03 June 2024

Meditation in a Time of Personal Crisis – What is Needed? What works?

Whether to write this post or not; that is the first question. Having been through an intense medical crisis, is it useful to share something of the experience? 

Many meditation teachers, particularly traditional ones, rarely divulge their personal experiences. They tend to teach as if their audiences are “well”, and in a good state to practice. Yet many come to meditation exactly because of a personal crisis. 

Certainly in years gone by, my own work centred around helping people who often came to meditation in response to a major health crisis such as cancer or MS; or other major life-changing events.

So why the reserve in sharing personal meditation experiences? 

All teachers – of meditation or anything else – teach in one of two ways. 

The first is driven by ego – look at me, how wonderful I know all this stuff I can teach, how good am I, etc, etc. 

\The second is where the teacher aspires to teach in a largely ego-less way. 

Few teachers are at either extreme.

Most of us are somewhere along that spectrum.

This is one of many reasons I enjoy offering myself as a teacher – it provides another domain in which to address the ego and attempt to tame it; an ongoing challenge! 

And no doubt this is why so many meditation teachers traditionally did not share their experiences – to avoid the ego trap.

But here we are in current times where the need for guidance is high. So pardon me while I attempt to contain the ego, and together we go Out on a Limb once more while I share what I did when faced with my own recent major health challenge; but first

 Thought for the Day

      To bring peace to my mind and my own experience 

      There is nothing else. 

      Just to reduce these negative emotions 

      And create more kindness and compassion, 

      Because that is best for me, 

      That is best for everybody.

      It is nothing mysterious, 

      It is nothing religious, 

      It is nothing spiritual, 

      It is just very simple.


                                          Ringu Tulku Rinpoche  (now there is an ego-less teacher!)

Another reason for deep reflection before sharing these experiences is that in truth, I did not do all that much when it comes to using particular techniques! This is another part of the reservation in writing about this; we need to observe there may well be differences in what works for someone who has been meditating for almost 50 years, when compared to what might help a rank beginner. Even acknowledging this is another potential ego trap…

As a beginner, techniques are very useful – essential for most. However, as our practice develops, it can become more direct.

As a beginner faced with a crisis, the first thing is to seek some respite and some balance. In my experience, this is best accomplished by concentrating on the feeling in the body as we go through the Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This exercise is easy to learn and simple to practice. It works well when led by the voice of a friend or via an App like Allevi8. 

Yet the PMR reliably leads to deep physical relaxation, which then flows on to relax the mind. Deep relaxation of body and mind brings an immediate sense of relief, clears the mind to make good decisions and brings the body and mind into balance; which creates an ideal environment for healing. I have witnessed many people transform a crisis from this starting point. More details are in Blue Sky Mind.

However, speaking personally…  recently, following a second bout of COVID, I developed a weird functional bowel obstruction. 

This landed me in the Emergency Ward in acute shock.

Then ten days on a drip unable to eat or drink.

A total of 16 days in hospital before released... 

Absolutely zero energy, high levels of discomfort; dancing on the edge…

                                 The hospital room view :)


On reflection, what I drew upon most was a long body of study and practice. It felt like the “credit” from years of regular meditation flowed into this acute situation. There was a stability and inner calm despite the extreme circumstances. There was openness, an acknowledgement of what was happening, its potential severity, and yet, almost remarkably, no hope or fear. 

Fear we can relate to easily in difficult situations – and we can understand how more than just leaving us feeling miserable, it can obscure us from thinking clearly, and worse, give rise to panic. The danger is of becoming overwhelmed; of freaking out, then making poor decisions that result in bad outcomes for us and for those around us. Worst case scenario – we die leaving a mess behind.

Yet hope too takes us out of current time, out of the moment. Hope actually is another agitated state. While hope is touted as being so important, and it genuinely is for those feeling hopeless, it is an important starting point; hope is the flip side of fear, and both can be problematic.

This is one of the reasons I love sport, for while sport easily reveals itself as a game, hope and fear can easily creep in. 

