30 December 2013

Cancer, transformation and meaning

We learn so much through sharing our personal stories. So as 2013 draws to an end, what a delight to be able to share some of the inspirational life story of a doctor diagnosed with breast cancer. Dr Ilana Galgut has been attending a group I have been facilitating in Melbourne for the last 2 years and she has kindly offered to share her story – as she presented it recently to a hospital meeting.

Stories can demonstrate how real suffering can be transformed, how often lives change for the better in response to adversity, and how meaning is found.

Stories grant us a glimpse into another human being’s life. We get to share in their experience, to travel with them, to understand something of the choices they made and why, to have the opportunity to consider what we might have done in similar circumstances, learn from other people’s strengths and weaknesses; be uplifted, be informed, be inspired.

Also, a big thank you to all those who have supported Ruth and myself throughout 2013 in the work we offer. May 2014 be a year of good health, deep satisfaction and profound meaning – now there is a nice thought!

But first

Thought for the Day
We are healed more by what we turn our mind towards in love
Than what we turn away from in fear
               Ian Gawler
                   I think this is mine; I have been saying it for years, 
                   but does anyone know where it may have been quoted earlier?

Here is Ilana's story 

- plus a photo of the 2 of us :)

Thanks for providing the opportunity to share a little of my story.

Up until the 25th of May 2011, I was a hardworking, capable, independent single mum whose whole purpose in life was to look after my patients and my children.

I was working part time as a women’s health GP as well as a Cosmetic Doctor - making people happy by putting needles in their faces! I was an evidence -based, very thorough conventional GP, not into all the “airy-fairy stuff” of meditation and supplements.

However, my life was about to change forever - and on the 26th of May, I found my cancer. Initially I reacted like a doctor and went about my working day, squeezing in an appointment for a mammogram.

But I did not come out of the x-ray department the same person I went in as. The non-perk of being a doctor kicked in immediately as I was advised of my diagnosis whilst still in the x-ray department. A biopsy followed as did a visit to my favourite breast surgeon to whom I used to send my patients.

The medical travelator began of CT scans, bone scans, mastectomy, chemo and radiotherapy. I felt no loss at removing my breasts as I deemed them to no longer be my friends but rather as wielding an atom bomb, which was about to take my life. In the same light I have not had a reconstruction as my scars are the testimony to how I saved my life!

I also did not grieve the loss of my hair as, yet again, the chemo was to annihilate any remaining uninvited guests in my body, the cancer cells.

Imagine my surprise when one day, my 10 year old daughter said to me, “ Mum, I think God gave us cancer to be good to us. Because without it you would have never stopped working so hard”.

Well how right she was. I needed a wake up call and it had to be something as huge as this to get me really moving.

In the same way that I looked after my patients, leaving no stone unturned, I set about investigating the best way to make sure that I am here for as long as I possibly can be.

I could not find the proof and the guarantees that my treatment would cure me. And what I discovered in my search for creating a healthy body went very much against my medical training and scientific background.

There was a large void in the system between the oncologists, the treatment and me the whole person.  I was told that stress does not cause cancer but I was stressed out to the max and had been living like a crazy girl. I was told there is no special diet that could help me and if there were, the oncologists would be advising me of it.

But it really did not sit well with me that all I could do was to hope that the treatment would work. So I set about to build myself a new body, ensuring that the body that developed the cancer, no longer existed. I decided that whatever I had been doing was clearly not the right thing.

I found myself a GP who is a very special lady. She helped me through the fear and anxiety of chemo and surgery and suggested that I attend a healing group at a Buddhist temple to help me cope better.

That was, I think, the real beginning of my new life. I learnt to meditate, think about the purpose of life and what really matters to me in my life. I learnt that cancer is not necessarily a death sentence, regardless of the medical prognosis. I was introduced to people who, in medical doctor language, should not be here today, never mind be cancer free.

And slowly, slowly I entered a world about which I was previously very cynical.

