26 December 2016

Love the New Year’s Resolutions

Three simple, readily doable ways to be a little more loving.

For many, Christmas is an opportunity to have some time off, catch the breath after a busy year and spend time with family and friends. For others, it is the height of their religious calendar; a peak event for Christians.

For everyone, symbolically Christmas represents the birth of unconditional love in human form. Now, unconditional love is pretty well impossible to maintain all the time; hard enough to manage any of the time. For most of us, love does have a few conditions attached.

However, any steps we make towards being more unconditionally loving are sure to bring benefits to us personally and to those around us. So this week, 3 simple, readily doable ways to be a little more loving. Maybe one is worth considering for a New Year’s resolution, but first a little Christmas funny…

         Thought for the day

I stopped believing in Santa Claus 
when I was six. 
Mother took me to see him 
in a department store 
and he asked for my autograph. 

                  Shirley Temple 

Three simple, readily doable ways to be a little more loving.
1. Practice gratitude
Gratitude opens the heart. With gratitude comes appreciation. A recognition of something or someone’s intrinsic worth, intrinsic goodness.

Gratitude takes almost no effort. We just need to remember to do it from time to time. The more often the better.

Gratitude is easiest with those things we naturally appreciate, but even more effective when we practice it with those things we have an initial aversion towards.

Take a few moments regularly to consider not only the theoretical side of why you have gratitude for something or someone, but go into the feeling that comes with gratitude. That feeling of gratitude will open the heart and lead to being more loving.

2. Recognize the nature of all people

Essentially we are all the same. Everyone of us wants to be healthy, wants to be happy. Whether you have the attitude of loving or hating someone else, they are essentially just the same as you.

How can we make a claim towards sanity while we sustain hating someone who is essentially the same as us?

Contemplate this. Surely it makes more sense to love someone who is just like me… This is a n opening to tolerance and being more loving.

3. Express your self
Some people may well be telepathic, but I do not meet so many of them. For most, telepathy is not so useful and guessing what someone else thinks or more importantly feels about them is rather unsatisfying.

The spoken word has real benefits. At a recent Christmas party, one of my own relatives was deeply moved by being told by a sibling for the first time that they loved them.

Direct expression has profound impact. Do not just think it. Do not presume the other person knows it. Do not presume the other person is telepathic. Express it. Appropriate physical contact can add depth of feeling to the words, but for what we are touching on here, the words are the main event.

Take your courage in your hands, or is that into your heart? – and tell the people you love and care about how you really feel.

HINT Maybe you start with expressing your gratitude to others with some clarity and heartfelt emotion….

No intention here of suggesting another thing “to do”. Life is busy enough. But maybe there is some resonance in one of these three. Something that holds a natural attraction. Something you could not only remember to do, but actually enjoy doing.

Aspiring to be more unconditionally loving actually does feel good; especially if you do actually do it a little.

May it be a year of peace, good health, laughter, meaning and a little more love in all our lives.


Meditation in the Forest
The annual Pre-Easter retreat amidst the natural peace and tranquility of the Upper Yarra Valley.

Looking for meaning, clarity and purpose in life?

Need a break? Some time to stand back from the busyness of life, to re-assess, to regenerate, to regain some balance once more? A new clarity...

This year, as well as taking time out to deepen our experience of the stillness of meditation, we will practise together simple yet profound methods of contemplation - the direct path to a calm and clear mind that provides the real prospect of major insights...

Dates           4 pm Friday 7th April until 2 pm Thursday 13th April 2017.
Venue          The Yarra Valley Living Centre, 55 Rayner Court, Yarra Junction, Victoria, Australia 
Bookings     The Gawler Foundation: +61 (3) 5967 1730 

For more details and to book CLICK HERE

05 December 2016


Turmeric is the well-known culinary herb that in more recent times has been developing a formidable reputation due to its many well-researched therapeutic benefits.

But how much is enough? How much do we need to take to get the benefits and what about the various additives or adjuvants that claim to increase its potency and effectiveness? Are they for real? And if so, which of those is best?

This week, the answers. In the last post, How much turmeric?, we covered the theory – that curcumin is the main active ingredient of turmeric and that some adjuvants do have demonstrated positive benefits.

So now we convert the theory into powder and tablets, and share a great turmeric recipe for a concentrated, therapeutic spread and then reveal what I do myself, but first

Thought for the day

And now I’m going behind
this page, but not disappearing.
I’ll dive into clear air
like a swimmer in the sky,
and then get back to growing
till one day I’m so small
that the wind will take me away
and I won’t know my own name
and I won’t be there when I wake.

Then I will sing in the silence.

Pablo Neruda

I am not into caveats or waivers or cop-outs. I am of the view that it is best to speak the truth as you know it and leave others to make of it what they can. However, in this instance, it may well be useful to be clear re what I have written about turmeric. 

I have been looking into this turmeric question for some time and researched it a reasonable amount. But I have not done a PhD on it and do not claim to have done a full literature search. What I am presenting here is based on what I understand to be useful information and what I do with turmeric myself - I am taking it for a while myself.

Truth is, the best way to take turmeric therapeutically would be to consult a qualified health professional – a good herbalist would be the obvious choice – and to have them prescribe in response to your individual needs.

Yet I know many will take turmeric anyway, so what follows is offered as something of a guide. Also to be clear, I have no financial interests in any of the products mentioned. Will be interested to learn what you and others might be doing...

1. Turmeric contains 3% curcumin

2. Research studies indicate the therapeutic dose of curcumin is around 1 - 6gms/day. The lower levels seem to demonstrate effectiveness for “simpler things” like arthritis, the higher levels for conditions like cancer.

3. For the lower dose, 1gm of curcumin is equivalent to a bit over 42gms or around 10.5 teaspoons of turmeric powder. For the higher dose, 6gms of curcumin is equivalent to 250 gms or 62.5 teaspoons of turmeric powder.

4. Black pepper increases the efficacy of turmeric 20 fold.

5. The amount of black pepper required is about 5% by weight of the turmeric.

5. The adjuvant BioPerine increases the efficacy of turmeric by 30 fold, as well as increasing the uptake of several other supplements.

6. The adjuvant Longvida increases the efficacy of turmeric by 65 fold.

The first question is whether to take natural turmeric or a supplement?

Personally, I am a big fan of natural herbs as compared to extracts. If we take turmeric whole, we get the curcumin along with all sorts of lesser known, lesser studied compounds that actually may be quite important.

Problem is, to achieve therapeutic levels, the amount we need to take of the fresh herb or the powder on its own is impractical. Here is the problem :

1. Take turmeric on its own
Based on what we know, for the lower therapeutic dose, if we take turmeric on its own, we would
need to take around 10.5 teaspoons of the powder daily.

For the higher dose, it would be around 62.5 teaspoons.

Obviously this is not practical, but the good news is that adjuvants do work.

There are 3 worth considering.

