30 March 2020

Simple meditation for complex times

Leave it as it is – the direct approach to meditation...

We are all feeling it. Life is so precious and yet so uncertain. Tension is everywhere; anxieties high. Happily, much good material is being made available to support and guide us in these times with many making very well rounded and well crafted offerings.

But maybe there is room for some simplicity; the simplicity of a direct approach into meditation. So maybe take a few minutes and try this, but first

            Thought for the day   

    Remember, when it comes to our meditation, 
    There is the direct approach, 
    And the gradual approach. 

    When it is all flowing easily, 
    It is as if there is nothing to do. 
    This is the direct approach of no method. 
    We simply let go and be still. 

    At other times we need the support of a technique. 
    This is the gradual approach. 
    We learn. We practise. 
    We delight in the method, the technique. 

    And once again, 
    We come to experience 
    The deep natural peace.

                Ian Gawler – Blue Sky Mind

LEAVE IT AS IT IS – The Direct Approach of just sitting

Create an environment in which you can remain undisturbed for the period of time you will be devoting to “just sitting”. And a tip – once you have the knack with this, the place you do it in could be anywhere, but for starters, a quiet space may be helpful.

Sit with an upright, open and inspired posture – think of the way a mountain sits. Meditation is about being relaxed and alert, so make yourself comfortable, but not too comfortable.

Eyes open or closed, whatever feels better for you.

You may like to take a deeper breath or two to help settle into your body.

Give yourself mental permission. There is nowhere else you need to be right now; nothing else you need to be doing; no one else you need to be pleasing or satisfying. Now is the time to simply be… to be your self.

Allow yourself to be open to this moment… its sounds… its smells… any feelings you notice… any thoughts that come into your awareness. Allow whatever comes into this moment to simply be. And leave it as it is. No struggle. No effort. Nothing to resist. Nothing to change or to be achieved. Simply leave it as it is…

Just sit and be free to be your self.

Give your self complete space and freedom
to just sit.

There is no meaning in just sitting;
no purpose, and no goal.

Just this.

Just sitting.

Leave it as it is.

Let these moments simply unfold.

Enjoy the spaciousness. Be simple. Be free.

And leave it as it is…

Blue Sky Mind

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


25 March 2020

What vegetables to plant now?

Amidst all the uncertainty and mayhem, how wonderful to observe so many people starting or revamping a veggie garden. But trying to plant pumpkins now in Victoria? That is not going to end well; maybe not even get started…

So this post, based on living and gardening in a cool climate for 4 decades, what to plant? What will grow? And good luck finding seeds and seedlings..., but first,

    Thought for the day

         Ask yourself : Where am I?
         Answer : Here.

         Ask yourself : What time is it?

         Answer : Now.

         Say it until you can hear it.

                              Ram Dass

For decades I have experimented with growing vegetables in a cool climate – the Yarra Valley to be precise. We have cold winters, light snow every few years and where we are, only mild and occasional frosts. If you are in a warmer area, you can be more adventurous. Heavy frosts will limit things; the tropics are completely different.


What I am sharing is my own experience.

Gardening is very variable and what is offered is simply
that, the sharing of my own experience.

There are many planting guides available that cover the country; the Digger’s Club being one of the best.

However, in my experience, a lot more grows in our area than the guides predict and maybe we need more sharing of local knowledge.

Experience leads to encouraging experimentation, but if you are new to all this and you have limited space, it may be time to prioritise.


Given it is late March, best be quick. In recent years, I have found a big planting around now usually works well as the ground and weather still has some warmth, seedlings and seeds establish quickly and put on some growth before the really cold weather hits, and we are able to harvest good food crops in winter and/or early spring. This said, the quality is generally not quite as good as what we are harvesting now.

If you plant in another month, everything will move much more slowly, however, I usually give that a go too, especially with the brassicas, and get reasonable results – especially for what grows through into spring.

If space is limited, consider the high yield, small space crops like carrots, beetroot, leeks and greens – lettuce, silver beat, spinach, kale etc. Broccoli that continues to sprout after the main head is harvested is another great crop worth making space for.


This is the key to good results.

If you need to start from scratch, consider the no-dig method as outlined in the recent post.

If your garden is in pretty good shape already and you like digging, add as much compost as possible (it is worth buying in bags if you do not have your own ready to go), some good quality natural fertilizer and a sprinkle of either dolomite or lime.

