16 March 2015

Has Ian Gawler retired?

This is going to be a somewhat personal blog. Fairly regularly I’m being asked - “Are you retired?” The short answer is no, but maybe the question is coming as I recently passed 65 ? Maybe some people know it is now over 5 years since I did retire from my full-time job at the Gawler Foundation.

And yes, I did stand back for a year after leaving the Foundation and did very little but speak with people who had good ideas, reflected, contemplated, meditated and worked in the garden.

Now, with some new clarity and vigor, I am back doing many things, several of which are pretty extra-ordinary (as in : out of the ordinary). Definitely not retired but doing some different things to years ago, so thought it time for an update.

Also, following on from Paul Kraus’ story last week of surviving mesothelioma comes more good news with a great article in the Melbourne Age recounting Scott Stephens’ recovery from melanoma. Check it out below.

I first met Scott at a Foundation cancer residential program 8 years ago. Now, after a couple of early relapses and perseverance and sustained meditation, good food and smart thinking, Scott has been cancer-free for 6 years and he regularly meets with and inspires cancer groups at the Foundation and elsewhere.  Did you see him on that excellent Mind-Body Medicine documentary called The Connection???

Good news to share, but first

            Thought for the day

              I slept and dreamt that life was joy.

              I awoke and saw that life was service.

              I acted and behold, service was joy.

                                Rabindranath Tagore

In stepping down from the Foundation I had worked in for nearly 30 years, the intention was to make way so that the Foundation could establish itself in its own right, free of this founder; and to give me space to re-think what I had been doing for so long and to consider whether there were other ways to be more helpful.

Retiring from the Foundation when all was going well was a huge personal step, but being very conscious of the limitations of habitual thinking, the retirement was actually more an act of principle than of any necessity.

It would have been easy, comfortable and hopefully worthwhile for me to continue working for the Foundation. But when you have worked in one area of expertise, with one group in a similar way for nearly 30 years, there is a danger of a rut developing.

Personally, I like the idea of keeping the “beginners mind” active, stepping back from the norm regularly and considering what can be done to be most effective, most useful.

Also, sooner or later I was bound to leave the Foundation; either because I was too old, or the proverbial bus came to visit. So there seemed real value in having a new association with it in a well-planned, measured way.

So what is the current state of play?

Speaking personally
Ruth and I have been married 15 years now. Wow! What a treat that is being. Just held my fifth
grandchild, Tucker, son of Peter and Kerrielee. The garden is thriving and abundant and we are currently resurrecting the cottage on our property - countering old termite and water damage.

I am planning to go to France for a secluded 12 week meditation based retreat in July this year. It feels like the right time to do something more personal and intense.

1. The  Gawler Foundation
Ruth and I have a great relationship with all at the Foundation and we are really impressed with the services they provide and the manner in which they provide them.

Actually, I rather do hope they will change the name of the organisation to better represent the actual work they do, rather than their origins, but I am no longer involved with their management, so that stuff is all up to them.

Ruth and I presently lead the residential cancer follow-up programs at the Yarra Valley centre. Targeted for people who have done an initial “Gawler” program, either at the Foundation or elsewhere, and it is good for us to be doing a few less retreats each year so we can prepare extra thoroughly for these programs.

2. Working with Ruth – the retreats we present together
It is such good fortune to be able to work creatively and closely with your partner. Ruth being a doctor, with her special interests in Integrative Medicine, psychotherapy, meditation and yoga is such an asset to our groups. And there is always the feminine perspective……. We balance each other well. What a delight!

We do 2 types of retreats

a) Meditation retreats
For those becoming more serious about their meditation, or for those who already are, there is
nothing that deepens the experience of meditation more than going on retreat. So it is a pleasure to lead retreats regularly!

Our retreats are very much styled along the lines of what we would ideally like to attend ourselves. Middle intensity – enough meditation to have real effect, but not too much that you need a holiday when you get home. Enough stimulation via teachings to satisfy the intellect, but the emphasis is on the experience of meditation itself.

Then plenty of free space to contemplate, reflect, do some yoga or Chi Gong, go for a walk, rest and regenerate. Add in good company, great locations and excellent food. Bloody good combination really!!!

Each retreat has the recurring elements of  lots of practise and time for discussing personal meditation experiences/questions; but then each retreat also focuses on a particular theme.

For example Meditation in the Forest is the annual Pre-Easter meditation retreat we hold at the Foundation, and this year the focus is on understanding just what the stillness of meditation really is and how to experience it more directly and more reliably.

Later, in November, Meditation Under the Long White Cloud in New Zealand will focus on contemplation where we learn how to think things through more completely, to overcome confusion, develop clarity and certainty in decision making; and more – how to access insight, intuition and inner wisdom.

I must say contemplation is probably the most important “add-on” to basic meditation and we particularly love doing this presentation! Actually, we really love doing all the retreats.

b) Specific cancer programs

There are 2 types of these
i) The complete, integrated program for anyone affected by cancer and their partners. We call this Cancer, Healing and Wellbeing. Here we give good attention to living well with cancer, but there is a big focus on Accelerated Healing and what helps recovery – along with minimizing treatment side-effects and getting the best results from any medical or other treatments.

