27 March 2023

Why Buddhism? And the Easter meditation retreat

Having grown up in a Christian family that went to church most Sundays, I loved it. Many years later, when it comes to the census, I describe myself as a Buddhist. Why the switch? 

In this post, an explanation of the transition, along with details of Mind in Comfort and Ease, the Easter urban (as in non-residential) meditation retreat I will be presenting in person and online that will include a fairly comprehensive overview/summary of Buddhist philosophy, how that knowledge aids entering into the deeper experiences of meditation, and how the study and practice of meditation can inform a more joyful, satisfying and meaningful world view, 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 

Maybe it comes down to this. I have always been interested in the truth. Actually, the Truth – as in not just what is true when it comes to life, science and relationships, but what is true on the grand scale. Who are we? Where did we come from? and Where are we going? 

Or more simply – who am I really? I know what is most obvious about myself is changing all the time – body, emotions, thoughts – changing all the time. So amidst all that change, is there something more enduring? Something more permanent? 

Who am I really?

This is the spiritual quest. 

To look inside and search for our own direct experience of who we really are - the Truth of who we really are, and what we are a part of…

Now, I have always been attracted to Faith – that commitment arising from going so far with reason and analysis, and then making a jump; a leap of faith. 

And in earlier days this faith in God, in a world view based on my Christian values and ethics served me well.

But then came 3 major traumas one upon another within a 2 week span. None of it made any sense. However, despite the trauma, instead of turning me away from spirituality and Christianity in particular, the trauma led to an important insight and a deeper commitment. 

The insight? It was clear my understanding of life, and indeed my faith, did not stand up to life itself. Life at this point in my history made no sense. 

The commitment? The traumas led to a wider exploration; and began a quest for a more encompassing Truth.

After diving into some philosophy and most of the world’s great religions, I settled on Buddhism as being most relevant to my search. 


Buddhism is both a mind science, a philosophy and a world religion. 

One can approach it on any level, whereas I find all three appealing. 

However, most Tibetans do not describe themselves as Buddhists; they prefer the term nangpa: someone who seeks the truth not outside, but within the nature of their own mind. 

All the teachings and training in Buddhism are aimed at that one single point: to look into the true nature of our minds, and so free us from the fear of death and help us to realize the truth of our life.

I settled upon Tibetan Buddhism and stumbled onto the Dzogchen path; which turns out to feature the highest teachings in the Tibetan tradition, and includes all the others as well. 

The appeal is in the heart-recognition of the truth of these teachings. They make sense at every level – intellectually, emotionally and in that more abstract intuitive way. They feel right and stand up to analysis. Importantly, these teachings encourage open enquiry – personal investigation and analysis and there are no articles of faith.

Indeed, The Buddha said this

Just as a goldsmith would test his gold … 

So you must examine my words and accept them, 

But not merely out of reverence for me.  (from the Ghanavyuha sutra). 

So in telling the story of the Buddha’s life one can range over all his teachings and make a coherent whole of them. 

The Buddha began his life as a worldy Prince, rejected that life, followed a path of extreme renunciation for around 7 years, made progress but did not find what he was really looking for, then sat in meditation under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya and achieved full enlightenment. 

At first the Buddha remained silent; he said nothing. 

But those few around him at the time implored him to share his experience and to teach. 

Finally, he relented, spoke, and said this: 

Profound peace, free from complexity, uncompounded luminosity

I have found a nectar-like Dharma. 

Yet if I were to teach it, no-one would understand,

So I shall remain silent here in the forest. (Lalitavistara Sutra)

But after more requests he went on to teach in 3 main cycles, beginning with the Four Noble truths. 

His teachings spanned the remaining 60 years of his life and have been accurately recorded and preserved over the 2,500 plus years since. 

Needless to say there is a lot of material for those who like to study in depth! 

However, there are also more summarized and specialized teachings available that probably are more suited to most of us…

So for me, I never turned my back on my Christian roots; I still find it deeply meaningful and enjoyable to go to Church when the occasion arises. However, it is the Buddhist teachings I have focused upon to study and practice since 1985. That was when I first met Sogyal Rinpoche (author of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying) and through him, his lineage, teachings and practices, found what I was looking for.