Sport provides a great practice ground in which to be engaged, to be present, yet almost like an impartial observer, free of hope and fear. 

Who will win this year’s premiership???

Back to the illness; and accompanying all this, a quiet confidence. 

A confidence based on years of experience with the Mind-Body connection. 

Knowing that healing comes from balance – and the mind is in balance when free of hope and fear, when it is open, at ease and at peace. 

Next - a heightened awareness. Not so much mindfulness – that is where the mind goes out to concentrate on something. Awareness – where, like the impartial observer, we are fully present and allowing whatever is going on around us, to come to us. Open awareness. Awareness takes little to no effort; – which matched my capacity – but also is a powerful practice. Simply be aware. Be present. Leave it as it is, and be aware.

So this is the practice that flowed through the toughness of the experience. Open awareness. Not blocking, not disassociating, not fearing outcome, not hoping for anything in

particular except trusting in the best outcome. A baseline of confidence it would be OK – either I recover or I die, and either would be OK. 

But perhaps most importantly, a deeper connection with that all pervasive stillness. That presence some call God, others inner truth, our inner essence, the true nature of our mind; that presence that is beyond words, beyond description yet a presence we can experience in the depth of our meditation. A presence that then comes to pervade all of our life and provides this inner certitude, inner confidence, inner warmth. That direct experience of the all pervasive quality of unconditional love and its expression in this life we live. The real “credit” from years of regular meditation.

Plus a real sense of gratitude for all the staff and facilities that carried me through; and for the love of those around me

 – especially Ruth, the friend who made time amidst their own personal busyness to come into the hospital and quietly meditate with me, (I was too exhausted to interact in any “normal” way) and all those who prayed for me and sent well wishes.

Occasionally some focused relaxation in an attempt at relief; and yes some pain medication as I became so physically debilitated and worn down by the obstruction. 

I did also regularly invoke spiritual support in a way similar to the White Light guided imagery practice, and had the recognition all of I was going through, me included, is inherently empty and will pass. 

And maybe we talk more of the role of positive thinking another time…

                                                         Taken in hospital, closer to release time; starting to feel a little better

So… a long post, and  not sure how helpful this is. It is not so easy to put into words and maybe it might come across better in a conversation, however, there it is – a shared experience of meditation in a time of crisis; told by one who survived… 

What next?!

The good news is, and thanks to all who have cared about me through all this, I am feeling better slowly but steadily and actually woke up feeling comfortable in my body this morning - it has been a while...

Should be fit and well for the meditation retreat in 3 weeks time...

:)


18 May 2024

A Tribute to My Wife

An unusual topic for a blog, but Ruth’s story of recent years is one of overcoming severe adversity and going on to flourish. Her timing was impeccable as I have been severely ill myself lately, and while providing me with exceptional care, Ruth also led the recent Meditation Teacher Training for which I was incapacitated. 

So this week, another great story of transforming obstacles and suffering into strength and service, but first

         Thought for the Day

   So I encourage you - bow eagerly to love. 

   Follow its humble stirrings in your heart. 

   Let it guide you in this life 

   And it will bring you safely to eternal bliss in the next. 

   Love is the essence of all goodness. 

   Without it, no kind work is ever begun or finished. 

   Simply put, love is a good will in harmony with God.

                            The Cloud of Unknowing



Many of you will have read Ruth’s blog posts recounting her extreme health issues over the past 3 years. (links below) First severe chronic back pain, then totally debilitating long COVID. It is important to recount the long COVID not only depleted all her energy and created multiple tough physical symptoms, it also induced what is called organic brain syndrome. It was like the virus created an autoimmune reaction which meant her body attacked itself, and even worse, her mind attacked itself.

This left Ruth extremely anxious, hyper-reactive, fearful of everything; feeling paranoid and remote from all around her – including me much of the time. To make matters even more difficult, being trained in psychological medicine and a dedicated student of the mind all her life, Ruth was aware of these changes in her mind, but remained unable to override or significantly change them.

