13 August 2013

Ian Gawler Blog: Learning, money and Four Corners

I have to confess to being a little excited this week as Ruth and I launch our new webstore. To celebrate we have some great specials featuring discounted meditation CDs, a great new concept with Starter Packs, and for the first time, all our CDs are now available as MP3 downloads and on special for 2 weeks! Postage is free for all Australian orders over $70. To connect, CLICK HERE

And then it does seem timely to have some discussion around the financial issues involved with teaching a person to fish – metaphorically that is. Plus there is news of a Four Corners program that I had some part in that will go to air Monday, 19th August. But first,

Thought for the day
If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. 
If you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime
Chinese Proverb

The camellias and magnolias in the garden 
are spectacular, so here are a few: 

It is an interesting thing to work in the “Health Industry”. I remember back in 1973 when I first began working as a veterinarian in my own practice, how confronting some of the money issues were. What to charge? What to do when owners say “we cannot afford to pay”, or did not want to pay, or thought things too expensive? How do you put a price on an animal’s health, or even moreso, their life?

I was caring for people’s pets, often the embodiments of their emotional lives, as well as for those magnificent, compliant yet powerful creatures we know and love as horses, plus a few farm animals that bore the brunt of food production.

And then courtesy of my own illness I moved into human health, most particularly the charged atmosphere of cancer medicine. And here I was, not handing out a metaphorical fish to eat, like a drug or some other possibly very valid external form of treatment. No, here I was attempting to teach people “how to fish”, how to manage their own health, healing, recovery and long-term wellbeing.

How do you price that? People have told me that they believed my book “You Can Conquer Cancer” saved their life. How do you price that? $34.95. Seems reasonable enough!

But now, here is a little known secret. When I began to run cancer groups in 1981, I wanted to do it using a donation system. I discussed this at length with my main mentor of the time, Dr Ainslie Meares, and he convinced me that in our culture, people put little value on what they get for free; that they relate price to value and even to meaning and significance.

I often wonder how this work would have developed if we had charged twice as much? What about four times? But I opted to charge at the minimal end of the scale and while people may not be aware, for many years the Gawler Foundation programs have been subsidised by fundraising in a way that reduces everyone’s fees by around 25 to 30%.

The Transcendental Meditation group provide an interesting contrast, charging a large amount for their TM courses and being very successful both in making TM widely used and having a stable and sustainable financial system. Another thing their extra income enabled was the funding of major research which in turn has played a formative role in establishing the credibility of meditation in the scientific world.

Anyway, in the early days I wrote books and recorded tapes then CDs to help people learn and be supported in applying what I valued. In the beginning I was very shy about recommending my own material. It actually took years to get over that hang-up and realise that was acting like a schoolteacher who was not telling their students about the textbooks they needed. Like asking people to learn to fish without the manual to refer back to. Or if you prefer, how to grow carrots without a good gardening reference book.

So, being over that, Ruth and I are excited to be able to offer our resources on line again. We used to do this through the Gawler Foundation, but they upgraded their website some months back and dropped their webstore.

Creating our own has been a 3 month process and we have had terrific help from Joel Whitford – very skilled web developer, designer; great with words, highly systematic and thoughtful, creative, great communicator. Made the process a creative delight.

Creating our own store has meant we can offer more detailed suggestions for people with specific interest or needs around meditation, nutrition, the power of the mind and healing. One reminder, if you do download an MP3, the process is relatively easy via computer or android phone (especially if you are under or have access to someone under 30!), but if you want to listen on a Mac device like iPhone or iPad, you need to download via computer, transfer into iTunes and then sync with your device. There is a pdf available on the site and that is sent with each download that explains all this in detail.

 So please do check it out, we hope you find it helpful and that proverbially you catch many good quality, sustainable fish; or if you prefer, grow heaps of excellent organic carrots!

Anyway, do have a look, maybe take advantage of a bargain and do give us your feedback; we are always keen to do things even better. Postage is free for all Australian orders over $70.

To connect CLICK HERE


1. Next workshop in the Melbourne region: 
Mt Macedon on Saturday August 24th, 10am (arr 9.30) to 4.30pm

Duneira is an exquisite heritage hill station property on the slopes of Mt Macedon. The garden is like a meditative space, so beautiful and filled with majestic trees. I love being there!

Then the house itself is grand enough to host good sized but still quite intimate events. There is a tradition now at Duneira of hosting community events that range from music to personal development and Ruth and I have become regulars.