The feeling is one of great good fortune…

Now, during the Easter urban meditation retreat I will present from the 7th to 10th of April 2023 for Rigpa – the Tibetan Buddhist group I am involved with – we will not only dive into the theory around, and the practice of meditation, I will present a summary of key Buddhist teachings that examine the truth of who we are and the nature of the world we live in. And "urban" means this retreat is non-residential, while you can attend in person or online.

The main point is that these teachings support the deeper experiences in meditation and together, the theory and the practice can lead us to a world view that is both more truthful, and makes for a more enjoyable, satisfying and meaningful life.

So if like me you are interested in the truth, do consider making time this Easter; give yourself a treat and join me in person or online for what will be a joyful, relaxing and quite possibly life changing retreat…

Groups will gather in several Rigpa centres. 

I will be in Melbourne, but other Rigpa teachers will support groups who gather to watch the teachings and meditate together in Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide and Brisbane. Or you can join us online...

From 10.30am Friday 7th April to 4pm Monday 10th April, 2023

Details and bookings can be accessed HERE.



18 March 2023

Ian Gawler’s Easter Meditation Retreat – online and in person

Mind in Comfort and Ease – the essence of meditation; its theory and its practice

Having first taught meditation in 1981 – 42 years ago - and having studied and practiced meditation consistently throughout that time, one might hope to have something worthwhile to impart...

So this Easter I will be having another crack at it… 

Want to join in with what will be an urban retreat where you can attend in person or online?

Urban as in non-residential.

What will be featured

1.     A relaxed, balanced pace so you can gain from the Easter break, but still accomplish something meaningful and worthwhile.

2.     Very specific and complete instruction on relaxation, concentration, mindfulness, contemplation guided imagery and meditation, with plenty of time to ask questions and seek clarifications.

                                Suitable for beginners and the experienced alike

3.     Plenty of time for both guided and personal practice, all leading up to the direct experience of the inner peace, clarity and stillness of meditation itself.

4.     A thorough tour through the key elements of Buddhist psychology and philosophy that provide a framework into which the deeper experiences of meditation do fit; and which can help us to integrate and live by the profound View meditation offers.

5.     Time in noble company – time to contemplate and discuss with like-minded peers these key points.

                   Let your mind settle naturally and simply rest in pure awareness


I will be presenting from the Melbourne Rigpa Centre (a Tibetan Buddhist group I have been involved with for nearly 40 years) and online, while other in-person groups will be held by senior meditation teachers simultaneously at the following locations. 

So to be clear, you can gather with like-minded people online, or join us in person at one of these locations:

Adelaide: 310 South Terrace, Adelaide

Brisbane: 2/19 Enoggera Terrace, Red Hill

Melbourne: 803 Nicholson Street, Carlton North

Sydney: 158 Australia Street, Newtown

Newcastle: Multifencing, Unit 18/26 Oakdale Rd, Gateshead 


Friday 11.00am – 6.00pm,
 Saturday 9.15am – 6.00pm
, Sunday 9.15am – 6.00pm,
 Monday 9.15 – 4.00pm

Also, as each day is fairly self-contained, partial attendance is possible. 

Obviously, attending the complete program is recommended…

Bookings: Essential – click HERE

Now, because meditation is so simple in its essence, to celebrate a post on this next meditation retreat, it makes sense – in a perverse sort of way – to prompt you to contemplate your motivation courtesy of what is the longest ever 

       Thought for the Day

Because we are not so good, we try to improve ourselves. 

That is our true nature. 

And we are aware of it

— we have some intention to improve ourselves. 

This intention is limited to human beings. 

Flowers come out in the spring without fail, 

But they do not make any effort; 

They automatically come out—that is all. 

We also try to open our flower in the spring, you know. 

We try to do right things at the right time. 

But we find it very difficult—even though we try to do it, we cannot. 

This is our human nature. 

We always try to do something. 

We always have some difficulties. 

But this point is very important for us. 

It is why we have pleasure as human beings

—because things are difficult and we are always making some effort. 

That effort results in the pleasure of human life, 

A pleasure limited to human beings. 

This is called our true nature. 

If you understand this true nature, 

You will find out the true nature within yourself and in every existence. 

Flowers have this nature. 

Even when it is cold, they are preparing for spring, 

Even though they do not know they are making a good effort to come up in spring. 