I changed my diet, changed my view of my work and career, realising that there was no need to prove anything to anyone, and embarked on a journey to learn more about myself.

I met a wonderful lady hypnotherapist, who helped me deal with heavy suitcases of emotional baggage that I had be lugging around from childhood. I read books about living and also books about dying. I started singing lessons, art classes and Latin dancing. I really was creating a new life, having more fun than I had had in many years.

One day it suddenly dawned on me that I had needed to learn about dying to really be able to learn how to live.

I was learning how to nurture myself and how to create a healthy body, mind and soul, retaining people and things that would foster my transition to a healthy life. It then struck me that yes, I had lost my breasts, but had grown some balls instead. I was unburdening myself of negative influences in my life.

One of my mentors, Ian Gawler, has written a book called You Can Conquer Cancer and I believe that I have conquered it. That does not mean that I will live forever, but I have allowed the cancer to open up my mind and broaden the opportunities that I afford myself. I have lost a lot but gained so much more and I am living a life that is not governed by the what-ifs, the should’ves and the could’ves.

At yet, I have not returned to my GP work as I am not currently well enough to do that but I have assisted many other ladies along their journey through breast cancer because I have learnt to embrace and utilise the best of all available therapeutic modalities - both conventional western medicine as well as complementary medicine. I have learnt to marry the two, as the combination was what worked for me, to get me through this life changing experience.

I will never be grateful for the experience of cancer as there is nothing nice about life with cancer looming in the shadows, but I believe that I took from it the opportunity to learn and grow and can truly say that I am now living my best life ever.

You are the inspiration

NEWS – Very engaging/interesting/informative Video Link
Dr Neal Barnard, M.D. is the author of – the nutritional equivalent of You Can Conquer Cancer for Type 2 Diabetes and President of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine – a very significant US medical body. Watch him here discuss the benefits of a plant-based diet on the Intelligence Squared Don't Eat Anything With a Face debate. Dr. Barnard and Gene Bauer won the debate, convincing more people in the studio to change their views on this important topic and winning a majority of the online voters. CLICK HERE

Trouble viewing? Watch here

Dr. Barnard’s closing statement:
Let's say your teenage son or daughter says to you, “Mom and Dad, I’ve decided I’m going to eat my fruits and vegetables, but I’m not going to eat anything with a face—and don’t worry, I know where to get my protein. This isn’t that hard." If you were to then look at the numbers and realize that your child's likelihood of becoming obese, having a heart attack, or developing cancer or diabetes just plummeted, you would be thrilled. That is what we are voting for now.

If you were part of an insurance group where your premiums depended on everyone’s state of health, and if everyone in the group decided to stop eating meat, you’d be thrilled.
The world’s strongest man is Patrik Baboumian, who recently lifted 1,210 pounds on an entirely plant-based diet.

The world’s greatest long-distance runner is Scott Jurek. He runs 100, 125, even 150 miles without stopping, and he does it faster than any other human being—powered by a plant-based diet.

On Monday, at the World Memory Championship in England, where contestants can memorize a deck of cards in 30 seconds and perform other mind-blowing feats, the world champion was 25-year-old Jonas Von Essen of Sweden, who was powered by an entirely plant-based diet.

Arguably the world’s greatest brain, Albert Einstein, wrote: “It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.”Einstein continued: "So I am living without fats, without meat, without fish, and am feeling quite well this way. It always seems to me that man was not born to be a carnivore."

A generation ago, we tackled tobacco. And while everyone is free to smoke, we just know we are not going to do it. Today, the issue is food. For yourself, and especially for your children, let me ask you to vote for this resolution: Don’t eat anything with a face.

Want to jump into a healthful plant-based diet? Start now at 21DayKickstart.org.

Interested in learning more? We have all the educational resources you need at PCRM.org/LitStore.