The long COVID lasted well over a year, and not surprisingly took a toll. While for me it was actually a pleasure to be able to care for Ruth and help her to stay out of institutionalised care – as was recommended to her by 3 different psychiatrists, unfortunately some others around her found the mental illness challenging.

Here we need to observe the difference between how our community tends to relate to physical illness or injury, compared to mental illness. 

When someone breaks a leg for example, pretty well everyone finds it easy to accept the injury.

We take it on face value and treat the person affected with compassion.



Mental illness can be tough. 

Often there is the sense the person affected is “weak”; if not their mind would be working OK. 

People with mental illness can behave and say things that can be outright confronting, yet often we fail to see through their words or actions and instead of responding to the person with the compassion and consideration they warrant, we take what they say or do both seriously and personally.

For me, while some people were exceptionally caring and supportive, the reactions of some around Ruth during this time were quite disappointing, and it happened again as she went through another turbulent time coming off the medication taken during the latter stages of her illness. 

Anyway, Ruth is now medication free, and really well both physically and mentally. What a delight. 

My turn! 

Early this April we both developed COVID for the second time while staying on the NSW Central Coast. Ruth had a very minor episode; I was completely flattened and slept for two days. Soon after we needed to travel home by car back from which further debilitated me and triggered a weird functional bowel obstruction. Acutely ill, from April 16th, the next 16 days were spent in hospital. Did not eat or drink for around 10 days; sustained on a drip. Lost a lot of weight, totally debilitated and generally danced close to the edge once again.

Now amidst all this, Ruth and I, along with our dear colleague Murray Paterson, were scheduled to lead the first of our scheduled Meditation Teacher Training programs for this year from May 6th – 10th; a couple of weeks away. 

I had spent many months previously compiling a comprehensive, 180 page new manual for this program, but as it was just completed, was yet to share it with Ruth and Murray. 

So we needed to decide. 

Cancel the program and disappoint those booked, or rely on Ruth and Murray to learn and deliver the program in short time. 

Ruth did not hesitate, and Murray was keen. So we advised those planning to come off the changes and the training went ahead with one drop out and one new person joining. Ruth was confident with her regained energy and newfound inner strength and confidence, she and Murray could do it.

And so they did! 

Remarkably, and as a tribute to their previous study and practice, the two of them delivered the program and received rave reviews from all those participating. Ruth and Murray’s capacity to accomplish this with such a short lead time, was very heartening to the course participants. Quite amazing really. Happily, the detail in the manual made it possible for them to understand, learn and deliver the material to a high level in a short space of time. The trainees found this very encouraging for their own aspirations to teach.                        

                                                                                           Participants practicing guiding meditation 

We will be presenting Module 2 of this year’s Meditation Teacher Training in November when the focus will be on teaching a Meditation and Contemplation course. I may even be fit to help by then :). Also, the plan is to repeat the basic Meditation Teacher Training next year, as well as delivering another module where the focus will be on Meditation and Guided Imagery - see the website for details.

But now for a bit more context. I was released from hospital the day before this recent training began at our old Yarra Valley Living Centre. So I was still severely debilitated and barely able to get out of bed. Great place for convalescing, and the Brahma Kumaris who are now running the Centre were very kind and attentive to me, but Ruth carried the bulk of my care, along with presenting the program. How amazing was that!

I did manage to put in a cameo appearance on the last day but was still deeply exhausted by the time we made it home. Now, happily, a week later, steady but slow progress is being made and this is the first day without a real down time.

So this recent illness has been very tough, but so heartening to be with Ruth as she comes fully back into herself; in fact, quite clearly she has emerged from her own tough times with a new strength and inner confidence. 

What a delight! 

What a joy! 

The power of love in action…

 




RELATED BLOGS

1.     The Gawler Meditation Teacher training – May and November 2024

2.     Ruth’s Back Pain, Long COVID and Recovery – Part 1 – Back Pain

3.     Ruth’s Back Pain, Long COVID and Recovery – Part 2 Long COVID begins

4.     Ruth’s Back Pain, Long COVID and Recovery – Part 3 – The Nightmare and the Recovery


WEBSITE:  LINK 

 


15 April 2024

Minor Blog Changes

 Greetings all, this is a brief post simply to advise you the host that forwards this blog to you has been changed and so you may notice a small variation in the formatting. Rest assured all else is the same and we are maintaining the same strict care with your email details and confidentiality as before.

