04 March 2013

Meditation in the Desert

PLEASE NOTE: This blog relates to Meditation in the Desert 2013. Ruth and I will be presenting this retreat again in August 2014. FOR DETAILS : CLICK HERE  (Addendum December 2013)

For thousands of years, deserts have been places of inspiration for those on the spiritual journey. To enter into the central Australian desert is like entering into a “meditative field”. There is something about this place; maybe it is the fact that the land here is so ancient, maybe it is the vast blue sky, the incredible array of stars at night.

Maybe it is the fact that the Indigenous Australians survived here for tens of thousands of years, imbuing their country with their rituals and respect and knowledge. In this way, maybe going into the Australian desert is like going to India, where the atmosphere of the spiritual focus in life is palpably in the air; in the ground itself.

Ruth and I have the good fortune of a long and close connection with this central desert. Ruth lived in Alice Springs for 10 years, working in Aboriginal health and then a community general practice. I seem to have been magnetically drawn there on a regular basis for 25 years.

So after many requests it is on again! For the fifth time, Meditation in the Desert will provide the opportunity to share a unique meditation experience in the remarkable Central Australian landscape. An opportunity to unwind, reconnect with your own true nature, and experience something of Australia’s ancient land and culture. Seven days of meditation will be followed by an extraordinary time sitting with traditional elders, the indigenous custodians of this unique environment.

Overseas visitors could find this a great addition to an Australian tour and there is an early bird discount available for everyone if you book and pay before the end of March.

But first, before more details:

Thought for the Day

You must train the mind like a muscle. 
If you want to train your body you must practise exercise regularly. 
Likewise, if you want to train your mind you must practise meditation on a day-to-day basis. 
You will not be able to carry a heavy load with weak muscles. 
Training is a gradual process. 
                                                                          Garchen Rinpoche

Meditation in the Desert will be held again at the heritage listed Hamilton Downs Youth Camp, a converted pioneer’s cattle station homestead about 120kms NW of Alice Springs.

We will be in the beautiful desert landscape north of the Western MacDonnell Ranges, with this the actual view:

While meditation is the main focus, we use the gentle sharing of our personal stories as a way of helping to deepen and integrate the experience.

The Program:
I will be providing a well structured and in depth teaching on the practice of meditation. This will be supported and extended by an exploration of Buddhist mind science and philosophy, in a way that is accessible to all. The teaching sessions will be supported by the meditation practice sessions that follow each day. Meditation in the Desert is open to anyone who is ready to deepen their meditation and spiritual growth in the context of the heart of our land and our Indigenous heritage. It is intended for people from all spiritual traditions or of no particular faith.

The structure of the retreat builds steadily with the intention of guiding both those newer to meditation and established meditators into a more direct and profound experience of meditation.  Participants will find that the extraordinary spaciousness and atmosphere of the desert will support and further deepen their experience.  It is a wonderful opportunity!

The retreat includes walking meditation and basic Hatha Yoga led by Ruth each day. There is a longer break in the afternoons, to rest and relax amidst the peace and silence of the meditative space this desert landscape provides.

Traditional Aboriginal Elders - a rare opportunity for an authentic cultural exchange.
The retreat includes several days being with senior members of the local Arrente and Walpiri tribes. They may teach us how to gather food, make boomerangs, dress and dance… with generosity, humor and a translator!

This provides a unique opportunity to meet and learn from a spiritual tradition that is at the heart of Australia’s history. It helps us to connect with these remarkable people, the land and ourselves in a truly unique way.

More Practical Details:
The retreat includes being picked up by bus in Alice Springs and taken to Hamilton Downs, then at the end of the retreat being returned to Alice Springs, or the airport.

Many people enjoy sleeping out in a swag (provided) amidst the beauty and spaciousness of the night sky, the desert and its magical quality. However, there is also dormitory-style accommodation for those who prefer that.

Be aware that this is a remote location with no internet or telephone access except in real emergencies, so good health and an enthusiasm to be in such an environment is a pre-requisite for attending.

Dates:   Friday 6th  September to Sunday 15th September, 2013

We meet informally in Alice Springs on the evening of Friday 6th September at 5pm. Then on Saturday 7th  September around 8am we travel by bus to Hamilton Downs to formally begin the retreat.

The retreat concludes in Alice Springs on Sunday 15th September, when the bus returns around 4pm. The bus can then also take people to the airport after that time, after it has dropped participants in the town centre and the main hotel.

Cost:  $1970    Reserve a place with a non-refundable deposit of $200, balance due 31st July 2013.

Early bird discount of $1850 if fully paid by the end of March 2013.

The cost includes transportation between Alice Springs and Hamilton Downs, the accommodation in Hamilton Downs, meals at Hamilton Downs, meditation program, a swag (if desired) and all activities at Hamilton Downs. It does not include airfares or travel to Alice Springs. We encourage you to book your airline tickets as soon as possible (we have already) as the flights and seats to Alice Springs often book up early.

Travel insurance is encouraged as we will not be able to provide refunds after 16th August 2013.
Meditation in the Forest starts in a few weeks and is fully booked, so registering early may make sense.

Tour the Central Desert 

Many participants will use the opportunity of being in this part of the country to take a trip to Uluru (Ayers Rock), Wattaka (Kings Canyon) and KataJuta (The Olgas).

You could make your own arrangements for this, however, the same people who are providing the catering (high quality vegetarian food) at the retreat are offering a 4 day add-on tour.

The 4-day Ouback Tour needs to be booked separately through Remote Tours and departs Monday 16th September for 4 days. Passengers will be picked up from their chosen accommodation in Alice Springs.

Ruth and I intend to join in with this tour, but we will not conduct any formal program during this time.

For full details of the add on tour, click here.

We have arranged a special price for participants of $880 per person and this includes all guided walks, cultural tours, meals, park entrance and camping fees, and transfers.

Add on tour enquiries and bookings: Contact  reg@remote-tours.com.au or call + 61 8 89537012, or mobile 0425 210 820 and they will organise all details from there. Or visit the Remote Tours website

More retreat details: click here.

Enquiries and bookings for the retreat, email info@insighthealth.com.au or call +61 3 59666130

Reflections on a retreat

Retreat and go forwards

1. Surviving Cancer - Public Talk in Melbourne CBD

Myself and three other cancer thrivers share their experiences. Peter Roberts joins me with his harp to lead meditation. Bring your family, friends and colleagues. Be inspired, be informed, support this work and those actively engaged with it.

Tuesday, March 5th, St Michaels on Collins, 120 Collins St, Melbourne form 6.30 to 8.30pm; light supper at 6.30pm. No need to book, $20 and $15 concession. All procedes to the Gawler Foundation.

2. A New Way of Living - Weekend workshops around the country
My weekend workshops that will focus this year on the best ways to prevent and overcome cancer are rapidly approaching. Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and then quite a number of regional events. For full details link to my website by clicking here.

3. The tomatoes are on!
For those who remember the blog about the easy way to plant tomatoes (Back a winner), it has been a good year. Picked about 20 Kgms of lovely organic tomatoes last weekend and turned them into pasta sauce for the winter. Yummy!


  1. Hi Ian. Elizabeth and I love the Australian desert. The ground glows, hums and thrums with energy. The presence of indigenous spirituality is palpable and always renewing. We are very busy at that time of the year, and will see what we can do about attending.

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