Ideally leave the soil to sit for a week or 2 at least if you have dug it over, but at this time of year, best to push on immediately.

Good to soak seedlings in a liquid fertiliser with a seaweed basis for around 30 mins before planting. I do not add more fertiliser after planting; either directly on the ground or as a spray, although many do. But our soil is pretty good these days…

Baby carrot seeds. Planted a week ago, my latest crop is up already and with luck they will be good to start picking in around 10 weeks (maybe some earlier). For a family of 4, plant a row of around 1 metre.

Manchester Table carrot seeds. These also are up, however, they take longer to mature. So we may get them during the winter, but I find they hang on pretty well over winter, and while often a bit scruffy, are OK early spring. For a family of 4, plant around 1 metre.

Beetroot seeds. I plant the cylindra variety as they do not bolt to seed, handle the colder weather reasonably well and grow large with great flavour and texture. For a family of 4, plant around .5 metre.

Leek seedlings. These generally do well if planted soon.

Lettuces. The soft varieties still work well, generally, the iceburg varieties tend to rot out now. Cos is the classic winter lettuce and will hang on through winter when you can simply pick leaves from the plant regularly.

Zucchini seedling. This is the odd one and to do it you need a well-established seedling now. That means you will have needed to grow it yourself (or have planted directly into the soil in January which is what I do). Plant this new one well away from any others. What happens is that as the older ones get mildew and die off in autumn, this new one will be vigorous still and extend you season a few weeks. I prefer Blackjack or Black Beauty varieties; harvest in around 2 months +. Best to try only if you have a big garden and can stand being disappointed; but generaly it works, especially with the earlier planting.

Brassicas – broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower seedlings. These are all likely to do well now. If you can get them, plant mini and full-size caulis and cabbage seedlings as the minis mature about a month earlier than the full-size ones. Be warned, full sized caulis and cabbages do take up a fair bit of space. It is too late for Brussel Sprouts now; they need to grow in the warmer months and mature in the cold.

Bean seeds. You may get lucky… Try some bush variety or maybe better a climber like Blue Lake.

Harvest is around 10 – 12 weeks but a frost will end things quickly. On the other hand, Broad Beans planted now will be early and do fine. Best to plant more in another month or 2 as well.

Artichoke seedlings. These are terrific but do take a large space – think 1 square metre. Harvest begins in around 3 months

Many things will not develop as the autumn deepens and winter approaches. It is a long list, including tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, potatoes (although I have some self-seeded ones that come up each year and I tend to leave some and they do OK – we do get some late ones), pumpkins, all the melons, many herbs, corn, cucumber and so on.

If you have a glasshouse, start early Spring, however, my experience in this area confirms it really is a waste of time planting main spring crops in the garden before early November.

Things like potatoes can go in a couple of weeks before the risk of frost is over, and onions need planting late autumn.

HAVE FUN, get outdoors, get dirty and enjoy the bounty…

QUESTIONS WELCOME via the Comments section below…

Also, let me know if anything has been forgotten; and share your own experiences…

How to build a veggie garden quickly - or revamp one

What is behind the corona virus panic – and what to do

21 March 2020

How to build a veggie garden quickly – or revamp one

It is a perfect gardener’s storm. Restricted to home, panic buying creating chaos, the need for good food to build a healthy immune system …

Time to activate the vegetable garden. But how to do it quickly so it works?

 The answer is simple. Use the no-dig gardening method, so this week, full details. And by the way, this blog provides another excuse to use my all time garden photo brag pic (thanks to Peter McConchie) so indulge me...

Also to say it is a deep sadness for Ruth and myself to need to cancel the Pre-Easter retreat due to the unprecedented circumstances we all find ourselves in. This is the first time in nearly 40 years of running programs I have ever cancelled, and our hearts go out to those inconvenienced and disappointed. May you all be well and safe. We hope to present the program in November and more on that soon,  but first

         Thought for the day

Do not surrender your loneliness
So quickly.
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human or even divine ingredients can.

Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft
My voice
So tender
My need of God


Way back in 1978 as I emerged from an extended time of illness and recovery, I leased a veterinary practice in the South of Adelaide. With very few resources left after the illness, and living in a small flat, the only prospect for a garden rested with the vacant block adjoining and a part of the vet practice.

Covered in rocks and overgrown it was not a particularly inviting sight. To clear it and dig a new garden would have been time consuming and backbreaking.

