06 March 2017


As human beings, we all have some things in common. For example, we all want happiness. But what sort of happiness?

This week, we go Out on a Limb once more to investigate. Is it possible to experience lasting happiness and what has that got to do with enlightenment? And bananas? And what is enlightenment anyway? And is it possible or just a fantasy? But first

        Thought for the day

Profound and tranquil, free from complexity,
Uncompounded luminous clarity,
Beyond the mind of conceptual ideas;
This is the depth of the mind of the Victorious Ones.

In this there is not a thing to be removed,
Nor anything that needs to be added.
It is merely the immaculate
Looking naturally at itself.

                       Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche

Happiness or pleasure?
It seems that many of us have been misled and have come to believe pleasure is the source of happiness. By pleasure we usually mean that which makes us feel good and comfortable in the short term. A good meal, a good entertainment, a good…

But most sources of this type of pleasure tend to be transitory.

They come and go quite quickly.

Now this is not to say we cannot enjoy them while they are present.

There is no need to feel guilty getting off on temporary delights.

Just do not be confused.

Short-term pleasure is not the same thing as long-term happiness.

No doubt many have worked this much out; but then we think maybe happiness will come with a bit more complexity. A good job, a nice car, the right relationship; maybe that will do it? You only need to reflect a little to realise the bad news. All these things also come and go – they just usually take a little longer than a good meal to change and ultimately dissolve!

In seeking long-term happiness, we are seeking something constant and enduring. We will not find this outside of ourselves amidst people, things and events.

True happiness
Lasting happiness comes from our inner state of mind.

If that is what we are seeking, we need to turn our mind inwardly. By doing so we can begin to experience inner peace, inner contentment, inner happiness. As we do this, the true nature of our mind becomes more obvious. We come to realise an inner truth – our minds have two aspects. We all have an active thinking/ feeling mind that is intimately involved with our outer world, along with its pleasures and pains.

But then we all have a deeper aspect of mind that is more enduring, more stable and more constantly happy. When we come to experience something of these two aspects of our mind, this truth of the nature of our mind, we come to experience something of enlightenment.

Enlightenment then is the direct experience of a fundamental truth. The truth of who we really are. The truth of the nature of our mind.

Now to dispel some myths
Enlightenment for many looms as some distant and mystical goal.  Something that probably could only be found in some far away exotic land, a prize to be attained after all sorts of trials and tribulations, disciplines and sacrifices.

But what if it were simpler than this?

Closer than this?

What if we all carried the seed of enlightenment within us?

All of us?

What if your potential to become enlightened was just as good as anyone else’s?

What if enlightenment was less of an external struggle and more of an internal revelation?

And if this were so, how could we come to experience this inner realisation?

Maybe it is as if this inner truth of who we are is like a precious diamond within us. It is there all right, but it is covered by layers of dirt – by layers of ordinary thoughts and feelings that prevent us from seeing its real nature, its real beauty.

Why bananas?
Try to imagine you had never eaten a banana before and you became interested in the truth of what a banana tastes like. Then imagine some wonderful friend produced a banana and offered to share it with you.

Some of us might gratefully take a few bites and say

“Wow! So that’s it.

That’s what a banana tastes like!”

But many might say “Are you really sure this is a banana?

Even if this is a banana, are you sure there is not a tastier one, a bigger one, a different one, a better one?”

Our mind could so easily, so readily form concepts around the banana that we could get caught up in the thinking and miss the experience altogether. While thinking has many benefits, enlightenment is an experience, not a thinking.

How then do we experience our mind without thinking? Easy isn’t it – the answer is meditation. Meditation teaches us how to go beyond the thinking mind and to experience the nature of our mind.

But again, all too easily, as our meditation matures and we do begin to experience glimpses of this inner truth, the analytical mind can still come in causing us to loose clarity and confidence.

The importance of the teacher
This is where a true teacher is so valuable. A true teacher offers the banana, confirms it is a banana, and after you have eaten it, tasted it, realised it; they confirm your experience.