Meditation in the Forest : April 11 – 17,  2014

The regular Pre-Easter retreat Ruth and I present is on in the Yarra Valley again. This year as well as providing the opportunity to learn more about relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, and to deepen your experience of same, the particular focus of the retreat will be on contemplation.

For details CLICK HERE

New Year’s Eve – and the marathon vegans return to Fed Square

Consider this – Janette and Alan Wakelin will complete 365 marathons on New Year’s Eve and will be arriving in Melbourne’s Federation Square that afternoon. The celebrations/welcome will be on from 2 - 4pm.

Maybe if you are coming in for the evening fireworks, maybe if you are simply inspired by their extra-ordinary endurance feat, you could join us in the city and welcome them home.

Details of their efforts CLICK HERE

23 December 2013

The Christmas Miracle

Firstly, do you know I have a new Facebook page? I am having fun posting more regularly on this new public site, so if you would like to follow me on Facebook, please go to www.facebook.com/driangawler and “Like me”. Seems a bit weird to be asking people to “Like me”, but that is the way it works!!!

Now for the miracle. As a special Christmas treat, this is an almost unbelievable true story that occurred on our farm several years ago. But first

Thought for the Day
The words always, never, everybody & nobody 
are lies
                                  Tracey Bartram

The miracle
For many years I have always had a live Christmas tree. When my children were growing up, we had a new one each year and then planted it out. So on our old farm there developed the Christmas tree avenue, made up of all the different pine trees, cedars and like minded trees.

In more recent times, we have grown the Christmas tree on in a pot until it really is large enough to demand planting. So where Ruth and I live currently, there is only one ex-Christmas tree in the ground, one in a pot.

A couple of years ago our oldest grandchild was with us on the current farm for Christmas and getting to the age of questioning Santa. Fancy that! Anyway, it was a hot year and a good deal of tree watering was required. Having checked the trees on Christmas Eve, I went out to water them again on Boxing Day.

Imagine this. Up the paddock, under the ex-Christmas tree were two delicate little deer horns!

Each about 4 – 5” long, or 10 – 15 cms in the new money, and they looked for all the world like baby reindeer horns.

Now you may think I am dreaming, but never having seen such things in our area, or even heard of anyone else finding them, what are the chances? They turned up Christmas Eve or night, under the Christmas tree and they are real deer horns.

Moral of the story? The grandchild still believes in Santa!

So now to thank everyone who over this year past has supported the work Ruth and I offer. We meet so many extra-ordinary people, have the opportunity to interact with people on such a person, heartfelt and intimate level, we deeply appreciate the work we do.

Ruth has retired after 12 years providing a wonderful service at the Gawler Foundation and so ext year we will be working together even more.

So may the true spirit of Christmas, which is the birth of Christ - the divine embodiment of love - touch your heart deeply and fill all you love with the joy and wonder of life. May 2014 be a year of contentment, good health and meaning, and Ruth and I look forward to the possibility of meeting once again.

Vegans can run, but what about the science?


A big landmark - Ruth has retired from her position with the Gawler Foundation.

This will enable us to work more together next year - presenting retreats, some specific cancer programs and more public workshops and conference appearances.

Ruth has helped so many people during her 12 years at the Foundation. As a GP, she enabled many people to resolve health issues and stay on in the cancer programs. Ruth enjoys an excellent and well deserved reputation as a psychotherapist and she provided many people with wise counsel.

Then too, Ruth led many group sessions, taught many the art of gentle, therapeutic yoga, and of course, led many meditation sessions. I am excited by the prospect of doing more of our work together next year, some of which we will be doing in conjunction with the Foundation in the Yarra Valley.

Some of the great Gawler Foundation therapeutic team at Ruth's farewell.

Siegfried Gutbrod, Ruth, Ian, Maia and Paul Bedson

Meditation in the Forest : April 11 – 17, 2014
Interested in deepening your experience of meditation? Coming on retreat provides this real possibility – a breakthrough into a more direct, more profound experience.

