22 June 2015

The getting of wisdom – how learning contemplation brings insight and confidence

 Who am I? Where am I going? What is life? These are the 3 big questions that philosophers and mystics down through the ages have sought direct answers to through the practice of contemplation.

So this week, we will learn how these age-old techniques of contemplation remain relevant for self-reflection, but can also make a major contribution to ordinary, every day problem solving. 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 2015 meditation retreat in New Zealand, Meditation Under the Long White Cloud, set amidst the delightful landscape of the Coromandel Peninsula out from Auckland -  Aussies welcome! - so details of that too, but first


            Thought for the Day

                  Tell me and I will forget 

                  Show me and I may remember

                  Involve me and I will understand

                                        Old Chinese proverb

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.

Using the example of contemplating what way of eating suits you best:

1. Identify the object of your contemplation (e.g. to clarify your food choices) 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 all 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 and space to contemplate
Half an hour to an hour is usually sufficient, and ideally go to where you meditate regularly (or any quiet area).  Make sure you are freed from the telephone and other possible distractions.  Take with you any notes and other material you have gathered.  Also take a pen and paper as it is often helpful to record your insights.

5. Begin by reviewing your research material
Refresh all the knowledge you have of your subject. If you do not have any 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 review the facts as you remember them and think them through
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 willautomatically 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 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 “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!

During each meditation retreat Ruth and I present, we cover the techniques of meditation generally, do a good deal of practice together and also give particular attention to a specific theme.

So In New Zealand in October, as well as having the opportunity to deepen our meditation together, we will explore the theory of contemplation 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.

And a hint – speaking personally, this is one of the best retreats Ruth and I present; I love this topic and have seen it help people profoundly. Highly recommended!


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 Download
Inner Peace, Inner Wisdom – clear instruction and guided exercises for contemplation

Time to retreat?

Later this week I am setting off to enter into an extended meditation retreat
I will be participating in a meditation based retreat at Sogyal Rinpoche’s retreat centre in the South of France until late in September.

This comes as a great opportunity to learn more of meditation and related mind training practices, to possibly deepen my own meditation experience and to come back with more to help others.

For the first time in our 15 years of married life, Ruth and I will be apart for a significant period of time, as it seems I am at an age where this extended retreat will be very useful, but Ruth has other commitments including attending to our work.

So while I will be off the air for some months, blogs have been prepared in advance that will be posted fortnightly until the retreat is completed. For the next post, I will write something on the intention behind attending a retreat.

May we all find inner peace, along with a calm and clear mind.

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 combined efforts.

All the important Lifestyle Medicine factors are addressed in depth – accelerated healing, 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!

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 - 30 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

Full details, CLICK HERE


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

Finding peace in the Healing Process

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

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.


1 comment:

  1. Three months of retreat. Lucky you. Hoping to attend the Easter retreat next year and learn all about it.