22 July 2019

The best answer to stress? Meditation!

Who does not have stress in their life these days?

Meditators! So how does meditation negate stress?

How can you explain it simply to your friends? This week, we go to the heart of meditation and examine why it is so simple and reliable.

And a reminder, Blue Sky Mind is now available, as are the downloads that will guide you personally into the meditations, but first



               Thought for the day

In meditation the mind keeps wandering. 
We keep bringing it back, and it wanders again. 
And we bring it back again, and so it goes on, 
Maybe for months and years, 
Until at last the mind becomes stabilised . . . 

Thoughts go roving around in the head, 
But if we bring them down into the heart, 
That is, the centre of the person, 
They come to rest.


                          Fr Bede Griffiths
River of Compassion: A Christian Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita.



Just why is meditation such a reliable antidote to stress and anxiety? 

Now, to be clear, when speaking of meditation, I speak of learning to relax deeply in a physical sense, and then to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind into a deeper stillness.

In fact, real meditation introduces us, or perhaps just makes abundantly clear, that the mind does have two aspects; there is the active thinking mind and the still mind.



The thinking mind is the domain of stress

How we perceive things.

How we interpret things.

How we think determines the stress we may or may not experience.



The still mind is beyond all this.

The still mind is calm and clear. The still mind is highly creative, highly productive, but it is the domain of deep, natural peace.

How then to help the thinking mind let go of stress, to become clear and calm, to become stress free?

First an analogy. If we were interested in the true nature of the sky but had never seen it before; and went outside on a cloudy grey day, we could form the view that the sky was this grey fluffy stuff that filled the space above us.

However, those of us who do have a little more familiarity with the sky know of course that clouds as we call them are only one part of the sky.

There is a second part, a second aspect – all that space that appears to be that big blue canopy we are so familiar with and that is so evident on a cloud-free day.

Those of us that are more familiar with the sky know that clouds come and go, yet the blue canopy is always there.

So even on the cloudiest, stormiest, wildest of days, sooner or later the clouds do clear and there it is.


It was always there of course, that clear blue sky, it is just that sometimes the clouds obscure it from our direct sight.

So, the analogy is good. With our minds, thoughts come and go all the time; they are ever-changing and impermanent. Happy thoughts, stressful thoughts. They come and they go. But sooner or later they will clear, and reveal this deeper stillness, the more fundamental enduring, stable aspect of our mind.

So there is the active and the still mind. Meditation provides a reliable way to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind and directly experience the stillness of the more fundamental or true nature of our mind. And in doing so, meditation offers 3 major benefits: Profound Peace, Natural Balance, and the View.

Profound Peace speaks for itself. There is a natural ease, an inner clarity and confidence that comes with meditation that provides a profoundly effective antidote to stress.

But more, this profound peace, coupled with deep physical relaxation brings Natural Balance to our whole being. Physically our body chemistry and physiology regains its natural balance. It is like meditation resets our factory settings and recalibrates the physiological changes we know accompany adverse stress, and over time becomes our default setting.

So this is how meditation diffuses stress and anxiety – with a return to a natural, healthy balance.

But there is still more! This natural balance flows on to be experienced as emotional balance, mental balance; there is even a deep sense of connectedness and a natural rise of love, compassion and altruism – a spiritual balance.

And perhaps even more profoundly, meditation offers a new perspective. We begin to see the world, and our life, not just from the perspective of the ever-changing “thinking mind”, but also from a more profound vantage point – that of the still mind, the true nature of our mind.

The View is a word that is used to encapsulate how we view the world, how we interpret our life.

What meaning and purpose we experience in this life.

Our View is tied up with our values, our ethics, our habits, and our beliefs.

How we live our life.

Now, our View of course is radically affected by our perspective. For those whose perspective does happen to lead them to think that all they are is just this body, it is easy to imagine how they “over-identify” with their body image and their physical health and in doing so become highly stress-prone.

For those whose perspective or View is such that they conclude life is all about relationships, and in so doing over-identify with their partner or children, or even their community, it is easy to imagine how the ups and downs of life will make them particularly vulnerable to chronic stress.

For those whose View is that life is all about mental reason, and as a consequence over-identify with the rational, logical, scientific aspects of their mind, it is easy to imagine how the mysteries of life, the unexplainable, the new, the challenging makes them significantly prone to stress.

So, one elegant definition of stress is “over-identification with the wrong part of our self”.

Body, emotions and mind are very important, but they are not who we really are. Over-identifying with them will mean we are bound to be stressed, maybe even full on anxious.

When we change our perspective, everything changes.

If we have a problem, as we see it, and we fixate on it, it is like holding an egg to our eye – we can see nothing.

It is a big problem and it obscures everything.


However, if we hold the egg at arms-length, we recognise it for what it is. It is an egg with loads of possibilities, loads of potential.

So meditation introduces us to who we really are, what is in our heart’s essence. And in doing so, meditation offers three great gifts Profound Peace, Natural Balance and the View.

Truly meditation offers a unique pathway to stress free stress-management.


RESOURCES

The Book

Hot off the press, Blue Sky Mind is coming into good bookshops now.

If it is not in your favourite bookshop, please ask for it; booksellers often need prompting these days.

Or, you can order the book safely on-line through the Foundation’s webstore - and if you do that, you are highly likely to receive a signed copy... CLICK HERE


The Downloads

Ruth and I have recorded all the meditation exercises in Blue Sky Mind.

We have made them available as downloads as we have had a good deal of feedback that this is what people who use them regularly prefer.