2. Take turmeric with an adjuvant
a) Go natural - Turmeric and black pepper
Going on basic theory, fresh turmeric may be slightly better than the powder, but as yet there is no evidence on this.

To achieve the lower therapeutic levels, we would need half a teaspoon of turmeric and .025 teaspoon (which is about .1 gram) of black pepper. We could do this quite easily using the turmeric paste recipe below.

For the higher levels, we would need 62.5 teaspoons divided by 20, which is the equivalent of a bit over 3 teaspoons of turmeric powder plus .15 teaspoons of black pepper. This may not be so practical, and for these higher levels, another form of adjuvant/supplement probably makes better sense. Read on…

b) Take a supplement
If you do choose to take a supplement, there is a real need to read the labels and be clear on what you are getting.

For example, you can buy organic turmeric in capsules. One brand offers capsules containing 800 mgm turmeric on its own. Remember, the lower therapeutic dose is 42gms; so if we divide this by 800mgm, you would need the equivalent of 70 capsules per day. You could take these capsules with 5% pepper that you add yourself, and then only need to take 70 divided by 20, or 3.5 capsules per day.

This same brand offers another formulation with 607mgm turmeric, 3mgm black pepper and 50mgm ginger. Problem is you need 5% black pepper to be effective. Five percent of 607 is 30.35, so they have only one tenth of the black pepper needed.

Supplements worth considering
i) BioPerine 
This patented formulation has been researched in clinical trials to validate its safety and efficacy. It has been shown to increase the bioavailability of curcumin by 30 fold, and many other nutrients to a significant degree, including CoEnzyme Q10, Selenium, Vitamin C and Beta-carotene, along with resveratrol, numerous other water and fat soluble vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids.

BioPerine is used in many supplement formulations for this reason and while useful, it seems Longvida makes more sense.

BioPerine - best recommendation

Turmeric Curcumin Premium 1,000mgm capsules

Ingredients : Curcuma longa (root) extract with 95% Curcuminoids 1000mg and BioPerine (Piperine
Extract) 20mg

Recommended dose : For adults : take 2 capsules a day, 30 minutes before meals with an 8oz glass of water.

Cost : The regular list price for a single bottle is $48, however, discounts are available for multiple purchases.

ii) Longvida
Longvida claims to increase curcumin bioavailability by 65 times; making it the highest of the 3 we have examined.

Also, Longvida is the only form or formulation of turmeric or curcumin that has published research demonstrating its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and bind amyloid plaques. While others may do this, Longvida is the only one with published evidence.

Longvida - best recommendation


Ingredients : Longvida Optimized Curcumin Extract [from Curcuma longa (Turmeric) Root] (Rhizome) (min. 20% Curcuminoids)

What I understand of this is that Curcubrain contains 20% of 400mgm curcuminoids – which is 80mgm. The Longvida increases the efficacy by 65 fold making this the equivalent of 2.8gms of curcuminoids. Remember, the therapeutic dose for curcuminoids ranges from 1 to 6 gms daily.

Recommended dose : From the manufacturer : Take one capsule daily. This is the equivalent of 2,8gms of curcuminoids.

However, while that would satisfy the minimum therapeutic dose we have been speaking of, for the maximum dose, we would need to take 1 capsule, 2 or even 3 times daily.

50 capsules per bottle. Recommended retail $39.99. Seem elsewhere for $25.48, making it 50cents to a dollar a day.

Store in a cool, dry place after opening.
Caution: For adults only. Keep out of reach of children.
Consult physician if pregnant/nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition (including liver dysfunction, gall bladder or gastrointestinal problems).
Do not eat freshness packet. Keep in Bottle.

FINALLY - just eat it...

According to the WHO, in 2014 Australia had an Alzheimers/dementia death rate of 25.91 deaths per 100,000 people (age standardized). That was the 12th worst in the world. Finland was top at 53.77. India had only 0.46 per 100,000.

It may be that India’s high dietary use of turmeric has something to do with this. We do know that
quite a few herbs have therapeutic benefits when taken just in the common amounts for cooking. Some speculate that turmeric, maybe eaten along with some pepper, is helping the health of people in India generally, and in avoiding Alzheimers specifically.

So perhaps just eating more fresh or powdered turmeric along with a little black pepper is a good idea anyway.

Now for the turmeric paste recipe
To one full teaspoon of turmeric powder, add 6 – 8 freshly ground black pepper corns and 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika.

Mix with enough Olive oil or Flaxseed oil to make a fluid paste.

Place in a pan and GENTLY warm while swirling over heat. Do not place on direct heat and do not overheat – just make warm.

Finely grate 2 large garlic cloves and leave them to sit for 10 – 15 minutes.

Once the paste is cool, mix in the garlic.

Serve on toast or use your imagination…

What is BCM -15 and Meriva?
Just in case you were wondering, they are other supplements – details CLICK HERE

I am interested in the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and the possibility that Curcubrain can remove brain plaques related to Alzheimers – if they happen to be there.

Currently I am taking 1x Curcubrain daily, and balancing this with a piece of toast with the paste on it every second day or so. And we use fresh turmeric from time to time in cooking; sometimes the powder too.

Turmeric is a tropical plant. Have tried to grow it in our garden, and in pots, but in the Yarra Valley, get some leaves, but B-all new rhizomes. Anyone got some tricks???

Please feel free to add your comments below.


How much Turmeric - Part 1


Meditation in the Forest
The annual Pre-Easter retreat amidst the natural peace and tranquility of the Upper Yarra Valley.

Looking for meaning, clarity and purpose in life?

Need a break? Some time to stand back from the busyness of life, to re-assess, to regenerate, to regain some balance once more? A new clarity...

This year, as well as taking time out to deepen our experience of the stillness of meditation, we will practise together simple yet profound methods of contemplation - the direct path to a calm and clear mind that provides the real prospect of major insights...

Dates           4 pm Friday 7th April until 2 pm Thursday 13th April 2017.
Venue          The Yarra Valley Living Centre, 55 Rayner Court, Yarra Junction, Victoria, Australia 
Bookings     The Gawler Foundation: +61 (3) 5967 1730 

For more details and to book CLICK HERE

28 November 2016


Turmeric is that wonderful traditional Indian herb with the golden colour and the subtle taste. We all know it well. It spices up many dishes, and increasingly it is becoming known for its many well-researched preventative and therapeutic benefits.

But are you confused? Want to know how much to take, and in what form? Natural herb? Fresh or dried powder? Tablets? What about curcumin? Where does pepper fit in? And what about other substances that are claimed to increase its uptake and efficacy?

This week, prompted by fascinating new research that suggests curcumin may prevent cancer from spreading, we review what is known and point to what to do, but first

         Thought for the day

                My wish 
                Is not to save my life
                But to savor my life

                              PhD student


Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizome of the ginger family.

Traditionally, like many other herbs, turmeric was widely grown and used in India for both cooking and medicine.

These days, scientists have identified curcumin as the main bioactive ingredient of turmeric.