A new blog post is just around the corner

With love

Ian

04 March 2024

Mindfulness and Awareness – the differences and why they matter

We hear a lot these days about mindfulness and awareness; especially in meditation circles. Confused about what each one really means? Knowing the difference, and knowing how to apply each of them, can significantly inform our meditation and our lives for the better? So this is a post to clarify the differences along with an appeal for more consistent and clear usage, plus details of the coming Meditation Teacher Training, and Meditation Retreat, but first

     Thought for the Day

The realization of pure Presence and spontaneous luminosity 

May take many forms. 

A simple one is something like this: 

You might be looking at a mountain, 

And you have relaxed into the effortlessness 

Of your own present awareness, 

And then suddenly the mountain is all, you are nothing. 

Your separate-self sense is suddenly and totally gone, 

And there is simply everything that is arising moment to moment. 

You are perfectly aware, perfectly conscious, 

Everything seems completely normal, 

Except you are nowhere to be found. 

You are not on this side of your face looking at the mountain, 

You are the sky, you are the clouds, 

You are everything that is arising moment to moment, 

Very simply, very clearly, 

Just so. 

                   Ken Wilbur

My favourite secular definition of mindfulness comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn and his team: mindfulness is paying attention to our present moment experience, deliberately and non-judgementally. Yet look up Google and the often quoted version is mindfulness is awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally. Mindfulness is awareness??? So are they the same? Now I love Jon and his work, but you would have to say this is a bit confusing…

You do not need to read much meditation related literature – whether academic, secular or traditional, to realise the words mindfulness and awareness are used almost interchangeably. Most of the time, the reader is being asked to apply context and sort out what is being meant when.

So mindfulness first. Mindfulness is a function of the mind. It is something the mind does. 

Wherever you are right now, simply look away from your screen and focus your attention upon the adjacent photo. 

That is concentration – holding your attention deliberately on one thing. 

Now notice how your mind tends to react quite quickly to a chosen object like you are watching, and engage in judgement and commentary. 

What is going on here? Is that guy crazy?… 

I really do not like this, or maybe I do???

So now, continue to hold your attention on the object and drop the judgement and any commentary. That is mindfulness. To be clear, mindfulness is a particular type of concentration. Mindfulness is paying attention to our present moment experience, deliberately and non-judgementally.

If you take a moment, you may be able to notice how in mindfulness, it is almost like your mind goes out to the object, fixes upon it and engages with it. 

Now awareness. Whereas mindfulness involves the mind going out to the world, awareness involves the world coming to the mind. Awareness is passive. 

This is like being at a movie theatre. 

When you first sit in a movie theatre, you are aware you are in the theatre with a screen in front of you. 

Then the movie begins, and it is like your attention goes up and into the movie. 

Your mindfulness is in the movie, and it is easy for it to get “lost” in the movie. 

You forget you are in a theatre watching a movie; it is like you are a part of the movie; lost in its projections. 

You tend to lose much of your awareness when you are lost in the movie. 


Fuller awareness comes when you snap out of it as it were, and remember you are observing a movie.

There is another important difference between mindfulness and awareness. Mindfulness is a function of the mind; therefore it has no knowledge or wisdom; it is something the mind can do – be mindful. Awareness on the other hand can hold both knowledge and wisdom. 

So how does this difference apply to our meditation practice, and our lives?
Almost all meditation techniques benefit from three primary ingredients – mindfulness, awareness and spaciousness.

The mindfulness helps to focus our mind and prevent it from becoming distracted. This helps the mind to settle, to become clear – with all the benefits that will bring.

Awareness is necessary because without it we would not know whether we were paying attention, being mindful, or not.

