07 September 2020

Will COVID-19 create more dementia? Dementia, Alzheimer's and the latest research

There are problems enough, but will COVID-19 lead to an upsurge in dementia and if so, what can be done about it? 

Here is the challenge. Given ICU can be a great place to be when you really need, recent research confirms what many have observed. One in four people had cognitive impairment a year after release from an ICU that was similar in severity to having mild Alzheimer’s, and 1-in-3 had cognitive impairment similar to that seen with moderate traumatic brain injury. 

So if someone ends up in ICU with COVID-19, and one imagines even more so if on a ventilator, the risks of developing dementia would be real. But there is hope, so this week we examine what mindfulness and meditation in particular have to offer – to anyone at risk of dementia, to those already affected by it, and their caregivers, but first

        Thought for the day

Meditation is all about the pursuit of nothingness. 

It is like the ultimate rest. 

It is better than the best sleep you have ever had.

It is a quieting of the mind. 

It sharpens everything, 

Especially your appreciation of your surroundings.

It keeps life fresh.

Hugh Jackman - long term meditator

The context

The world population is aging and the prevalence of dementia is increasing. By 2050, those aged 60 years and older are expected to make up a quarter of the population. With that, the number of people with dementia is increasing. Unfortunately, there is no current medical cure for dementia. The progression of symptoms with no hope of improvement is difficult to cope with, both for patients and their caregivers. 

Mindfulness training has shown to improve psychological well-being in a variety of mental health conditions. Research has shown preliminary but promising results for mindfulness-based interventions to benefit people with dementia and caregivers. So what follows are summaries quoting fairly directly from 4 key research papers that investigated what might be possible. The results are encouraging…

1. Review : Mindfulness, meditation, cognition and stress in people with Alzheimer's disease (AD), dementia, mild cognitive impairment and subjective cognitive decline – 2018. 

This study investigated how the use of meditation as a behavioural intervention can reduce stress and enhance cognition, which in turn ameliorates some dementia symptoms. Ten papers were identified and reviewed. 

There was a broad use of measures across all studies, with cognitive assessment, quality of life and perceived stress being the most common. Three studies used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure functional changes to brain regions during meditation. 

The interventions fell into the following three categories: mindfulness, most commonly mindfulness-based stress reduction(MBSR) (six studies); Kirtan Kriya meditation (three studies); and mindfulness-based Alzheimer's stimulation (one study). Three of these studies were randomised controlled trials. 

All studies reported significant findings or trends towards significance in a broad range of measures, including a reduction of cognitive decline, reduction in perceived stress, increase in quality of life, as well as increases in functional connectivity, percent volume brain change and cerebral blood flow in areas of the cortex. 

Russell-Williams J, Jaroudi W et al. Mindfulness and meditation: treating cognitive impairment and reducing stress in dementia. Rev Neurosci. 2018;29(7):791-804. doi:10.1515/revneuro-2017-0066

2. Do adults with MCI have the capacity to learn mindfulness meditation? - 2019

High levels of chronic stress negatively impact the hippocampus and are associated with increased incidence of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease(AD). While mindfulness meditation may mitigate the effects of chronic stress, it is uncertain if adults with MCI have the capacity to learn mindfulness meditation.

Chronic stress negatively impacts the hippocampus, and high levels of chronic stress are associated with an increased incidence of MCI and AD. [6–8] Adults who are prone to high levels of psychological distress are more likely to develop dementia.[9] Animal research demonstrates that high levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone”) can damage the hippocampus[10], a key structure involved in memory processing that atrophies with Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, other stress-reducing interventions, such as meditation and yoga, might be helpful for adults with MCI.

Previous studies have shown that the hippocampus is selectively activated during meditation,[15–17] and experienced meditators have larger volumes and gray matter concentration in their hippocampi compared to matched controls.[18] In addition, research has shown that an eight-week MBSR class may increase gray matter density in the hippocampi of adults.[19] MBSR is thus a stress-reducing intervention that impacts the hippocampus and could potentially interrupt the progression of MCI through these effects. 

The period of time when an individual has MCI is transient and offers a rare window of opportunity prior to the development of dementia; finding an intervention that could help patients at this point of time could be invaluable. Since adults with MCI still have brain plasticity,[20] we hypothesized that adults with MCI would be able to learn and benefit from mindfulness meditation and yoga. 

What did the research find? Most adults with MCI were able to learn mindfulness meditation and had improved MCI acceptance, self-efficacy, and social engagement. So in summary, cognitive reserve may be enhanced through a mindfulness meditation program even in patients with MCI.

Wells RE, Kerr C, Dossett ML, et al. Can Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment Build Cognitive Reserve and Learn Mindfulness Meditation? Qualitative Theme Analyses from a Small Pilot Study. J Alzheimers Dis. 2019;70(3):825-842. doi:10.3233/JAD-190191

3. Review of already well researched mindfulness techniques - 2018

Although there is a wide variety of interventions that include components of mindfulness (e.g., Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), this review focuses on the two programs with the largest evidence base, the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). These group-based programs have been studied in healthy populations and in those with mental or physical disorders, showing satisfactory to good efficacy (Chiesa and Serretti, 2009; Hofmann et al., 2010; Hempel et al., 2014).

Although current research supports the rationale for MBI with persons with dementia and their caregivers, only few RCTs have been conducted and more research is necessary
What can be said is participants receiving MBSR showed greater improvement in memory, but not cognitive control. Moreover, the MBSR group improved on measures of worry, depression, and anxiety, and decreased cortisol level for those with high baseline cortisol.

Studies with persons with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or Severe Cognitive Impairment (SCD) have looked at the effect of Mindfulness Based Interventions (MBI). This is informative for dementia research, since individuals with MCI have an increased annual conversion rate of 5–17% to Alzheimer’s disease (Cheng et al., 2017), and approximately 60% over a 15-year period of persons with SCD will continue to develop Alzheimer’s disease (Reisberg et al., 2008).

