29 October 2012

Ian Gawler Blog: Deep natural peace

Deep natural peace. The experience of meditation. Really regenerative; feels great! Fresh back from being on retreat myself, I am inspired to share something of how being on retreat deepened my own experience of meditation- even after all these years – and what insights this experience has led to in terms of being able to impart these personal benefits to you in a way that will deepen your own experience of meditation and increase the benefits. But first:

Thought for the Day
        If you want to know the taste of a banana
       All you need to do is peel one and eat it.
       If you want to know the essence of meditation
       Go on a retreat and immerse yourself in it.

So what is this thing called “Deep natural peace”? Well actually, it is a natural state. Deeply content, deeply relaxed, deeply at peace. A natural state, there inside each one of us, all of the time.

Really? But what if my experience of life is far from this? What if my life seems full-on busy, if things are pretty frantic and out of balance? What if my health is not so good? Where is this inner peace?

Consider this. When you first go into a busy room, it is all the activity and noise that is so very obvious. Yet we know, there is a potential silence, a stillness, within the room all the time. As soon as everyone leaves, or as soon as they all sit quietly, there it is. The silence, the stillness is very obvious. It was always there, almost like a constant background. It did not need to be created. It was simply there quite naturally.

This is very much like the natural peace within each one of us. When all our busyness does stop, our own inner stillness or silence becomes self-evident. The fact is that this inner stillness was always there, is always there; it is just that all our activity commonly obscures it from being experienced.

Now what makes this so important is that when we do stop, when we do rest simply and deeply, everything comes back into its natural state of balance. Resting in this state of inner balance is deeply regenerative, deeply healing. Also, this inner balance leads to great creativity, a great capacity to get things done, a great joy. By stopping for a while and regaining our balance, we can do so much more – in comfort and ease. So how to do it?

Meditation of course! As so many know, when we meditate in a way that leads to deep relaxation of body and mind, we simply return to this natural state of deep, natural peace and its accompanying state of balance.

When it does come time to meditate, if your mind is able to settle naturally of its own accord, then it can be that simple. In a sense we are simply aiming to let go of the busyness and be still. There is nothing we need to do.

Sounds straight forward enough! However, the vast majority of us may find it difficult to arrive at that state straight away. Our minds are so used to being busy that we need a method.

This is where going on retreat can be so helpful. A retreat provides this wonderful opportunity to leave our normal daily routines behind for a while, to leave any busyness, any pressures and to enter into our own natural inner peace.

For this reason, places of retreat have traditionally been chosen that have this peaceful atmosphere - deserts, mountains, tall tree forests. Then, if this is a place where meditation has been practiced for years, you can well imagine all you need to do in such a place is to relax into it. To enter into its deep, natural peace. Add the support of a genuine meditation teacher and how much more benefit still?

I was fortunate recently to attend a retreat that offered all these possibilities. I was genuinely amazed by the deeper level of benefit I experienced, not withstanding the fact I have been a regular, daily meditator for many years.

What I noticed was the significantly greater level of physical relaxation that came through meditating for longer periods and having the time to focus on letting go more profoundly. This experience reinforced the knowing of just how important longer periods of meditation are for those who are not so well generally, and particularly for those recovering from major illness. But also, for those who are involved in busy lives – which seems to be most of us – just how valuable it is to take time out at least once each year, to enter into the retreat atmosphere and re-experience, re-establish the balance that comes with deep, natural peace.

What was further evident, was that this deeper level of relaxation flowed through into a wonderful feeling of inner peace; a peace out of which insight and creativity and contentment seemed to flow quite naturally.

So Ruth and I are really inspired to lead meditation retreats again next year. It is a great joy to be able to offer the pre-Easter “Meditation in the Forest” retreat at the Foundation’s comfortable Yarra Valley Centre. This place does have the environment, the atmosphere, that is restful and deeply regenerative. We deliberately design our retreats to be of middling intensity – combining instruction, lots of group practice led by Ruth and myself, as well as providing free time for contemplation, personal practice and simple rest.

“Meditation in the Forest” is intended to provide the experience of deep, natural peace and all that flows from it. Registering early is wise as the accommodation is limited. The dates are March 22 – 28th, 2013. Click here for the full details and how to book.


Retreat and go forward

Slow down and go faster

22 October 2012

Ian Gawler Blog: Curiosity, humour and exercise

Now for something different. Laughter is the best medicine, knowledge the best tonic; so here we combine the two with some great insights into where common expressions come from. However, if all else fails and laughter leaves you flat, there is more recent and compelling research on the benefits of exercising regularly - and how much to do. But first

Thought for the day:

I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. 
But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: 
'No good in a bed, but fine against a wall.'
                                                                        - Eleanor Roosevelt

The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature is not just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some tall tales and true from the 1500s:

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.  The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.  Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water!"

