12 March 2012

Ian Gawler Blog: Between a rock and a miracle

Thought for the day

‘I do not know the facts about everything
But I do know quite a lot’!

Three year old grandson – very keen to learn!

A couple of years ago I took part in something that was impossible. Absolutely impossible if you believe in physics. Absolutely impossible, but I was there, I was part of it.

In the foothills of the Himalayas, I joined a circle of eight other men, we placed one finger each under the edge of a huge oval stone, we chanted and the stone rose into the air!

I was visiting a remarkable Indian friend, a woman whom I met on my first visit to India in 1977. Piki as my friend is known, had lost her own husband to the same cancer I was trying to recover from at the time. She had us stay in her house, looked after us well and we became very good friends.

Piki went on to raise her two girls and see them both go on to study at Harvard. When they had both left home, she did what had been in her mind for many years; she left her high paying job in Mumbai and literally headed for the hills – the Himalayan hills. She settled in a remote district and quietly set about effecting major community development in a very thorough but unassuming way.

When Ruth and I visited, she took us to visit a famous local temple - the Baijnath temple of Parvati.  As far as Piki knows it was built in the 7th century by the then Raja of the Chand dynasty, who belonged to Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh. The Parvati statue is considered so valuable that there is a round the clock guard  - particularly since there was an attempt to rob it some years ago.

As far as the stone is concerned the history seems to be a little fuzzy. It would seem that a holy seer during the Chand dynasty said that the stone could only be lifted when 9 people touched it and the origins of the chant are equally unclear.

What I do know is that we managed to find eight other men. Two were Scandinavian tourists (that is true too!), three we recruited from a scratch game of cricket that was going on nearby, and the other two were locals somewhat taken in by my appearance and the prospect of something to do!

The rock was simply lying in the sand outside the temple. It looked innocuous enough, but very heavy. It was so big I doubt if two strong people could have lifted it in the conventional manner.

We gathered our crew and formed a circle around it. There was no preamble. The three cricketers had done it before and they told us the chant. The nine of us each placed one finger under it and we began to chant.

The first time we tried, the rock wobbled a bit and we all fell about laughing. The second time, I got the sense we all concentrated a little harder and the rock definitely lift a few centimeters off the sand.  The third time, we chanted with intent, we all seemed focused and balanced on our nine fingers, the thing just kept going up in the air. It had no right to, but it rose about 50 cms before wobbling back to earth again. This time we all cheered, but for those new to it, there was a profound sense of incredulity.

Now I have seen a few “miraculous “ things in my time, but this was right out there. The skeptics would have a field day with it, but I not only saw it, I took part in this one.

So what happened next? Well, we all talked about it. The Scandinavians reckoned this alone made their trip worthwhile. But I suspect that like me, they went home and life went on as usual.

So here is the challenge. If and when we do see something that is completely foreign to how we think things should be or how they should happen, what do we do? I know when I did see and take part in the miraculous healing in the Philippines it did open my mind and help me to realize more was possible than my veterinary training and western way of thinking believed to be so.

But I came home from the rock trip and some months later lifted some really heavy timber in the conventional way. It took about six months before my strained hip was back to its normal self. Was there another way? Could I have focused my mind, chanted and made it easy? Who knows? Fact is I did not. I have no trouble accepting the miracle of the rising stone, but I cannot comprehend it, I cannot find a way to employ what I experienced.

So I sometimes think of these skeptic doctors who have been trained so thoroughly to think in a particular way. They just love science and “the evidence”. It may seem to some people they have a rather limited way of thinking, that they only accept the evidence that comes out of a peer reviewed journal and tend to ignore the evidence of life as it unfolds before them in the form of what they tend to dismiss as “anecdotes”.

But when someone has an unexpected recovery, it has all the hallmarks of a miracle; given that a good definition of a miracle is something we have no known explanation for. So when some doctors are confronted by a “miraculous” recovery, it is not surprising they have trouble believing it.