Studies with persons with MCI or subjective memory complaints have looked at the effect of MBI. One pilot study found a trend toward improvement of cognition, quality of life, and well-being for people in the mindfulness condition (Wells et al., 2013). A RCT showed that the participants in the MBI group showed less memory deterioration and greater decrease in depressive symptoms compared to the control group (Larouche et al., 2016).

Although these studies demonstrate feasibility of MBSR with older adults with SCD and MCI, and preliminary evidence for memory improvement, more research is necessary to investigate whether MBI can influence cognitive decline.

Berk L, Warmenhoven F, van Os J, van Boxtel M. Mindfulness Training for People With Dementia and Their Caregivers: Rationale, Current Research, and Future Directions. Front Psychol. 2018;9:982. Published 2018 Jun 13. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00982

4. Mindfulness practice can improve health outcomes of MCI - 2017.

Growing evidence has linked mindfulness to cognitive and psychological improvements that could be relevant for mild cognitive impairment (MCI). This Australian study reported long-term mindfulness practice may be associated with cognitive and functional improvements for older adults with MCI. The researchers concluded mindfulness training could be a potential efficacious non-pharmacological therapeutic intervention for MCI.

Wong WP, Coles J, Chambers R, Wu DB, Hassed C. The Effects of Mindfulness on Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment. J Alzheimers Dis Rep. 2017;1(1):181-193. Published 2017 Dec 2. doi:10.3233/ADR-170031

Finally, what might be possible?

It does need to be said that dementia is now well identified as another of the chronic degenerative diseases - like cancer, heart disease and MS. All these other known chronic degenerative diseases have been shown to be prevented by Lifestyle interventions. Once present, their symptoms have all been shown to be significantly lessened by Lifestyle interventions; and all have shown some signs – ranging up to major – of reversal through Lifestyle interventions. So why not dementia???

And what are Lifestyle interventions? The things you can do for yourself – like what you eat and drink, your exercise levels, relaxation, mindfulness and meditation. Many believe the mind-based interventions are key, both due to their direct effects and because the mind decides what we do with our lifestyle. Get the mind into a good state and everything else follows – we eat better, drink more wisely, are more inclined to exercise and so on.


Here are the links to 3 consecutive blogs that clarify just what dementia and Alzheimer’s are Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia), what the risks are and how prevention is possible; maybe even some recovery. Plus an intruiging post on the link between Alzheimers and impotence

1. Dementia, Alzheimer’s and other related conditions explained

2. The causes explained

3. One dozen proven things you can do to prevent dementia

4. Alzheimers and impotence – what is the link? Why is it so significant?

Purpose Built App – Allevi8

The new, free mindfulness/meditation based App I have been involved in developing – Allevi8 – has been specifically designed to assist people affected by chronic degenerative disease. We targeted 5 main issues – stress and mental health, emotional health, pain management, healing and finding meaning amidst adversity.

So while many others recognise the need for help with these areas – especially now in the era of the pandemic – it provide free access to specific techniques for people facing chronic degenerative disease. Dementia is one of those conditions.

Allevi8 is available via a simple search in your App store. Also, we do have a meditation session via Zoom that goes out live each Monday. This session is well attended and many report how helpful it is to receive practice tips and meditate in a like-minded community each week. To join us, simply download Allevi8 and the link will be sent by email. All of this is free, however, you might like to consider paying it forward – there is a secure donation facility on the App under “Gift”.

24 August 2020


 Currently, mindfulness is all the rage in meditation land as it is easy to teach, easy to learn, easy to integrate into our lives, easy to research – and it delivers on its promises – it works! 

Yet when it comes to the actual practice of mindfulness, did you know there are two types, and why it is important to practice one before the other? So this week, some practice tips along with explanation of the two types of mindfulness (drawn from the content of my recent book, Blue Sky Mind - the Art of Meditation), but first

Thought for the day

The general idea is that if you open yourself up 

To what the given situation is, 

Then you see its completely naked quality. 

You do not have to put up a defence mechanism anymore, 

Because you see through it 

And you know exactly what to do. 

You just deal with things, 

Rather than defending yourself.

Chogyam Trungpa

Mindfulness can be defined as the awareness that comes from paying attention to our present moment experience, deliberately and non-judgementally. So how does it work in practice? There are two ways we can pay attention to our present moment experience — with focussed mindfulness and with open mindfulness.

1. Focussed mindfulness - This is where we choose to pay attention to just one thing. 

This way of deliberately focusing our attention gives us a way to block out other thoughts and distractions and helps to settle a restless mind. It is easy to learn, easy to practise, and translates easily into daily life.

Common things to focus upon include the breath, the sounds around about us, the sensations in our body and our thoughts as they travel through our mind.

With focussed mindfulness we need to concentrate and maintain our focus. This takes energy. If we do find our mind becoming distracted or wandering, we need to notice that and bring our attention back to our chosen point of concentration. And while this does take some energy, some effort; focussed mindfulness is the best way to begin learning mindfulness and practising it formally. 

2. Open mindfulness –  This is where we do not focus our attention on one particular thing, but remain more open and pay attention to whatever it is that does happen to come into our awareness.

So in this version of mindfulness we simply aim to remain open and curious. This can be likened to a wise old woman sitting back and watching children play. There is an ease and a comfort with what the children are doing, perhaps even an inner knowing that it is just games they are playing. Maybe too a level of care to notice if anyone does need help, yet no particular need to interfere or change anything; just a deep contentment to observe the children at play.

To accomplish open mindfulness as a part of our meditation, we start by sitting and relaxing, then if our attention goes to some sounds from outside, we simply notice them, free of any judgement or commentary. We leave the sounds as they are.