We will only lead one of these programs in 2015 and it is in New Zealand in May, organised and supported by Stew Burt and Canlive.

ii) The cancer follow-up programs. As explained, these are for those who are further down the track and we present them either at the Gawler Foundation Yarra Valley centre, or in Wanaka in New Zealand for Canlive. These too have their own specific themes and are designed so that people can attend them regularly and maintain their momentum.

3. Seminars, workshops, conferences
We have presented many of these in the last couple of years, but just for 2015, we decided to limit them. Aimed for zero, but saying no to some people is not easy, so the day or evening seminars we are presenting this year are for an inspiring and diverse bunch of people.

It occurred to me that if we could get our hosts together for a meal, it would lead to quite some conversations. There is Lionel Fifield - founder of the Relaxation Centre of Queensland and while well into his 70s, still totally dedicated to providing access to, and support for personal growth. Then Ani Rinchen Wangmo - a Tibetan nun working for a Buddhist centre in Cairns; Greg and Dawn Fitzgerald – passionate South Sydney naturopaths intent on curing all people of all things; and Rabbi Laibl Wolf – who supports Spiritgrow a Jewish community centre in Caufield that has a major charter to foster good physical and mental health and wellbeing. Would be some dinner!

4. The net and IT
Some know when I left the Foundation that my computer skills made IT troglodytes seem nerdy. So learning about all this stuff has been the big personal step forward. Blog. Facebook. Webstore. I even own and can use (to some degree) a computer. Still keep the old mobile phone – no Smart phone distracts me as yet!

But also there has been development of the high tech online meditation program, Mindbody Mastery that goes way beyond simply providing meditation instruction online; it provides on-going support via daily emails, weekly SMS and comes with a whole range of other fancy features.

Putting that together with my business partner in the IT adventures, Saurabh Mishra, has been such fun. So much to learn. So much benefit from the “beginner’s mind”. I ask all the dumb questions, and if it can be explained to me and if it works for me, then anyone can do it!

Now Saurabh and I are near to completing the development of a meditation app that will do way more than “just” run Mindbody Mastery (MBM), as many people these days tell us they want all the MBM features via app.

Also we recognized that students at many meditation schools would benefit from having direct access via an app to the specific teaching, practices and support of their own group. Problem is that developing an app that can do all that is a big deal. That we do know!

So, we have developed an app that makes it easy for individual meditation schools to upload their own material and provide their students with all the benefits of a very high tech app for little cost. No doubt there will be more on this soon as it comes to complete fruition – not far away.

And of course there has been development of the Pearl range that provides meditation for stress relief, better sleep and pain control via a mini MP3 player - ideal for personal use or a meaningful gift.

5. Corporate mindfulness and meditation
Recently there has been the opportunity to get to know Rasmus Horgaard from Denmark who runs the Potential Project. In my view this is by far the best corporate program of its type and yes, sharing more on that too soon; also having a small role around the edges of some corporate mindfulness projects has been very rewarding. The response has been very gratifying.

6. Writing
To be direct, with all else going on I have been doing my best to resist committing to another book, but I suspect this will not last much longer. There is one very exciting idea that has been brewing for some time and maybe more on this soon.

So if anyone is still reading after this particular diatribe, it has at least helped to sort out what is going on in my own mind, and no, I am not retired.


Scott Stephens story of overcoming melanoma in the Melbourne Age, written back in November 2012 by Sarah Berry, LINK HERE


Full details are on the website, click here

Meditation in the Forest        March 27th to April 2nd  2015

During this meditation retreat, we will be focusing upon the deeper stillness of meditation. We will explore the theory, but moreso, the actual practices that help us to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind into a more direct and profound experience of the still mind.

Deep, natural peace. A calm and clear mind. So many possibilities follow…..


CANCER and BEYOND  May 2015   Monday 4th at 11am to Friday 8th at 2pm

Five Day Residential Follow-up Program at the Gawler Foundation in the Yarra Valley

This program is specifically designed for those with cancer along with their support people who have attended a previous Gawler Foundation program or equivalent such as with Sabina Rabold, CSWA, Cancer Care SA, CanLive NZ, or with the Gawlers

A unique opportunity to meet with like-minded people once again, to consolidate what you already know, to learn more from the combined knowledge, experience and wisdom of Ian and Ruth, to reaffirm your good intentions, and to go home refreshed and revitalised.

FULL DETAILS Click here 

Eight day residential program in New Zealand   May 15th  –  22nd , 2015

All welcome; attendance with a partner/ support person is ideal but not essential.

This program will lead you through all the self-healing options:
. Therapeutic nutrition
. Practical positive thinking
. Therapeutic meditation, plus the healing power of imagery and contemplation
. Accelerated healing
. Healthy, healing emotions
. How to get the most out of mainstream treatments and minimize side-effects
. How to be most effective as a support person/carer, and to look after yourself in the process.

I actually lead most of the main sessions, with support from Ruth and 2 exceptional New Zealanders. We live in for the full program so there is plenty of time for questions and personal interaction.

This program is organized and supported by Canlive New Zealand.



  1. Hi great blog you have here! Thank you for posting and having this online for people to know more about meditation and inner peace.
    We must realize that far more than our earthly desires and concerns we also need to be in touch to our inner wellness and meditation helps us. It's like what exercise to our body is.
    I also have an advocacy to promote inner peace through yoga, meditation and inner happiness. My website is www.iamthechangeiseek.org
    Thank you and have a great day

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