25 May 2015

Cancer self-help residential program – a photographic essay

What happens when a major dairy farmer begins to grapple with the connection between their cancer and consuming dairy products?

What happens when a senior surgeon is exposed to Mind-Body Medicine?

How about when a palliative care nurse begins to consider that cancer may not be as “terminal” as first thought?

There is a joy in realising that cancer is a potentially reversible, degenerative disease that is fuelled by inflammation.

There is an even greater joy in realising that Lifestyle Medicine potentially offers everyone the personal means to reverse any chronic, inflammatory, degenerative disease with a highly anti-inflammatory, highly regenerative process.

But then there is a challenge that comes with Lifestyle Medicine when one realises that to change a chronic, inflammatory, degenerative disease process into a highly anti-inflammatory, highly regenerative process, one needs to change one's lifestyle; one's habits.

And so this week we ask for your help. Your help to help more people with cancer know what is possible. It is remarkable how many people newly diagnosed with cancer still do not know how much they can do to help themselves, and how much they are missing out on if they do not.

It seems there are two big barriers that stop people from helping themselves. Firstly knowing what is possible; secondly getting over the awkwardness, the uncertainties, the hesitancy, to actually begin, to join in with a self-help, educational program.

You can help by informing people and inspiring them to make a start. 

One of the reasons Ruth and I love presenting these types of programs is that we get to travel along with a group of people with cancer as they go through a residential program designed to help them to learn in detail how lifestyle impacts on cancer, and how by changing their habits, they can change the momentum of the disease.

And what stands out? People of all ages, from all walks of life say “why didn’t I do this earlier? Why didn’t I know about this earlier? Why didn’t someone tell me about this? Why isn’t everyone doing a program like this?”

So this week, a photographic essay of the cancer self-help residential programs, compiled from our recent 8 day program Cancer, Healing and Wellbeing presented in  Wanaka, New Zealand, with a few shots from follow-up programs presented in the Yarra Valley and New Zealand.

The request is that you share this post with anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer and may be thinking of coming to one of our programs, or one presented at the Gawler Foundation itself, or one of the affiliated “Gawler” programs. Hopefully it will help them to get a better idea of what they might come to, and help them to feel more comfortable coming for the first time.

So a big thank you to all who gave approval to appear below, but first

Thought for the day

The patterns of our lives reveal us.
Our habits measure us.
In the shapeliness of a life, habit plays its sovereign role...

Most people take action by habit in small things
More often than in important things,
For it’s the simple matters that get done readily,
While the more somber and interesting,
Taking more effort and being more complex,
Often must wait for another day.

Thus, we could improve ourselves quite well by habit,
By its judicious assistance,
But it’s more likely that habits rule us.

                   Mary Oliver

    A new group gathers 

Excitement. Anticipation.

A little trepidation – what are we in for?                
So many possibilities.

     There are presentations

New things to learn.
Notes to take.

Learning of a Lifestyle
That is highly anti-inflammatory,
Highly regenerative.

What we as individuals
And we as a collective of family and friends can do
To bring about healing.
Radical healing.
And long-lasting inner peace.

        So lots of practise

        We meditate together.

                    We share the food.

                    Lots of great food.

Mostly organic. Always fresh.

Always consistent with the theory.

A chance to experience it all.



                                     Prepared with love.

         Maddy, herself with a story of recovery
               - a fabulous, gourmet, natural food chef.

      People loosen up

- and speak more directly.

The women meet together

- and the men, and the partners.

And speak amongst like-minded people
going through similar situations.

Then the occasion treat thrown in by the locals.

This time courtesy of Lake Wanaka Cruises.

Where amazing scenery

And the clarity that comes with stillness

Lends itself to informal,
but meaningful conversation.

Here, we do not show the full range of emotion so directly.
And yes there are some tears
And an amazing amount of laughter.
Lots of laughter.
Amidst a gentle intensity.

For this is the work of transformation.
Learning and transformation.

Maybe one day someone will make a documentary
And more will become apparent.

But for now, another group goes home
Filled with hope.
Aware of their choices.
Experiencing a new level of inner peace that often surprises them.

Going home to begin the next phase of their lives.

A life renewed.