Then if our attention is taken by some sensations in our body, we simply notice those. Maybe then thoughts fill our awareness and again, the aim is to simply notice them; let go of any afterthought, any commentary, any judgement. Simply notice whatever it is that does come into our awareness, and leave it as it is. Open mindfulness.

Open mindfulness requires less effort than focussed mindfulness, but when we do it the potential to become distracted is greater. So it makes good sense to learn, practise and become reasonably adept with focussed mindfulness first because this is how we learn the technique of mindfulness and develop our basic skills. 

Focussed mindfulness definitely requires effort, the effort to focus our attention and learn a new technique. However, as we develop some capacity with this version of mindfulness, we move on into open mindfulness. And good news. Once we have some experience with it, open mindfulness requires little effort. In fact, when open mindfulness is flowing well, it is completely effortless. 

In open mindfulness there is nothing specific we need to focus upon. It is inherently relaxing. There is just one significant potential difficulty. When compared to focussed mindfulness, with open mindfulness it is relatively easy to become caught up or distracted by whatever it is that does come into our awareness. So the key to open mindfulness is learning and developing the capacity to remain undistracted. 

While we are in the process of developing our capacity with open mindfulness, we need to take account of the fact that as life goes on we may well experience times where our thoughts and emotions do distract us seriously. At such times, without beating ourselves up with feelings of guilt or shame, we may well benefit from devoting our regular practice to a more focussed form of mindfulness. Then, as we do come to feel more settled, we can expand out into open mindfulness once more. 

So to finish, more good news. Whether it be focussed or open mindfulness we are practicing, once we have learnt how to relax our body, settle our mind, sit still and remain undistracted, then we truly are making some progress. And the best bit? As we do remain undistracted, that deeper stillness of meditation begins to unfold; to become more apparent. Open mindfulness makes for a natural prelude to the deeper experience of real meditation.

May your mindfulness lead you into meditation…

10 August 2020

The secret to less doing, more being

 Doing, doing, doing. With so many people busy doing this and doing that; doing, doing, doing; how is it we call ourselves “human beings” rather than “human doings”?

This week we go Out on a Limb once again and explore the differences between human doings and human beings, and examine how a simple mind shift can have us being more and yet actually doing more. Also news of the first weekly meditation Zoom gatherings for those using our Allevi8 App, but first

Thought for the day

Love thy neighbour

As thy self

Mark 12 : 31

Love this quote. It points directly to a common misinterpretation amongst Christians; and having grown up deeply steeped in Christianity I can speak from experience. 

The problem? Putting the focus on “love thy neighbour” and overlooking “As thy self”. 

The image of the Christian martyrs is both heroic and compelling. Giving up all, even their own lives for the sake of others; the love of others. Compelling. And many completely noble and without fault. Yet so many people I have spoken with over the years, inspired by that ethos have given freely and fully of themselves while neglecting themselves only to end up exhausted, often disillusioned, burnt out and dissatisfied.

The injunction in the quote is clear… “As thy self”. 

So the first thing to clarify is that all of us do want to help others. Of course. However, what is also clear is that to help others we need to start with ourselves. Once we have some inner stability, strength and resources, then we are well placed not only to help others but to sustain our efforts, be effective long-term and to enjoy the process, even if it entails hard work. We then have a good chance of ending up both accomplished and satisfied. This much is reasonably obvious.

But then we can go further… “As thy self”… Which self is being spoken of? The active self? The ego with all its plans, hopes and fears? Its infinite capacity to become distracted, to complicate even simple matters, to surreptitiously put itself ahead of others under the guise of service – and so on. You probably get what I mean.

But then there is that more essential part of self. Now to be clear, nothing wrong with the active, ego driven self. We all have that and it is a part of who we are. But does it drive us, or does it take us for a useful ride – as in we control it and use it for good purpose?

For the essential self - some call it soul, some call it Atma, or the true nature of our mind – this self is inherently pure and filled with love, clarity and wisdom. It is like saying a lemon tree produces lemons and an orange tree produces oranges. Both are useful, but they are different. The essential self can only produce love, clarity and wisdom. That is a fact.

So here is the thing; the simple shift that leads us to be less ego-centric and more true self-centric. Meditation. When we meditate we have this opportunity to get to know our mind, and our self, better. All aspects. The active mind and the still mind. The ego and the true self. 

And when through meditation we begin to glimpse something of that Still Mind, we come to experience something of its innate qualities and we come to know something of this true self – quite naturally. 

The fruit that flows from the meditation tree is love, clarity and wisdom. Simple really. Just requires some technique and regular practice. And not allowing that mischievous active mind to get in the way too much and block the flow. 

It is all about letting go of the doing and allowing the being… And paradoxically, it turns out the more we “be”, the more we can “do”. Win – win!

Happy Meditating

Allevi8 – our new, free meditation App

Ruth and I have been heartened by early responses to Allevi8. If you have not sampled it as yet, it contains specific practices designed to alleviate stress and anxiety, build emotional and mental health, relieve pain, foster healing and help find meaning amidst tough times.

It is free, there is a choice of Ruth’s voice or mine. You can pay it forward if you find it useful and want others to benefit. Simply search Allevi8 in your App store.

And for those who are using it, we start the first of what are planned to be weekly Zoom meditations this Monday, 9th August from 8pm EST to 8.45. Once you join the App, within a short while, an email will be sent with the link to the weekly meditation meetings. Join us?

27 July 2020

The Joy of Giving

This promises to be somewhat of a self-indulgent post – about the joy of giving something valuable away for free. About money and how it carries so many deep-seated habits, conflicts and confusions around attachment, values and our capacity to be generous.