Yet within one afternoon a no-dig garden was established and within 6 weeks the first produce
(lettuce) was being picked.

That garden fed us almost entirely for the next 2 years and literally flourished.

So I can assure you, this works.

You can convert a lawn into garden in a few hours.

You can revamp a garden full of weeds and plant it out anew within a few hours.

Then you sit back, add water if needed and enjoy…

The simple steps for establishing a no-dig garden

1. Select your area 
Ideally you need as much sunlight falling on your future veggie garden as possible.
With this method, what ground you start with is not so important, however, if you can, areas with good drainage are better long term. You can cover just about anything with this technique, but remember, eventually your new garden will reunite with whatever it is on top of, so best to clear anything that even hints at being toxic – like old building rubble. Anything organic is fine to mulch over.

2. Gather your materials
This may well be the most time consuming part, and in these extra-ordinary circumstances you will almost certainly need to go shopping, so be careful.

What you need

a) Old newspapers – enough to cover the area approximately with 5 – 6 sheets of paper.

Obviously, the more you need to screen out what is underneath, the more paper you will need.

Think of approximately 1 large newspaper per square metre.

Or you can use cardboard - think old boxes - or anything that is an effective screen and will fully decompose (old natural clothing is very effective).

b) Bales of lucerne hay – approximately 1 bale per 2 -3 square metres.

c) Bales of straw, ideally free of seed (so be careful with pea straw or oat straw. You can use them and they work well, but you may end up with a pea crop too – or lots of weeding) – approximately 1 bale per 2 square metres

d) Good quality fertilizer or straight chicken manure (suggestion is Dynamic Lifter or equivalent) – approximately 1 Bag per 2  square metres.

e) Good quality compost; your own or bought in bags – approximately 1 bag per 2  square metres.

f) OPTIONAL Consider a border for your new garden.

This makes for a neat finish, but involves
more cost and time and the system works fine without it.

You can use sleepers or any solid timber to construct a frame about 15 – 30 cm  high to contain your new garden.

Or you can use bales of straw or hay and leave them to rot down over time.

Either does look good, but you can always add this later…

3. What you do - build your new garden in layers

a) Cover the selected area with 5-6 sheets of newspaper, making sure the edges of the sheets overlap well. If it is windy, have a hose nearby and very lightly water the newspaper to keep it in place.

b) Cover the newspaper heavily with the fertilizer; almost enough so you cannot see the newspaper

c) Divide the Lucerne into bats and add a layer about 15 cms thick. When you open your lucerne bale, it will fall apart – maybe with a little help - into these bats. Do not tease out the bats, you need them to be thick and solid

d) Add the next layer - a lighter sprinkle of fertilizer – about one half as much as the first layer.

e) Add the straw as the next layer, this time “fluffing” it up. Straw bales fall apart naturally and you help this by running your fingers through it to make it light and fluffy. The straw layer needs to be about 30 cms thick.

f) Use the compost to make “nests” in the straw that reach down to, but do not pass into the lucerne layer.

g) Plant individual seeds or seedlings into the compost.

h) Add water

i) Relax – job done

4. Enjoy eating your own

Fresh beyond compare; picked when fully ripe

Zero transport miles

You know where your food came from and what happened to it

Very cost effective

Very satisfying

5. Repeat

When the first crop of veggies has been picked; repeat the process, probably without the need for newspaper, but all else the same. Within a short time you will have created beautiful deep soil and a thriving vegetable garden. Worms love this approach.

6. Final tips

a) You can plant root crops like carrots using this method, but you may get some curvey results.

Once your garden has had a few layers built up, they will be excellent.

b) Plant a few flowers amidst the veggies – they are all good friends and appreciate the company.

c) Give thanks and offer a blessing both as you pick and before you eat…

15 March 2020

What is behind the panic around COVID-19, and what to do?

Is the world going nuts over COVID-19? Clearly it is now a declared pandemic and given the fatality rate being at least 1%, we do need to be take it seriously. However, who feels like we are being caught up in an over-reaction? And what to do???

When panic buying starts – and continues – for things that we have assured supply like toilet paper, there is a need to question what is going on. In my view, the explanation may be due in large part to something we can all do something to alleviate, but first

Thought for the day

   An ancient traveller passes the devil
   Coming from the city he is walking towards.
   He asks
   “Why are you so happy this cold morning?"
   The devil replies
   “I have just killed 10,000 people
   in the city you are about to enter.”