When we become aware of it, 

We will know that this nature we have is universal to every existence. 

Again, this awareness of true nature is limited to human beings, 

So it is very important. 

This is the awareness, in short, of trying to do something good. 

It is our spirit. 

We do not know why we should try to improve ourselves. 

No one knows. 

There is no reason for it; it is beyond discussion. 

Our true nature is so big. 

It is beyond comparison, beyond our intellectual understanding, 

So it does not make any sense. 

Those who are aware of it will laugh at you if you discuss about why it is so. 

“What are you talking about?” 

It is too big a problem to discuss. 

This is why we bow to Buddha.

    From the oldest extant recording of a dharma talk by Suzuki Roshi

              Given in Los Altos, California - 22nd July 1965


13 March 2023

Ruth and I are moving on…

Ruth and I have been incredibly fortunate to act as custodians for a small farm in the Yarra Valley these past 20 years; now it is someone else’s turn, it is time for us to move on...

So this is to pay pictorial homage to this wonderful place, its magnificent trees and the garden that has fed us for all this time. And maybe you might know of someone interested in a genuine lifestyle property: 40 McMaster’s Rd, Gladysdale adjoining the Little Yarra River and State Forest… , but first

   Thought for the Day

      There is no value in life

      Except what you choose to place upon it

      And no happiness in any place

      Except what you bring to it yourself

               Henry David Thoreau


For me it is the trees. Magnificent! 

Hundred year old Oaks, Elms and Liquid Ambers

Others prefer the intimacy of the forest paths

Still others, the towering Manna Gums, 

Messmates and other native forest trees.

Plus the Little Yarra River...

Some draw more joy from the landscaped flower gardens

Others, including us of course, 

have benefited from the rich soil 

developed in the vegetable beds over 20 years 

– will grow almost anything well now… 

The property has been managed using biodynamic and/or organic gardening principles for over 30 years. (It was fully BD for at least 10 years before we arrived). 

No domestic animals have grazed the land during our tenure.

We did make some enormous compost heaps

over the years... 

The orchard features most common and several uncommon fruit and nut varieties. A range of avocadoes and macadamias are highlights. 

There is a tree register recording all the significant trees – what they are; where and when they were planted.


There are many thousands of naturalised daffodils spread over around 1HA of the property 
– truly a field of gold in Spring. 

There are also many tulips, hyacinths and lilies.


The house is believed to have been built first in the 1920s and was one of the pioneering homesteads of the area. 

A significant extension was made in 1988, and renovated further in days gone by. 


We have rented out the single bedroom cottage to a series of excellent tenants. 

This quaint building was built by the Belgian Consul in 1956 to house some of their Olympic Equestrian team as they trained over the road at the Shirley Heights Equestrian Centre - which is still operating.


And there is the luxury of a self-contained studio 

where I do my painting.


The shed features one of my follies 

– a shadow board for tools I painted 

over a Christmas years ago. 

It also has electricity, lighting, water and a sink

And adjoins the glasshouse and 2 double carports.

The glasshouse also has electricity, lighting, water and a sink.


The property is blessed with multiple water sources that are very reliable.

i)               Roof tanks for house and cottage. 

ii)              There is a 200 litre stainless steel water tank that collects water for drinking. This tank also runs by gravity and has a bi-pass valve so water can be collected only when very clean.

iii)            Two megalitre domestic and stock pumping right from Little Yarra River. 

There is an old pumphouse and electric pump on the river bank.

iv)            A bore is linked to an extensive watering system that spreads throughout the garden, orchard and landscaping.  

v)             A substantial 4 megalitre dam is also linked by gravity feed to the watering system.

How does it feel?

Family, friends and others are asking how I feel about moving after spending so much time in this beautiful place, and having developed the gardens to such an extent?

It feels wonderful to have been here so long – the longest both Ruth and I have ever lived in the one place. But we never truly own anything – do we? We are just passing through… custodians for a while; with the opportunity to leave the place a little better than when we arrived. Hopefully, both the land, plants and buildings are all like that – a little better than when we arrived. 

So with gratitude, we are moving on… Very content with our time here.

Where to? 

Not exactly sure yet. We have a one bedroom flat in Melbourne that will provide a good interim, and once we have finalised things here, we can look to what comes next…