And maybe a gentle prompt to reconsider your own relationship with money, especially amongst these times of a pandemic when there is a natural tendency to tighten up and hold onto whatever we already have. Where does generosity, a sense of community and sharing come into all of that?; but first

             Thought for the day

     Work is love made visible. 
     And if you cannot work with love, 
     But only with distaste, 
     It is better that you should leave your work 
     And sit at the gate of the temple 
     And take alms from the people who work with joy

                            Khalil Gibran

Not many will know that when I started the work with people affected by cancer way back in 1981, my initial thought was to offer it freely and rely upon donations for it to progress. Truth is I was talked out of this by my first wife and especially Dr Ainslie Meares. Ainslie, that renowned psychiatrist who introduced therapeutic meditation to the Western world, advise me people in the West only value what they pay for.

So that work evolved into a charitable foundation where fee for service was supplemented by a strong fundraising program. For decades we raised about 25 – 30% of the annual turnover of the foundation and used much of this to offset the program fees.

Amidst this there were plenty of examples of people’s relationships to money. Wealthy people who cried poor and insisted upon discounts. Seriously disadvantaged people who gave a little but in a way that what they gave was highly meaningful – and valued. Wealthy people who gave more but relative to their worth was very little and hence not so meaningful.

Experiments with offering programs by donation and regularly receiving around 25% of what would have been the standard fees if it had been a fee for service event.

Fascinating conversations before and after free events…
“How much is the donation?”

A : :There is no set amount, it is up to you…”

“Yes but how much is it?”

Flying Faith Airlines. This is what we called the principle of proceeding with an important new venture when the money for it was not yet to hand. Proceeding with Faith and expecting the money to follow. Getting into financially difficult situations (quite regularly over the years), only to be bailed out by a major gift or bequest.

Significantly for me, never feeling stressed by money. A deep confidence that with the right motivation held by the bulk of our staff, it would all work out well. And it did

But now a new App – Allevi8. To charge or to offer for free?

What a relief. My business partners agree – it has to be offered freely.

Now to be clear, a huge amount of time and money has gone into developing this App. And yes, the 3 of us are in the fortunate situation where we are not dependent upon income from this particular App to keep us alive financially. And yes, we would like to make a profit.

However, there is such a delight in offering it for free.

The joy of giving.

It is such a good feeling not to need to “sell” the product.

We have made it the best we can.

We offer it freely.

If people respond to it, appreciate it and want it to become available to others, then yes, please do pay it forward and contribute.

And notice this.

When something like an Allevi8 is offered freely, it frees you up. There are no barriers. No need to consider “can I afford it?”. “Does this represent value for money?”. “Is it worth $5 a month? $10?”

No, it is simply. Download it. Try it. If it is of no value, no harm done. If you like it and just want to use it for free, no harm done – and please do feel good that other people are making it available for you. If you like it and want to Pay it Forward, no harm done! But maybe a good feeling.

The Joy of Giving

13 July 2020

Allevi8 – the new, free meditation-based App

My heart goes out to everyone confronted by major illness. Stress, anxiety and mental illness can follow a diagnosis. Sleep can be disturbed, emotions challenged. I experienced enough of pain myself; and then how best to heal, how to make sense of it all?

With this in mind, Ruth and I have contributed to a new, free App - Allevi8 - specifically designed to provide meditation-based answers to all these related issues. And in this challenging time of the pandemic, it seems many others may well benefit as well. Allevi8 is easy to locate and download in the Apple and Android App stores; and it is free.

So this week, all the details including news of regular guided meditation practice sessions on Zoom, but first

           Thought for the day

     What lies before us  
     And what lies behind us
     Are small matters
     Compared to what lies within us.

     And when we bring 
     What is within us
     Out into the world
     Miracles happen.

              Henry David Thoreau

There are many meditation Apps around these days. Over the last 10 years I have partnered with my good friend Saurabh Mishra as we worked on various versions ourselves. Safe to say we have learnt heaps amidst a tough IT environment.

A specific App for people in need
What we realize is there are few if any specific Apps designed for people affected by major illness – to be clear, chronic, degenerative diseases like cancer, MS, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson's, Alzheimer’s.

Having worked with people affected by these challenging conditions for decades and having seen over and over how much meditation-based practices can alleviate the symptoms that so frequently accompany these conditions, it seemed natural to bring together all we have learnt with Apps to make these specific techniques widely available.

We have been fortunate to gather a great team to make it all possible...

Allevi8 is offered freely
All of us involved with Allevi8 have felt the benefits of these techniques in our personal and professional lives.

Therefore, we are keen to make the practices freely available.

We figure that if like us, people value them (after using them and feeling the benefits) then they may well be inspired to donate a small amount, “Pay it Forward” as it were, keep the App going and help make it possible for the next person to use it freely.

Available in the voices of Ruth and myself 
Ruth and I have recorded specific practices to provide deep relaxation, guided mindfulness, contemplation and meditation, as well as guided imagery.

Five challenging needs addressed 
We have specifically addressed 5 main areas that our research highlighted are the areas of most concern amongst people affected by chronic degenerative disease. They are

1. Stress, anxiety and mental illness; including sleep disturbances.

2. Emotional distress – dealing with difficult emotions

3. Pain management – personal techniques you can use that work

4. Healing – how to use inner resources to foster healing on all levels

5. Meaning – how to make sense of all the changes and challenges major illness brings.

The contents
There is a main meditation practice that is relevant to all 5 domains, and then specific practices for each. While you may be drawn initially to Allevi8 for say pain management or healing, you will have access to all the practices.

Also, there is a self-referencing questionnaire that enables the App to assist you to self-monitor and evaluate your progress.

Those who are already familiar with the work of Ruth and myself will find some familiarity, but there are several practices that have not been readily available before.

You can choose to listen to Ruth’s voice or my own; or vary it around…

The App is designed to be used by those directly affected by major illness, their families and carers, as well as health professionals in this field.