Finally then, two big thank yous

Firstly to the team in New Zealand.
Special mention to Stew Burt who came to the Gawler Foundation with his first wife,
gained so much and was driven to start the charity Canlive that has brought the programs to New Zealand.
What commitment. What an organiser!

And Liz Maluschnig, one time an oncology nurse, motivated to help in a fresh way.
Now with years of training and experience
as a counselor and group facilitator.

Secondly to all the staff and volunteers at the Gawler Foundation.
Especially Siegfried Gutbrod who has my old job of Therapeutic Director - and does it so well.
And Julia Broome, a physiotherapist who extended her training to become a Feldenkrais authority.

What incredible, wonderful, authentic people we get to work with – and for!!!

And well you might wonder what happened to the initial trio???

The dairy couple have currently taken up on a 10 day mono-diet while they plan for becoming vegans.

The surgeon is one of the more committed adherents to the Lifestyle program.

And the palliative care nurse knows that people survive against the odds and is working out how understanding death in a new light brings new meaning and relevance to palliative care.

So please spread the word. 

I dream of the day when everyone diagnosed with cancer is told by their doctor right at first diagnosis to start their plan for recovery by learning and implementing what they can do for themselves.

I dream of the day when everyone has access to these programs and is keen to benefit.

Many people will benefit from surgery, many from chemotherapy, radiotherapy and complimentary therapies. But everyone will benefit from applying themselves and gaining the therapeutic benefits of Lifestyle Medicine.

People need help to fully realize what is possible, and to implement it.
Maybe you can help someone else to help themselves.

Please share…..

And with the program ended,
Ruth gets to hang out for a while
With her favourite mutt
- Dougall, Stew Burt’s Brittany Spaniel

Radical Remission – The 9 key factors that long-term cancer survivors have in common.

Programs that Ian and Ruth present personally

Ian and Ruth’s books, CDs. DVDs

The Gawler Foundation’s Programs

Canlive’s programs



Meditation and the Inner Journey        8th  – 12th  June     Yarra Valley
This retreat brings together 2 powerful experiences - the deep natural peace of meditation, and a gentle process of introspection that will help you reconnect with your own inner wisdom.

FULL DETAILS  -  Click here

– Coming soon
Brisbane day workshop - Sunday, June 14th, 2015

A Relaxing, Regenerative Meditation Intensive

Designed for experienced meditators, but definitely open to those newer to meditation 

Date        Sunday, June 14th, 2015 from 10am (arrive 9.30) to 5pm
Venue     The Relaxation Centre, 15 South Pine Rd, Alderley, Brisbane
Enquiries and Bookings    The Relaxation Centre        Telephone: 07 3856 3733

Cairns weekend meditation intensive 

June 20 and 21 – Non-residential

Meditation is the greatest gift you can give to yourself, or someone you care for

Date              Saturday, Sunday 20th and 21st June. Starts 10am (arrive 9.30) to 5pm
Venue           Khacho Yulo Ling Buddhist Centre, 348 Severin Street, Cairns
Enquiries      Call  07 4041 5556    or email   info@yuloling.com
Bookings      Online, go to :  www.yuloling.com     or call Rinchen    07 4041 5556

Medicine of the Mind – Cairns Evening Public Lecture 

Tuesday June 23  7pm

For everyone interested in the power within 

Date                Tuesday 23rd June, 2015      Starts 7pm (arrive 6.30) to 10pm
Venue             Khacho Yulo Ling Buddhist Centre, 348 Severin St
Enquiries        Call  07 4041 5556    or email   info@yuloling.com
Bookings        Online, go to :  www.yuloling.com     or call Rinchen    07 4041 5556

12 May 2015

Compelling cancer research

Lets be really clear about this. What someone with cancer does to help themselves is therapeutic. It makes a difference to their disease as well as to how they feel. People with cancer who are not encouraged and helped to help themselves may well be shortening their lives.

A really effective self-help program is not just designed to help people to feel better, although it is highly likely to do this and of itself, this outcome is very worthwhile. But there is more to it. A really effective self-help program is also designed to improve survival. As such, an effective self-help program is as important in cancer medicine as surgery. Or chemotherapy. Or radiotherapy. Or any natural therapy.

