28 March 2016

Meditation in the Forest – a visual essay

Rest, relaxation, regeneration. Seven days pre-Easter. The deep, natural peace that comes with retreating from our daily life, joining with like-minded people and journeying inwards.

                 This is the meditation

Then there is the Yarra Valley.
Remarkable natural beauty complemented by years of being tended by loving gardeners.

                   This is the forest

So this week, a celebration in photographs and a few words of this annual highlight of our calendar, Meditation in the Forest, plus details for next year but first

  Thought for the day

   We are what we think.
   All that we are arises with our thoughts.
   With our thoughts we make the world.

   Speak or act with an impure mind
   And sorrow will follow you 
   As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

   Speak or act with a pure mind
   And happiness will follow you 
   As your shadow, unshakeable.

                 The Buddha

Each meditation retreat Ruth and I present focuses on the stillness of meditation (good plan for a meditation retreat!), and then has its own specific focus. For 2016, during Meditation in the Forest we gave attention to guided imagery which is the cover phrase for addressing how the active, thinking mind works and how we can use it more effectively.

How do our habits and beliefs develop? How does our memory function? How do we draw on memories and how do we plan for the future? And how do our habits and beliefs assist us in some situations, yet bind us or even work against us in others?

Great material to have a week to consider, and speaking personally, I feel this last retreat was the most effective yet for the people attending. Seems many had significant break-throughs in understanding and went away feeling confident of making significant personal changes in their lives.

So enough words.

      We gather at the Gawler Foundation's
      Yarra Valley retreat centre…

 Some of the locals remained nonplussed…

      Others somewhat indifferent…

But we gathered and discussed the mind and its workings…

       Entered into the purpose built
        meditation sanctuary

        to meditate together regularly
        throughout the day…

   Extended the sitting into walking…

          Some also walked the labyrinth
          with its curious way
          of aiding contemplation…

Some joined Ruth for the gentle stretching of body and mind that is yoga…

      Some explored their body
      and its movement
      through Feldenkrais with Julia...

Some just paused a while, and watched the river flow; the Little Yarra River that is…

      While all experienced the delight
      of sharing with like minds…

Very comfortable accommodation, either doubles with ensuites or more economical shared spaces…

              And the food!

                    Just what people expected!



    much direct from the flourishing gardens…

     That for those who have not been
     to the Centre for a while,
     now extend way up the hill.

                  So productive…

Backed up by a big new hothouse so that more home-grown organic produce is available for more of the year…

    And of course,
    fresh herbs from the magical herb garden...

Then more free time to reflect,
to regenerate,
to experience the peace...

and watch the river flow by some more...

       Rounded off by the wisdom of a tree

                           - you had to be there …

         What a great group of people!!!

                       Deep, natural peace

          Meditation in the Forest…

With thanks to Jane Treleaven for sharing 3 of her photographs from the retreat





A unique opportunity to experience the deep natural peace and clarity of profound meditation

5 Day Meditation Immersion with Ian and Ruth Gawler
JUNE 2016 – Monday 6th to Friday the 10th - Yarra Junction

These days, many people have had some introduction to meditation and the power of the mind. Soon comes the realisation of the extraordinary depth and breadth of it all. And often we get a sense there is more to it …..   More to experience ..…

So while this retreat will include ample instruction, the focus will be upon direct experience; finding and immersing ourselves in the deep inner peace, the regenerative power and the clarity of our own stillness.

This process will be enhanced by being in the wonderful, peaceful and majestic forests of the Upper Yarra Valley, by being supported by the staff and amenities of the Gawler Foundation’s Living Centre, and guided by Ian and Ruth Gawler along with Julia Broome.

For details CLICK HERE

Accelerated healing and peace of mind

Probably my only day seminar in MELBOURNE for 2016

Ancient wisdom combined with the latest research in a way that has immediate application in our modern world.

This workshop brings together the best of what I have learnt about healing over the last 40 years.

Intended for those dealing with illness, those keen to avoid illness and be really well, along with health practitioners and anyone interested in our personal power to heal.

Please share details of this event with anyone you know who may be interested as Ruth and I are focusing more on our retreats this year and there will not be many opportunities like this to join us for day workshops.