A great deal of care has gone into ensuring the Allevi8 App is easy to use, easy to navigate and of course, that it works well. Happily, early users have provided very positive feedback.

Join us on-line to meditate together
Finally, as a bonus, we plan to commence a weekly virtual meditation group for Allevi8 users via Zoom.

Seems many of us have now experienced how meaningful and supportive it can be to link with like-minded people via some of these amazing new IT functions.

So when you register, you need to provide your email (which of course will be both respected and secured), and from this we will send a Zoom link for these sessions.

Ruth and I will be leading them and we plan some special guests as time flows along.

So please feel free to support this new initiative and try the App. Also, please do share it with friends and people you know who may be in need. It is free…

Available in all good App stores! Simply search for Allevi8.

May your practice flow
And bring substantial and sustainable benefits…

29 June 2020

Do vegetarians need to combine proteins?

Do you get enough? Do you get the right sort? These are the 2 basic questions for any food group, and for many vegetarians and vegans it is one of real concern when it comes to protein.

How many of us have been told “the only way to get enough protein is to eat meat’, or “vegetables and grains do not have the right proteins; only meat does”.

So this week, what are the facts? What to do? Also, did you know You Can Conquer Cancer is available as an audio book? But first

  Thought for the week
    Addiction is any behaviour or substance 
    That a person uses to relieve pain in the short term, 
    But which leads to negative consequences in the long term. 

   Without addressing the root cause of the pain, 
   A person may try to stop 
   But will ultimately crave further relief 
   And be prone to relapse. 
                           Dr Gabor Mate

Actually, the protein issue is incredibly easy
Bottom line, the research is clear. It is almost impossible for a reasonably healthy vegetarian or vegan in a Western country who is eating enough calories to get a protein deficiency. It is that simple.

But maybe you need more detail; a little convincing…

A brief context – what protein does
Protein is a nutrient your body needs to grow and repair cells and for it to work properly.

How much is enough?
How much protein you need varies depending on your weight, gender, age and health. The average sedentary woman needs around 46 gms of protein daily; the average sedentary man needs 55gms.

There is no need to labour this; all the authorities agree, this is in easy target to reach. The fact is a plant‑based diet commonly delivers close to twice the average daily protein requirement.

But do we get the right type of protein?
The issue here is protein is made up of 20 different amino acids. Humans can make 11 of these within their bodies and so these ones are called non-essential amino acids

There are nine amino acids your body cannot make, and so these ones are known as essential amino acids.

Foods that contain all 20 amino acids are called complete proteins.

Meat, fish and dairy are complete proteins with high levels of all amino acids.

But here is the news - vegetables and grains also are complete proteins, it is just most have low levels of some amino acids and could be said to be “less complete” than meat, fish and dairy.

However, to call them “incomplete proteins” is factually incorrect.

Certain lobbies and old school nutritionists spread the myth that vegetarians are at risk of protein deficiency because they are eating incomplete proteins. The implication is they need meat.

Also, older thinking used to emphasise the need of vegetarians to combine different vegetables and particularly grains to ensure a balanced intake of amino acids.

There was a good deal of talk about “complementary proteins” – particularly in reference to grains that combined to produce a high level of all the amino acids.

The implication here was vegetarians needed to eat 2 of the correct complementary protein sources at any given meal to achieve a complete protein intake.

So here is the latest good news.

Do not worry.

All the best recent research says as long as you are eating a variety of foods, there is no need to combine particular protein sources at a given meal.

Complementary proteins are a non-issue.

Given what you are eating has enough calories for your needs, is very difficult, almost impossible, to get this wrong and create a protein deficiency for yourself.

All of this is both incredibly complex in its detail, and incredibly simple in its conclusions...

Our bodies are incredibly smart, so here are a couple of mechanisms it uses to ensure the right amino acid balance.

1. Storage
Yes, the body simply stores a range of amino acids to use when intake on any given day is low.

2. Recycling
Each day, around 90 grams of protein is recycled through the digestive tract. The proteins are broken down, reassembled, reabsorbed to ensure we have what we need, when we need it.

Clever right?

So relax.

If you must worry about something to do with what you are eating, protein is not one of them!

Want even more detail?

Read You Can Conquer Cancer or listen to the audio book - LINK - where there is more information on protein and all food groups.

Go to the Victorian Government Health website that has lots of facts and numbers :)

15 June 2020

Manifestation: the simple secret - you will see it when you need it

The universe is a huge place. Our own world is ripe with possibilities. In each of our own communities there is so much potential.

So why when we have a real need do we often doubt it will be met?

Sometimes it comes down to not seeing what is there. So this week, how to find what we really need along with a classic account of not seeing the extra-ordinary, but first

  Thought for the day
Look at the birds of the air; 
They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, 
And yet your heavenly Father feeds them. 
Are you not much more valuable than they? 
Can any one of you by worrying 
Add even a single hour to your life? 
And why do you worry about clothes? 
See how the lilies of the field grow. 
They do not labour or spin. 
Yet I tell you that not even Solomon 
In all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, 
Which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, 
Will he not much more clothe you – oh you of little faith? 
                                                            Matthew 6: 26-30

This is a true story.

2007, a cold winter’s morning, Washington Metro station. An unassuming man busking with a violin for around 45 minutes. Around 2,000 people pass him by. A child pulls at his mother’s arm to pause, but she hurries him along. This happens again with several other children. A few slow on passing, 6 actually stop for a moment, a few drop coins; he pockets the $32. One woman actually does recognise him and is in awe.

Two days earlier, this same world renowned violinist - Joshua Bell - sold out Boston’s major arts theatre where seats averaged over $100. He played the same pieces while busking – extremely intricate music of Bach, and he played on a violin worth $3.5 million; and this was in 2007!
Watch the amazing video...

What can we take from this intriguing social experiment?