The Blue Sky Mind downloads are intended to both guide you initially into the direct experience of the meditations, then support you in your on-going practice.

To access the downloads,   CLICK HERE

Enjoy :) 

28 June 2019

Top 4 ways to boost your immune system

What is something you can do every morning with very little extra effort, but just a whiff of discipline that can significantly boost your immune system? We have been recommending this for around 40 years, but a recent article made it sound like a new discovery so it has prompted this week’s post that is research based - how to use everyday things to best to boost your immune system, but first



                 Thought for the Day

       Though my View is as spacious as the sky,

       My actions and respect for cause and effect 
       Are as fine as grains of flour.

                              Padmasambhava 




Number 1 top way to boost your immune system - Regular Meditation

No surprises here. Plenty of research indicates meditation’s direct beneficial impact on immune function. However, of even more benefit may be the fact that the more we meditate, the more likely we are to do a whole host of things that are good for us - and have the inner discipline to continue to do them.

From the research : Mindfulness meditation appears to be associated with reductions in pro-inflammatory processes, increases in cell-mediated defence parameters and increases in enzyme activity that guards against cell aging. More research needed…

Black DS. Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016 Jun; 1373(1): 13–24.


Number 2 top way to boost your immune system - Plant based diet

Probably no surprises here either! A great deal of evidence has now built up to support this contention. Here is one of the latest…

From the research : Plant-based sources of protein decrease chronic inflammation, according to this recent study. Researchers tracked protein intakes for 2,061 participants and compared inflammatory biomarkers between total, animal, and plant-based protein sources. Those who replaced animal protein with plant-based protein showed improvements in a particular biomarker associated with overall inflammation and oxidative stress. The authors note that increased plant-based protein may lower the inflammation burden among aging populations.

Hruby A, Jacques PF. Dietary protein and changes in biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort. Curr Dev Nutr. 2019;3:1-9.


Number 3 top way to boost your immune system - Regular moderate exercise

Again most probably know this by now. Strenuous exercise can in fact weaken the immune system - something marathon runners need to really watch.

However, exercise at a level where you can talk while doing it, and feel better after you complete your session and that level of exercise has many positive benefits.

From the research : Moderate exercise seems to have a beneficial effect on the immune function, improving both the humoral and the cellular immune system.

Jeurrisen A teal. The Effects of physical exercise on the immune system. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2003 Jul 12;147(28):1347-51.


Number 4 top way to boost your immune system - Cold showers

This is the one we have recommended for years. Seems the mild stress of the cold shower causes the body to lift its game and ramp up its immune responses.

There is a caution...

Most people have a warm shower first, then shift to cold. However, doing this suddenly has been associated with a mild increase in heart attack risk. Therefore, turn the cold on in a few steps with time to adjust between - then all is good.

From the research : This is an area where the actual research articles are hard to track down, but here is one from a few years back…

Shevchuk NA, Radoja S. Possible stimulation of anti-tumor immunity using repeated cold stress: A hypothesis. Infect Agent Cancer. 2007;2:20.


Speaking personally, I have been having a cold shower every day for around 50 years - plus the others above. In that time have had virtually zero colds and only one bout of the flu and yes, I do not take the flu vaccine. Lucky? Maybe…  But these are 4 top ways proven to boost immune function.

And the side effect? The daily cold shower helps maintain the discipline to do the others - although I do really enjoy the others anyway .

10 June 2019

Is this the simple answer to climate change?

It is clear we live in deeply challenging times. The climate change threats are real. But is there a simple answer? I believe so and this week reveal what it is and how we might accomplish it. Plus a reminder of meditation workshops in Melbourne, Sydney and the Yarra Valley to feature my new book Blue Sky Mind - with both Ruth and myself, but first



      Thought for the day

           We are the ancestors of the future
           What do you want your legacy to be?


                 Julia Butterfly Hill








Maybe it is as simple as this… 




Live a life centred around high rise… 

Run the risk of becoming disconnected from community, isolated from nature, self absorbed, indifferent to food and its sources, become mindless with waste and rubbish, increasingly lose touch with the rhythms of life.








Live a life centred around a garden…

Become connected to community, grow increasingly in touch with nature, realize the interdependencies of all life, gain deep appreciation for those who grow food and any animals and people involved in providing it, become increasingly wary of chemicals used for food growing, the over refinement and processing of food, the consequences of waste and rubbish, feel a genuine engagement with natural recycling and the rhythms of life including life and death itself - in short, develop an appreciation, respect and love for life.



So the simple solution?



Get involved with a garden!

If you already have a garden, can you make it bigger?



If you do live in a high rise, have you a balcony, can you do some indoor gardening, can you join one of the increasing number of community gardens?

Do you have children, grand-children, any children you can influence?

GET THEM GARDENING!!!

The suggestion is, out of gardening comes a natural appreciation for nature.

Connecting with the earth, helping it to become bountiful, leads to a natural appreciation, a natural desire for conservation and a natural desire to do whatever it takes to counter climate change and preserve our wonderful planet.

GET INTO THE GARDEN!!!

And enjoy!


COMING WORKSHOPS WITH RUTH AND MYSELF

Join Ruth and myself as we share with you in a day of meditation.
Lovely way to connect, great opportunity to meditate together, explore the new ideas from my new book Blue Sky Mind (still waiting for copies to be printed - should be a couple more weeks), have your questions answered and enjoy a day with lots of practice together.