So, fancy a nice drive to a beautiful place for a meaningful event? If so, CLICK HERE

2. Retreats / Trainings filling 
If anyone is still thinking of joining us in the desert, we could take a couple more, so let us know very soon. Details: CLICK HERE

Training/retreat with Dr Nimrod Sheinman, Ruth and myself in the Yarra Valley is filling steadily, so if interested, book directly with the Gawler Foundation. Details: CLICK HERE

Ruth and I are leading our first meditation retreat in New Zealand in December at the beautiful Mana Retreat centre that has a similar high reputation for a good environment and great food as the Foundation. Details: CLICK HERE

Specifically for people who have attended a CanLive program in NZ, or Gawler Foundation program. November 18 – 22 at Wanaka out of Queenstown - one of the most beautiful environments there is. Details: CLICK HERE

The ABC documentary program Four Corners is planning to screen what could be a very significant program on Monday 19th August (available via streaming shortly thereafter). Initially the program was to investigate current mainstream cancer research and treatment, and compare costs and outcomes with the more integrative approach.

Early in the program’s development I was told “we want to look at the costs, over-utilization and efficacy of drugs; and the influence of pharmaceutical companies on research findings and promotion of cancer medicines. We also want to have a look at the most up-to-date research on integrative medicine in cancer treatment.

“As always, to tell this story we will be hoping to engage with real people grappling with decisions about their own cancer treatments. We would very much like to engage with the Gawler Foundation and film with cancer patients taking part in your program - people who may have experienced conflict in deciding about their own treatments, or tried one way and then gone another who could help us illustrate the complex issues our audience can engage with. We are very mindful of telling a balanced story, as I know are you.”

I was very enthusiastic, helped connecting Four Corners with relevant patients and their families, and was filmed by them presenting some of my recent Sydney workshop.

Unfortunately, as the program developed, the focus needed to narrow. It seems that covering the cost/benefits of new cancer drugs adequately is big enough! So again I was told “It is a disappointment that our thesis has gone in a direction that doesn't allow for inclusion of the Gawler program and lifestyle medicine in the story… We still very much hope to provide a forum for discussion about where we are going in future with cancer treatments, their cost to the community and the individual, and the bar we set for acceptance of new drugs onto the market…. I remain hopeful that we will do another story around these issues, and I hope you would be prepared to be as generous again with your time if we can do so.”

So do watch the program, do be a little socially active. Give the program feedback. Encourage them. Say what you do like about the program. Say we want to see Lifestyle Medicine in cancer investigated. Ask why is it that something that is so cost-effective, that is so empowering and that has so many benefits as Lifestyle Medicine does, is not part of the mainstream treatment of cancer everywhere? By contrast, why do expensive treatments with high side-effect profiles and often small gains get so much support from the medical world and the wider community?

Hopefully the Four Corners program will break the apparent taboo that has existed for too long around discussing in public the cost/benefits of modern oncology and it will beg the question, what else is there that can help people to manage their cancer, their treatments, and their recoveries? This may well be a good time to speak up.


  1. hmm interesting - 4 corners is an excellent program - I can sort of understand what has happened - they think it is a bridge too far and too much for one program - it possibbly is for a mainstream audience - even if it is the ABC ! - the Gawler program etc is probably a show in itself - they will probably do it one day - good advice to encouage them in that direction

  2. Dear Ian,

    I came to Australia from Singapore to attend your 10 day residential programme in 2008 after my surgery for ovarian cancer. I am most grateful for the programme and well now. I have 2 questions - I am currently reading the current version of YCCC to my friend with 3rd stage lung cancer. I bought it 2 weeks ago from Amazon as a Kindle book but the nutrition charts are unreadable even on the largest font - they are too tiny to read! the rest of the book is fine but the charts are impossible. How can I get them in readable form? 2. You recommend avoiding x-rays but my friend has been recommended x-rays every 2 weeks to monitor the development/ progress of her tumours. Is there anything else you recommend instead of x-rays? I would really appreciate your help. Julia

    1. Dear Julia, hard for me to fix Kindle, I have no idea why their formatting would diminish charts that are easy to read in the book. Sorry, the only answer may be to get the hard copy.
      Regarding diagnostic X Rays, I am not against them when really necessary to determine what to do next, but they do have a small risk that is accumulative so wherever possible I suggest to minimise them. Alternative diagnostic tests may be possible. Your friend may like to ask their doctors about this, but ultrsaounds , CT scans and MRIs are some of the possibilities. Also, if she is in a trial, sometimes it is a condition of the trial to have regular tests to find out what response there is to the trial drug, even though they may not be needed for the individual's management. Good luck with it all.

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  4. Hi Ian,

    Great blog as usual- thank you.

    There are 2 Sacred Cows in Modern medicine today which have become almost politically incorrect to question, let alone criticise.One is vaccinations and the other is cancer treatments. It is a sad reflection on medicine when doctors themselves who have doubts about these issues are too afraid to speak up, but this is exactly the situation.

    Medicine proudly claims to be "science-based" but then condemns those who question much of the flimsy science behind these two areas.

    There is far less money in teaching people how to fish, but bucketloads in feeding them. Tragedy is that much of the fish modern medicine feeds people is full of mercury, and the treatment merry-go-round continues.

    Keep up the excellent work, and best wishes to you and Ruth.