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