   “How did you do that?”
“Easy” replies the devil
   “I killed one with cholera,’
   the rest will die of fear”.

Have been reflecting upon the panic around COVID-19 for a while and maybe this response will be helpful to some.

To me and many others I speak with there is a viral over-reaction to the virus.

Why so?

I suspect if we do want to lay the blame somewhere, or simply understand things better, anxiety would be a good place to start.

My sense is the general level of anxiety within the community has been steadily rising over recent years and has grown to quite a high level.

The environment, terrorism, financial uncertainty, the acute rate of change just about everywhere we look, failures in leadership; you name it, most places you look into warrant some degree of anxiety for all of us, except maybe those without reasonably well trained minds.

Most of us have been doing what we can to maintain some semblance of equilibrium and keep functioning amidst all the uncertainties. Life goes on.

And then, along comes something really worthy of our fear; but now this particular fear does even more. As well as the direct reaction, the threats associated with the virus bring out and give expression to all those anxieties that have accumulated just below the surface.

This can be compared to a commonly observed response to major grief.

When people experience the loss of someone really dear to them like a partner or parent, it can often seem from the outside as if there is an over-reaction.

One way to understand this is to realise that over the years we all suffer lesser griefs of various magnitude.

Usually we cope.

We find a way through what we may consider to be more minor losses.

Yet often enough things are not completely resolved and residual grief builds and lingers on.

Then a major loss.

And this grief can have the effect of bursting the dam banks; it draws out the many lesser, unresolved griefs of days gone by, leading to an expression of grief that seems from the outside to be more than the current grief warrants.

My sense is this is what is happening with COVID-19. It is drawing out, focussing and leading to the
expression of the accumulated fears and anxiety that have built up throughout our wider community due to the multiple changes and uncertainties we have all been living with for some time.

And so what seems like an over-reaction like the panic buying of toilet paper, makes sense because of the accumulation of anxiety to which the pandemic gives expression.

Now clearly, I am still saying we do need to heed the warnings and act in line with the best medical advice around this pandemic; just go easy on the over-reaction.

It is a time to accept whatever feelings and emotions all of this does stir up in us. At the same time, there is a real need to look after our own health and the health and welfare of those around us, and to commit to doing what is necessary. Acceptance and commitment; but it is not a time to over-react.

So how to do that?

How to manage the anxiety and fear of COVID-19?

1. Use relaxation, mindfulness and meditation
This is clearly a time where making time to practice is important.
Failing that, maybe a few deep breaths and a cold shower.
And some humour to lighten things a little

2. Put your mind elsewhere 
There is a media frenzy at present. Maybe a good time to tune in to other things – get out in nature (and be re-assured by what you experience amidst it), watch funny, inspiring, diverting movies; use your own mind to dwell on other things – change the movies in your head.

3. Use social media and technology to keep in touch
You know what to do…

4. Consider a home retreat
If you are self-isolating at home, or told to work from home, consider creating a more formal home retreat for yourself.

Decide upon a theme – maybe simply meditation, or maybe developing compassion or some specific topic of contemplation, and then decide upon a set period of study and practice for each day.

My guess is people and groups will soon be offering support for such home retreats…

5. If all else fails, resort to logic
There is much misinformation, false news and rumour circulating at a time like this. Seek out reliable sources of information and resist the scaremongers.


In Australia, a good place to start is the Department of Health

            And visually, for a current update, here is Dr Norman Swan and associates on ABC TV

In the USA there is the Centre for Disease Control

For a global perspective, there is the World Health Organisation

09 March 2020

What is enlightenment? - and where to seek it...

What is this thing called enlightenment and how do we experience it? This week we really go for it, as well as providing details of the only meditation retreat Ruth and I will lead together this year (Pre-Easter along with Melissa Borich), and the meditation teacher training program we will co-lead, but first

     Thought for the day
A human being is part of a whole, 
Called by us the ‘Universe,’ 
A part limited in time and space. 
He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, 
As something separated from the rest
—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. 
This delusion is a kind of prison for us, 
Restricting us to our personal desires 
And to affection for a few persons nearest us. 
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison 
By widening our circles of compassion 
To embrace all living creatures 
And the whole of nature in its beauty.
                        Albert Einstein

All human beings have some things in common. For example, we all want happiness. But what sort of happiness?

It seems to me many of us have been misled and have come to believe pleasure is the source of happiness. By pleasure we usually mean that which makes us feel good and comfortable in the short term. A good meal, a good entertainment, a good…

But most sources of this type of pleasure tend to be transitory. They come and go quite quickly.