And how does a teacher acquire the authority to do this? By being authentic. It is just like a Professor at University. How do we know they are authentic? They need to have been authentically taught by authentic teachers following authentic teachings (eg they need the right qualifications), and then they need to teach authentically according to the teachings they received.

So when it comes to ourselves, maybe we are lucky.

Maybe we meet a teacher at a time in our lives
when we are ready.

All is right - auspicious as they say; we are introduced to this inner reality, and we get it in one go.

For many of us, however, even with a good teacher, maybe it is more like eating lots of bananas. Having little tastes, little glimpses of this inner truth and building up to the point where we can say “Yep, I have tasted lots of bananas; I reckon I know bananas”.

The trick is to be patient. Determined. And to keep your sense of humour; to avoid guilt and shame, and to be OK with your state of mind and your progress.

For most of us, our lives seem to vacillate between moments of confusion and moments of clarity. Meditation eases the confusion and strengthens the clarity. Meditation can lead to the dawning of wisdom, the experience of enlightenment.

So why wait? Maybe this is the year to really go for it. To meditate regularly. To seek a teacher. To actually follow their advice. To take your own enlightenment seriously.

Happy meditating!

MEDITATION RETREATS FOR 2017 with Ian and Ruth

March 27 – 31st  Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2 
Ruth and I regularly train people aspiring to be meditation teachers, or who are already and are seeking to extend their skills. This program is allied to Module 1, presented by Paul and Maia Bedson who teach on Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation. We teach Contemplation and Guided Imagery.

April 7 – 13th Meditation in the Forest

This is our annual Pre-Easter 7 day retreat at the Yarra Valley Living Centre. Each year we learn a little more about relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, and we practice together. Then each year there is a specific theme; this year it is contemplation. There is not so much written on contemplation, and very few retreats on this specific topic, yet in my experience it is one of the most useful and profound elements to add to our practice. Ruth and I love presenting this retreat, and we love observing the benefits it brings to those who attend.

June 5 – 9th Deepening Your Meditation
Our only 5 day meditation retreat, this program is all about taking time out, entering into a meditative environment and being supported to deepen your experience. Then, with this deeper experience, being able to take it with you so that your ongoing practice is more rewarding, more beneficial, more enjoyable.

July 1 -7th Mindfulness and Meditation in Daily Life
We have had many requests to present a meditation retreat in Queensland, so this is it. We are fortunate to be able to use the facilities of the Chenrezig Centre – a Buddhist Retreat Centre in the hills back of the Sunshine Coast. Our retreat will focus on integrating mindfulness and meditation into daily life. I know when I first started, meditation was something I did for a few minutes (or hours) every day; but at first, I then went back to my day as if nothing much had happened, The real benefit of these things is in how they inform our daily life, so this retreat will be very Practical. We will practice mindfulness and meditation together formally, and then use the rest of our time to bring the qualities of the practice into our daily experience – in a way that we can take them home and maintain them. My sense is that for many this could well be life changing.

October 9 – 13th Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2
This is a repeat of the earlier program. These training have been booking out, and like all our retreats, it is wise to register early.

October 21 – 27th Meditation Under the Long White Cloud
The annual New Zealand retreat at the wonderful Mana Centre on the Coromandel Peninsula (see the view from Mana below), this year the focus is on using Guided Imagery techniques to combine head and heart. We hear so much these days about training the mind. Very useful, but a mind with no heart is cold and empty. Guided Imagery provides the techniques in meditation that bring the mind and heart together – a wonderful new dimension to the practice and to life.


  1. Lovely post Ian. Thank you!

  2. Hello Ian...in a previous blog about curcumin you recommended a product called Curcubrain (NOW) which has Magnesium Stearate in it...however in this blog you are recommending staying away from this filler? Can you elaborate?

    1. Yes, this is a problem Di. When I wrote the turmeric post, was not aware of the stearate issue. Now we need to decide what the trade off is - benefit of the product versus the problems with the fillers. Hopefully, it will not be long before all supplement companies drop the stearate. It may help to write to them with a request...