06 September 2017

The season for handing over and retiring

"For everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven". So in contemplating my own recently made decision to retire from leading residential programs, my mind turned to the ancient Indian/Hindu notion of the four stages of human life.

So this week, a glimpse into what for many is a very useful way to consider where they are at in their life; but first

           Thought for the day

To every thing there is a season, 
And a time to every purpose under the heaven: 
A time to be born, and a time to die; 
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 
A time to kill, and a time to heal; 
A time to break down, and a time to build up; 
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; 
A time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; 
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
A time to get, and a time to lose; 
A time to keep, and a time to cast away; 
A time to rend, and a time to sew; 
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
A time to love, and a time to hate; 
A time of war, and a time of peace.

                                            Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

The Hindu tradition of India has a long history of dividing life into four dramatically different segments or phases.

First comes Bramacharya, the time of being a student and single.

Second is Grihastha, when the focus is to make a family and a living; a time of being engaged with wordly pursuits such as seeking pleasure, wealth and all the material world has to offer. Commonly, Grihastha begins around the age of 20.

Third is Vanaprastha, when we begin to withdraw from the world and begin to attune more to the spiritual life along with adopting an increasingly hermit-like lifestyle.

Vanaprastha commonly begins around 50. It is time for grand children and the time to hand over to the next generation. It is time for community service and spiritual pursuit; time to act more as a mentor and benefactor; a time to share any wisdom gathered so far.

Fourth and finally comes Sannyasa

when renouncing the material world and dedicating life to spiritual realisation becomes the sole focus.

It often begins around 70 to 75.

The intention of sannyasa is to live a simple, peaceful, love-inspired, spiritual life very similar to the monks and nuns of Buddhism, Christianity and other traditions.

Sannyasa is a form of asceticism. A male is known as a sannyasin, a female a sannyasini.

Sannyasa does not necessarily mean abandoning society although in India many did and still do leave their families and homes and become wandering spiritual beggars. They may have a walking stick, a book, a container or vessel for food and drink, often wearing yellow, orange, or soil coloured clothes. They may have long hair and appear dishevelled, and are usually vegetarians.

Alternatively, Sannyasins may simply aim to abandon the conventions of their society and aim instead for a more liberated, content, free and blissful existence.

In the Hindu Karma Yoga tradition, acting without greed or craving for results is considered a form of detachment in daily life similar to Sannyasa. Sharma states that, "the basic principle of Karma yoga is that it is not what one does, but how one does it that counts and if one has the know-how in this sense, one can become liberated by doing whatever it is one does", and "(one must do) whatever one does without attachment to the results, with efficiency and to the best of one's ability.

Bit like mindfulness, or even more-so, pure awareness.

So for me, autumn is definitely present.

The seasons are changing…

My working life has been long and wonderful; not always easy, not without many highs and lows. First as a veterinarian, and of course, for many years since as a health educator who had the possibility and privilege to work with so many people focused upon their health, healing and wellbeing. It now feels the season to step back and hand over to the next generation.

Maybe there is the possibility to be useful in some ongoing way, and yes there was a feeling of wasting so much learning and experience by stopping at this time. Life is always changing. Who knows what the future may really bring. However, Ruth will work on and so many others do this work these days, so it feels like good timing.

There are many people to thank for their personal and professional support, but maybe those details can wait for another time.

Finally, some gentle advice. It will be lovely to get together over these final programs and celebrate what has been a major and extra-ordinary phase of my own life. It seems with only 4 residential programs before I do retire at Easter next year, happily many seem keen to join Ruth and myself one more time. So these programs may well book out and early registration may make sense.

As always, the wish is for you and all those you care for to have long and happy lives…

For a fabulous story about a senior Indian who becomes a sannyasin, highly recommend reading Rudyard Kipling’s: The Miracle of Purun Bhagat in his Second Jungle Book. I have cried every time I have read it; including all the times I have read it out loud to a group.



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


The delight of teaching others one of the most useful things possible ...

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 featuring guided imagery, the other contemplation; both covering the stillness of meditation as well. These training have been booking out, and like all our retreats, it is wise to register early.




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


Mind and Heart - connecting with the essence

7 days of Mindfulness, Meditation and Buddhist based philosophy

 Slow down, reflect, contemplate – regain perspective, clarity, vitality, and balance 

 Learn Imagery techniques that unite heart and mind, and guide personal change


  1. Hope you have time to write Ian. You have written some excellent books but would love to see one of reflection on your life, with anecdotes on people you have met etc. Light and easy but recalling your life's best lessons.

  2. Hey Ian
    All the best for your path
    I first saw you on Yana Went with the debate you had with the head of the AMA,,,the one with the scottish accent.....man I will never forget how angry he was and how calm you were....been a huge influence to me mate...thanks
    All the best

  3. How beautifully expressed Ian, with deep gratitude and the warmest wishes for the your past, present and future seasons. In the words of Wu Men:
    Ten thousand flowers in spring,
    the moon in autumn,
    a cool breeze in summer,
    snow in winter.
    If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
    this is the best season of your life.

  4. Hello Ian,
    My very best and warmest wishes for your future and for very happy and fulfilling times ahead. I so value all I have learnt through your writing, and the retreats at Yarra Junction. For seventeen years I have benefited from your work in both my health, and my understanding of how to live in a way I had not known before. Thank you. Pam

  5. Thanks to everyone who has expressed their gratitude and wished me well here on the comments page and via the info email contact - much appreciated by myself and hopefully by all those who have contributed to this work we have all been engaged with.

  6. Hello Ian, I feel very privileged and blessed to have been able to attend your teaching and I wish you a very long and fulfilling retirement. Thank you for all you have done (and will continue to do, I'm sure), Marion

  7. All the Best Ian, we attended you New Year's eve meditation in Melbourne which was the most liberating experience and the best New Year's eve we've ever spent. Hope you can conduct a few more of those.

    You have been my inspiration during my cancer journey (now in remision)

    Thank you so much