The retreats Ruth and I present are specifically designed to provide time out from the busy pace of modern life, to rest deeply, to regenerate, to heal if necessary; but even more, to be invigorated, re-inspired and to experience something more of what meditation really has to offer – the bliss of direct experience.

The regular Pre-Easter retreat Ruth and I present is on in the Yarra Valley again in 2014 during April. For details CLICK HERE

New Year’s Eve – and the marathon vegans return to Fed Square

Consider this – Janette and Alan Wakelin will complete 365 marathons on New Year’s Eve and will be arriving in Melbourne’s Federation Square that afternoon.

Maybe if you are coming in for the evening fireworks, maybe if you are simply inspired by their extra-ordinary endurance feat, you could join us in the city and welcome them home.

Details of their efforts CLICK HERE

New Year's Eve Chanting and Meditation - 8:00 PM, 31 December 2013.
A sacred and joyful celebration of transformation and inner peace, presented by Jarek Czechowicz. Enjoy universal chant, divine music and a midnight meditation of flowing om chants. You can sing, move to the music, or just relax and soak up the healing vibrations. No drugs, no alcohol, all love.

Discover just how good you can feel!

Augustine Centre, 2 Minona St Hawthorn.
More details at www.jarekc.com/new-years-eve/ or phone 0411 639 081.
Buy tickets at www.trybooking.com/DSJL

16 December 2013

Vegans can run, but what about the science?

How many bananas does a vegan need to eat to run a marathon? What does a vegan breast cancer survivor eat as she and her husband defy belief and expectations and run 366 consecutive marathons around Australia? What does the research say about a non-meat diet?

So this week, an interview with Janette Wakelin-Murray, compelling recent research, an invitation to celebrate the extraordinary, world record breaking endurance feat of Janette and husband Alan at Federation Square on 31st December between 2 - 4 pm (details LINK HERE) – a good lead in to the New Year’s eve fireworks in Melbourne - plus a reminder of the Christmas discounts on all the meditation books, CDs, MP3s and DVD (details LINK HERE), but first, can a world-class athlete get enough protein from a vegetarian diet to compete?

Thought for the day

I’ve found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete. 
In fact, my best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet. 

Carl Lewis - winner of 9 Olympic Gold Medals.
Voted "Sportsman of the Century"
by the International Olympic Committee.
Vegan from the age of 30.

These feet belong to a 64 year old breast cancer survivor who has used them to run
340 consecutive daily marathons!

Janette Wakelin-Murray you are
A STAR!!!!!

Can you believe this? Can you comprehend this?
Janette is close to completing a world record 366 consecutive marathons and she has done it in the running company of her 68 year old husband, Alan.

Before my cancer and leg amputation, I was a decathlon athlete. It remains a regret that I never ran a marathon. Lately I do know a couple of sixty year olds who have run a marathon. Most find it takes ages to recover from just the one.

My sense is that Janette and Alan’s accomplishment is so extraordinary
many people including some in the media
are having trouble computing it.
It is almost too extreme to believe.

And then there is the fact they have done it on all raw, vegan food. No meat, no dairy, no protein boosters, no supplements, no stearoids. Also no sickness, no injuries, no days lost through stiffness or soreness or tiredness. 366 consecutive, daily marathons.

Janette told me “I could not have done this in my 20s. No way in my 40s. In my 50s I ran about 50 and it was very hard, very tiring. But honestly, now in my 60s, this has been relatively easy. No injuries, I feel really good. My health has never been better”.

So what do you eat? “80% fruit, 15% vegetables, 5% nuts and seeds. All organic wherever possible – our energy levels drop noticeably when we can only get the commercial stuff – and all raw of course.” Of Course!

If you are tempted to think anything about this marathon run around Australia qualified as easy,
Here are some of the facts:

Temperatures ranged from freezing to a maximum of 44 in the shade.

They experienced serious tropical downpours that went on for weeks courtesy of Cyclone Oswald. At that point, 9 of Alan’s waterlogged toenails simply fell off, yet no infection, no real discomfort, no stopping.