Houses had thatched roofs, thick straw piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof.  When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof.  Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, "Dirt Poor."

Sometimes people could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon, to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, "Bring home the Bacon."

They would cut off a little, to share with guests and would all sit around talking and  ''Chew the fat''.

Bread was divided, according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or ''The Upper Crust''.

There is an old Pub in Marble Arch, London, which used to have a gallows adjacent to it. Prisoners were taken to the gallows, (after a fair trial of course) to be hung. The horse drawn dray, carting the prisoner, was accompanied by an armed guard, who would stop the dray outside the pub and ask the prisoner if  he would like ''One last drink?'' If he said “Yes”, it was referred to as “One for the road”; if he declined, that prisoner was “On the wagon”.

In those older times, they used urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot and then once a day it was taken & sold to the tannery. If you had to do this to survive you were, "Piss Poor".

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of ''Holding a Wake''.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So, they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive.

So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, thread it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night, (“the graveyard shift”) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, ''Saved by the Bell '' or was considered a “Dead ringer”.   

Now, whoever said history was boring!


1. If laughter fails, exercise! 

Although a growing body of evidence has demonstrated that exercise lowers the risk of developing cancer, and aids in recovery, it seems that the message is not reaching those who need it most.

Many cancer patients do not engage in physical activity or discuss the subject with their oncologists, according to a study published in the July issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

“What we found in our study is that the patients were not exercising," said lead author Andrea L. Cheville, MD, from the Mayo Clinic.

Many studies have shown that exercise, both during and after the end of active treatment, can improve quality of life for patients. The evidence was strengthened with the recent publication of 2 reviews (Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;8:CD008465, CD007566).

Both found that exercise has a beneficial effect on a number of health-related quality-of-life domains, including cancer-specific concerns, body image/self-esteem, emotional wellbeing, sexuality, sleep disturbance, and social functioning. In addition, exercise was found to reduce anxiety, fatigue, and pain.

"There is a real disconnect between clinical trials of exercise and the real world," Dr. Cheville noted. "There is all this great research, but … changing behavior requires more than just counseling, and patients need a support system," she noted.


It has been clear for years that regular exercise helps prevent most illnesses you would prefer not to get; and has major quality of life and survival benefits for people with chronic degenerative disease, especially cancer. The trick is to do it. It seems half an hour of preferably weight bearing exercise, 4-5 times weekly does the trick.

Weightbearing exercise is any activity you do while on your feet and legs that works your muscles and bones against gravity. Weightbearing exercises includes walking, jogging, dancing, step aerobic, ball games, golf, stair climbing and many gym exercises. Exercises that are non-weightbearing include swimming and cycling.

But there is a mystery in cancer medicine. For example, the available evidence indicates that for women with breast cancer, chemotherapy increases 5 year survival in absolute terms by about 3.5 to 4.5%. Women receive enormous pressure to accept it and great support while having it. Exercising around half an hour to an hour most days increases 5 year survival by around 7.5% - almost double, yet experience tells us many women still are not being informed of its benefits and most receive very little support to actually exercise. If Evidence Based Medicine is the guiding light for modern medicine, this is an area in need of urgent attention.

This is one area wherein family and friends can provide immediate help. It is not so easy to find the motivation and energy to exercise regularly when you are not well, and yes owning an active dog certainly helps, but better still, arrange a roster to share in regular walks or whatever the person affected finds most useful and practical.

2. The Gawler Foundation's Annual Conference is rapidly approaching. This year I will be speaking on the therapeutic benefits of dietary change and what is best to eat on the road to recovery. This event is a great opportunity to meet up with old friends and colleagues, along with many new and like-minded people.

15 October 2012

Jet lag - the top 10 cures

Ever had jet lag? I tried it once. It was horrible! Felt like I had been hit over the head, thoughts fuzzy, sleepy through the day, could not sleep at night. Appetite gone. Yep, once was enough.

That was over twenty years ago, and many international flights later, happily I have never had it again. This week, my top 10 ways to cure jet lag and travel comfortably, but first:

Thought for the day

We shall not cease from exploration, 
And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And to know the place for the first time.
                                                           T.S. Eliot

Jet lag is like most things. The best way to cure it, is not to get it. So here are 10 great ways to avoid jet lag: 

No. 1  Have attitude at altitude. 
It is all in the mind – well almost all. Expect the best; affirm you will be jet lag free and you are well on the way. Conversely expect to suffer and you are setting up a wish fulfilling prophecy. With a strong and clear intention, you are more likely to do the things that work and avoid those things that aggravate jetlag.