Curcumin is a natural polyphenol compound and there is a growing body of good research demonstrating that curcumin has many therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-oxidant activity.

Personally I know of a good number of people who have had great relief from arthritis through taking turmeric.

The actual research indicates possible benefits relating to inflammation, indigestion (including dyspepsia, bloating, and gas), ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers, osteoarthritis, heart disease (including atherosclerosis and lowering LDL cholesterol), blood clotting, antibacterial and antiviral properties, uveitis, neurodegenerative conditions (including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis) and it may help to reduce damage to cells and DNA caused by free radicals.

For a good academic review of the therapeutic properties, CLICK HERE
Luthra PM et al, Indian J Clin Biochem : 2001 Jul; 16(2): 153–160

Curcumin also has proven anti-cancer activity, specifically because it induces cancer cell apoptosis (cell death) through regulating various signaling pathways and arresting the tumor cell cycle.

Now, recent research from Sydney points to newly realised positive anti-metastatic mechanisms of curcumin, and the possible synergistic actions of combination therapy using curcumin with chemotherapy.

Reference, CLICK HERE
Deng Y et al. Molecular Mechanisms of Anti-metastatic Activity of Curcumin : Anticancer Research, Nov 2016 vol. 36; 11, 5639-5647

So the questions remain … How much do we take? What form do we take?

Having spent a good deal of time researching the subject, this is what I have concluded :

Turmeric contains about 3% curcumin.

Most positive therapeutic trials I found have been based on administering 6 - 8 gms of curcumin each

6 - 8 gms of curcumin is equivalent to around 250gms of turmeric. A teaspoon contains about 4 gms of turmeric powder, so this is equivalent to 62.5 teaspoons of powder!

Happily, several things are proven to increase the bio-availability of curcumin from turmeric, but first, let us clarify - fresh or powder?

Traditionally, when not used fresh, turmeric rhizomes were boiled for about 30–45 minutes and then dried in hot ovens, after which they were ground into the familiar golden powder.

The evidence is that either the fresh herb or the powder is therapeutic; while most of the research seems to have been conducted using tumeric powder, often combined with an adjuvant, or curcumin as an extract.

Personally, I like using fresh wherever possible, but if you wanted the therapeutic levels of fresh turmeric, and you took turmeric on its own, you would need to take 250gms per day. While that would be ludicrous, there is a practical solution.

There are number of compounds, some natural, some proprietary, that combine synergistically with turmeric and greatly increase the therapeutic effectiveness of curcumin.

1. Pepper 
This is the traditional adjuvant. It contains about 5 -10% of the alkaloid piperine which is regarded as the key, active ingredient.

Piperine is well known for its ability to increase the bioavailability of many nutrients including curcumin. It does this by inhibiting key enzymes for metabolism, preventing substances from leaving cells, decreasing intestinal activity, and stimulating useful amino-acids. All of these changes work to keep substances in the body’s cells longer.

In the case of curcumin, several studies have demonstrated that piperine aids in absorption. The best evidence suggests that by using 5% by weight of black pepper compared to the amount of turmeric increases the positive effect by 20 times.

In other words, use 5% black pepper, and reduce the amount of turmeric needed by one twentieth.

This means when you use turmeric and black pepper, you ONLY need 62.5 teaspoons divided by 20, which is the equivalent of a bit over 3 teaspoons of turmeric plus .15 teaspoons of black pepper.

Sounding more do-able? Read on….

2. BioPerine
BioPerine is a patented product that is derived from peperine. The brand name BioPerine is owned by Sabinsa Corporation and it contains around 95% piperine.

BioPerine has been researched in clinical trials to validate its safety and efficacy.

It has been shown to increase the bioavailability of not just curcumin, but many other nutrients including CoEnzyme Q10, Selenium, Vitamin C and Beta-carotene, along with resveratrol, numerous other water and fat soluble vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids.

So BioPerine is added to quite a few other supplements as well as turmeric based ones - read your labels…

BioPerine is claimed to lead to a 30-fold increase in availability of curcumin, but research shows that there is a big decrease in blood levels after only 45 to 60 minutes.

This means when you use turmeric and BioPerine, you ONLY need 62.5 teaspoons divided by 30, which is the equivalent of around 2 teaspoons of turmeric plus .1 teaspoons of black pepper. Problem then is that BioPerine only comes in capsules already combined with turmeric.

3. Longvida
Longvida is made up of 20% curcumin and 80% phospholipids.

Longvida is the only form or formulation of turmeric or curcumin that has published research demonstrating its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and bind amyloid plaques. While others may do this, Longvida is the only one with the research evidence.

So this makes Longvida the preferred choice for those focused on brain-related conditions such as Alzheimers or traumatic brain injury. It may possibly have both preventative and alleviating possibilities. More research is needed to clarify this, but it is a strong selling point.

Longvida does have a good deal of research and clinical studies examining its effectiveness in curcumin absorption. Based mostly it would seem upon a 2010 article published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, which examined curcumin levels in the blood with and without phospholipids, Longvida claims to increase curcumin bioavailability by 65 times; making it the highest of the 3 we have examined.

This means when you use turmeric and Longvida, you ONLY need 62.5 teaspoons divided by 65, which is the equivalent of around 1 teaspoon of turmeric plus .05 teaspoons of black pepper. As with BioPerine, Longvida only comes in capsules already combined with turmeric. So what to do?

Reference : Absorption studies - CLICK HERE

Hope you have not already found this out the hard way… curcumin is a very potent yellow pigment and can permanently discolor surfaces. Be careful!

PART 2 What to do? What to use? Next week we solve the mystery… how to convert all this theory into powders and tablets, along with a great turmeric recipe for a concentrated, therapeutic spread.

14 November 2016


It is confession time. It seems I was wrong about Roundup.

For years, like many others I had believed the evidence quoted by chemical industry and organic farming sources that claimed Roundup was safe. We were led to believe it was non-toxic and had a short life in nature.

In days gone by I have said in public I thought it OK to use around houses and farms, with the proviso of keeping it away from vegetable gardens and home orchards – just to be on the safe side. At home, we used it to control weeds along roads, under trees and in the lawn.

However, there is a growing consensus among non-industry sponsored scientists that the current level of exposure to Roundup throughout the community, which is both increasing and relatively unmonitored and unregulated, carries significant risks for human and environmental health.

Having looked into this for some time now, this week we go Out on a Limb once more and examine the evidence, but first

        Thought for the day

             No wonder when all our flesh 
            Has decayed from our skulls

            They grin back at us.

            Death’s laugh lasts a long time.

                Barbara Berlin – laughing at the things we do.

How big is the problem?
A consensus statement from many leading scientists published in Environmental Health identified the broad spectrum herbicide glyphosate (common trade name "Roundup") as a major threat to human and environmental health.