Perception is a curious thing. Can we see – or hear - beauty out of context? If we cannot recognise what is on offer, be in too much of a hurry, be too pre-occupied to notice the beauty around us, what else might we be missing out on?

When my children were young we had a rubber boat to play with in our dam. The boat perished and we replaced it one Christmas. I mistakenly had thought the oars were still good so did not buy new ones – mistake.

So on going back to work in the New Year, I wondered where I might buy just new oars.

Travelling the same route as I did every day for the past several years – about an hour’s drive – a startling discovery!

Over the Christmas break, 4 new stores had opened along that route that potentially had what I was looking for.

Now of course these stores had not really just opened, they had been there all the time in this abundant world we live in, but I had no need of them, was not looking for them, so for all intents and purposes, they were not there!

The moral of these stories? Once we are really clear about what we are looking for, it is likely to be there; we simply need clarity and persistence to go looking.

And that in simple terms is the art and science of manifestation.

Simple really.

Oh, and trust in an abundant universe - like birds do.

And lilies seem to do alright too..

As well as the dahlias...

And the ...

May we all find what we are looking for…

01 June 2020

In times of need, how best to boost creativity – drugs or meditation???

Taking the next big steps in history has always required substantial doses of creativity. As we all lurch forward in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is our own creativity up to it? What can we do to boost our creativity and respond in a creative yet effective manner?

Steve Jobs created Apple – and lauded drugs to stimulate creativity; LSD and marijuana in particular. Both for himself and for his staff. Yet he also meditated a lot. So this week, we go Out on a Limb once more, compare different pathways to creativity and detail 3 great possibilities. Enjoy the trip…, but first

    Thought for the day 

Taking LSD was a profound experience, 
One of the most important things in my life. 
LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, 
And you can’t remember it when it wears off, 
But you know it. 

It reinforced my sense of what was important
—creating great things instead of making money, 
putting things back into the stream of history 
and of human consciousness as much as I could.

                                         Steve Jobs

Sources of creativity 
Seems like there are 4 main ones - trauma, necessity, drugs and inner experiences (most reliably accessed via meditation and contemplation).

Many draw on suffering for creativity; or find suffering generates creativity. The tortured artist is a real thing – simply look at just about any modern art! But let us not wish this avenue to creativity on anyone; maybe just celebrate it when it happens almost like some form of compensation or happy side-effect.

Did you grow up with this too??? “Necessity is the mother of invention”. I did and it is true, yet what is the process that activates invention and creativity? Seems many get stuck with deep seated needs and fail to find answers; what helps with break throughs?

Many indigenous traditions have used drugs in a ritualistic fashion to open the mind and launch

LSD, ganja or marijuana, peyote, psilocybin, magic mushrooms…

There is quite a list, yet the key point is traditionally these drugs were used ritualistically, not recreationally.

So then we come to Steve Jobs.

The master of cool. The master of minimalist, beautiful design of great objects that do their job. Apple stuff looks good and it works. It has an elegance, along with a high level of functionality. A rare combination.

So the man… We know from Steve Jobs’ biography and via FBI files on him from the days when he needed government clearance to work on Pixar that as well as being a serious meditator, he had been a serious drug user.

Throughout that period of time [1972–1974] I used the LSD approximately ten to fifteen times,” Jobs is quoted to say.

I would ingest the LSD on a sugar cube or in a hard form of gelatin. I would usually take the LSD when I was by myself. I have no words to explain the effect the LSD had on me, although, I can say it was a positive life changing experience for me and I am glad I went through that experience.

Jobs also smoked marijuana or hashish, or ate it cooked into chocolate brownies, once or twice a
week between 1973 and 1977.

He employed many maverick types at Apple, especially in the early days when he was chasing innovation, and he seemed very warm to their drug use.

So let us be clear.

I have never taken LSD and am not advocating its use. However, what Jobs’ usage points to is that creativity often flows out of an altered state of mind. What has interested me for decades is how we might tap into that same altered state of creativity - independently of drugs.

And a spoiler alert. Speaking personally, virtually all my creativity, all my good ideas, all my clarity of direction have come out of meditation and contemplation. So how do we tap into our own creativity more directly?

4. How to develop more creativity - directly courtesy of your own mind

i) Meditate regularly

Yes – it is as simple and as difficult as that.

When we do meditate regularly, the practice takes us past the confines of our ordinary,
day-to-day thinking.

Regular meditation expands the mind;
expands our awareness.

Creativity flows naturally, effortlessly.

What we need to accomplish this flow is the self-discipline to do it – regularly, and the confidence it will happen – the confidence that over time, our creativity will flourish when needed.

It is as simple and as difficult as that.

ii) Boost creativity with contemplation
The contemplation that works for this purpose has 2 components.

Firstly we active think about a topic that needs a creative solution. If you need help how to actually do this most effectively, my latest book, Blue Sky Mind offers techniques.

But more than, we balance the active thinking with periods of stillness. Regularly in this practice we let go of the Active Mind and wait for insight and creativity to arise and become apparent – from within the Still Mind.

This is my own go to method and it has served me exceptionally well over many decades. Well worth experimenting with…

iii) Use Creative Imagery
It is possible to use the Active Mind more directly to foster creativity. In common usage, brainstorming and mind mapping are expressions of these techniques and if you want pointers here, better go to The Mind that Changes Everything where specific techniques are detailed.

So it is possible. Without trauma or drugs we can expand our minds, generate heaps of creativity and solve challenging problems.

Speaking personally, the is a strong intention to make these techniques available to our current youth.