They rose before 4am each day, began to run at 5. Stopped to eat and rest 3 times during the day, generally finished around 3pm.

Both burnt 5,000 calories each day. Both ate around 20 very ripe bananas, lots of apples, oranges, pineapples – commonly as smoothies or juices that could also include beetroot, carrot and greens and ginger - and a big salad or 2 including a large avocado daily.

Why do it?
Janette again: “I have been a raw vegan for 12 years. In 2001 I was diagnosed with a highly aggressive carcinoma of the breast and told I had 6 months to live. In 6 months I was given a clean bill of health having recovered my own way (see Janette’s book Raw Can Cure Cancer).

I am hoping that this run will prompt people to think more consciously about their lifestyle choices. To think consciously about where meat comes from. To use their heads and to turn the lamb chop on their plates into the lamb jumping for joy in its paddock.

To think more consciously about their health and to make healthier choices about the things they eat, their exercise and particularly their care of self.

What I discovered during my own cancer recovery is that you have to believe in yourself and that what you are doing will work. The most important thing is to learn to love yourself and to care for yourself.”

My thoughts
Anyone who suggests you have to eat meat to perform at a high level in athletics or endurance running is clearly incorrect.

I suspect if you can run 366 marathons consecutively on a vegan diet, that diet should provide enough fuel for most things, including recovering from illness if that is a choice you make.

When people say after changing to a vegetarian or vegan diet, I feel my energy levels have dropped, quite simply they are probably not eating enough. Bananas may make more sense than feeling meat is what is lacking.

Alan and Janette confront the whole notion of supplements. They took none. They have pushed their bodies beyond what most would consider to be extreme limits. They have done this with no injuries, no sickness and a real twinkle of delight and enthusiasm in their eyes. And they are both in their sixties.

What Janette and Alan have accomplished challenges many hard held norms. Will people rethink those norms, or simply marvel at the achievement, quietly dismiss it and go about normal life as if nothing happened?

The challenge is to take in the enormity of what Janette and Alan have accomplished, along with how they did it.

If you want to see Janette and Alan in action, Today Tonight had a nice TV feature on them recently   LINK HERE

Next, as some small tribute to Janette and Alan, and at the risk of a long post, 

here is some recent research that supports the notion of eating less meat.

Red and processed meat linked to early death
Consumption of red and processed meat products is associated with increased risk of death, according to a recent review of nine studies with years of follow-up ranging from 5.5 to 28 years.

Those consuming the most processed meat had a 23 percent increase in mortality risk, while those consuming the most total red meat had a 29 percent increased risk for, compared with those who consumed the least.

Other studies have shown a similar link with red and processed meat products and mortality as well as links to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Larsson SC, Orsini N. Red Meat and processed meat consumption and all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis. Am J Epidemiol. Published ahead of print October 22, 2013.

Diet fuels major rise in depression
Women who consume a diet defined as inflammatory—high in red meat, fish, sodas, and refined grains—have a higher risk for depression, compared with women who consume low amounts of these products.

As part of the 12 year Nurses’ Health Study, researchers analyzed the diets of 43,685 women and found that women who favored inflammatory food products were 41 percent more likely to be depressed.

Lucas M, Chocano-Bedoya P, Shulze MB, et al. Inflammatory dietary pattern and risk of depression among women. Brain Behav Immun. 2013. In press.

Vegetarian Diet Lowers Cholesterol, Weight, and Blood Sugar
A low-fat, high-carbohydrate vegetarian diet lowers cholesterol, blood sugars, and weight, according to a small recent study published. Obese participants with type 2  diabetes and/or hypertension followed a plant-based, high-fiber diet (about 42 grams per day) for one month.

Patients experienced weight loss, lower cholesterol, better blood sugar control, and improved gut flora. Bacteria associated with immunity and anti-inflammation increased while bacteria most associated with conditions such as obesity and inflammatory bowel conditions decreased.