While the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer recently concluded that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans," the scientists who authored the consensus paper also produced a Statement of Concern, summarised as follows:

1. Glyphosate Based Herbicides (GBHs) are the most heavily applied herbicides in the world and usage continues to rise

2. Worldwide, GBHs often contaminate drinking water sources, precipitation, and air, especially in agricultural regions
3. The half-life of glyphosate in water and soil is longer than previously recognised
4. Glyphosate and its metabolites are widely present in the global soybean supply
5. Human exposure to GBHs are rising
6. Glyphosate is now authoritatively classified as a probably human carcinogen
7. Regulatory estimates of tolerable daily intakes for glyphosate in the United States and European Union are based on outdated science

Having been gathering material on Roundup and glyphosates for some time, they are grouped here into the different spheres of concern. My apologies for not having references for all the claims; quite simply there is so much here that to reference it all is simply beyond what I can manage. However, I have been very selective with sources and believe what is recorded here to be consistent with current research evidence.

Human health concerns
1. Glyphosate feeds antibiotic resistance
Environmentally relevant concentrations of commercially available GBHs alter the susceptibility of bacteria to six classes of antibiotics (for example, either raise or lower the minimum concentration needed to inhibit growth). GBHs can also induce multiple antibiotic-resistance phenotypes in potential human pathogens.

2. Glyphosate linked to celiac disease
According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), glyphosate appears to be strongly correlated with the rise in celiac disease - see more under the wheat section below.

         BREAD - looks good,
         but why do so many people have trouble with 

3. Roundup blocks Vit D production 
Roundup is thought by some to inhibit the conversion of Vit D2 to D3 in the body. This could explain how some children in areas that have plenty of sunlight have low Vit D3 levels.

4. Roundup disrupts important gut bacteria
The synthesis of amino acids is critical to the good health of friendly gut bacteria – what we call probiotics. These bacteria play a critical role in human health; they aid digestion, prevent permeability of the gastro-intestinal tract, synthesize vitamins and provide the foundation for robust immunity.

Disruption can lead to meta-inflammation, a known precursor of all the chronic degenerative diseases.

5. Glyphosate inhibits cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes 
CYP enzymes are produced by gut microbes.  They are critical to human biology because they detoxify the multitude of foreign chemical compounds that we are exposed to in our modern environment today.

As a result of all this inhibition, people become even more vulnerable to the damaging effects of other chemicals and environmental toxins they encounter.

Effects in the food chain

1. Roundup and wheat. 
When I started running groups in 1981, hardly anyone had wheat or gluten sensitivities. Now it is easier when we run groups to provide a wheat free diet to all as so many have intolerances.

What has changed? What has led to so many people developing gluten intolerances?

It seems the answer may well be related to Roundup usage.

       The graphic correlates the increases in Roundup usage on wheat and the incidence of coeliac disease since 1990.

Pre-harvest application of Roundup or other glyphosates to wheat and barley as a desiccant was suggested as early as 1980. Over the past 15 years this practice has become routine.

Roundup is commonly sprayed on wheat 7-10 days before harvest.

Why would this spraying be done?

It seems that firstly, dead wheat plants are less taxing on the farm equipment. Next, drying out the whole crop at once – by killing it - makes for an earlier, easier, more evenly ripe and bigger harvest.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, as of 2012, 99% of durum wheat, 97% of spring wheat, and 61% of winter wheat has been treated with herbicides. It is evident that those who eat these sprayed grains absorb a significant amount of Roundup.

2. What is going on with soy?
Weeds are a big problem when growing soybeans. Monsanto sells Roundup-ready soybeans to growers that are genetically engineered to be resistant to Roundup, which is also sold by Monsanto. These beans allow growers to spray Roundup, killing the weeds but not the soy.

Recently, Norwegian researchers described the amount of pesticide residues found in GMO soy as high compared to the maximum allowable residue levels.

The legal limit for glyphosate in foods had been set at 0.1 - 0.2 mg/kg.

Recorded levels exceeded the legal limits by an average of about 2000%, whereas organic and conventional non-GMO soy both had none.

                   So what happened? 

In Brazil, the safe levels we reset at ten. In the U.S. and Europe – 20! It seems the adjustment was not based on new evidence indicating glyphosate toxicity was less than previously understood, but pragmatically in response to actual observed increases in the content of residues in GMO soybeans. Now that is a worry!

Next week we continue, examining the adverse effects on the environment and agriculture, along with the even worse effects of the surfactants used in Roundup and similar sprays. Then some recommendations – aside from the obvious one :


Buy, grow organic produce and support its production.


31 October 2016

Controversy – to speak or not to speak? And amazing photographic proof.

It is a difficult thing this. Six years ago, the accuracy of my cancer diagnosis was challenged by 2 oncologists. They put forward a hypothesis that the secondary cancer that created large lesions throughout my body, and from which I recovered, was not actually cancer at all – just tuberculosis (TB).

This is what they called TB – photos of my chest in 1976 showing extensive secondary bone cancer protruding from my sternum (the boney part in the middle of the chest). These lesions were solid bone - as hard as any bone in your body - the consequence of secondary bone cancer spreading.

The truth is that I did have both. I did develop secondary osteo-genic sarcoma first, and this was complicated later by a TB infection (in my left lung only) that most likely started after I had chemotherapy for the cancer, and that chemotherapy actually weakened my immune system.

Scientifically, the doctors were quite within their rights to put forward the TB only hypothesis. Not sure what their motive really was, but in the event, their challenge and the way it was reported in the Press appeared to attack not only my own credibility, but also that of the lifestyle based cancer support work I have been involved with for over 35 years.

The dilemma at the time was whether or not to respond in public to the hypothesis. 
My concern was that if it was not made completely clear that the hypothesis was wrong, then sections of the public might become confused and conclude that if the diagnosis was incorrect, then the work itself was in some way invalid.

This despite the fact that the work had been clearly shown to be helping so many people for over 30 years by the time this controversy unfolded. Clearly the validity of the work stands in its own right and is not dependent of my own personal medical history, but clearly also, the two are intertwined to some degree in the public view.

So I did respond in an attempt to prove the facts. Unfortunately, the press at the time seemed more intent on fueling controversy than establishing the truth.

Despite clear evidence the “TB only” hypothesis was incorrect, there has been no admition from the doctors concerned that they were wrong, and no clear statement in the scientific or popular Press they were incorrect and that I did in fact undoubtedly have secondary cancer.

Therefore, in some sections of the community, confusion was created and has lingered, some confidence has been lost, and some people in the ensuing years have stepped back from engaging with self-help programs – a very regrettable outcome.

Hence the difficulty. Given Google’s capacity to enable old material to remain prominent on the net for years, this uncertainty carries on in the minds of some. So do I just wear it as it were, or do I continue to respond?

Many suggest in these types of situations not to respond. There is good spiritual advice to simply accept personal criticism – good, sound advice. The PR spin doctors often recommend to keep quiet in the face of work criticism.
Yet six years after all this was first aired, there still seems to be some uncertainty amidst some sections of the community. It is of deep concern that it seems to be causing some people in need to be standing back and missing out on what could help them; maybe even missing out on what could make the difference for them between life and death. So what to do?

