23 July 2018


Many people have asked over the years how Ruth and I met. Our story began amidst tragedy and its telling offers a profound insight into the role of the mind in healing.

Ruth has been inspired to share this story and it reveals personal aspects of her own life, so another guest blog - read on… you are in for a treat; but first

              Thought for the day 

     It is just purely a stillness of the mind.
     Not asleep, not unconscious, not drowsy;
     Quite clear, but just a stillness.

                       Dr Ainslie Meares
         Australian pioneer of therapeutic meditation

Many years ago when I was in my mid thirties I had a complete physical and mental breakdown. A doctor living and working in Alice Springs at that time, I was a mother of 2 young boys. My difficulties centred around severe intractable backpain which radiated down my right leg causing weakness and numbness in my right foot; rather mundanely referred to as sciatica.

Diagnostically my back pain was supposedly related to “bulging discs” – an all time rubbish diagnosis because often the cause of backpain is so hard to find. However, there was no denying the pain was severe, restrictive and intermittently excruciating.

There had been a previous episode of severe backpain in my life, the first had come 9 months after the birth of my first child - whilst I was in a full-blown major postnatal depression and had not had a decent night’s sleep in 9 months.

So, this second bout was like a re-run, and as a consequence I became depressed once more, with regular experiences of panic and negative thoughts about what my future held. Despite this, I was reluctant to recommence the antidepressants that I had taken for years after that first episode in my late twenties.

So I found myself lying on my bed, writhing around, trying to find a comfortable position to
breastfeed my healthy 5 month old baby son, and trying to work out how I could manage the day.

There were all the necessary chores of cooking, washing and tidying up, along with entertaining and engaging his 4 year old brother.

Doing this with determination and resolve; whilst trying to stop my mind sinking into despair.

Unable to sit for more than 5 minutes and doing exercises that the physiotherapist at the Alice Springs hospital had recommended – swimming laps and walking in the shallow end of the pool - as well as gentle stretching which came from my yoga practices which had helped my back to be pretty good for the previous 3 years.

But, try hard as I did, I was faced with the fact that I was having a complete breakdown and these methods were not working. Physically, mentally, emotionally; I was a wreck.


All the ways I had learnt to survive, thrive and cope with life were no longer working… and I did not believe in much beyond what science offered. And worse than this, from my perspective, into the mess of my inadequate functioning - I had brought a new baby.

My partner who was a loving father to the children was a busy Flying Doctor in Rural Health working around 60 hours/week, and although he was away a lot, he was providing for us all and engaging when he could. We had no extended family in Alice Springs to help, and sure our friends were helping us as much as they could, but we had no sense of when this misery would end, or even if it ever would.

Guilt grew that my baby and my little boy would feel abandoned. I took indefinite leave from my part-time general practice work at the Family Planning Centre. And took the various anti-inflammatory medications, stayed off opiates, and recommenced small doses of amitryptiline.

Although I started to become used to being chronically ill, at times life seemed almost unbearable. However, I did keep my ears open for help by consulting orthopaedic specialists and new GPs; as I saw it in those days, “anything that might help”.

In desperation, I even tried Reiki - on the recommendation of a kind friend who was a nurse helping me with childminding.

It worked like paracetamol and gave welcome relief for 4 hours.

However, me being a conservative doctor in those days, it left me very perplexed as to what had happened.

I knew I had been pain free for 4 hours but had no belief that anything like that should or could work.

My mind was starting to crack. But the Reiki was too challenging for me with my existing paradigm and I did not keep going for it. I had become one of those “sickly” people who was coping with a rather miserable situation.

Then one day a book eased itself into my line of vision. Did someone give it to me? Who? I have no memory of how this book actually came into my life, but my best guess now is that I had probably bought it myself a bit earlier when I had thought meditation may help my chronic struggle with depression. It had sat unread on the bookshelf at home.

The book was Peace of Mind by Ian Gawler!

I started to read it and as I continued, developed a strong feeling that the author really knew what I was experiencing in my life.

It was like Ian was talking to me personally - and he described a methodology through which I might find comfort and ease.

I read the book in a couple of days and started implementing the techniques described there.

And then the miracle! Over a matter of a couple of weeks my pain began to diminish, some real flexibility returned, and most importantly I had hope that I would be OK, and my mood started to lift.

Moreover, the author seemed to believe that complete healing was always possible, no matter what the cause or the prognosis. He dared to suggest that all the doctors who had told me that I would need to be on medications intermittently for the rest of my life may well have been wrong. And the combination of his confidence – which came through his words and the way he phrased things - and the technique of the Progressive Muscle Relaxation based meditation were working for me.

My recovery was gradual and consistent; and did not take very long. Within 2 months I was back to being how I had been prior to the breakdown. Sometimes, I actually felt that I had escaped a lifetime prison sentence and was elated!

Of course I was told by my GP that the problem would return and I should expect that. I had kyphoscoliosis and lumbar disc problems and manic depression (now called bipolar). How could something so simple work on something so complex?

My intellect went into overdrive trying to understand why I was getting better, but could find no satisfactory explanation. I was unfortunately a scientific fundamentalist and had no belief in any reality apart from what science had discovered and supposedly proven. In those days, science and psychology were my gods. They had both shaken their heads at me in the plight I was in and their faces had been somber.

Why did I dare to believe in something so unrealistic? Why did I choose to believe in something so unrealistic? Well, how that all unfolded is another story for another time!


Often I respond to this question with a cheeky smile and say with a twinkle in my eye “what do you call meeting?

Are we meeting the person when we read their book?”, because if so, this has been the story of that first meeting.

And what I really want to communicate in telling you all this is that the doctor, or the healer, or the therapist you are seeing will greatly influence your own beliefs about what is possible when it comes to your recovery. When we consult someone in their office we are often in a kind of a trance, and our mind is quite child-like and obedient. The possibilities of our own future are quite naturally limited or expanded by what the therapist thinks and expresses.

We are only as well as what we think, and our doctors/therapists/healers have a profound influence on what we think. If their view is that we have a poor prognosis and are doomed to a bleak future, it deeply affects our own mind and the nature of what is possible, and thus our own vision of what our future holds. Of course, the opposite applies equally.

So we need to make decisions very consciously about who we consult, what we read and what we listen to when you are dealing with major illness and recovery.

My wish is that you have the courage and clarity, and are supported to make wise choices…

Ruth Gawler's 
next meditation retreat - with Julia Broome

Meditation - Pure and Simple

Whether burnt out, dealing with physical or mental issues, this retreat provides a unique opportunity to be led and supported by a doctor well versed in Mind-Body Medicine who has a particular expertise with deep relaxation and healing.

Ruth will focus in this retreat upon the meditation techniques of Dr Ainslie Meares and Ian Gawler. 
The only meditation retreat Ruth is leading in 2018 that will be specifically focussed on meditation's therapeutic healing benefits.  

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. Certificates of Attendance for CPD points issued, on request at the end of this retreat.

DATES                                    September - Monday 10th to Friday 14th September 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



  1. Loved this blog - your sharing of your story Ruth - thank you. ��
    YES �� the potential of our healing is in our mind ... if only we could get out of the way and let our body get on with it!

  2. Ruth, thank you for this. It is both a personal and general story. For all of us finding a way beyond our current situation requires an opening of the mind and the heart. Finding wise teachers to lead us is genuinely life changing. I know both you and Ian have been this for many people - myself included (and indeed a mild form of back pain was part of my healing!).