Melbourne - Saturday June 15th  in Brunswick

Sydney - Sunday June 30th in Newtown

Yarra Valley - July 14th at the Foundation

27 May 2019

Difficult relationships – and 8 tips towards something better

How many times have you overheard or said, “I could be more effective if it wasn’t for the people around me – they are just so difficult to get along with”. Or “They are just so unreasonable! I really can’t bear the way they talk to me".

If your relationships trouble you, this week great insights and 8 top tips that can be useful in every situation. Guest blogger Murray Paterson's expertise in relationships has been honed by 35 years as a senior manager in the corporate world, and also comes informed by his strong grounding as a teacher of mindfulness.

You may well find Murray's insights and tips helpful in everyday life or in your own workplace.


Also, Murray is joining Ruth as co-presenter in what could well be a life-transforming meditation and mindfulness based retreat in September, Mindful Relationships. 

The experiences and knowledge, along with the expertise Ruth and Murray bring to this key topic of relationships are very synergistic.

They make a great team.

And of course, speaking from experience, Ruth is fabulous at helping people express their emotions and build good relationships in a very practical yet truly joyful way!!! It is hard for me to quantify just how much benefit in this regard I have gained from our marriage; it has been wonderful  :)

Also this week, news of the meditation workshop Ruth and I will present in Brunswick on 15th June -  Blue Sky Mind, but first




     Thought for the day

            If you do not transform your suffering

            You will transmit it

                     Richard Rohr








From Murray Paterson…
Working in corporate life for 35+ years as a senior manager and leader has taught me that workplaces are often fraught-places! Rather than bringing us a sense of joy and fulfilment, workplaces are often a source of significant stress and anxiety, and much of this comes from difficult or challenging professional relationships.

If your professional relationships trouble you, are you actively doing something about it?

Or instead do you find yourself endlessly thinking or talking to others about what you should do, what you should say, while ruminating over these thoughts and feelings?

Do you spend your time trying to fall asleep with a sense of unresolved anguish about a professional relationship, or wake in the middle of the night tossing the issue around and around?

I often wonder about the amount of time and energy we devote to worrying about our relationships at work, and the impact this has on our effectiveness, but also on our health and wellbeing.

If this is a common experience for you, then you might like to read through the following reflections, drawn from my experiences in a professional services firm, so that you may be able to gain some perspective and begin to take control of this aspect of your life.

To set the scene, the relationships I am describing are based on particular professional and organisational characteristics of a professional services firm.

In my experience many people who work in the corporate environment

Are typically highly introverted
Have strongly held professional values around perfectionism, expertise and competitiveness
Are extremely fearful of failure
Apply their capacity for complex problem solving to relationship issues (rather than confront them directly)
Prefer to work from precedent rather than to experiment with novelty and innovation
Are addicted to speed in the execution of work
Work under extreme time pressure.

These personal and professional norms lead to relationships which are generally

Hierarchical in nature
Transactional
Distinguished by silence rather than noise.

And the outcomes are often

Teams of people that do not know each other well
Very low levels of skill in developing interpersonal relationships (and a disinterest in doing so)
A strong reluctance to try to resolve problems (real or perceived) in relationships
A strong preference for judging the competence or ‘value’ of others leading to a fixed mindset  about individuals
Impatience, frustration and even animosity towards others that is largely internally felt but sometimes externally expressed
High levels of stress and anxiety
High levels of unhappiness and suffering
Lack of kindness towards others
Poor focus on tasks due to a distracted and distressed mind.

It seems inevitable that individuals in such a place would have strong deficiencies in the quality of their relationships, a low sense of engagement at work, perhaps a reluctance to come to work even, or to engage fully with those around them. What can we do to improve the nature of these relationships?

What can we do to foster improved working relationships? 

Based upon years of experience helping individuals and teams to transform all of this,
here are my 8 top tips…



1. Develop self-awareness - through learning and practising the skill of mindfulness meditation.

This will improve your capacity for focus and attention and you will enjoy the benefits of lowered anxiety and stress with continued practice.




2. Be curious about your response to the world – making time to reflect on your reaction rather than simply giving in to it.

3. Understand your emotions - the role they have on both what you think and how you think.

4. Practice gratitude - consider how much you rely on others to be where you are today, and to sustain you in the work you do, rather than behave as if you are an independent agent in the world.

5. Start with the best intention - assume that those you work with have the best intention rather than the worst: and always consult your own intention when you are about to do or say something as a method of self-regulation - and aim for your best.

6. Develop compassion - extend a sense of compassion and care firstly to yourself and then to those around you – at home, in your organisation, with your clients or customers


7. Maintain beginner’s mind - be open and fresh. Seek to witness the world from a beginner’s mind rather than one that is set in habitual belief, reaction and response. Give space for creativity.

8. Show up! - choose to bring your whole self to work, an act requiring openness and courage, but which will result in greater personal connection and reduced social isolation

These 8 suggestions may sound easy enough, yet experience tells me applying them is not so easy.

So along with Ruth, I have put together a 5 day retreat where we will gently address these issues and their solutions, along with providing time out to relax, reflect, regenerate and learn more about mindfulness and meditation, do a nice amount of practice together, have free time to walk amidst the natural beauty of the Upper Yarra Valley and its wonderful trees, be massaged, be well fed and generally looked after!





So if you would like to explore how you relate to others – both at work, and in your personal relationships, then please do come to our retreat ‘Mindful Relationships’ at the Yarra Valley Living Centre.



MINDFUL RELATIONSHIPS     9th - 13th September 
    
with Dr Ruth Gawler and Murray Paterson

Take time out to address what is at the heart of life - relationships

When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world,
We lose connection with one another – and ourselves.     Jack Kornfield


For better relationships with your self, with family, friends and colleagues

Mindfulness practices cultivate greater internal and external awareness
and change our relationships for the better. 