Spaciousness is also necessary so we do not concentrate too hard and give ourselves a headache, not relax or become so indifferent we go to sleep.

So when we begin our meditation, and commonly at that point our mind is likely to be somewhat wild; we need a good deal of mindfulness and awareness to settle the mind – we need to pay attention. As the mind does settle, we can relax more, and steadily move towards being like an impartial observer; to rest in open awareness like an impartial observer; to rest in a state that will be approaching what the essence of meditation is really like.

In our daily life, mindfulness helps us to hold our attention on whatever we chose. But more, it enables us to be open, curious, in the present moment. Why? Or how? Because we have let go of judgement and commentary and can react to things and people with a fresh, open and curious mind. Maybe even with compassion flowing through.

Awareness is just taking this further. Imagine an old person watching a child play. They know the games, there is a gentle humour about it, they are vigilant in an easy, caring sort of way; life seems good.

Finally, you might like to reflect on what this means for your practice and for your life:


You cannot have mindfulness without awareness, but you can have awareness without mindfulness. 

Enjoy…

If you are interested to delve into this more deeply – and clearly there is more to it and it warrants discussion; two residential opportunities are coming soon where topics like this will be explored and where we can practice related techniques:

MEDITATION TEACHER TRAINING - Mindfulness-based Stillness Meditation

With myself, Ruth and Murray Paterson

TIMES: 11am Monday 6th to 3.30pm Friday 10th May, 2024

VENUE: The Yarra Valley Living Centre, 55 Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria, Australia

FULL DETAILS: Iangawler.com or Sandy@insighthealth.com.au

MEDITATION RETREAT – Meditation in the Forest

Relaxation, mindfulness, stillness and awareness. 

With myself, Ruth and Melissa Borich.

Relax. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Yarra Valley with its big trees, fresh air, beautiful grounds, the Little Yarra River, and sublime meditation sanctuary.

You can simply let go, and let be…

TIMES: Saturday 22nd June starting at 11am to 2pm Friday 28th June (after lunch) 2024

VENUE: The Yarra Valley Living Centre, 55 Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria, Australia

DETAILS and BOOKINGS: Iangawler.com or Sandy@insighthealth.com.au

 


12 February 2024

Why is Donald Trump so popular?

Love him or hate him, there is no doubting Trump is extremely popular with many. Speaking personally, this is something I have struggled to understand. Trump is subject to 91 criminal charges, has consistently displayed erratic behaviour (is that a polite way of putting it?) and most recently has advocated for the Russians to attack more European countries.

Finally, an insight that makes sense, courtesy of Guardian columnist George Monbiot. It has to do with extrinsics and intrinsics. Never before have I posted a blog featuring just one quoted article, however, I found this one so insightful, not just in explaining Trump but many other seemingly weird relationships, that here it is, plus details of the coming meditation retreat and meditation teacher trainings, but first

 
   Thought for the day

        There is someone smarter than any of us 

        And that is all of us.  

            Michael Nolan



Guardian columnist George Monbiot has explored the psychology of Trump’s seeming unbendable appeal to a large section of the American electorate. Below is an edited extract. 

The Guardian depends on the generosity of readers like you to fund their fearless, independent journalism. If you can, please do support them : The Guardian 

Many explanations are proposed for the continued rise of Donald Trump, and the steadfastness of his support, even as the outrages and criminal charges pile up. 

Some of these explanations are powerful. 

But there is one I have seen mentioned nowhere, which could, I believe, be the most important: Trump is king of the extrinsics. 


Some psychologists believe our values tend to cluster around certain poles, described as “intrinsic” and “extrinsic”. 

People with a strong set of intrinsic values are inclined towards empathy, intimacy and self-acceptance. 

They tend to be open to challenge and change, interested in universal rights and equality, and protective of other people and the living world. 


People at the extrinsic end of the spectrum are more attracted to prestige, status, image, fame, power and wealth. 

They are strongly motivated by the prospect of individual reward and praise. 

They are more likely to objectify and exploit other people, to behave rudely and aggressively and to dismiss social and environmental impacts. 