Reinforce your positive expectations with self-talk and visualization of travelling and arriving fit and well, especially if jet lag has been a problem in the past.

No 2  Arrive before you get there
Set your clock for the time zone you are flying to before take-off; and then follow that time. This means staying awake or sleeping depending upon the new time-zone. For long flights, I start to anticipate the new time zone a day or two before departure – this links with the visualization mentioned in No 1.

No 3  One trip at a time
Unless in Business Class, and if it is possible, break the journey with a stop-over on really long flights. Eg 10 – 12 hours max travel in one day, then a stopover is ideal.

No 4  Drink a lot of the right things
Cabin air is very dry and it is easy to dehydrate. Water is the best to drink – and lots of it. Avoid orange juice that adds to the acidity build up that can easily occur while flying. Apple and tomato juices are OK in modest amounts. Tea and coffee are better avoided and especially avoid alcohol - it messes with your head and your liver. Free alcohol is actually very expensive!

No 5  Eat lightly and sensibly
Vegan meals are the best. As a bonus, with a special, pre-ordered meal you will be served first and the food is simple and uncomplicated. Avoid saturated fats and dairy products particularly. They have a pro-inflammatory effect; something that is really unhelpful, particularly when your body is dealing with the added pressures of flying.

Modest supplements make sense when flying. Each day while travelling, I usually take 2 gms Vit C, 2 gms of flaxseed oil in capsules, half a high strength, good quality multivitamin/mineral tablet, and take 400 mgs of easily-absorbed magnesium. Also, I make sure my Vit D levels are high well before I leave and take 5,000 mgs daily while travelling.  I take all these supplements before getting on the plane, and on long flights may take another lot during the flight.

No 6  Meditate
This may be the most powerful key for avoiding jet lag and being comfortable. Meditation is known to produce good amounts of natural melatonin, the master hormone that regulates so many bodily functions, including sleep patterns and most jet lag related symptoms.

The challenge can be to relax and meditate in a potentially stressful, highly distracting environment. For experienced meditators, this challenge can serve to focus your mind and deepen your meditation.

For beginners, you may be wise to take some assistance on board in the form of guided meditations on an iPod or smart phone. For those using the Mindbody Mastery program, this is an ideal time to use its portability. If you do become distracted easily, this will be a time to use a concentration type meditation, such as focusing upon counting your breath.

Remember to begin whatever meditation you do by taking time to deliberately and thoroughly relax your body.

No 7  Exercise regularly
On the plane, get up regularly for a walk around the cabin. As well, flex, bend and stretch every few hours.

If despite all this you experience fluid build up in your ankles, pressure socks are well worth considering for next time. Actually, the main message here is to wear knee high compression stockings/socks that have a rating of 15-20mmHg on flights longer than 4 hours. Most chemists can advise and supply these, or for excellent on-line help call Health Care at Home on +61 (3) 95400199 or free call 1800 634 974.

No 8  Once landed, reconnect with the ground
Go for a walk in the open air for at least half an hour as soon as possible on arrival. Ideally find a park or lawn where you can go barefoot for half that time. Aim to be outdoors, in the daylight as close as possible to dusk and dawn for the day after travelling. This helps to further reset your melatonin and time clock.

No 9  Travel light
I spent 3 months overseas recently with about 8 kgs of luggage including quite a few books. I wear as much heavy clothing as possible on the flight, and pack a minimum of every thing. Simplicity makes life easy.

No 10  If not sleep, rest
In my experience, follow 1 to 9 and all will flow smoothly. Avoid any temptation to sleep during the day and then, if by chance you do not sleep so well the first night, simply get into bed and rest at the appropriate sleep time. Sleep research shows that resting quietly, particularly if you physically relax and avoid stressing over being awake, has a similar regenerative effect to standard sleep.

Then get up the next day and enjoy your new destination.

Any jet lag experiences or tips to share? Have your say via the Comments section below.

Happy travels!



Ruth and I look forward to meeting up with those who follow the blog, those we have met through previous programs and those we will meet over the weekend. We both enjoy talking through the breaks during the days, so do come and say hello.

Saturday, 20 October, 2012

When: 9.30am (for 10am start) - 4pm 
Where: Veterinary Science Conference Centre, Webster Theatre, Sydney University

Sunday, 21 October, 2012


When: 9.30am (for 10am start) - 4pm 
Where: Veterinary Science Conference Centre, Webster Theatre, Sydney University

Bookings Essential: Call Sarah Tail 0418 22 0590 or Tina Rae (02) 4294 8361
Register on line: at www.rigpa.com.au 

2. More meditation retreats in 2013

Recently back from having the opportunity to participate in a longer retreat ourselves, Ruth and I are inspired to present 3 retreats next year. We will repeat the popular pre-Easter retreat at the Gawler Foundation's tranquil Yarra Valley centre, make the effort (it takes quite some organising) to bring back the much requested Central Australian retreat, and then offer our first meditation retreat in New Zealand later in the year. Full details in the next week or two, once the arrangements are finalised.