Murray Paterson has a rich history in corporate relationships and mindfulness. Together with Ruth, they can gently guide and support you to a new way of being within relationship.


A WONDERFUL PROGRAM THAT GETS TO THE HEART 
OF WHAT IT IS TO BE HUMAN

Dates         Monday 9th at 11.30am (arrive from 9.30) to Friday 13th at 2.00pm, September 2019.

Venue        The Yarra Valley Living Centre, 55 Rayner Court, Yarra Junction, Victoria.

Enquiries and Bookings   Call 1300 651 211   or   Email  clientservices@gawler.org

MORE DETAILS  - CLICK HERE



BLUE SKY MIND  -  Saturday June 15th  -  Melbourne
an Urban day of meditation with Ruth and Ian Gawler

This workshop is suitable for everyone keen to deepen their meditation.

While profoundly instructional and regenerative, the focus will be upon direct experience. Ian and Ruth will lead and guide the day, drawing on their combined experience of meditating and teaching for over 70 years.

The day will be based upon Ian’s new meditation book : Blue Sky Mind

Date            Saturday 15 June, 10am (arrive 9.30) - 4pm.
Venue          Rigpa Melbourne Centre, Level 1, 200 Sydney Rd Brunswick, Vic
                    Easy Public Transport access; free car parking behind the centre      (enter via Edward St); lift access to level 1
Bring          BYO lunch or purchase from the many nearby cafes; morning tea will be provided
Fee              $145 full/$120 concession

Enquiries    Please contact Jenny Anderson on jenny.anderson@rigpa.org.au

BOOKINGS  -  CLICK HERE


13 May 2019

What is meditation? Introducing my new book Blue Sky Mind

Your mind has two aspects. There is the familiar active, thinking mind with all its attendant emotions, and then there is the still mind, renowned for its innate inner peace and clarity, loving kindness and wisdom.

While meditation and my new book, Blue Sky Mind do focus upon getting to know both aspects of your mind better, more particularly they provide a reliable way to become familiar with the still mind.

Meditation enables us to move past distractions and the pre-occupations we often have with our thoughts and emotions, and introduces us to the still mind with direct certainty. It then helps us to function with confidence from its centre wherein all the qualities we aspire to as good people are to be found.

So this week, more of an introduction to meditation, Blue Sky Mind and its genesis, but first

        Thought for the day

The aim is to experience meditation 
Practice and life as one.
 

The aim is to continue 
The mindfulness and awareness 
Of the meditation into daily life.

As we practise 
And these qualities 
Begin to become a reality for us, 
We begin to see more clearly 
The way to do things 
In a connected, effective and caring way.

                                          Ian Gawler


Blue Sky Mind is intended to be a highly accessible introductory book to meditation; something that everyone will find informative and useful for establishing and deepening their own meditation practice.



The inspiration and starting point for this current book was Peace of Mind, my first meditation book published in Australia in 1987 and one of the first books to be published on meditation in that country.

It provided instruction on how to relax deeply and enter the simple stillness of deeper meditation as well as a comprehensive introduction to the use of contemplation and guided imagery.







Peace of Mind was followed in 1996 by Meditation - Pure and Simple.

This book was written in response to many requests that flowed out of Peace of Mind regarding what to do with an active mind and the many distractions and frustrations an untrained or unskilled active mind can bring into meditation.










Then followed a more complete expose on guided imagery - The Creative Power of Imagery in 1997.








In 2010 there came the more explicit and extensive book on the techniques of meditation, contemplation and guided imagery - Meditation - an In-Depth Guide co-authored with colleague Paul Bedson.




The Creative Power of Imagery led into and was replaced by The Mind that Changes Everything in 2010.








So now in 2019, to reinvigorate the “beginner’s book”, the best of Peace of Mind and Meditation - Pure and Simple are being combined with a good deal of original material into one fresh new book, Blue Sky Mind.

My wife Ruth has played a major role in developing this work and has brought her love, care, sensitivity, experience, wisdom and insight to all facets of the book’s writing and production.

The understanding of meditation reflected in this book has grown through my personal contact with many people and books. There has been great good fortune in being able to learn directly from many great masters of meditation. The two most significant are Dr Ainslie Meares and Sogyal Rinpoche.





Dr Meares was the true pioneer of therapeutic meditation in the Western world.

His first book on meditation, Relief Without Drugs was published in 1967, translated into many languages and sold over one million copies around the world.

His insights were pivotal, informed this work and are as relevant to current times as they were to the sixties.



Since 1985, the Tibetan lama Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and master of Dzogchen meditation has been my main teacher.

Rinpoche has helped deepen my understanding and experience of meditation by his presence, kindness, knowledge and patience.




Also, gratitude is offered to Zen Master Hogan-San for his knowledge and insight. And what a blessing to have known and learnt from that extraordinary Christian mystic and scholar Father Bede Griffiths along with many others who have shared the experiences of Christian Meditation.

But then this book is also the product of many years working with great staff as we helped so many people learn to meditate. There is a debt owed to them all - the staff and those who learnt with us - for their shared experiences, responses, feedback, failures and successes. It is a privilege to have been able to work in this way.

And while all these wonderful people and books have helped a great deal, in meditation the real answers lie within. There is a profound appreciation and gratitude for the experiences and the knowing that comes from listening and waiting in silence for the still voice within.