An invitation to speak
In the lead up to presenting a meditation retreat and then a specific residential program for people affected by cancer in New Zealand, I was invited recently to speak with Kim Hill on Radio New Zealand.

There was no prior indication of what type of interview she  had in mind.

Kim is a senior and well-respected journalist who has a reputation for being “rigorous”. She prepares thoroughly, is very well informed and can be confronting.

Kim has a huge following of people who love the way she interrogates some, dismantles others and basically exposes people for what they are. She can be quite daunting! Alternatively, she also has a great capacity to be light and witty.

Having been interviewed by Kim some years ago on TV, I found her interrogative style provided an excellent forum in which to answer the questions many would think about our work, but maybe not have the gumption to ask for themselves. So I agreed to this recent radio interview, strapped myself in and awaited what would happen…

Shall we say it was lively? Kim dived straight into all the controversies with some vigor! From the diagnosis to coffee enemas and on to the basic relevance of the self help approach in cancer medicine - and many parts in between.

The Radio New Zealand website has published a synopsis of the interview, and so I have quoted it directly here for you to read. Or you can link to the podcast and hear the whole interview :

If the link does not work, put this into your search engine http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=201821004

Thanks for the kind feedback and support that has been offered by many who have listened to it already; it seems many appreciated what they perceived to be the benefit of my meditation practice enabling a calm manner and voice to endure under tough questioning.

The proof of the secondary cancer diagnosis
What the synopsis has not included is the discussion around a key question asked during the interview – How can you be sure your diagnosis was accurate and the TB only hypothesis was false?

In another blog, 11 points have been recorded that clearly establish the truth of the secondary cancer diagnosis. The most incontrovertible of these in my opinion concerns the fact that I was treated with chemotherapy, and what the consequences of that treatment were.

The chemotherapy I received has no known activity against TB. This means it could not cause TB lesions to shrink. Also, as chemotherapy dampens the immune system, the world authority on TB – Dr Jonathan Streeton- who treated my TB was adamant that given how widespread my lesions were, if they had been TB, with no defences to resist it, the TB would have become rampant, and he was convinced I would have been overwhelmed with infection and died.

The facts of what did happen during the course of my chemotherapy are very clear. Firstly I did not get worse. Nor did I actually die! Secondly, the cancer actually did shrink in response to the chemo; not a great deal, but enough to be clear that it was having some effect on the cancer, not flaring up and aggravating TB.

This shrinkage was confirmed by photos taken at the time in a series once each month – and added below - along with a letter I have retained from the treating oncologist at the time who actually measured and recorded the size of the visible lesions on my chest at the start and the end of the course of chemotherapy.

What would you do?
So I must say I am curious… What do you think? Better to keep quiet? Or better to speak up? My sense is that this issue may well keep reappearing, at least for a while. I may be asked about it again in the future. What would you do?

The photographic proof
1. Photo of my chest taken at the start of 10 weeks of chemotherapy treatment - October 1976.

2. The date when the above photo was taken has been questioned by some, but it comes from the days when Kodak actually printed the dates of printing on the photo’s reverse, so just to be completely clear, here is the reverse with the date made clear.

3. Three groups of sequential photos taken monthly of my chest by my first wife from the start of chemotherapy - showing a clear response to that treatment that continued on until all the lesions had gone 18 months later. The dates were written at the time under each photo, but these dates  are not so clear when reproduced here.

4 Photo of my chest free of lesions taken on 25th April 1978 (printed May 1978)

5. Reverse of the photo above showing its date clearly confirmed.

Anyway, for today, here we go again – way Out on a Limb this time with the verbatim transcript copied directly from the Radio New Zealand website, but first

Thought for the day

Remembering that you are going to die 
Is the best way I know 

To avoid the trap of thinking 
You have something to lose.

You are already naked.

There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Steve Jobs

Dr Ian Gawler, who is in New Zealand with his wife Dr Ruth Gawler to run courses including a residential programme, talks with Kim Hill.

A synopsis from the interview put to air Saturday 22nd October 2016. 

And here is the link – CLICK HERE .
If the link does not work, put this into your search engine http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=201821004

Dr Ian Gawler is one of Australia's most experienced authorities on mind-body medicine and meditation.

He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, over 40 years ago. His right leg was amputated, and then he was told the cancer had metastasised into a lung, his pelvis and his spine. He was given only two weeks to live.

That diagnosis and Dr Gawler’s claim to be the only person in the world to survive secondary osteosarcoma have come under scrutiny in Australia. He has become the centre of an argument about the ethics of the promotion of the mind’s ability to cure cancer. 

Dr Gawler says that after his diagnosis with osteosarcoma in 1975, he got the best medical advice he could, as well as scouring medical libraries. He could find no evidence of anyone living more than six months with a condition such as he had.

“The diagnosis was well established and the prognosis was very grim.”

He then had chemotherapy, which he says was not meant to be curative.

“It was meant to be palliative and buy me some time. And I think that’s what it did – it bought me enough time to get the benefit of these other things and I’m here talking to you now.”

Yet Dr Gawler wants to make it clear he’s not anti-science or anti-medicine.
“That’s never been the case. I’ve always been interested in how you get the best out of both worlds."

Cancer treatment has three aspects, as he sees it – getting the best medical help you can, looking at natural and complementary therapies that might be useful and, most importantly, doing what you can do for yourself.

He believes that through lifestyle changes “applied fairly intensively” people can greatly contribute to their own recovery and wellbeing, alongside other treatments they may be getting.

He says he's troubled that even though one of the major potential causes of cancer is bad diet, many doctors still get virtually no training in nutrition. Coming from a veterinary background himself, therapeutic nutrition makes very obvious sense.

“You go to the vet with a pet and one of the first things you’ll always be asked is ‘What are you feeding your dog or your cat?’ Because it’s important.
"Most people would go to a GP repeatedly and never be asked that question because the GPs for some reason just aren’t trained in nutrition, they don’t value it.”

When you get heart disease, a doctor will tell you at the first appointment how lifestyle change can have a positive effect on your disease, he says.
The fact doctors don't often have such conversations at the time of cancer diagnosis is “an incredible error of omission,” Dr Gawler says.

“In cancer medicine most patients aren’t being advised by the doctors that what they do with their lifestyle can have a significant impact on the future of their condition.”

A diet that aids recovery from cancer is anti-inflammatory and regenerative, he says.

“Having a sensible approach to nutrition and recognising what you eat has a direct impact on your health and your wellbeing and specifically your capacity to heal – that should be normalised, that should be a given.”

“At the very least get on to a diet that’s not going to be provoking the cancer more.”

He guesses his own cancer was caused by a "very high-meat diet" and his "typical cancer prone personality" (also known as the C-type personality).

“I’ve had close connection with about 20,000 cancer patients over these past years. I would say of those at least 90 percent would recognise this cancer-prone personality.”

So what is this personality type?