01 October 2012

DNA and the dangly bits

This week, more important news about telomeres, their links to ageing and cancer and what to do about it. Then some more useful feedback from the recent blog survey, and a glimpse of things to come as a result. 

Also, I must say how good it is to be back home after a long and wonderful trip and retreat overseas. More of that next week, but first:

Thought for the Day

I do not want to achieve immortality through the legacy of my work
I want to achieve immortality by not dying
                                                                            Woody Allen
Good luck with that fantasy!!!

Telomere length, the risk of cancer and cancer mortality
Some of you may have seen this post already. It had a few days on the blog having been posted in error while I was travelling home. If so, my apologies and maybe you skip to the feedback.

Telomeres are nucleoprotein complexes at the end of our DNA. The dangly bits! Telomeres shorten each time our cells reproduce and therefore reflect organism aging at a cellular level. At a critically short telomere length, cells loose the ability to divide and replicate, eg they die. Malignant cells, in contrast, reactivate and overexpress the enzyme telomerase that lengthens telomeres and allows for plentiful divisions.

Critically short telomeres may increase cancer risk.

Recent research investigated associations between baseline telomere length, the incidence of cancer and cancer mortality over a follow-up period of 10 years.

The conclusions reached were that there was a statistically significant inverse relationship between telomere length and both cancer incidence and mortality, suggesting that keeping telomeres long through telomerase activation could likely prevent cancer and/or increase the chance of survival for individuals who develop cancer.

Link here for the full article. REFERENCE: Peter Willeit P et al, JAMA. 2010;304(1):69-75.

It has been reported in previous blogs that telomerase levels have been shown to be increased by a healthy lifestyle and meditation. Not surprisingly, a lot of research is now searching for compounds, natural or chemical that might lengthen telomeres.

Of interest is TA-65, a Telomerase Activator that has been available for nearly 5 years and that has been used in some people with cancer.

Dr Ed Park from California reports that a metastatic lung cancer in a dog that had a leg amputated due to an osteosarcoma, and a brain cancer in a man both cleared after being on TA-65. TA-65 is a single extract from the root of the Astragalus plant.

It seems a metastatic pancreatic cancer has also been helped by Product B – a combination of natural compounds thought to lengthen telomeres.

Short videos detailing the above 3 cases can be viewed by linking here.


Know that when you are reasonably diligent with a healthy lifestyle, especially eating well, exercising and meditating regularly, you are protecting and quite possibly strengthening and extending your telomeres, and as such, your life span and good health! We just get more and more research evidence of the benefits of living well - now there is a surprise!

As a direction for research, it would be very interesting to  measure the telomere lengths of long-term, remarkable cancer survivors. If as expected, they are longer than the norm, then the question again has to be, what either keeps them long in these people, or extends them. My guess it has to do with lifestyle factors.


Telomeres, meditation and length of life



The range of practical and inspiring suggestions from the blog survey was really useful. But first, who else is reading along with you!

Most of you readers are in good health, while around a quarter are dealing with significant illness. The majority are over 50, in full or part-time work (although around a quarter are retired and there is a good percentage of younger people), and there was a high level of interest in all the common blog topics (with relationships being the exception – only half the level).

Most people have been reading the blog for over 2 months; around 90% prefer to read the blog weekly or fortnightly and most prefer guest bloggers monthly or even less frequently. Most of you forward posts frequently or occasionally and many enjoy feeling connected through the blog to other like-minded people.

There were many great suggestions for future blogs; the most immediate one I will address is how to travel well – without jet lag and illness; but with heaps of energy and delight!


Including all the latest research on telomeres!

Saturday, 20 October, 2012

When: 9.30am (for 10am start) - 4pm 
Where: Veterinary Science Conference Centre, Webster Theatre, Sydney University

Sunday, 21 October, 2012


When: 9.30am (for 10am start) - 4pm 
Where: Veterinary Science Conference Centre, Webster Theatre, Sydney University

Bookings Essential: Call Sarah Tail 0418 22 0590 or Tina Rae (02) 4294 8361
Register on line: at www.rigpa.com.au 


I will be speaking amidst a wonderful array of 20 speakers at this year's Annual Conference of the Gawler Foundation in Melbourne this November: 17 - 18. Hope to see you there - it is always a great event and a highlight of TGF's year; not the least because so many supporters, participants and friends of the Foundation gather.