In some situations what a person with cancer does to help themselves is actually even more therapeutic than these other treatments. Just as one example, the evidence shows that for a woman with early breast cancer, regular exercise increases her chances of long-term survival twice as much as chemotherapy.

This week, as Ruth and I have just completed the most recent of the series of follow-up programs called Cancer and Beyond that we present regularly, let us go Out on a Limb once again and examine findings from a major, systematic review of 4,900 published research articles. The researchers went on to identify and analyse 203 randomised controlled trials testing the use of integrative therapies for supportive care in patients receiving breast cancer treatment.

Given there still seem to be people claiming there is little or no research validation for the self-help interventions covered below, this is information that warrants being widely shared, but first,

   Thought for the day

Ten thousand flowers in spring, 
The moon in autumn, 

A cool breeze in summer, 
Snow in winter.

If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things,

This is the best season of your life.

   Wu-men - Zen master of the 12th/13th century

Nice title this one: The Society for Integrative Oncology Guidelines Working Group. They commissioned the development of Clinical Practice Guidelines on the Use of Integrative Therapies as Supportive Care in Patients Treated for Breast Cancer.

Practice guidelines are intended to inform clinicians and patients about safe and effective therapies.

These specific breast cancer guidelines have been developed in response to the well know fact that the majority of women affected by breast cancer do use complementary and/or integrative therapies during and beyond cancer treatment to manage symptoms, prevent toxicities, and improve quality of life.

The guidelines are based on the results of a literature search that reviewed relevant published data from January 1, 1990 to December 31, 2013. This search identified 4900 articles, of which 203 were eligible for analysis.

In short, the conclusion reached was that “specific integrative therapies can be recommended as evidence-based supportive care options during breast cancer treatment”.

Meditation, yoga, and relaxation with imagery are recommended for routine use for common conditions, including anxiety and mood disorders (Grade A)   A – is the highest level of evidence-based recommendation, and reducing through B, C and so on.

Stress management, yoga, massage, music therapy, energy conservation, and meditation are recommended for stress reduction, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and quality of life (Grade B).

Many interventions, 32 in all, had weaker evidence of benefit (Grade C).

Seven interventions were deemed unlikely to provide any benefit (Grade D).

Notably, from all these studies examining a wide range of lifestyle/integrative interventions, only one, acetyl-L-carnitine for the prevention of taxane-induced neuropathy, was identified as likely harmful (Grade H) as it was found to increase neuropathy.

Wouldn’t you love it if the side-effect profile of chemotherapy or radiotherapy was this small?


Sadly, combined self-help programs like the ones we present, are not well researched as yet. Given that there are more variables to take into account – like the combined benefits of exercise, and meditation, and exercise, and… and… ; that type of research is far more complex and far more expensive to conduct, so we will need to wait for that data.

At present, all that can be said is that the majority of intervention/modality combinations (n = 138) did not have sufficient evidence to form specific recommendations (Grade I).


Meditation [Grade B evidence found] including mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga [Grade B], and stress management programs [Grade B] are recommended to reduce longer term anxiety both during and after treatment.

Longer stress management groups are likely more effective than short home study programs.

Meditation [Grade A) particularly mindfulness-based stress reduction, is recommended for improving mood and depression during radiation therapy and post treatment.

Yoga alone [Grade A)and relaxation [Grade A) are also recommended for improving mood and depressive symptoms during radiation therapy and chemotherapy and in the presence of fatigue.

Massage [Grade B) is recommended for improving mood disturbance in post treatment survivors.

Healing touch [Grade C) can be considered for improving mood in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Meditation [Grade A) is recommended for improving quality of life, while relaxation and guided imagery [Grade C), qigong [Grade C], reflexology [Grade C], stress management [Grade C], and yoga [Grade C] can also be considered.

There are insufficient data from existing trials to make guideline-level recommendations on interventions to prevent and/or treat side effects and symptoms related to cognition, anaemia, neutropenia/leukopenia, alopecia, cardiomyopathy and adherence to standard treatment.