“Their way of stress management is to try and please people, to be compliant. They tend to be people who have difficulty saying no to requests and they tend to internalise their emotions.

"They’re not the type of people who get angry. They’re the type of people who like to keep the peace and they make a lot of effort to do that. They put other people ahead of themselves to the detriment of themselves.”

Dr Gawler recommends people diagnosed with a major illness start doing what they can to live as healthily and happily as possible. Being active in your own treatment can reverse some of the fear, he says, and even help people die peacefully.

“I’ve seen people who’ve had really advanced cancer, who’ve died of that cancer and who’ve died with virtually no symptoms – no pain, no difficulty – they’ve just died. They died well. They died without a lot of pain, they died in a good state of mind. They died knowing that they’d done all that they could.”

Again, here is the link – – CLICK HERE .
If the link does not work, put this into your search engine http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=201821004

1. I have never actually claimed to be the only person in the world to recover from secondary osteogenic sarcoma as is stated in the synopsis.

What I have said is that when diagnosed with secondary osteogenic sarcoma in 1975, I could find no records in the medical literature of that day of anyone surviving more than 6 months. This latter fact is reported in the synopsis.

2. It could be misleading that it is said in the synopsis that my cancer “was caused by a "very high-meat diet" and his "typical cancer prone personality””.

Cancer is a multifactorial, chronic degenerative disease. While i agree that the 2 issues listed were significant, to be clear, there were other issues as well, not just those two. If you are interested, in You Can Conquer Cancer there is a full chapter on what i regard as the main causes of cancer, including detail of the cancer prone personality.

Ian Gawler's diagnosis - if it looks like a duck... Lists the 11 pieces of medical evidence that clearly establish my diagnosis of secondary osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer) and dismiss the TB only hypothesis.

17 October 2016

Dramatic changes in cancer medicine over the last 35years

If you had been diagnosed with cancer 35 years ago, in all probability you would have approached it very differently to how you might today; and the treatment and manner in which you would have been treated would also have been very different.

It being 35 years since the very first meeting of the Melbourne Cancer Support Group (16th September 1981), it seems timely to record observations of these far reaching changes. So what follows is a major piece that examines the changes in many areas. This is longer than the average post by quite a way, so settle in; maybe a cup of tea???,  but first

     Thought for the day
Physical quietness 
Seems the easiest to achieve, 
Although there are levels and levels of this too, 
As attested by the ability of Hindu mystics 
To live buried alive for many days. 

Mental quietness, 
In which one has no wandering thoughts at all, 
Seems more difficult, but can be achieved. 

But value quietness, 
In which one has no wandering desires at all 
But simply performs the acts of his life without desire; 
That seems the hardest.

                                        Robert Persig

Changes in Cancer Medicine over the last 35 years


Has gone from being very much on the fringe and treated with generalized suspicion, to having a powerful Evidence Base and widespread support amongst Health Professionals and the public.

In cancer medicine specifically, there is very strong anecdotal evidence for meditation’s widespread benefits. The Evidence Base for quality of life benefits is so strong that they have to be accepted. However, remarkably, despite over 7,000 studies having been published on meditation, including for many health interventions, there are still no outcome trials published with meditation as a therapeutic intervention for cancer.


Has gone from being virtually unknown as a word or technique in 1981 to the flavor of the month that has no prospect of going away.

Mindfulness has been branded as secular meditation and as such has overcome many of the boundaries meditation faced in earlier days.

The very positive anecdotal evidence (as in what people say about their practice) and the strong Evidence Base is similar to that for meditation – and overlaps quite a deal.

Therapeutic Nutrition

Has gone from being ridiculed at worst and misunderstood at best by the medical profession, to now having an emerging Evidence Base that is becoming compelling.

However, despite this, most doctors seem to fail to grasp the powerful, positive therapeutic potential nutrition offers to those affected by cancer. This failure is still reflected in the community where therapeutic nutrition is still often undervalued and therefore overlooked.

The single most powerful determinant in this error of omission – failing to recognize the value of, and actively promoting, therapeutic nutrition – is the ongoing lack of nutritional training for doctors.

As a veterinarian by my own original training, I continue to be amazed by this deficit, and feel a deep sadness for all those people who would be helped if their doctors encouraged them to attend to what they eat.

Emotional Health and Healing

Has gone from being a non-issue in society to becoming highly visible.

In 1981, as a young decathlon athlete I had my right leg amputated through the hip. My surgeon was a kind, compassionate man and I felt his distress and compassion; however, no one offered me any counseling, no one addressed my emotional health. No one considered how my emotional state might affect my future – either in terms of risk of suicide, general wellbeing or regarding a relapse.

These days, depression and suicide are such big community concerns the whole landscape has changed. These issues are spoken of openly and the link between emotional state and body function is clear.

Mental Health, State of Mind and Healing

Often labeled as “Positive Thinking”, in 1981 this field had popular support amongst the community. Doctors often said “well, can’t imagine it will do any good, but at least it probably will do no harm”. So it, along with our groups, was tolerated and generally thought of as being somewhat useful.

Around a decade ago, there came a fad to attack Positive Thinking. My own understanding of this was that the criticism grew out of a lack of understanding. There is a big difference between Wishful Thinking – where you hope for the best and do nothing about it, and Positive Thinking – where you hope for the best AND you do a lot about it.

My sense is the criticism was aimed at Wishful Thinking, and this seems fair enough. However, some did not realize that Positive Thinking is not just a state of mind. Positive Thinking is an invitation to hard work, to doing a lot about fulfilling good intentions – like actually changing what you eat and meditating regularly, not just dreaming about doing it some day.

In cancer medicine specifically, the field of Psycho-oncology has emerged as a major specialty that studies and therapeutically applies the links between emotions, mind and body. The peak body for practitioners in this field is the International Psycho-oncolgy Society; a group I have been a member of for about 20 years.

Death and Dying

Yes, things have changed here too!

In 1981, this was close to being a taboo subject across the community.

Along came Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (fond memories of her visit to our centre in the mid 80s) and the conversations opened.

My life’s work and the Gawler Foundation itself may well be known for helping people overcome the many challenges cancer presents, however, one thing we have done particularly well since those very early days – and we do not seem to be so well known for this – is that we have helped many people along with their families and friends to experience a good death.

Cancer Medicine

In 1981 mainstream cancer treatment was all about surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Five year survival rates on average for all people diagnosed with cancer was about 50%. Often the treatments were pretty tough on the patients.

In 2016, there is a general acceptance amongst the Oncology world that the limits of future benefits achievable from better forms of surgery, chemotherapy as it was and radiotherapy may well have been reached. This being said, improvements in these fields has taken the 5 year survival average to around 65% - a significant gain, and management of treatment side-effects is much better.

What is emerging are new “Biologically Elegant“ forms of treatment. The most notable of these has been the recent emergence of Immuno-therapies that can activate and target the bodies own immune system against an individual’s cancer.