Kim MS, Hwang SS , Park EJ, Bae JW. Strict vegetarian diet improves the risk factors associated with metabolic diseases by modulating gut microbiota and reducing intestinal inflammation. Environ Microbiol Rep. 2013;5:765-775.

How does meat cause colon cancer
Reasons for meat products leading to colorectal cancer are wide-ranging, according to a new review in the journal Nutrition Research. The authors say potential risks include naturally occurring components of meat products such as heme iron and protein as well as generated components such as N-nitroso compounds and heterocyclic amines.

Kim E, Coelho D, Blachier F. Review of the association between meat consumption and risk of colorectal cancer. Nutr Res. 2013;33:983-994.

Vegan diets – natural weight control
People who follow vegan diets weigh less and consume more protective nutrients such as beta-carotene and fiber according to recent research.

71,751 participants enrolled in the Adventist Health Study 2 were tracked for five years. The vegan group (defined as consuming animal products less than one time per month), consumed the most beta-carotene, fiber, potassium, and magnesium, compared with all other dietary groups.

The vegan group had the lowest average body mass index (BMI) and the lowest prevalence of obesity, compared with those following all other dietary patterns. Levels of BMI and rates of obesity went up as animal product intake increased.

Rizzo NS, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Sabate J, Fraser GE. Nutrient profiles of vegetarian and nonvegetarian dietary patterns continuing professional education (CPE) information. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013;113:1610-1619.

Type 2 diabetes: Nutritional therapy safe and effective; more drugs risky 
Commonly prescribed diabetes medications have been linked to higher risks of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, according to recent publications. The drugs include exenatide (Byetta), liraglutide (Victoza), sitagliptin (Januvia), and possibly other similar medications.

Prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes with nutritional measures, especially a plant-based diet and avoidance of meat and dairy products, remains a safe and effective approach. If you are on the drugs, maybe you need to talk again with your doctor.

1. Elashoff M,et al. Gastroenterology. 2011;141:150-156.
2. Butler AE, et al. Diabetes. Published ahead of print March 22, 2013.
3. Singh S,et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173:534-539.

Want babies? Try less processed meat and dairy
Processed meat products may lower sperm quality, according to researchers from Harvard. They analyzed 364 samples of semen from 156 men who were having reproductive difficulties and asked the men to complete a food record.

Those participants with higher intakes of processed meat products (more than one-third of a serving per day) saw more abnormalities in sperm count, size, and shape, compared with men who ate less.

These findings support a recent study that showed similar results between semen quality and dairy products.

Afeiche M. Meat intake and semen parameters among men attending a fertility clinic. Report presented at: American Society for Reproductive Medicine 2013 Annual Meeting; October 14, 2013: Boston, MA.
Afeiche M, Williams PL, Mediola J. Dairy food intake in relation to semen quality and reproductive hormone levels among physically active young men. Hum Reprod. 2013;28:2265-2275.

Vegan breast cancer survivor runs a marathon a day for a whole year

Would you eat like a dog?

To celebrate Christmas, it is a treat for Ruth and myself to be able to offer meditation resources as our Christmas special via our webstore.

All the meditation CDs, along with their corresponding MP3s and my meditation DVD are discounted 20% from now until Christmas Day. The most recent meditation book Meditation – a Complete Guide is discounted 10%, as is the bonus Christmas offer, that great cookbook, Eat Well, Be Well.

Go on-line and take advantage of the discounted CDs, MP3s, DVD and books. CLICK HERE.

Meditation in the Forest : April 11 – 17, 2014
The regular Pre-Easter retreat Ruth and I present is on in the Yarra Valley again. This year as well as providing the opportunity to learn more about relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, and to deepen your experience of same, the particular focus of the retreat will be on contemplation.
For details CLICK HERE

10 December 2013

Learning contemplation

Learning contemplation – the practical pathway to insight, wisdom and direction.