AND WANT TO EXPERIENCE MEDITATION DIRECTLY ?



RUTH's next MEDITATION-Based RETREATS

      MIND-BODY MEDICINE     May 17 - 21

   with Dr Ruth Gawler and Prof Sanjay Regav






                                 Activate your own inner healer 
                  Support the one you love to heal

We all know healing is a combined effort. It makes sense to benefit from the best of whatever modern medicine has to offer, along with any relevant supportive therapies. But then there is our own side to the healing equation. How do we get the best from our own innate capacity to heal?

What better than to learn from two senior doctors who along with their medical specialties, specialise in teaching and supporting people to activate their healing potentials and recover. This program also specifically addresses the needs of carers - how to look after yourself while supporting the one you love on their healing journey.

This program addresses the basic requirements of how to give the body and mind the best chance to heal. Therefore it is directly applicable to a wide range of illnesses and health disorders including, but not limited to autoimmune or inflammatory conditions, degenerative diseases, mental health issues and chronic stress. 

Join an inspiring and practical program. Interact with like minded people all committed to the healing path, and learn from two amazing doctors!

This I highly recommend!

DATES :  17 - 21 May.   The program will be repeated   29Nov - 3 Dec   2019

VENUE :  The Yarra Valley Living Centre, Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria, Australia

WEB LINK :  Click here

ENQUIRIES and BOOKINGS :  Contact the staff at The Yarra Valley Living Centre

             Telephone :      1300 651 211 

              Email :            ClientServices@gawler.org

              Website :         Click here




MINDFUL RELATIONSHIPS     9th - 13th September 
    
with Dr Ruth Gawler and Murray Paterson

Take time out to address what is at the heart of life - relationships

When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world,
We lose connection with one another – and ourselves.     Jack Kornfield


For better relationships with your self, with family, friends and colleagues

Mindfulness practices cultivate greater internal and external awareness
and change our relationships for the better. 


Murray Paterson has a rich history in corporate relationships and mindfulness. Together with Ruth, they can gently guide and support you to a new way of being within relationship.


A WONDERFUL PROGRAM THAT GETS TO THE HEART 
OF WHAT IT IS TO BE HUMAN

Dates         Monday 9th at 11.30am (arrive from 9.30) to Friday 13th at 2.00pm, September 2019.

Venue        The Yarra Valley Living Centre, 55 Rayner Court, Yarra Junction, Victoria.

Enquiries and Bookings   Call 1300 651 211   or   Email  clientservices@gawler.org










29 April 2019

Epiphany - have you ever had one? Care to share it?

Epiphany - “a moment of sudden and great revelation or realization”. These powerful insights often come unexpectedly, sometimes come following intense spiritual practice.

Almost invariably they change lives profoundly and I wonder how common they are? So a request to share details of epiphany experiences via info@insighthealth.com.au, and news of Ruth’s new ventures, but first

Thought for the day

There comes a point in your sitting 
When insights will flash into your mind. 
If you do not jot down things that you want to remember, 
This could bother you and interfere with your concentration. 
You may want to keep a pencil and notebook next to you.

Yasutani Roshi, Zen master



Actor Peter Cayote is quoted as he eloquently describes his own rather dramatic epiphany. It came as he heard the sound of a bird call…

Eeek! Eeek! Eeek! Eeek! Eeek! it cried — strident, insistent, obliterating all thought. Suddenly, in that momentary emptiness, its cries were transformed and I heard them as It! It! It! It! — the indisputable answer to my question. I took one more step and the world as I had always experienced it ended.



I cannot describe what happened next because in that instant language and thought fell entirely away from my existence. The boundaries between “in here” and “out there” disappeared. The world remained recognizable, as it had always been, but completely stripped of descriptive language and concepts. 

Everything appeared to be a phantom of itself, luminous but without weight or substance. “I” had been replaced. The closest I can come to describing what I felt was an awareness with no physical location, inseparable from the entire universe. Everything was precisely as it had come to be.

The power of an epiphany rests in this direct experience of non-dualistic reality. Commonly without the benefit of an epiphany, we relate to the world from the perspective of “me” and “it”. There is me and my computer. There is me and my lover. There is me and my work, my car, my dog, etc, etc… Two things. Me and all these external objects, people, things. Me and it. Duality.

And with this duality a sense of separateness; often a compensatory over-identification with self, and a depreciation of the worth of other people and things. With a dualistic perspective we often have the sense we can exploit other people, the environment, the material world. There is a disconnect.

During an epiphany, any sense of duality is transcended, and the new experience is of oneness; a non-dual state.

There is the sense of merging, of being at one with all of humanity, of being intimately connected, even intertwined with the environment, of being at one with all.

Curiously many people who have experienced this non-dual state, describe it as having lasted for just a few moments; literally seconds or maybe minutes.

Yet in this brief encounter their lives changed.


It is like they experienced a profound truth and did not forget.

This could be like someone who was raised indoors and had never seen the light of day. They would only need to be outside for a brief moment on a blue sky day to experience the truth of what a clear sky is like. Even the briefest of experiences would clearly establish what the sky is like and even if they were locked inside again immediately, that experience would stay with them and change their knowing about the world they lived in.

Now the fact is most people who have had an epiphany are profoundly affected by it. Yet there seems to be little research into this well-known phenomena; little seems to be known about it.

So I am curious. Have you had an epiphany? Do you know someone who has?
Are you willing to share your experience with me and maybe others? If you are, please write to info@insighthealth.com.au.