These treatments of real hope for longer term survival for some (often small) groups of patients, but come at high cost (often $100,000 - $150,000 per person per year), can have tough side-effects and are currently somewhat unpredictable in who they will actually help.

However, clearly what these treatments do prove is that the immune system can be a powerful therapeutic force in cancer medicine. I remember being ridiculed for putting forward this hypothesis as a way of explaining the regular spectacular long term recoveries we saw back in those early days of the ‘80s (and continue to see). Times do change…

Worth commenting too - it seems far more younger people are being diagnosed with cancer, and for them, their cancers often seem to be more aggressive. Highlights the need for more attention going to prevention

Palliative Care
In the ‘80s people were often told by well meaning, and often quite disappointed doctors (who to be fair often did not communicate all that well) that there was nothing more that could be done for them medically except to refer them to Palliative Care.

Palliative Care in the ‘80s was about caring for people as they went through the process of dying. No treatment as such was involved.

In current time, I suggest that in Cancer Medicine, Palliative Care is better described as Palliative Treatment.

Nowadays many are maintained on chemotherapy, all too often vigorously, and one has to wonder at the balance between quality of life issues and the small gains that maybe follow in survival times.

There is also much comment in the medical literature regarding the financial costs of this palliative Treatment and what economic forces are driving it.

One major effect of this change is that in the ‘80s, people in a Palliative Care situation knew where they stood. They were told nothing could be done for them medically, so if they still aspired to recover, they knew they needed to be very thorough.

These days many are between camps as it were.

Please be clear here. I am not against medical treatment in any form. Much of it is particularly useful and effective. Obviously. Yet equally obviously we need to be able to observe and comment when it is limited, is not used well, or has unwanted effects on those it intends to help.

So, today, many people affected by cancer that have a poor prognosis are being offered Palliative Treatment. This is not intended to cure, but may help with symptoms and extend survival. Good intentions.

In fact, what this means is that many of these people pin their hopes on the external treatment. Many in fact form the fantasy that the Palliative Treatment will actually become curative, despite being told this is highly unlikely (again to be clear – unlikely, but not impossible. I have known people who have used their own resources to create a cure around a palliative treatment, so this whole field is somewhat tricky.)

But for many, their attention to self-help options is lessened. In my experience, this may well diminish the chance of unexpected, long-term recovery.

The media
Wow! How this has changed. In the early years, the Press consisted of the print media, radio and TV. All were genuinely interested in this work, gave us very good press, and when they arranged debates gave both sides a fair and equitable voice.

In more recent times the media has become incredibly diverse. Social media has emerged as a major means for communication and spawned a whole new field of expertise that many has left behind and made it much harder for small groups to reach their audience. Tabloid journalism has become a much bigger influence on people’s opinions.

Another new phenomena is that courtesy of Google, anything adverse has the potential to stick around for years. Some media experts would advise that even speaking of this is unwise, but it is a very unhelpful fact.

Enough to say that since 1981 there have been many thousands of people deeply grateful for attending the cancer groups and personally, I am very grateful to the media for helping to change community awareness when it comes to what a person affected by cancer can do for themselves.


In 1981, there were very few cancer self-help books.

The Simonton’s Getting Well Again (first published 1978) focused on Guided Imagery and psychology and was well on its way to becoming a classic, while Larry Le Shan’s You Can Fight For Your Life: Emotional Factors in the Treatment of Cancer (1980) was another great book of the few that has stood the test of time.

Most of the nutrition books represented particular viewpoints like The Kelley Diet or Gerson’s A Cancer Therapy – results of 50 cases.

You Can Conquer Cancer was first published in 1984 and was possibly the world’s first book on the truly integrated approach to cancer management from the patient’s perspective. It has remained in continuous print since, has been majorly revised recently and translated into over a dozen languages.

Giving You Can Conquer Cancer to someone recently diagnosed with cancer remains my best suggestion as a starting point.

Those directly affected by cancer
Back in the 80s, most people came to our cancer groups driven by fear. They suffered from a lack of information and often felt like they were in a hopeless situation.

From the groups, they learnt there was so much they could do (the groups were a source of
information), that recovery was possible; maybe not easy, but possible – and hope was created.

Many did have unexpected long-term recoveries, many extended their lives significantly. Most found a new level of meaning, purpose and inner peace. It was amazing to be a part of it all.

Now in 2016, some do still come to the groups driven by fear, however, many more come recognising that there is a lot they can do to help themselves and that they need help to learn how best to use their own resources to manage their illness and to contribute to their survival.

Most come over-loaded with information. From the groups they learn more about how to prioritize what they could do – what is useful, what to leave out. The groups act as a filter for all that information.

Having been in existence for over 35 years, these groups are the repository of so much information and experience that we can talk to people directly – from the research and from the accumulated experience of so many people who have attended over the year. It continues to be amazing to be a part of it all.

In1981 there was virtually nothing in this field.

In 1984 I was invited by the Peter Mac Hospital to consider a joint research project with them and the Anti-Cancer Council as it was in those days. This suggestion was quashed by the Anti-Cancer Council.

As an organization, during the late 80s we then put quite some energy into developing our own in house research project. We actually attempted too big a study and could not manage it.

We then began ongoing collaborations external research projects examining quality of life benefits,
and one that looked at survival times. These collaborations have continued on over the years and I imagine would still be taken up as new opportunities present.

We did combine with Monash Medical School and all its resources, headed by Dr Craig Hassed, and twice approached the Cancer Council for major funding for an outcome study. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of all, these were not successful.

The lack of research into the impact of a Lifestyle Medicine based self help group on cancer patient survival seems an area of omission. Cynics say there is no money to be gained from finding out if self-help interventions are effective.

For me, I just look forward to when some major organization or philanthropist puts up the fairly considerable amount of money required to fund such a study. My sense is many people would like to see the results.


We change.

Life changes.

Cancer management changes.

It continues to be amazing to be a part of it all.

Are you contributing to change?

Resisting change?

Or just going with the flow???


Meditation Retreat - coming very soon!
Ruth and I, with the help of Liz Stillwell, will personally lead our next 7 day meditation retreat in New Zealand :  October 22 - 28.

Next Aussie one, April 2017 in the Yarra Valley.

In NZ, we will give attention to the major experiences of deeper meditation – stillness, clarity and bliss. We will explore these states experientially and examine their relevance in an ongoing and satisfying meditation practice.

This promises to be one of the very best retreats – well worth travelling from Australia to attend, or making the journey to the glorious Mana Retreat Centre from anywhere around New Zealand.


Specific cancer residential programs 

8 days In Wanaka New Zealand 
- November 3 - 10
This is a comprehensive program focusing on activating and targeting the immune system, accelerating healing, much more on a therapeutic lifestyle, along with a range of strategies for heightening emotional health and wellbeing.

Again we will have the incomparable help of Liz Stillwell and the amazing Stew Burt - the ideal starting point for everyone affected by cancer.

5 days in the Yarra Valley : November 14 - 18
More designed as a follow-up cancer program for those who have done a previous program with Ruth and myself, the Foundation, or one of its affiliates. Call the Foundation for details of eligibility.


30 September 2016

35 years later – Two remarkable cancer stories made more remarkable by what happened next…

In the last post, we heard of the remarkable recoveries from advanced brain cancer experienced by 2 of the women who joined the very first Melbourne Cancer Support Group on 16th September 1981 – 35 years ago

Jan’s recovery had been uneventful but spectacular, Mary’s was slow and laboured – lots of ups and downs.

To add to Jan’s story - she had rung me the night before we began that first group to tell me how difficult things were and that she was not sure if she would commit suicide or come to the group tomorrow. Then she hung up.

Being new to all this, I had not yet taken her contact details so I could not get back to her. I could only spend a somewhat anxious time before experiencing considerable relief when she did turn up for the group.

Jan was in her early forties and she came with her partner, Michael. Together they quickly warmed to the program, embraced all the recommendations and Jan experienced a swift, uneventful and complete recovery without any medical treatment. Jan was a star patient – or so it seemed.

So this week, what happened when Jan and Mary returned to her lives, but first

               Thought for the day

You have been walking the ocean’s edge
Holding up your robes to keep them dry.
You must dive naked under, and deeper under; 
A thousand times deeper!

Love flows down.
The ground submits to the sky
And suffers what comes.
Tell me, is the earth worse for giving in like that?


A life too difficult to live

Around one year after that first group began, Michael rang me. Jan had been very well but recently was eating more and more things they both knew were not good for her. When Michael questioned her, he was told very curtly to mind his own business.

Michael and I discussed this a little but then a few weeks later he rang again. Now Jan had abandoned her meditation. Michael was increasingly worried; we discussed the situation some more but a few weeks later he rang again. Now the brain cancer was back and this time Jan was completely opposed to meditating, eating for recovery, being positive. I went to see her in person.

Jan was a very intelligent and articulate woman. She was reasonably open and frank with me. Jan explained that before the cancer was diagnosed her life was in deep disarray. Problems abounded in every aspect of her life. A disturbing childhood, difficult past relationships, unhappy in work, conflict in her current relationship; the cancer diagnosis came as no surprise and she had related strongly to the group discussions regarding the cancer prone personality. But the diagnosis changed everything.

Following the diagnosis of cancer, Michael had become more attentive and their relationship flourished. With the cancer, she was unable to go to work. With the cancer she had a ready-made, unarguable excuse to do whatever she liked. So she did. She came to know a new level of happiness. 

Then she recovered.

What now?

She needed to face her life again.

But she did not like it. The job seemed as unpleasant as ever. Now her friends were not so attentive.

Her past felt as if it was crowding in on her.

Jan put it to me quite simply: “Ian, I would rather die than go back to my old life.”

And despite everyone’s best efforts at the time, she did die quite rapidly.

Often the stories that carry major insights or reveal key points are dramatic. Jan’s story coupled with those of other people with similar dilemmas, affected me deeply, caused me a great deal of introspection, led to me studying widely and culminated in a new level of understanding.

The so called “positive approach” worked well as a starting point. It gave people hope and direction and nearly everyone in those early groups who committed to the techniques involved improved dramatically in their health and wellbeing.

But over time, what we came to observe was that on returning to their lives, not all by any means, but significant numbers of people hit barriers to coping with that life and to maintaining their peace of mind. And when that peace of mind was lost, the motivation to look after themselves was lost, and almost invariably, their health suffered badly.

Jan’s story is one of those pivotal experiences that helped to shape the groups we developed and continue to present, and the writing of You Can Conquer Cancer (where her story is also recorded).

With the benefit of many years of study and the cumulative experience of my colleagues and the many thousands of people from the groups, it is possible to categorize the barriers and to set out effective antidotes. Basically, for people like Jan, it is about learning new life skills and particularly finding some elements of joy and meaning in life once again.

But what you may well also find useful is to contrast Jan’s experience with that of Mary.

Mary and the impact of major tragedy
Mary continued to look after herself and she stayed well for around 7 years. Then tragedy struck. Mary’s teenage daughter was found dead of a drug overdose. Mary had been unaware her daughter was involved with drugs, so the shock was even more profound. Her grief was immense. Deep despair followed.

In a situation like this, it would be easy to imagine how as a mother one could have a wide range of painful emotions on top of any normal grief reaction. What went wrong? What could I have done? What did I do? How could I have made it different?

When I spoke to her shortly after her daughter’s death, Mary was clear in a way that was reminded me of Jan. In a calm, detached manner, she told me how she felt life was no longer worth living. She went on to say how she had come to know so much about her cancer - enough to recover - that now she felt sure she could bring it back, and that she felt that was the best way out of her pain.

We continued to talk over the next 2 weeks. Then Mary had a revelation. She told me that it was bad enough that her daughter had died of an overdose, but if she were to die as a direct consequence, that would make things even worse for her daughter and all around her.

So Mary determined to survive once again.

She knew how vulnerable she was.

She intensified her dietary patterns once more, along with her meditation. She sought counselling, reduced her workload, stayed close to family and supportive friends.

The time surrounding the aftermath of the tragedy was very tough for Mary and it went on for quite a while, but Mary chose life and used her supports and her skills to maintain it.

I still see her from time to time; Mary survived, she is still alive. She has done many good things over the years, but she always tells me there is this part of her that still finds life a challenge; that it has never been the same since the tragedy.

Different, but life goes on in new ways.

So 35 years of incredible people like Jan and Mary. What extra-ordinary work to be involved in. No cliché…  this is a genuine privilege. So much learnt from these wonderful people.

Next post 
Some observations on how the management of cancer has changed dramatically in these last 35 years.


Meditation Retreats
Ruth and I, with the help of Liz Stillwell, will personally lead our next 7 day meditation retreat in New Zealand :  October 22 - 28.

Next Aussie one, April 2017 in the Yarra Valley.

In NZ, we will give attention to the major experiences of deeper meditation – stillness, clarity and bliss. We will explore these states experientially and examine their relevance in an ongoing and satisfying meditation practice.

This promises to be one of the very best retreats – well worth travelling from Australia to attend, or making the journey to the glorious Mana Retreat Centre from anywhere around New Zealand.


Meditation Teacher Training 
The program - October 10 - 14 - may be fully booked already – check with the office.
Next year's dates will be available very soon...


Specific cancer residential programs 

8 days In Wanaka New Zealand 
- November 3 - 10
This is a comprehensive program focusing on activating and targeting the immune system, accelerating healing, much more on a therapeutic lifestyle, along with a range of strategies for heightening emotional health and wellbeing.

Again we will have the incomparable help of Liz Stillwell and the amazing Stew Burt - the ideal starting point for everyone affected by cancer.

5 days in the Yarra Valley : November 14 - 18
More designed as a follow-up cancer program for those who have done a previous program with Ruth and myself, the Foundation, or one of its affiliates. Call the Foundation for details of eligibility.