Now this is not to say we cannot enjoy them just because they come and go.

There is no need to feel guilty getting off on temporary delights.

Just do not be confused.

Short-term pleasure is not the same thing as long-term happiness.

No doubt many have worked this much out; but then we think maybe happiness will come with a bit more complexity. A good job, a nice car, the right relationship; maybe that will do it? You only need to reflect a little to realise the bad news. All these things come and go too – they just usually take a little longer than a good meal!

In seeking long-term happiness, we are seeking something constant and enduring. We will not find this outside of ourselves amidst people, things and events. True happiness, lasting happiness comes from our inner state of mind.

If that is what we are seeking, we need to turn our mind inwardly.

By doing so we can begin to experience inner peace, inner contentment, inner happiness.

As we do this, the true nature of our mind becomes more obvious.

We come to realise an inner truth – our minds have two aspects.

We all have an active thinking/ feeling mind that is intimately involved with our outer world, along with its pleasures and pains.

But then we all have a deeper aspect of mind that is more enduring, more stable and more constantly happy.

When we come to experience something of these two aspects of our mind, this truth of the nature of our mind, we come to experience something of enlightenment. Enlightenment then is the direct experience of a fundamental truth. The truth of who we really are. The truth of the nature of our mind.

Now to dispel some myths. In my youth, enlightenment loomed as some distant and mystical goal.  Something that probably could only be found in some far away exotic land, a prize to be attained after all sorts of trials and tribulations, disciplines and sacrifices.

But what if it were simpler than this? Closer than this? What if we all carried the seed of enlightenment within us? All of us? What if your potential to become enlightened was just as good as anyone else’s? What if enlightenment was less of an external struggle and more of an internal revelation? And if this were so, how could we come to experience this inner realisation?

Maybe it is as if this inner truth of who we are is like a precious diamond within us. It is there all right, but it is covered by layers of dirt – by layers of ordinary thoughts and feelings that prevent us from seeing it real nature, its real beauty.

Try to imagine you had never eaten a banana before and you became interested in the truth of what a banana tastes like.

Then imagine some wonderful friend produced a banana and offered to share it with you.

Some of us might gratefully take a few bites and say “Wow! So that’s it. That’s what a banana tastes like!”

But many might say “Are you really sure this is a banana? Even if this is a banana, are you sure there is not a tastier one, a bigger one, a different one, a better one?”

Our mind could so easily, so readily form concepts around the banana that we could get caught up in the thinking and miss the experience altogether. While thinking has many benefits, enlightenment is an experience, not a thinking.

How then do we experience our mind without thinking? Easy isn’t it – the answer is meditation. Meditation teaches us how to go beyond the thinking mind and to experience the nature of our mind.

But again, all too easily, as our meditation matures and we do begin to experience glimpses of this inner truth, the analytical mind can still come in causing us to lose clarity and confidence.

This is where a true teacher is so valuable. A true teacher offers the banana, confirms it is a banana, and after you have eaten it, tasted it, realised it, they confirm your experience.

And how does a teacher acquire the authority to do this? By being authentic.

It is just like a Professor at University. How do we know they are authentic?

They need to have been authentically taught by authentic teaches following authentic teachings (eg they need the right qualifications), and then they need to teach authentically according to the teachings they received.

So when it comes to ourselves, maybe we are lucky.

Maybe we meet a teacher at a time in our lives when we are ready.

All is right, auspicious as they say; we are introduced to this inner reality, and we get it in one go.

For many of us, however, even with a good teacher, I suspect it is more like eating lots of bananas. Having little tastes, little glimpses of this inner truth and building up to the point where we can say “Yep, I have tasted lots of bananas; I reckon I know bananas”.

The trick is to be patient, determined and to keep your sense of humour; to avoid guilt and shame and to be OK with your state of mind and your progress.

For most of us, our lives seem to vacillate between moments of confusion and moments of clarity.

Meditation eases the confusion and strengthens the clarity.

Meditation can lead to the dawning of wisdom, the experience of enlightenment.

So why wait?

Maybe now is the time to really go for it.

To meditate regularly.

To seek a teacher.

To actually follow their advice.

To take your own enlightenment seriously.

Happy meditating!


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     Friday 3rd to Thursday 9th April (pre-Easter)

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 27 April – 1 May, 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