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


  1. I thoroughly endorse your recommendations. In andition being in a group with masters with the skill to lead the meditation amplifies the experience. We live in an amazing age now when many people can gather together and share this experience which contrasts so markedly to mainstream media focus on gloom and doom. This weekend at Port Stephens we had a workshop with Qigong Master, Simon Blow experiencing meditation between each lesson in Guigen Qigong. It feels so good.

  2. Love this week's Thought for the Day - thanks Ian. So much is said of meditation or written about it. In my experience, nothing compares to actually doing it. I hope to make it to a retreat next year and really taste it.