Here are some suggestions as to what to write…

What happened? How old were you? Where were you? What led up to the experience? What seemed to trigger it? How long did it last? What can you say of the experience? Did you tell others about it? How has it affected your life? Have you had similar experiences since?

If you would like me to ring to discuss your experience, please leave your details. If you would prefer to share just with me, or are happy to have your account retold, please make that clear. If you prefer confidentiality, that is ensured.

What I would like to do is firstly get some sense of how common these experiences are, and then for those who may like to, share with consent via the blog.

Personally I find hearing the epiphany experiences of others very inspiring.



RUTH's next MEDITATION-Based RETREATS

      MIND-BODY MEDICINE     May 17 - 21

   with Dr Ruth Gawler and Prof Sanjay Regav






                                 Activate your own inner healer 
                  Support the one you love to heal

We all know healing is a combined effort. It makes sense to benefit from the best of whatever modern medicine has to offer, along with any relevant supportive therapies. But then there is our own side to the healing equation. How do we get the best from our own innate capacity to heal?

What better than to learn from two senior doctors who along with their medical specialties, specialise in teaching and supporting people to activate their healing potentials and recover. This program also specifically addresses the needs of carers - how to look after yourself while supporting the one you love on their healing journey.

This program addresses the basic requirements of how to give the body and mind the best chance to heal. Therefore it is directly applicable to a wide range of illnesses and health disorders including, but not limited to autoimmune or inflammatory conditions, degenerative diseases, mental health issues and chronic stress. 

Join an inspiring and practical program. Interact with like minded people all committed to the healing path, and learn from two amazing doctors!

This I highly recommend!

DATES :  17 - 21 May.   The program will be repeated   29Nov - 3 Dec   2019

VENUE :  The Yarra Valley Living Centre, Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria, Australia

WEB LINK :  Click here

ENQUIRIES and BOOKINGS :  Contact the staff at The Yarra Valley Living Centre

             Telephone :      1800 667 576

              Email :            ClientServices@gawler.org

              Website :         Click here




MINDFUL RELATIONSHIPS     9th - 13th September 
    
with Dr Ruth Gawler and Murray Paterson

Take time out to address what is at the heart of life - relationships

When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world,
We lose connection with one another – and ourselves.     Jack Kornfield


For better relationships with your self, with family, friends and colleagues

Mindfulness practices cultivate greater internal and external awareness
and change our relationships for the better. 


Murray Paterson has a rich history in corporate relationships and mindfulness. Together with Ruth, they can gently guide and support you to a new way of being within relationship.


A WONDERFUL PROGRAM THAT GETS TO THE HEART 
OF WHAT IT IS TO BE HUMAN

Dates         Monday 9th at 11.30am (arrive from 9.30) to Friday 13th at 2.00pm, September 2019.

Venue        The Yarra Valley Living Centre, 55 Rayner Court, Yarra Junction, Victoria.

Enquiries and Bookings   Call 1300 651 211   or   Email  clientservices@gawler.org








23 April 2019

Mindfulness or emptiness? At last meditation research starts comparing

For many years research into mindfulness and meditation has been pretty shoddy.
Imagine testing a new antibiotic without clarifying what type of antibiotic was being studied and how much was being used. For too long most meditation research has not defined the type and quantity being studied.

Now a landmark study compares mindfulness with emptiness - and the results may be different to what you might expect, but first

        Thought for the day


The way we see the world shapes the way we treat it. 
If a mountain is a deity, not a pile of ore; 
If a river is one of the veins of the land, not potential irrigation water; 
If a forest is a sacred grove, not timber; 
If other species are biological kin, not resources; 
Or if the planet is our mother, not an opportunity, 
Then we will treat each other with greater respect. 
Thus is the challenge, 
To look at the world from a different perspective.

                          David Suzuki




                                     Maybe this needs to be the thought for our time!!!

Many meditation studies have failed to clearly state what type of meditation was taught, and what the participants actually practiced. Few studies give attention to how much practice the participants actually completed.

So this comparative study provides an early window into how different techniques may work in different situations. Clearly this is the way for the future of meditation and mindfulness studies, but right now it makes for an interesting start.

Wisdom-based Buddhist-derived practices (BDPs) are concerned with transmuting suffering by cultivating insight into the ultimate nature of both the self and reality.

Arguably the most important wisdom-based BDP is emptiness (Sanskrit: śūnyatā) that implies that although phenomena are perceptible to the human mind, they do not intrinsically exist.

Emptiness can be likened to the stillness we talk of so much in the way Ruth and I teach meditation.

So quoting from this recent research… despite its significance in Buddhism, emptiness has received little empirical attention.


Advancing scientific understanding of emptiness is important as it may yield novel insights not only into the nature of mind and reality, but also in terms of helping human beings realise more of their capacity for wisdom and wellbeing.

This study recruited 25 advanced Buddhist meditators and compared emptiness meditation against a mindfulness meditation control condition within the same group of participants. Qualitative analytical techniques were also employed to investigate meditators’ experiences of emptiness.

Compared to the mindfulness control condition, emptiness meditation resulted in significantly greater improvements in non-attachment to self and environment, mystical experiences, compassion, positive affect, and negative affect. No significant relationship was observed between duration of emptiness meditation and any of the aforementioned outcome measures.

Qualitative outcomes demonstrated that participants 
i) combined concentrative and investigative meditation techniques to induce emptiness,

ii) elicited spiritually meaningful insights both during and following the meditation on emptiness, and

iii) retained volitional control over the content and duration of the emptiness meditation.

