30 April 2018


A new era is about to dawn
In just a few months, Ruth will be leading her first meditation retreat in her own right - unencumbered by my own good self! In this retreat, Ruth will focus upon two key elements of meditation practice.

This really is a wonderful opportunity and I urge everyone who has felt benefit from my own work, or from attending retreats Ruth and I presented together to consider joining in, supporting Ruth in her new venture and reaping the benefits.

Ruth as many already know has a unique perspective and an amazing capacity to give words to what we all feel and what we all need to give our attention to. So this week, more on what she will be presenting - and how some of the unique features are backed by pivotal research, but first

        Thought for the day

A state of bare, transparent awareness;
Effortless and brilliantly vivid, 

A state of relaxed, rootless wisdom;
Fixation free and crystal clear, 

A state without the slightest reference point;
Spacious empty clarity, 

A state wide open and unconfined; 
The senses unfettered…”

                    Fourteenth century Tibetan 

Calm and clear. Or is it relaxed and clear? The aim of meditation. To be at ease within our selves, to be at ease with this challenging world we live in, and to be clear about how to be and how to act. Calm and clear.

It all starts with relaxation. In Ruth’s words, “once we have mastered the ability to consciously direct and relax the body, we can translate that skill to direct and relax the mind”.

So effective meditation begins with deep relaxation of the body. Now some may say that this is unnecessary; that as we relax the mind, the body naturally follows. However, experience tells us that it is not so easy; and that relaxing the body at will is far easier than relaxing the mind. And experience also tells us that as we relax the body, the mind learns to go with it, to feel the relaxation all through and to rest in deep natural peace.

Once we can relax the body, it becomes a suitable vessel for the mind. By contrast, when the body is tense, it is like it acts as a screen, a barrier between the outside world and the inner one - between our interaction with the material world and the mind. Relaxing the body removes that barrier, uniting body and mind, uniting the material and spiritual into a cohesive whole. Hence the dawning of clarity. No barrier; things become clear.

This is something Ruth knows from long experience.

In her own practice she has returned again and
again to the Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) exercise, recognising its intrinsic merit.

Of interest, research has highlighted the PMR’s value in the specific and challenging field of cancer management.

One study, showed that patients with prostate and breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy treatment can benefit from PMR (and Guided Imagery) sessions to reduce their anxiety and depression.

In a second study, patients taught the PMR we able to better relieve their own pain and reverse fatigue - see references below. Tested and proven in the tough cauldron and cancer relief, the PMR is in my view an imperative for all to learn and practice. Imagine if this were taught in more schools (it is in some) or more hospitals (it is in some).

Of note, when I had my own leg amputated in 1975 and while still in hospital, I experienced some days of excruciating pain. No drugs gave adequate relief, but then a visiting American nurse led me through the PMR. Relaxed and slept soundly… the pain was never as bad again. This is a great skill to learn, and a great lead in, a natural lead in to deeper meditation.

Anyway, Ruth’s other great strength and focus for this next retreat, is her knowledge and experience with the simple stillness, the inner silence of deep meditation. Come along and experience it for your self!

There is some real value in me not being involved directly in Ruth’s retreats as I can speak more openly about what is on offer and what an opportunity Ruth will be presenting. I appreciate, and am grateful that some have expressed sadness at my discontinuing leading retreats myself, but really, you now have this wonderful opportunity to learn from and meditate directly with Ruth. As Mollie Meldrum would say “Do yourself a favour… “

Ruth Gawler's 
next meditation retreat

Meditation - Pure and Simple

. Being more at ease with yourself and your feelings
. The connectedness and clarity of mindfulness
. Profound relaxation into stillness.

Combine deep relaxation techniques and mindfulness meditation to release the stress we carry in our bodies in this busy and complex modern world. Ideal for healing, rejuvenation and opening our awareness.

Ruth’s teaching style is one of openness and authenticity, and there will be plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion. Techniques covered in this retreat will be accessible and engaging for both beginners and more experienced meditators. This retreat is well suited to all Health Professionals.

DATES                                    September - Monday 10th to Friday 14th 2018
VENUE                                   Yarra Valley Living Centre, Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria
ENQUIRIES, BOOKINGS     The Gawler Foundation ClientServices@gawler.org
                                                 and 1300 651 211 - Call Mon-Fri 9-5pm

Details of Ian’s transition from leading groups.

1. PMR, anxiety and depression
Charalambous A et al, A Randomized Controlled Trial for the Effectiveness of Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Guided Imagery as Anxiety Reducing Interventions in Breast and Prostate Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015; 2015: 270876.

The findings in this study showed that patients with prostate and breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy treatment can benefit from PMR and GI sessions to reduce their anxiety and depression.

Of significance, this study was designed and implemented with the purpose of providing both psychometric and biological (saliva a-amylase and saliva cortisol biomarkers) evidence on the effectiveness of the program in breast and prostate cancer groups.

In just 3 weeks, the intervention group demonstrated a decrease in its mean depression score of around 50%, while the control group experienced a rise of 25%. A huge and clinically very significant difference.

With anxiety, the intervention group demonstrated a decrease in its mean anxiety score of around 8%, while the controls went up around 10% - another significant difference.

2. PMR, pain and fatigue
Pathak P et al, Progressive Muscle Relaxation: An Adjuvant Therapy for Reducing Pain and Fatigue Among Hospitalized Cancer Patients Receiving Radiotherapy Int J Adv Nurs Stud. 2013;2:58-65

Although many studies have examined a range of management methodologies for pain, few have examined pain and fatigue together and only a handful have studied the use of Progressive Muscle Relaxation - PMR.

In this study involving 100 patients undergoing radiotherapy, after the 4-week intervention, both pain and fatigue scores were significantly reduced in the intervention group. No significant change in pain was evident in the control group; the fatigue scores of these patients increased significantly.

Worsening of fatigue throughout the study period was to be expected as a result of oxidative stress experienced by patients during radiation therapy. However, in the intervention group, PMR not only mitigated, but reversed, the anticipated worsening of fatigue.

It is encouraging that most patients were able to master the technique of PMR fairly quickly and then use the intervention on their own. An intervention that empowers patients to engage on their own in managing these distressing symptoms, so common in cancer patients, is an important adjunct and highly worth considering.


  1. You forgot to mention Ruth's immense kindness and her skillful capacity to hold and contain fragile people. Yes, do yourself a big favor........

  2. True... I was tempted to make a list of the beloved's many attributes, but settled for just a few basics :) Thanks for mentioning these :)