.

For friends and family? Recognise the importance of what someone with MS or cancer eats and drinks, whether they exercise or not, the quality of their relationships, the state of their mind, whether they meditate or not, their spiritual views. These things do affect their health, their state of mind, their mobility, even their survival. Making lifestyle changes and sustaining them for life requires good and active support. The best way to do this if you really care about someone, is to share in the changes; to actually make them yourself. Of course to do this has a potentially major side effect, chronic good health for yourself!

Finally, a disclosure of interest statement. I no longer work for the Gawler Foundation or present the MS programs. George does, along with staff from the Foundation. I do continue to actively promote a healthy lifestyle and support people actively working on their health and wellbeing. So my vested interest here is in the health and wellbeing of people with MS and cancer. My concern is that the media and the system are letting them down and we all need to do something more about it. I do recommend anyone with MS or cancer to attend the Gawler Foundation’s programs. In my informed opinion, there are no residential programs anywhere else in the world that have such a body of experience to draw upon, have such a high quality or are as truly comprehensive in their scope. Let your friends and your politicians know.


1. This blog was written initially for George Jelinek's website Overcomingmultiplesclerosis - see below for the link. As it touches on issues that may be of interest to a wide audience, it seemed like a good idea to post it on my blog too.

2. Last weekend's Darwin workshops were well attended by a wide range of people from  the local and far reaching communities, including a very keen oncology nurse who flew from Alice Springs to attend. The organiser Alex, had me laughing more than I have for a while when, being a long-term, recovered patient himself, as well as the organiser, he was interviewed on ABC radio. At first I was a little apprehensive when he said he personally offered a guarantee for the weekend. Then he said if people did not feel better when they left compared to when they arrived, he would refund their misery at the door. It still makes me laugh!

3. Bunbury all day Wednesday, then Perth for workshops on the weekend, July 2nd and 3rd - details on the website - click here.


RESEARCH   click here


Recovery from MS is possible

Eating for recovery


Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis; George Jelinek

You Can Conquer Cancer; Ian Gawler

The Mind That changes Everything; Ian Gawler


For Prof Jelinek

The Gawler Foundation

For Ian Gawler


The Gawler Foundation

Residential:  Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis – healing program for MS

                                         Life and Living - for people with cancer

Non residential - see the website