Many trials available for review shared common limitations, including small study sizes, poorly reported or unstated delineation of outcomes (ie primary, secondary, or exploratory outcomes), lack of standardised outcome measures, use of surrogate measures with limited clinical relevance, omission of toxicity and adverse event data, inadequate statistical methods, and lack of blinding and/or appropriate control groups.

The researchers commented that to improve the validity of future studies, it is critical that trials measure clinically relevant and standardised outcomes using validated tools and that they are analysed with accepted and appropriately chosen statistical methods to better allow for pooled analyses.

This major review investigated the role Integrative Therapies play in supportive care for people affected by cancer. In the result there is very useful information that clearly validates that the self-help approach makes a significant contribution to quality of life and general care of women affected by breast cancer. On e could imagine that the evidence for that is strong enough to suggest that a well run program teaching and supporting these modalities needs to be a part of standard care..

Notably, most of the modalities recommended come under the banner of what we would call Lifestyle Medicine.

Meditation has the best level of evidence for the widest number of benefits.

Take up on these self-help principles generally and you are highly likely to have a better experience when diagnosed, treated and recovering from cancer.

What we need urgently now is for the focus of future research to hone in on the potential benefits Lifestyle Medicine offers to actual recovery. There is already a good body of evidence for the therapeutic benefits of some Lifestyle – based therapies such as nutrition and exercise, but it would be good to see all of that evidence collated and evaluated clearly.

And equally as clearly, more research is needed.


But the big question remains.

With so many people affected by cancer meditating, why no outcome studies?

Come on Cancer Council.
Breast Cancer Network.
You have the research funds. Lets find out just how beneficial to survival meditation may be ….

Many, many people would welcome and support that research.


Clinical Practice Guidelines on the Use of Integrative Therapies as Supportive Care in Patients Treated for Breast Cancer , Greenlee H et al. J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr 2014 (50): 346-358.

To read the full reference CLICK HERE

The Cancer Council, the survivors and the book


We head to New Zealand again this week to present the 8 day cancer self-help program Cancer, Healing and Wellbeing in the beautiful southern island town of Wanaka.

What an environment for healing!

For the next post, that will come in 10 days, I will report on this program and the one we have just completed at the Foundation, Cancer and Beyond.



Meditation and the Inner Journey        8th  – 12th  June     Yarra Valley

This retreat brings together 2 powerful experiences - the deep natural peace of meditation, and a gentle process of introspection that will help you reconnect with your own inner wisdom.

For thousands of years, people have removed themselves from the busyness of daily life and entered into a retreat situation to meditate. Come, join like-minded people, be inspired, be renewed. Immerse yourself in meditation.

Be guided, be nurtured. Take the opportunity to reconnect with your own inner wisdom and natural great peace.

FULL DETAILS  -  Click here

04 May 2015

Meditation and the art of sitting

In traditional meditation circles it is said “if the posture is correct, meditation occurs spontaneously”. Really? Many of us may well be experiencing difficulty in the sitting. We go to meditate, sit - and encounter restlessness, discomfort, maybe even pain.

How then to simply sit and find the posture we take up for our meditation truly helpful?

Enter an old friend and colleague, David McRae. David and I worked together for many years back in the eighties, leading cancer groups and meditation programs.

So this week, in a guest blog with some great photos, David addresses “Meditation and the art of sitting”, but first

      Thought for the week

All of humanity's problems 
Stem from man's inability 
To sit quietly in a room alone

         Blaise Pascal 
         – 17th century French Philosopher

"Do you know what you are doing?" It's a common enough question in just about all fields of endeavour. While sometimes it can be an insulting question, and others it can be very helpful.

So lets be bold. When it comes to embarking upon meditation practice do we know what we are doing? Through some decades of teaching and personal practice I have found that it greatly helps learners if I discuss with them "what are we doing?", or in other words, what is meditation?

Here I am not talking about definitions of meditation; they can be unwieldy and dry. Let us be more practical and without any academic psychological or philosophical terms, examine what is meditation?

A starting point in some traditions is that the heart of meditation is SITTING. Zen teaching emphasizes that meditation is really just sitting, and then sitting some more.

By sitting we do not necessarily mean a special way of sitting, though a fairly straight upright spine is helpful, as is a posture that is quite balanced so that a good degree of relaxation is possible.