Who am I? Where am I going? What is life? These are the 3 big questions that philosophers down through the ages have pondered upon. These days, it is wonderful to know that the age-old techniques of contemplation remain relevant for self-reflection, but can also make a major contribution to ordinary, every day problem solving.

So this week we consider some of the benefits and a specific technique that helps us to learn to contemplate and problem solve more effectively. We will learn how to contemplate what is best to eat - for us and for those we love.

Also to mention that contemplation will be the special focus of our 2014 Pre-Easter retreat, Meditation in the Forest set amidst the delightful landscape of the Upper Yarra Valley, so details of that too. Plus news of the recently completed Mana retreat and a friendly reminder. Our retreats have been fully booked recently, so if you are planning to join us, it will be wise to register soon.

But first to acknowledge the death of that great man who has inspired so many:

Thought for the Day

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear,
But the triumph over it.
The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid,
But he who conquers that fear
Nelson Mandela

Learning contemplation provides us with a reliable doorway into understanding and wisdom. Contemplation helps us to make sense of our life, our world, and our place within it. Contemplation provides the clarity and insight to make good decisions, and as such, naturally generates the confidence and commitment required to follow those decisions through to conclusion.

Getting to know ourselves, who we really are beyond the obvious facts of name, family status, job, address etc.; getting to know who we really are requires some introspection. For many of us when young, life was full with plenty to do, plenty to occupy us, plenty to distract us.

So for many, it is not until older age that we pause for some self-reflection. True, for many this looking inwards to make sense of life and its circumstances is propelled by the pressures of adversity – major life changes, major health issues.

But for a happier few, maybe it is just that yearning feeling that there is more to life than all that is obvious on the surface. Maybe the recognition of how extra-ordinary it is to be alive, how precious life is, and the resultant urge to make the most of it all.

In truth, it is not just a cliché; what does it all mean?

So when this urge for the search for meaning dawns, how to proceed? Is the answer to read a particular book? Speak to a particular person? Go to a particular place?

Well, all of these things can be useful of course, but ultimately the answers, the truly satisfying answers, lie within. Contemplation provides a reliable means to search for meaning. To seek answers. To find our way.

And while contemplation has been taught in all the great traditions, in more modern times, these same techniques have proven to be highly effective for problem solving.

Speaking personally, contemplation was at the heart of my own recovery from cancer as I faced a myriad of complex questions and difficult choices in my quest for healing. More recently, contemplation has guided me in my personal, family and business life.

While I have written at length on contemplation in several of my books (see below), here is a simple problem solving contemplation practice as a starting point.

HOW TO CONTEMPLATE  - Using the example of contemplating what way of eating suits you best:

1. Identify the issue is to contemplate (e.g. to set dietary goals) and determine to reach a conclusion.

2. Do the research.  Use your intellect. Read the books, speak to the experts, discuss it with friends, listen to tapes.  Ideally make notes.  This person said that, this book the other, etc.  With food it is usually easiest to write lists of the different recommendations.

3. Set a time for the decision to be made. There are two ways to do this. If you were to buy a new washing machine, probably you would wait until you gathered all the relevant information. Presuming you have determined your price range, you could find out the makes and models available and collect all their details within a reasonable period of time.  However, with food you could collect information indefinitely.  So you probably need to say to yourself something like ‘I will collect all the information I can in the next two weeks (choose your own timeframe) and then I will make the best decision I can.”

4. Give yourself time – half an hour to an hour is ideal – and some space – either where you meditate regularly or in any quiet area.  Make sure you can be free from the telephone and other possible distractions.  Take with you any notes you have made and any other material you have gathered.  Also take a pen and some paper in case you want to write on it.

5. Begin by reviewing your research material and in this way refresh all the knowledge you have of your subject. If you do not have all the written material go straight to the next step.

6. Consciously relax your body and calm your mind.  This will be a familiar process if you have some experience of meditation.  The aim is to elicit the Relaxation Response so you are in a better state of mind to progress into the contemplation.