In conclusion, the researchers suggest cultivating emptiness appears to be a means of reconnecting advanced Buddhist meditators to what they deem to be the innermost nature of their minds and phenomena.

REFERENCE
Exploring Emptiness and its Effects on Non-Attachment, Mystical Experiences, and Psycho-spiritual Wellbeing: A Quantitative and Qualitative Study of Advanced Meditators. Van Gordon W et al; Science Direct, Dec 2018, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2018.12.003    LINK HERE


RUTH's next MEDITATION-Based RETREAT  May 17 - 21


MINDBODY MEDICINE   -   with Dr Ruth Gawler and Prof Sanjay Regav





                                 Activate your own inner healer 
                  Support the one you love to heal


We all know healing is a combined effort. It makes sense to benefit from the best of whatever modern medicine has to offer, along with any relevant supportive therapies. But then there is our own side to the healing equation. How do we get the best from our own innate capacity to heal?

What better than to learn from two senior doctors who along with their medical specialties, specialise in teaching and supporting people to activate their healing potentials and recover. This program also specifically addresses the needs of carers - how to look after yourself while supporting the one you love on their healing journey.

This program addresses the basic requirements of how to give the body and mind the best chance to heal. Therefore it is directly applicable to a wide range of illnesses and health disorders including, but not limited to autoimmune or inflammatory conditions, degenerative diseases, mental health issues and chronic stress. 

Join an inspiring and practical program. Interact with like minded people all committed to the healing path, and learn from two amazing doctors!

This I highly recommend!

DATES :  17 - 21 May.   The program will be repeated   29Nov - 3 Dec   2019

VENUE :  The Yarra Valley Living Centre, Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria, Australia

WEB LINK :  Click here

ENQUIRIES and BOOKINGS :  Contact the staff at The Yarra Valley Living Centre

             Telephone :      1800 667 576

              Email :            ClientServices@gawler.org

              Website :         Click here


08 April 2019

Magic, Healing and Cancer - and A Spiritual Response to Critical Times

The Vice President of Argentina : I have come all this way because in response to the crises we are experiencing all around us, most of the leaders of today are using their heads in an attempt to find solutions. Clearly this is not working. Clearly all we are getting is more and worse crises. The only choice is to find spiritually based solutions; that is why I have come. I want to be a part of that process.


Who is speaking?

A most remarkable and admirable woman.

Made paraplegic by a car accident at 28 and a deeply spiritual woman, Gabriela Michetti has risen to be the Vice President of Argentina.

She travelled in her wheelchair (and a plane and car or two) to contribute to an inspired and inspiring conference Ruth and I were also invited to address in Delhi last month.


So this week, more on the conference, a little on the nature of magic in healing, and a visual insight into our hosts - the Brahma Kumaris, plus if you do feel the need for healing and do want to use your own inner healing resources, news of Ruth's Mindbody Medicine retreat with neurologist, meditator and yogi Prof Sanjay Regav, but first

       Thought for the day

I adopted the theory of reincarnation when I was twenty-six.
Religion offered nothing to the point.
Even work could not give me complete satisfaction.
Work is futile if we cannot utilize the experience
We collect in one life in the next.
When I discovered reincarnation, time was no longer limited.
I was no longer a slave to the hands of the clock.
I would like to communicate to others
The calmness that the long view of life gives to us.

                          Henry Ford

THE BRAHMA KUMARIS
The BKs as they are known, began with the teachings of a Hindu living in what was to become Pakistan back in 1936.

From humble beginnings and initially supported by the wealth Brahma-Baba (as they call him now) had acquired as a diamond merchant, they now have over 10,000 centres in well over one hundred countries.

The BKs regard themselves as a spiritual organisation rather than a formal religion. They are affiliated with the United Nations and are known for the pre-eminent role that women play in the movement - both as administrators and teachers.



Our connection is through their Australian coordinator, Charlie Hogg who we have known as a man of wisdom and integrity for decades. So this visit was our chance to see the BKs up close. There are a few interesting things to report.

Firstly, they do care very well. As part of a smallish group of international speakers, we were exceptionally well attended to - made welcome, given time with their senior teachers and shown their retreat centres out of Delhi and at Mt Abu in Rajastan.



They also organise events very well.

There was a 2 day pre-conference speakers retreat attended by luminaries like Gabriela Michetti, the remarkable Vice President of Argentina who was incredibly warm, open and compassionate - very much in Jacinda Ardern’s league of wonderful new women leaders.



THE DELHI CONFERENCE

Spiritual Response to Critical Times drew an audience of around 12,000 people - and yes, that is the biggest audience I have ever spoken to!

Chief guest was the ex President of India, Pranab Mukherjee (complete with machine gun totting guards in the background!).

It seems natural in India to have top leaders speaking about the need for politicians and other leaders to be motivated by service to their people, not by their egos or their need for self-aggrandisement or greed.

There is the sense some are genuine and in Gabriela Michetti’s case, very passionate.




One wonders how else we can address the multiple crises in environment, population, pollution, financial inequality and human rights abuses if not by true altruism expressed through a spiritual framework.


The leaders talked of their reservations when it came to how nations, governments and even religions addressed these issue, and spoke of spirituality being expressed in terms of moral values, genuine compassion and love for everyone within our wide and diverse communities.


Ruth was able to speak to that diversity, and the need for inclusivity amongst peoples from differing faiths. She is seen here with fellow speaker Tammy Roos, also from Melbourne.

I spoke during an interview panel following a magic act!

Next to me is Tammy, and a very successful Russian business man who credits his success to meditating daily without fail.