Otherwise, kneeling, being on a chair or special stool, or even lying down if your physical condition demands it are all okay. They can all qualify as 'sitting' for the purpose of meditation.

Why is an emphasis on 'just SITTING', or 'simply SITTING' so useful? Look at it this way. Often when something is tiring or stressing us we decide we need a break (providing we are self-aware enough to feel that).

So we take a break; a 'smoko' or a coffee break. Quite literally we go outside and have a cigarette, or we make a cup of tea or coffee. We might be sitting, but we are also sipping coffee or tea. Or we pick up a magazine, a bill or piece of mail or whatever might be on the table. Perhaps we have the radio on, or the TV; or we may be chatting to whoever else is in the room. There is nothing wrong with any of this and it may be somewhat restful.

But are we also capable of just SITTING without any of these preoccupations? Many people seem to find it pretty hard to “just sit” after thirty seconds or so.

Meditation is the art of having a 'smoko' break without the smoke, tea, coffee, magazine or anything else. It is the bare bones of having a break; it is simply SITTING.

The second element of the zen-like description 'simply SITTING' is that we find a way to stay with the sitting for a period of time. There are various suggested techniques, but in the end it is YOU finding a way that YOU can employ. And the simpler the technique the better.

Finding a way to do what, exactly? A way to stay physically and mentally with 'simply SITTING' beyond the first, second and third impulses to have a coffee, browse a magazine, turn on the radio or go to the fridge. And that means a way through the distractedness or restlessness that underlies all those impulses.

And there you have it - that's meditation.

Whether you are attending to your breath, to your body relaxing, to repetition of a mantra or something else it is in the service of encountering the mental impulses that would move you out of 'simply SITTING'.

Encountering your impulses and mental distractedness also has to be YOUR own way.

It may be a head on confrontation like an arm wrestle, but generally confrontation is not sustainable. More likely it will develop characteristics of witnessing your mental activity and busyness, flowing with it and allowing it to settle naturally. Something like surfing the waves, or a more subtle and responsive martial art like judo or aikido. It is your discovery and it will be your way.

So where have we come to with this enquiry into "what are we doing"? It seems we are sitting and surfing the waves of all that would pull us away from 'simply SITTING'. Hopefully this involves relaxing, and just possibly some moments of freedom from the tyranny of excessive thinking. Until of course we do choose to move out of sitting and into the rest of our day's activities. Having a coffee perhaps. Where's that bill I have to pay?

Guest blog by David McRae. Want to visit David's website? These days David lives and works in Coff's Harbour where he runs meditation groups and provides counselling. CLICK HERE


Winter Solstice Chanting and Meditation with Jarek Czechowicz

Saturday, June 20th, 8-11pm, Augustine Centre, Hawthorn

Another highly recommended opportunity to sing universal chants that facilitate natural meditation:

The light reveals our blessed way. 

The night is longing for the day. 
Awakening we pray: 
May these days be filled with love.  

Come for a comfortable and heart-warming celebration.

Buy tickets at: http://www.trybooking.com/hmon

Get more information at: http://www.jarekc.com/winter-solstice/

Join the event and Share it on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/events/466410683510863/



Meditation and the Inner Journey        8th  – 12th  June     Yarra Valley
This retreat brings together 2 powerful experiences - the deep natural peace of meditation, and a gentle process of introspection that will help you reconnect with your own inner wisdom.

For thousands of years, people have removed themselves from the busyness of daily life and entered into a retreat situation to meditate. Come, join like-minded people, be inspired, be renewed. Immerse yourself in meditation. Be guided, be nurtured. Take the opportunity to reconnect with your own inner wisdom and the essence of who you really are.

FULL DETAILS  -  Click here


Ruth and I have committed to presenting a series of ongoing, regular 5 day follow-up residential cancer programs for the Gawler Foundation. The first of these begins in the Yarra Valley this week, the next will be from 12th - 16th October. We will also present a similar 5 day follow up cancer program in New Zealand for Canlive - 9th - 13th November.

We will also present one comprehensive 8 day program (also in New Zealand for Canlive) CANCER, HEALING and WELLBEING, that will be well suited to anyone who has not done a program with us before. This program is on in mid May - see below.


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.