7. Consciously reviewing the facts as you remember them.

So, in our example, you might recall the style of food you have been eating, the broad issues relating to why you are considering changing your diet, what different people have recommended to you, what you have read in different books and so on.

If at any stage you become distracted or your mind wanders off onto other thoughts, as soon as you recognize this, be gentle with yourself and simply come back to concentrating on issues relating to food and diet.

This first part of the process then is clearly a rational, left brain exercise. You actively think about the topic and all issues relating to it.

What happens next, as you continue to concentrate on the topic, is that at some point your mind will automatically shift into more abstract, intuitive, right brain contemplation.  It will be as if all the facts you have been reflecting upon and analyzing, all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle as it were, come together and now you can clearly see the bigger picture.  This will give you a new sense of comprehension and understanding and usually leaves you with a clear sense of what to do.  This can all come with a moment of clear insight, almost like an ‘Ah Ha! I’ve got it’, moment of revelation.

The more you practise this technique, the more reliable it becomes.  It is a wonderful and dependable way to solve problems, develop creativity and instigate lateral thinking. As another aside, this is an excellent way to prepare for and complete creative writing.

8. Once clarity dawns, write the insight down. I always do this exercise with pen and paper close by and as soon as the answer begins to form – write it down.

This contemplation technique can be used to address any problem.  It leads to a clarity that is backed by a deep sense of your own inner wisdom.  As a result, the directions that come with it, the goals that emerge from this exercise, will feel very ‘right’ for you.

People often ask me “how can I trust the result of an exercise like this?” Well, if you come out of this exercise with no clarity and are still clouded by doubt; all that has happened is you have spent time simply thinking about the issue. No harm done, but no insight either! The insight we are talking of has as one of its features the confidence of certainty. It comes with a deep inner knowing and no doubt. No one else will need to confirm such an insight for you; it will be easy to feel confident about, easy to commit to and it is highly likely to work well!

Each year, for the Meditation in the Forest retreat in the Yarra Valley, there is a particular theme; for 2014 that theme will be contemplation. So as well as learning and experiencing more of relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, we will explore and practice several key contemplation techniques. The problem solving ones, as well as the ones for introspection such as  “Who am I ?” All accompanied by great food and great company. Deeply regenerative. A treat of a retreat!


Meditation – an In-depth Guide – with a comprehensive section on contemplation

The Mind that Changes Everything – with very practical advise as to how to use contemplation for problem solving

You Can Conquer Cancer – Also includes a section on contemplation

2. CD and MP3
Inner Peace, Inner Wisdom – clear instruction and guided exercises for contemplation

Retreat and go forward

How to increase creativity with meditation


1. Mana Retreat - Meditation Under the Long White Cloud - was a real delight. Great landscape, wonderful staff and food and great company.

It was very inspiring to receive feedback from so many of those attending about their profound meditation experiences. There really were quite a number of major breakthroughs.

2. Be part of a world record celebration
A reminder from last week of the intrepid marathon runners. Janette and Alan are very close now to setting an almost unbelievable world record – 366 consecutive marathons!!! Here are details of where you can catch up with them

Friday December 13, 2013 7:00pm: KINDNESS HOUSE, 288 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

21 or 22 DECEMBER 2013 Details to be confirmed

31 DECEMBER 2013 Federation Square; Details to be confirmed

1 JANUARY 2014 Stiggants Reserve


Their website is www.runningrawaroundaustralia.com

3. Apologies to those of you affected by the tech glitches of the last few days. The first occurred when the system we use to send out emails was upgraded by the parent company, transforming something that has worked well for 3 years into something "Better" that is very twitchy! So pardon the extra email copies and the blank if you received either. Hopefully, we have the difficulty sorted.

Then this week's blog suffered from me attempting to send it with difficult internet connection issues. It should all be working OK again now. Computers certainly offer the odd prompt to remember our stress management skills!