Now it would seem that to some of those skeptics I appear to commit the “heresy” of saying I understand something of the "miracle" of remarkable cancer recoveries. In fact, this particular miracle I understand quite well, just as many other people do. I, along with many colleagues have been teaching people how to repeat it for over thirty years. Now I cannot tell you how many people who came to my groups, recovered, went back to their doctors and were told they must have been misdiagnosed!

To me, given the rock experience, that response is understandable to a degree, but on another level, it smacks of intellectual laziness. To have something new and unexpected occur in front of your eyes, and to deny it or to attack it rather than investigate it is profoundly unscientific.

So maybe I need to go back to the rock. I have never denied it or attacked it, but maybe there is more for us to understand, more that we can do! Human potential is an amazing thing.


1. As a matter of interest, Piki Chatterji’s second book "The JamunTree" has just been published - it is a story about the development work she has been involved with the past 25 years and more. And as the World Bank is involved in one of the projects she has written about, they organized a launch for the book back in January.

2. New study shows chemotherapies adverse cognitive effects lasts twice as long.

(Comment: This study reinforces the need to attend to your lifestyle while undergoing chemotherapy. There is the obvious need to maximise the benefits and minimise potential side effects.)

The cognitive effects of chemotherapy may last more than twice as long as previously thought, a new study of breast cancer survivors suggests.

Previous research indicated chemotherapy was related to poorer cognitive performance up to ten years after treatment. The new study expands this period, showing cognitive effects can last more than twenty years.

The paper, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, tested almost 300 women between the ages of 50 and 80 who had been treated with adjuvant cyclo- phosmamide, methotrexate, and fluoroacil (CMF) chemotherapy an average of 21 years earlier.

Researchers found their processing speed, executive functioning, psychomotor speed, and immediate and delayed verbal memory were all “significantly worse” than a control group of women who had never had cancer.

The authors cautioned that the impact of their study was tempered by the fact that CMF was “no longer the most optimal adjuvant therapy for early-stage breast cancer,” and admitted it was impossible to glean if they were applicable to other forms of chemotherapy.

Given advances in treatment are increasing the number of long-term breast cancer survivors, their research into long-term cognitive effects was “highly relevant”, they said.

Reference: Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2012; 10.1200/JCO.2011.37.0189

3. Study finds Vitamin A reduces melanoma but experts doubtful.

(Comment: This is an interesting finding given some of the adverse publicity Vit A has received in recent times.)

Vitamin A intake may be associated with a significant reduction in melanoma risk among women, a new US study shows, but Australian experts are dubious.

After analysing the melanoma risk in about 70,000 people who took vitamin A supplements the California-based researchers concluded high-dose (41,200 mg per day) supplemental retinol was associated with reduced melanoma risk, particularly in women.
Reference: Journal of Investigative Dermatology doi:10.1038/jid.2012.21


BOOKS: The Mind that Changes Everything

               Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda - a great story of direct experiences with the Indian holy men and miracle workers.


  1. Hi Ian, What a great event to be part of. It got me thinking of two things:

    1. Magic is a procedure to the magician.
    2. Miracles are the release of natural/cosmic life processes.

    You're really good and helping people embrace both.

  2. What an amazing story , thankyou for sharing it. It certainly helped to open my mind that little bit further.


  3. I am so happy to cyber-meet you, Ian! I came across your name in another cancer-related blog and no doubt, we are kindred spirits. I truly believe in the power of intent, and am depending on it (intent, prayer, positive thinking, meditation, visualizations etc.) to cure my stage 3 breast cancer.
    Cancer Warrior

  4. The more I have thought about this, the more I recognise how hard it is to change my way of thinking, and how hard it is for others. It helps to understand the problem, I hope to be able to do something about it for myself

  5. Hi Ian, I so agree with you... I believe in miracles. My recovery from MS - with no medication but food as medicine and how my inner voice guided me along is proof that there is something beyond the ordinary at work...