Heaven knows they will need them…

Happy meditating…

Blue Sky Mind

The Mind that Changes Everything

Downloads for Relaxation, mindfulness and meditation available in both Ruth and my own voices



One of the very best ways to learn something is to teach it. All being well, Ruth and I will lead a training for meditation teachers keen to teach contemplation. It is one of my very favourite programs to present and hopefully will go ahead as planned …

MEDITATION TEACHER TRAINING   with Drs Ruth and Ian Gawler

Ian and Ruth have been teaching teachers of meditation for decades. This is a unique opportunity to learn from them directly in two 5 day residential trainings – Module 1 on meditation, Module 2 – contemplation. Attending both modules will meet the requirements for provisional membership of the Meditation Association of Australia. Both trainings will be highly experiential and be based upon comprehensive manuals.

Venue     The Yarra Valley Living Centre,  55 Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria

Dates     Meditation Teacher Training 3 - 7 Octomber 2020 : Full details  : Click here

          Contemplation 7-11 September, 2020  ;  Full details :  Click here

Inquiries  and Bookings   Call 1300 651 211 or www.gawler.org


7 day Residential Meditation Retreat with Ruth and Ian Gawler and Melissa Borich 

Modern culture has taught us to look externally for solutions to feeling better… substances we can take, new and exciting experiences, the acquiring of new ‘things.

However, to regain balance and cultivate reliable, sustainable joy, we learn to go within.

Meditation provides real answers.

And all of this amidst the nurture and beauty of the Yarra Valley Living Centre…

Dates     Saturday 14th to Friday 20th November

Venue   The Yarra Valley Living Centre, 55 Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria

More details   CLICK HERE

Inquiries and Bookings    Call 1300 651 211   or  www.gawler.org

18 May 2020

An Open Heart – what meditation has to offer on death, grief and COVID-19

Sitting to meditate at home a few days back, I found tears pouring down my face. Pouring. Flowing freely. Yet no distress. Just lots of tears.

I recently learnt a delightful young man had succumbed to the same cancer that once came into my own life.

So what were the tears?

Common grief? Self-identification? Sadness? Despair? The expression of the accumulated grief of years spilling over? Something natural? Well maybe…

But actually, on this occasion those tears flowed courtesy of a major insight, so this week let us go Out on a Limb in a real sense, be brave and consider how a realistic and healthy understanding of death can have a positive impact on our lives. Also, new details and dates for the meditation teacher trainings (mindfulness and meditation; then contemplation) and meditation retreat postponed due to the pandemic, but first

           Thought for the Day
To work with changes now. 
In life. 
That is the real way to prepare for death. 
Life may be full of pain, suffering, and difficulty, 
But all of these are opportunities 
Handed to us to help us move 

Toward an emotional acceptance of death. 
It is only when we believe things to be permanent 
That we shut off the possibility of learning from change.

                          Sogyal Rinpoche

It had been my good fortune to come to know this young man for whom I grieved quite well. It was easy to recognise his many fine qualities and appreciate his passion for life and thorough commitment to staying alive.

Faced with the grief of loss, especially when it comes early in life through the agency of accident or sickness, it is so easy to close our hearts.

Speaking candidly, I have come to know many people over the years who have died “early”.

So my insight as I sat meditating was how rather than closing the heart, how much more sense it makes to open the heart in the face of the reality of death.

This young man’s death reminded me to open my heart.

And sometimes, tears flow quite naturally.

Now for the spoiler alert… Look away if you are not ready to face what we all know, yet so often disregard.

Life is so precious and yet so fragile. Of course we will all die one day. We all know this. Currently, many are fearful of dying of COVID-19. Yet on any given day, far more people die of cancer or heart disease. This is not to make light or diminish any aspect of the pandemic, but we all know this too is a fact.

So how does this fact of death inform our life.

How do we live given we know one day we will die?
Do we attempt to close off?

Do our best to block out the thought of death, distract ourselves as much as possible and attempt to live in the hope of being immortal?

Reality is, for those who do attempt to live in denial of death, underneath there will always be the knowing of the truth and with that truth comes an inescapable low-level, chronic fear.

And with the fear, it is natural to close the heart somewhat. Natural to attempt to create a wall of emotional defence. And with this defence comes a new certainty. Relationships will always suffer. Always be compromised. Always filtered through barriers.

In closing our hearts to almost any degree, we run the risk of diminishing some of the best parts in life – the closeness, the intimacy of relationships.

By contrast, it takes a brave heart to be open. There are bound to be times when tears flow. But then, with an open heart there is the chance for open relationships. Real engagement. Real sharing of truth. Real intimacy.

People often have asked me how has it been possible to work for so many years with those dealing with major illness? For while many are alive and very well; reality is many have died.

The answer may seem counter-intuitive, yet has proven real for me.

Attempting to keep an open heart has actually protected me from real hurt.

Rather than hiding behind some form of clinical detachment I attempted to be more open.

I chose to make friends with people I worked with and invited them to share their experiences and feelings.

We all aspired to be a little more open.

How is this helpful? Easy really. Reflect on this… A fully open heart cannot be hurt. An open heart is one that is full of pure love. Unconditional love. Unconditional. Un-hurt-able.

Now I certainly do not profess to work in a state of unending unconditional love. And my sense for all of us is that if ever, we will probably only experience this state in the depths of profound meditation. Or maybe we can gain a glimpse of it in the lives of luminaries and models like Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Or maybe when we die…

However, simply aspiring to this state while we are alive, being prepared to take the risk and aiming to be as open as possible, makes for great possibilities.

It frees one to cry in the company of someone telling a deeply personal and tough story – and to not have someone else’s voice in your head saying it is not OK to cry in such circumstances; especially if you are meant to be the therapist, or the oldest sibling, or the one who “has it all together”, or a man – or whatever….

It frees one to cry in one’s own company when touched by the death of a fine young man; and it frees one to dare to be more open in relationships generally.

So how to gain this daring? Well, first comes the idea… The recognition that to aim for a more open heart is worthwhile. Then intention takes us a long way. The trick is to remember what we are aiming for, and to be prepared to face our own pain as we feel the pain of our self and of others.

