29 June 2015

Meditation retreats – 4 good reasons to go

Meditation has a multitude of benefits. Basically, we meditate daily so those benefits can flow into our daily life. Why then make the effort to go on a meditation retreat?

This week, we examine why it may be worthwhile to take time out from daily life, to go to a secluded place and enter into a meditation retreat, and as I embark personally on a 3 month retreat, I will share some of my own personal motivation and experiences, but first

              Thought for the day 

To meditate is to make a complete break 
With how we “normally” operate, 

For it is a state free of all cares and concerns, 
In which there is no competition, 
No desire to possess or grasp at anything,
No intense and anxious struggle, 

And no hunger to achieve 

An ambitionless state where there is 
Neither acceptance nor rejection,
Neither hope nor fear, 
A state in which we slowly begin 
To release all those emotions and concepts 
That have imprisoned us 
Into the space of natural simplicity.

                           Sogyal Rinpoche

So why take a complete break” and join a meditation retreat? Four good reasons:

1. Immersion

Dive in deeply.

Leave behind the activity and the distractions – both good and bad - and dive in.

On retreat we can be shielded from day-to-day events. Not that they are unimportant, its just that time out can be more than useful, more than a relief, more than a chance to regain balance; diving in can lead to a deeper experience that will last with you.

Many people tell me how their daily meditation practice helps them to maintain their poise and balance. But in reality, for many of us, it can be a bit like keeping our heads above water.

Life can be so busy these days that as we work at fulfilling all our obligations it can be challenging to make real personal progress.

Taking time out and immersing ourselves in a suitable retreat gives the opportunity to learn more, to deepen our experience of meditation, to reflect on where we are at in our lives and to return home refreshed and better equipped for the rigors of modern life.

Speaking personally, life has been very full these past few years. Lots of wonderful things; but very full - and rather continuous. So the opportunity to remove myself from all the activity, to defer everything in my working life for 3 months will be a rare opportunity and one I look forward to with the excited anticipation of an unattached meditator! Whoopee!

2. Learning
Most retreats will feature teachings that provide the means to deepen our understanding of what meditation really is, how we can practice it and if we are so involved, how we can help others as we teach and share it.

I am fortunate to have been a student of the great Tibetan teacher Sogyal Rinpoche for over 30 years now. If you have felt some benefit from my teaching, it will be largely due to what I have learnt from him, along with my first important teacher, Dr Ainlsie Meares, along with all I have garnered from the people who I have been attempting to help to learn to meditate over the years.

Sogyal Rinpoche is a great teacher, very familiar with the Western mind and what we Westerners are dealing with, and someone who brings humour along with incredible knowledge, wisdom and experience to his teachings.

In part, what I am going to will be like attending a Summer school on meditation; along with plenty of practise.

3. Deepening experience
Ever noticed how if you sit to meditate for a longer period of time, how towards the end you seem to settle a bit more and enter into something deeper? Going on retreat offers that opportunity in a very direct way.

Also, when a retreat is held in an inspiring, beautiful environment, in buildings that have been
designed for the purpose and had a good deal of meditation practised within them; and when you are in like-minded company being supported and led by an experienced teacher; then all is conducive to relax, to let go and enter deeply into the practice.

Happily, the memory of that deeper experience is likely to stay with you and inform your practise at home.

It becomes easier to return to a deeper meditative experience.

4. Reflection
Life can be so busy these days it is easy to get caught up in all the day-to-day happenings. Years can go by until one day, it is as if we wake up and think “What was that all about?”’ “Where did all those years go?”

So it seems almost like a necessity to make the effort at least once a year to step back and take time to reflect. Where am I in terms of my life path? Am I on track? Am I distracted? What is important? What are the priorities?

Speaking personally again, I am now 65. I love the work that I do; leading retreats with Ruth is such a wonderful thing to be able to do. We both thrive on leading meditation retreats as well as offering to help people with cancer on the more specific cancer residential programs. And we are involved in quite deal else as well.