The interviewer was a woman I last saw around 30 years ago.

Caroline attended a 10 day cancer program just 3 weeks after marrying the love of her life. He had been diagnosed the day after the wedding and died 6 weeks later, yet within that time they both turned their lives around. Caroline shared in the death of her husband so intimately that she experienced a near-death experience with him.

Maybe this is a story for another time…

CANCER, HEALING AND MAGIC
Anyway, I was asked about magic in healing. Magic is where something happens that we were not expecting and/or cannot explain easily. Seems to me there are two types of magic. There is magic based upon illusion, and magic based upon truth.

Magic based upon illusion is where something that is untrue is manipulated to appear true. Something happens like a card trick, we cannot explain how it happened, and yet we know there is an explanation, and it is that the magician is tricking us.

Then there is the magic based upon truth. Again something happens. Again we cannot explain how it happened when first we experienced it, and yet this time there is a truthful explanation.

So snake oil salesman used to offer magical cures for cancer. People used magical thinking based upon illusion to buy and use remedies that commonly ended in disappointment - except that in the interim they did purchase that all important ingredient, hope. But in this process, the snake oil salesmen also gave real magic a bad name.

Real magic is where something new happens that most do not understand. Given this lack of
understanding, what happens appears magical.

A mobile phone is a good example of a device that is magical to the uninitiated. These days most of us take the mobile phone for granted; we regard it to be non-magical as we kid ourselves we understand how it works. Hahahaha! Who knows how a mobile phone works??? One thing we do know for sure, however, is that it does work!


Anyway, in cancer medicine, decades ago when people like me recovered unexpectedly, many thought it was some sort of magic, or maybe something even more than that - a miracle.

Easy enough to think this - given how big and gross the cancer masses on my chest were in 1976...




               and how they were all gone by 1978...

So to be clear, for me, a miracle is one of two things - it is either a genuine miracle with no logical, scientific explanation, or it is an example of magic based upon truth - when something happens that we do not understand, yet there is a genuine explanation that someone else might help us with. In the latter case, what appears at first to be a "miracle", does in fact have a rational and truthful explanation.


I always contended my recovery was repeatable for others and the mechanism of the recovery was understandable. So magic at the time for some maybe, but magic based on truth. Learn the techniques and apply them. No magic in that. Just like the mobile phone. Learn how it works and use it.

OUTREACH

So moving on, then there is the BK’s outreach. This is most impressive.

At Mt Abu - a remote part of India, they have established 2 large specialty hospitals where over 55% of patients are treated free.

They have retreat accommodation there for up to 35,000 people and this is sustained by a huge experimental solar array.









Here is a glimpse into daily life at their centre...


















       And the virtues they live by ...













One of the remarkable things about the BKs is that they are a voluntary organisation and all their  programs are offered free of charge. The Delhi conference with 12,000 people attending was free!

Clearly they have many seriously inspired and committed supporters.  Maybe part of this is their attention to care and detail.

Check out the fresh flowers that formed the centre piece for our pre-conference retreat!



And the volunteers!

Here are some of the 500 women who gather to prepare just the chapatis for the thousands on retreat...

And consider the social networking that goes on amidst the chapati making...

This is a community that is flourishing in a way a chapati machine would cripple.






There is a sense on inner peace,
along with a gentle pride
and contentment...

And amidst this is a great generosity of spirit and a strong commitment to inter-faith sharing.

Our group included Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists; and there were some wonderful exchanges.

We were treated to lengthy meetings with the BK's senior people.

Here we are at Mt Abu in a small group with Sister Jayanti.


Sister Jayanti has said "Meditation enables me to feed myself - the soul - with spiritual knowledge that gives me the experience of peace, purity, wisdom, love and lasting happiness. It gradually restores in me the confidence and dignity to live in the light of my original nature and awakens hope in the self".



It was a treat for me to share time and be with an old friend - Bishop Philip Huggins from Melbourne, an Anglican who currently is the President of the National Council of Churches in Australia.









So as an organisation, the Brahma Kumaris really are putting their spiritual conviction into practice and run a powerful and committed social agenda for good; they are doing well to demonstrate what everyone at the conference confirmed, we really do need a spiritually based response to the critical times we live in.



MINDBODY MEDICINE   -   with Dr Ruth Gawler and Prof Sanjay Regav





                                 Activate your own inner healer 
                  Support the one you love to heal



We all know healing is a combined effort. It makes sense to benefit from the best of whatever modern medicine has to offer, along with any relevant supportive therapies. But then there is our own side to the healing equation. How do we get the best from our own innate capacity to heal?

What better than to learn from two senior doctors who along with their medical specialties, specialise in teaching and supporting people to activate their healing potentials and recover. This program also specifically addresses the needs of carers - how to look after yourself while supporting the one you love on their healing journey.

This program addresses the basic requirements of how to give the body and mind the best chance to heal. Therefore it is directly applicable to a wide range of illnesses and health disorders including, but not limited to autoimmune or inflammatory conditions, degenerative diseases, mental health issues and chronic stress. 

Join an inspiring and practical program. Interact with like minded people all committed to the healing path, and learn from two amazing doctors!

This I highly recommend!

DATES :  17 - 21 May.   The program will be repeated   29Nov - 3 Dec   2019

VENUE :  The Yarra Valley Living Centre, Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria, Australia

WEB LINK :  Click here

ENQUIRIES and BOOKINGS :  Contact the staff at The Yarra Valley Living Centre

             Telephone :      1800 667 576

              Email :            ClientServices@gawler.org

              Website :         Click here