A good lead-in is learning to meditate in less comfortable circumstances. Being able to sit with discomfort and not react - one of the many great skills we can gift ourselves through meditation.

Then in the practice of meditation, maybe we do start to sense, or to access that part of ourselves that is beyond the fears and the barriers; to come closer to a direct experience of the unconditional love that resides in the heart of all of us.

And once we do touch that pure love, to aspire to live a life more fully informed by that. To live with a more open heart...

Blue Sky Mind

Relaxation, mindfulness and meditation downloads available in both Ruth and my own voices –



7 day Residential Meditation Retreat with Ruth and Ian Gawler and Melissa Borich 

Modern culture has taught us to look externally for solutions to feeling better… substances we can take, new and exciting experiences, the acquiring of new ‘things.

However, to regain balance and cultivate reliable, sustainable joy, we learn to go within.

Meditation provides real answers.

And all of this amidst the nurture and beauty of the Yarra Valley Living Centre…

Dates     Saturday 14th to Friday 20th November

Venue   The Yarra Valley Living Centre, 55 Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria

More details   CLICK HERE

Inquiries and Bookings    Call 1300 651 211   or  www.gawler.org

MEDITATION TEACHER TRAINING   with Drs Ruth and Ian Gawler

Ian and Ruth have been teaching teachers of meditation for decades. This is a unique opportunity to learn from them directly in two 5 day residential trainings – Module 1 on meditation, Module 2 – contemplation. Attending both modules will meet the requirements for provisional membership of the Meditation Association of Australia. Both trainings will be highly experiential and be based upon comprehensive manuals.

Venue     The Yarra Valley Living Centre,  55 Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria

Dates     Meditation Teacher Training 3 - 7 Octomber 2020 : Full details  : Click here

          Contemplation 7-11 September, 2020  ;  Full details :  Click here

Inquiries  and Bookings   Call 1300 651 211 or www.gawler.org

11 May 2020

Avoid COVID-19 - 8 top tips to boost immune function

Well, it seems the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic may well be over and now we move into a whole new phase of our collective lives. Living with a new threat to life. A new disease.

So this week, 8 simple steps that we can all manage in daily life that can be relied upon to boost immune function, have us in the best health to recover from the virus if we do happen to develop it, and that will give us the best chance of avoiding all the chronic degenerative diseases. A simple formula, but first

    Thought for the day

In our time, in our civilization, 
Sitting and doing nothing 
Is considered either to be a luxury 
Or a waste of time. 

But sitting can produce 
The most nourishing calm and joy 
And we can all afford some time to sit. 

How wonderful to sit 
And do nothing.

      Thich Nhat Hanh

So as we begin to navigate these uncertain times, what is our best protection? How to bolster our own health to best resist the virus along with anything else we would rather not catch or develop? How best to boost our own natural good health; our own immune systems?

Seven simple yet reliable steps to boost immune function

1. Meditate daily for 20 minutes
For guidance - my new book Blue Sky Mind, and downloads of all the exercises therein guided by Ruth and myself - available by Clicking Here . If you cannot manage to meditate daily, then do it twice daily - your need is clearly greater!

2. Eat well 

Guidance - follow a plant-based, whole food vegetarian or even better vegan diet.

For details, best go direct to the recipe book compiled by the Gawler Foundation catering team : Eat Well, Be Well 

3. Exercise for 30 - 60 minutes daily

Guidance - just do it! If you miss a day or two per week, that will be OK, but aim for daily.

4. Get regular, sensible sunlight exposure
For guidance - check this excellent guide from my friends at Overcoming MS - Click here.  Vit D is crucial for good immune function and while the information in the link is framed for people with MS, it is one of the very best summaries anywhere...

5. Maintain a good social network 
Guidance - start with a good relationship with your self. You are the most important relationship you have. Be kind to yourself. Generous. Then pay it forward to others. Use social media wisely...

Lots of great books to consider, but here are 2 that are old but very good : Getting the Love you Want by Harville Hendrix and Love is Letting go of Fear by Jerry Jampolski.

6. Be creative
Guidance - try this…
Go into an art store - or look on-line - and pick up and feel blank drawing books. Personally, I like A4 size, but you may find a small one speaks to you, or maybe a bigger one. Take home the one you like the feel of. Same with pencils or crayons, pens or watercolours. Feel around and select what asks to accompany you.

Then try this
Each day create an image on the right hand side of your book. Maybe something abstract, maybe something literal. Do your best to let go of thinking and allow the image to develop as spontaneously as possible. When it feels complete. Stand back a little, reflect for a moment, and without labouring things, write a title or very short piece on the left hand page. Add the date - and smile. Do this daily and enjoy…

Creativity is highly under-valued but is a powerful force for good health.

7. Practice gratitude 
Guidance - simple really - just do it whenever you think of it. Start easy… wake up and be grateful you did not die in the night! Then at the end of the day, think of what you can be grateful for - from the simple to the profound. Make it a habit and enjoy the warm feeling it steadily builds within.

And a tip - as you become more grateful for the easy things - those things you find it easy to be grateful for, start to be grateful for the tough stuff too. Then the benefits will start to really flow…

This single emotion – gratitude - has multiple and profound benefits.

8. Consider taking a potion - Echinaforce
Guidance - there is a myriad of supplements and potions touted for good immune function. Based on experience garnered over many years, the one I recommend is Echinaforce liquid. An extract of echinacea it has stood the test of time and many have reported feeling its benefits. Use your judgement. If you do take it, probably best to have breaks from it for a few days every few weeks - seems better for the system...

Do all this and enjoy chronic good health!

What is behind the COVID-19 pandemic
– and what to do

Simple meditation for complex times
Leave it as it is
– the direct approach into meditation

How to build a veggie garden quickly
– or revamp one