However, it is always good to stand back and re-assess things. How can I be most helpful? How can we be most helpful?

The last time I took time for a major reflection, the hold world of IT opened up. The blog. The website and webstore and then the Mindbody Mastery on-line meditation program that will soon be available as an app.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode   …..

Currently, Ruth and I are concentrating much of our working time on preparing and presenting residential programs.

We lead meditation retreats for anyone interested in a more immersive experience of meditation. Whether as a beginner or an experienced meditator, there is nothing like taking time out from the busyness of daily life, receiving some instruction, being guided into meditation and then having a solid period of time to develop and deepen your own practice.

These programs can be well suited to people who teach meditation and want to learn more, or for those aspiring to become meditation teachers. Attending our meditation retreats may count towards the requirements to become qualified as a member of the Meditation Association of Australia (the re-named ATMA), please check for the specific program you are interested in.

We also lead more specific programs for people dealing with cancer. Again, whether you are dealing with cancer personally, or are supporting someone going through cancer, it can be invaluable to take the uninterrupted opportunity that a residential program offers to learn and experience what can be done through your own efforts.

All the important Lifestyle Medicine factors are addressed in depth – therapeutic nutrition, suitable types of exercise, healthy, healing emotions, the power of the mind and of course, meditation, mindfulness and guided imagery.

Two types of cancer programs are presented. The first are open to everyone affected by cancer and are held in New Zealand. These programs are comprehensive in that they cover the full program and are suitable for people new to this approach or the more experienced. There is an 8 day and a 5 day version of this program to choose from.

Then there are more specific follow-up programs that we present for the Gawler Cancer Foundation in the Yarra Valley. These are tailor made to meet the needs of people who have attended a previous “Gawler” program, either at the Foundation itself, with Ruth or myself, or one of the groups linked with the Foundation that is presenting its style of program.


We have gone to some lengths to ensure that all these residential programs can be presented in beautiful environments, where the amenities are suitable and where the food is consistent with our principles and prepared lovingly with great taste. As we know, healthy food is not only good for you, but can taste terrific!

So details of the programs coming up in the not-to-distant future are below, while more comprehensive details are on the website: www.iangawler.com/events.


Meditation Under the Long White Cloud   24 - 28 October 2015

7 day retreat at Mana Retreat Centre, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

         Take time out from the busyness of everyday life; spend time with your self
      Slow down, reflect, contemplate – regain perspective, vitality, balance and clarity
Deepen your understanding and experience of mindfulness, contemplation and meditation.

The special focus of this meditation retreat will be the theory and practise of contemplation

Full details, CLICK HERE


CANCER and BEYOND     October  2015     Monday 12th to Friday 16th 

Five Day Residential Follow-up Program at the Gawler Cancer 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 Cancer Foundation program or equivalent such as with Sabina Rabold, CSWA, Cancer Care SA, CanLive NZ, or with the Gawlers themselves.

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 

MIND-BODY MEDICINE and CANCER    November  2015    Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th

         Five day Residential program in the beautiful surrounds of Wanaka, New Zealand
            - an easy drive from Queenstown airport and very accessible for Australians

This program is open to anyone affected by cancer.

While the focus of this program is on therapeutic meditation and nutrition, the power of the mind and emotional health, ample time will be given to answering any questions you may have relating to the Gawler program - exercise, positive thinking, healing, balancing medical options, successful ways of dealing with setbacks, sustaining your good intentions and the relevance of finding meaning in life to healing and recovery.

Health professionals interested to learn more of this work are also welcome to attend.


1 comment:

  1. Good sharing, meditation retreat giving us opportunity to free from work and relax for our mind. I learned meditation from a guru with over 30 years’ experience, he is Venerable Vimokkha, I do record his English meditation teaching in MP3 and share in my blog. Feel free to download this free meditation MP3 at: