19 June 2017

Is sex the only way to get our attention?

We all know mindfulness is good for us. Yet new research claims the average person spends 46.9 % of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are doing, and commonly this leaves them unhappy. Unless what they are doing is having sex.

So this week, what gets our attention and how can we be happier, but first

                 Thought for the day

         Since everything is but an apparition,
         Perfect in being what it is,
         Having nothing to do with good or bad,
         Acceptance or rejection
         You might as well burst out laughing!


Modern technology is getting fancier and fancier. A new app has been used to collate 250,000 data points examining the thoughts, feelings, and actions of people as they went about their daily lives.

Those of us who have done some mindfulness or meditation practice will be all too aware of our mind’s capacity to wander. During our practice, one of the key things we learn to do is to bring our attention back to a point of concentration, ideally without judgement or commentary. Then is the challenge to continue our mindful awareness into daily life.

As well as the capacity to give attention to what we are doing, we human beings seem to have a unique ability to give thought to what is not happening. To ruminate over the past, to fantasise about the future. We contemplate a lot about what might have happened, what might happen or even what did not happen.

And it is pretty evident that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. 

Plenty of studies have confirmed this; adding to what is probably just simple common sense…

To examine what is really going on amidst our thoughts and emotions, two psychologists developed an app that examines how attention correlates with happiness.

The app made it possible to randomly and frequently contact 2,250 volunteers (ranging in age from 18 to 88 and from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds and occupations). 

At each point of contact, people were asked to record how happy they were, what they were doing, (choosing from 22 activities like walking, eating, shopping, and watching TV), and where their head was at – paying attention to what they were doing, or wandering onto something else that was pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant.

Results were interesting… 

Overall people’s minds were wandering 46.9 % of time. During any particular activity, their minds wandered no less than 30 % of the time - except during love-making. Sex it seems is good for holding our attention! No surprise there!

However, one of the researchers did comment “Mind-wandering appears ubiquitous across all activities. This study shows that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the non-present.”

What leads to the most happiness? 

This research reported people were happiest when making love, exercising, or engaging in conversation. 

They were least happy when resting, working, or using a home computer. 

Further, the researchers suggested that their subjects’ mind-wandering was generally the cause, not the consequence, of their unhappiness.

 “Many philosophical and religious traditions teach that happiness is to be found by living in the moment, and practitioners are trained to resist mind wandering and to ‘be here now’. Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness. In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”

This new research, the authors say, suggests that these traditions are right.

If you are interested to track your own happiness and contribute to this research, CLICK HERE



October 9 – 13th Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2

The delight of teaching others one of the most useful things there is...

This training, led by Ian and Ruth personally, is based on a comprehensive and fully documented manual. You will learn how to teach two 4 week programs - one on guided imagery; the other contemplation. These training have been booking out, and like all our retreats, it is wise to register early.



Bringing Mind and Heart Together  21 – 27th October 2017 Ruth and Ian Gawler with Liz Stilwell

Amidst the tranquil beauty of the Coromandel Peninsula, 2 hours from Auckland New Zealand

A mind with no heart is cold and empty.      A mind with heart is warm, creative and full of potential.

Ready to learn how to use meditation and Guided Imagery to open your heart and bring balance to your mind?                      

Join us for this very special retreat!   LINK HERE



Accessing the heart and science of Mind-Body Medicine
Offering genuine hope for all those affected by cancer

20 – 24 November 2017 with Drs Ruth and Ian Gawler

Located amidst the natural beauty of the Yarra Valley

This life-changing program provides the opportunity to experience the food, practise the meditation and to be in a supportive, positive atmosphere. The program is evidence based, highly experiential and practical. The focus is on the therapeutic power of the Healing Diet, the mind and meditation, emotional health and positive psychology. The aim is to provide clarity, understanding and confidence.   LINK HERE

05 June 2017


Shopping in my favourite nursery for new plants a few days ago and this somewhat elderly gentleman approaches. “You don’t know me,” he says “but back in the mid eighties I had cancer with a bad prognosis, bought your book, followed all the recommendations and here I am.”

You Can Conquer Cancer has been in continuous print for 33 years. A new edition just released has a new cover. So to mark the occasion, thought it would be fun to document how the covers have changed over the years and to tell a few stories.

Plus a gentle reminder that Ruth and I will be presenting the retreat Mindfulness and Meditation in Daily Life in Queensland July1 -7th and there are still a few vacancies, but first

       Thought for the day

   What can we gain by sailing to the moon 
   If we are not able to cross the abyss 
   That separates us from ourselves? 

   This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, 
   And without it, 
   All the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.

                                     Thomas Merton

1984. A very evocative year. Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop officiates at the launch of You Can Conquer Cancer, gives a stirring speech, and causes me to shed a tear. True. It was deeply moving to have the great man, then Patron of the Anti-cancer Council (now the Cancer Council of Vic), speak so strongly in support of what was a radical idea for those days – that people with cancer could contribute not only to their own wellbeing, but to their chances of surviving the disease. Weary became an important personal mentor and remained a strong advocate for the work throughout his life.

The first cover probably remains my favourite, not only for the photo taken by fashion photographer Derek Hughes, but for the circumstances around the taking of the picture.

The book was ready for publication; just waiting for the cover. Derek had a junior colleague die recently of the same cancer that I had recovered from – osteogenic sarcoma. He was keen to help by taking the cover shot, but was about to go away on a long shoot. It was mid winter and the weather had been terrible, all the more problematic as Derek wanted this early morning, very still sea on a pier at Melbourne’s bayside.

We waited days for a suitable break in the weather, but just one bad day after another.

Finally, despite the forecast of more wind and rain, the day of Derek’s leaving arrived and we decided we just had to make the best of whatever the weather offered.

So at dawn we gathered. Unbelievable. The wind was non-existent; the sky clear. We took the shot and within half an hour it was windy and raining again! Synchronicity at its best.

A new cover, the second, was again taken by Derek in the mid nineties.

This time he wanted a wave bursting up into the sky to provide a white backdrop to me resting on the rock.

Was never sure this really worked… What do you think?

The actual copy of the book remained as it was in its first edition up until 2001 – 17 years!

Given that the book speaks of fundamental lifestyle related things people can do to maximize their quality of life and their healing potential; nothing much really changes over time.

These are well tried and proven basic recovery techniques.

Anyway, a minor update was made to the text in 2001,
for which Peter McConchie took a lovely portrait at our home.

Peter also took my favourite garden photo that you may have seen – me with a basket brimming full of summer vegetables.

Then came a major new edition, released in 2013 that did involve the first really major re-write of the book; so much so that it was close to being a new book altogether.

Much detail was added on things like nutritional medicine, including why particular recommendations are made.

There was debate about whether to rename it, but given its long track record, the decision was to stay with the existing You Can Conquer Cancer.

The cover for this re-write was shot in a studio and literally involved walking in, sitting down, being instructed to look directly into the camera with a good heart – and click. Literally a 5 minute portrait. That is a true professional. Many thanks to David Johns.

And now with this latest edition, released in 2017,
a decision to use the same word based cover
as has been used for the book’s recent re-releases
in the USA and the UK.

And finally, just for something completely different, the cover of the recently released Chinese edition.

You Can Conquer Cancer has now been translated into 13, maybe 14 languages and around 350,000 copies have been printed. They say the average book is read by around 4 different people, so this one has been read by around 1.5 million people.

The book stands as a tribute to the difficulties I went through in the seventies, but more-so, to all that has been learnt for the thousands of people who attended groups and gave feedback as they tried the recommendations and reported back on what was helpful and what was not.

My wish is that the book continues to be helpful to many more people and that many more like the fellow in the nursery use it to transform their lives for the better.

Please consider supporting the Gawler Foundation's bookshop and order through them :



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. This 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 practices 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.

We are fortunate to be able to use the facilities of the Chenrezig Institute – a purpose built Retreat Centre in the hills back of the Sunshine Coast.

October 9 – 13th Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2

In this training we use a fully documented manual to learn how to teach 2 4 week programs one on guided imagery; the other contemplation. These training have been booking out, and like all our retreats, it is wise to register early.