For details CLICK HERE

14 March 2016

Cancer thriver - Jane Treleaven

Meet Jane Treleaven – another cancer thriver with a great story. While working as a highly stressed barrister, Jane was diagnosed with a slow-growing “incurable” lymphatic cancer in 2013.  Recently, Jane interviewed me and so this week, a link to the interview Essentially Being, and more, but first

Thought for the day

Do you have a daily practice?


What is it?

I set a conscious intention at the beginning of each day to benefit everyone I come across.

Richard Davidson

Upon diagnosis, and recognising her life was more about “Doing” than “Being”, Jane came to the Foundation, trained as a meditation teacher with myself and Ruth and transformed her life.

Now Jane holds a certificate as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and works as a wellness coach and meditation instructor helping people to be happy and well while living with cancer; thriving with cancer.  The focus?  Just being, essentially being.

You can read more of Jane’s recovery and current work via her website or her informative blog.

But now, sit back and watch as Jane and I discuss my own recovery from cancer, the work this led me to do and how to give yourself the best chance after a cancer diagnosis. We also talk about the very recent scientific developments on the link between cancer progression and stress.
Here is THE LINK

All of what we discuss applies equally to preventing cancer (and recovering from other illnesses associated with inflammation). As we know, the incidence of cancer is on the rise and there are things you can do now to reduce the risk for yourself and your loved ones.

Please feel free to share this post widely, and to comment below about your experiences.

The stress of cancer stress research



Accelerated healing and peace of mind 
- an inspiring and practical day seminar 

Date : Sunday 17 April 2016       Starts 10am (arrive 9.30) to 4pm
Venue : Melbourne Rigpa Centre, 7/200 Sydney Road, Brunswick
Enquiries : Call 0402 586 360 or email melbourne@rigpa.org.au




This link is to the page on my website where other interviews and programs I have been featured in can be accessed - such as the Geraldine Doogue interview on the ABC TV Compass program

07 March 2016

The stress of cancer stress research

Even when you are a natural-born optimist, sometimes the predominant response to good news can be a feeling of regret.

Recent research coming out of my own hometown of Melbourne has claimed to be a medical breakthrough; one that the researchers are hoping will lead to new ways of treating cancer in a more holistic way.

My regret? Since day one of the Melbourne Cancer Support Group, that later grew into the Gawler Foundation, all of us involved encouraged our participants to take advantage of the approach that now, 35 years later, is being regarded as a breakthrough.

My regret? I really feel for all those people who were influenced by the medical hierarchy’s vehement opposition to this notion for so many years, and that collectively we failed to more skilfully bring about change earlier, meaning that many, many thousands of people did not get the full care they would have benefited from.

So this week we examine the research, the “breakthrough”, highlight some of the opposition, and do celebrate that at least for those affected by cancer in current time, there may be new hope; but first

      Thought for the day

The real voyage of discovery 
Consists not in seeking new landscapes 
But in having new eyes 

                    Marcel Proust

Transcript from The Couchman Report, ABC TV, 1988

Peter Couchman
If you were diagnosed with cancer tomorrow, would you put your life in the hands of orthodox medicine and all that involves or would you go to someone like Ian Gawler – who won’t use drugs, who’s not trained, who’s not registered, but who can produce a lot of people for you who claim to have been cured by him?

Dr Paul Niselle, Medical Protection Society
On the one hand a very uncomfortable treatment that has a predictable chance of success; on the other hand you are being offered treatment that is much, much more comfortable, with grandiose claims for efficacy that cannot be supported.

Dr Ray Lowenthal, Oncologist
He lists his type of treatment as being quite non-toxic as opposed to medical treatments which he lists as toxic whereas some of the treatments which he offers have considerable potential for doing harm.

Dr John Zalcberg, Oncologist, Repatriation Hospital
To meditate, to relieve stress, to alter the immune system, is not going, I mean the evidence does not support the fact that that will lead to control of breast cancer, lung cancer or colon cancer.

Ian Gawler
Something very specific happens. Perhaps we haven’t got the explanation right, because we haven’t studied it enough, and perhaps meditation is working through some other mechanism.

Chronic stress accelerates the spread of cancer 
by Julia Medow,  The Age, Melbourne newspaper, 2016

Australian researchers have revealed in a study that could dramatically change the way people with the disease are treated.

For years, patients have suspected that high levels of stress may cause cancer and or accelerate its growth, but neither hypothesis has been proven by rigorous research showing how this might occur.

A team of researchers from Monash University have now shown that chronic, persistent stress in mice sets off physiological changes that cause cancer cells to move faster and spread to other parts of the body.

The team, led by Dr Erica Sloan and Dr Caroline Le, discovered that adrenaline – a neurotransmitter triggered by stress to increase alertness and rapid reaction to threat – has a downside for animals and people with cancer: it increases the number and size of lymphatic vessels in and around tumours, while also increasing the rate of fluid flow through these vessels. Both of these combine to increase the capacity of lymphatic "highways" to carry and spread tumour cells throughout the body.

"We found that chronic stress activates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) – better known as the 'fight-or-flight' response – to profoundly impact lymphatic function and the spread of cancer cells," said Dr Le of the study published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.

"These findings demonstrate an instrumental role for stress ... and suggest that blocking the effects of stress to prevent cancer spread through lymphatic routes may provide a way to improve outcomes for patients with cancer."

The study also reported that a cohort of patients on drugs often used to treat anxiety and high blood pressure (beta blockers that block the actions of adrenaline) were less likely to have secondary cancer that had spread from its primary site.

A clinical trial is now underway at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to see if such a drug alters the course of breast cancer in people with the disease.

Dr Sloan said the mice in the study were restrained in a way to make them feel like they would not cope with their circumstances. This was done to mimic the way people feel if they are under significant stress brought on by caring for a sick relative without enough resources, for example. She said it was not designed to mimic an acute and temporary episode of stress such as being chased by a dog.

"What we're talking about is prolonged, ongoing situations where you can't cope," she said.

The mice who were stressed had a much higher rate of their cancer spreading, compared to control mice with cancer who were not put in stressful situations.

Stressed mice experienced more metastasis (cancer spreading from its original site) compared to otherwise healthy (control) mice. Source Le et al., Nature Communications.

Dr Sloan emphasised that cancer patients should not feel responsible for their own stress because it can be very difficult to control, especially when diagnosed with a serious illness. However, she is hoping the research will lead to new ways of treating cancer in a more holistic way that reduces stress as much as possible along the way. This could be done with drugs like beta blockers, as well as complementary therapies such as meditation or yoga.

Channel Nine TV News, 2 March 2016
Jane Treleaven explains how she felt stress played a major part in the onset of her cancer, and how learning meditation has made such a difference to her life. Jane is a cancer survivor.

Watch this lovely short piece : CLICK HERE

“Regrets, I’ve had a few… but then again, to few to mention… “

Remember the old Frank Sinatra song. Well, when I reflect on my years working with people affected by cancer, I have two. This is one of them… That for many years I seemed to have invoked hostility from the cancer hierarchy in response to the suggestion that stress needed to be taken seriously in cancer medicine, both as a causative agent and as an influence that would impair the capacity to recover.

So I do deeply regret that both personally and with all the good people at the Foundation, collectively we were unable many years ago to instigate the research that has just been published. I suspect that if we had, many people would be the better for it.

Let us hope that this new “breakthrough” research does in fact lead to better cancer management in the mainstream and that many people benefit.

As an aside, I have written to Professor John Zalcberg who appeared on The Couchman Show to ask how his position may have changed. Prof Zalcberg was the Director, Division of Cancer Medicine, at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre for 17 years prior to taking up the position of Professor of Cancer Research in the School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine at Monash University in 2014. I have asked him if he knows of any current research, or planned research, that will examine the role of meditation in managing stress, given meditation is known to be highly effective as an antidote to stress and may be worth exploring along with the beta blockers.

Mind-Body Medicine and cancer

A volatile mix – stress, alcohol and cancer

You Can Conquer Cancer – where the role of stress in the onset of cancer is discussed, and the role of stress management for people diagnosed with cancer is presented, along with how to cut through the adverse affects of stress