They have little interest in co-operation or community. 

People with a strong set of extrinsic values are more likely to suffer from frustration, dissatisfaction, stress, anxiety, anger and compulsive behaviour. 
Trump exemplifies extrinsic values. From the tower bearing his name in gold letters to his gross overstatements of his wealth; from his endless ranting about “winners” and “losers” to his reported habit of cheating at golf. Trump, perhaps more than any other public figure in recent history, is a walking, talking monument to extrinsic values. 


We are not born with our values. They are shaped by the cues and responses we receive from other people and the prevailing mores of our society. They are also moulded by the political environment we inhabit. If people live under a cruel and grasping political system, they tend to normalise and internalise it. This, in turn, permits an even crueller and more grasping political system to develop. 


If, by contrast, people live in a country in which no one becomes destitute, in which social norms are characterised by kindness, empathy, community and freedom from want and fear, their values are likely to shift towards the intrinsic end. 

This process is known as policy feedback, or the “values ratchet”. 

The values ratchet operates at the societal and the individual level: a strong set of extrinsic values often develops as a result of insecurity and unfulfilled needs. 

These extrinsic values then generate further insecurity and unfulfilled needs.

This goes deeper than politics. 

For well over a century, the US, more than most nations, has worshipped extrinsic values: the American dream is a dream of acquiring wealth, spending it conspicuously and escaping the constraints of other people’s needs and demands. It is accompanied, in politics and in popular culture, by toxic myths about failure and success: wealth is the goal, regardless of how it is acquired. The ubiquity of advertising, the commercialisation of society and the rise of consumerism, alongside the media’s obsession with fame and fashion, reinforce this story. 


We talk about society’s rightward journey. 

We talk about polarisation and division. 

We talk about isolation and the mental health crisis. 

But what underlies these trends is a shift in values. 

This is the cause of many of our dysfunctions; the rest are symptoms. 


When a society valorises status, money, power and dominance, it is bound to generate frustration. It is mathematically impossible for everyone to be number one. The more the economic elites grab, the more everyone else must lose. Someone must be blamed for the ensuing disappointment. 

In a culture that worships winners, it can’t be them. 

It must be those evil people pursuing a kinder world, in which wealth is distributed, no one is forgotten and communities and the living planet are protected. 

Those who have developed a strong set of extrinsic values will vote for the person who represents them, the person who has what they want. Trump. 

And where the US goes, the rest of us follow. 


Trump might well win again – God help us if he does. 


If so, his victory will be due not only to the racial resentment of ageing white men, or to his weaponisation of culture wars or to algorithms and echo chambers, important as these factors are. It will also be the result of values embedded so deeply that we forget they are there. 

COMING EVENTS

Meditation Teacher Training

Module 1: Mindfulness-based Stillness Meditation

11am Monday 6th to 3.30pm Friday 10th May, 2024

Module 2: Contemplation

11am Saturday 2nd to 3.30pm Wednesday 6th November, 2024 (inc Melbourne Cup holiday on the 5th for Victorians)

Full details: Iangawler.com or Sandy@insighthealth.com.au

Meditation Retreat – Meditation in the Forest

Relaxation, mindfulness, stillness and awareness. 

Relax. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Yarra Valley with its big trees, fresh air, beautiful grounds, the Little Yarra River, and sublime meditation sanctuary.

You can simply let go, and let be…

TIMES: Saturday 22nd June starting at 11am to 2pm Friday 28th June (after lunch) 2024

VENUE: The Yarra Valley Living Centre, 55 Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria, Australia

DETAILS and BOOKINGS: Iangawler.com or Sandy@insighthealth.com.au

 

 

02 February 2024

Gawler Meditation Retreat 2024 - Meditation in the Forest

Now this will be fun. And profound. And all those other wonderful things a meditation retreat can be! Meditation in the Forest had been an annual event for many years prior to COVID; now it is back – June 22 to 28. 

Ruth and I will be joined by our wonderful colleague from Queensland, Melissa Borich, and yes, it will be amidst the wonderful trees and natural beauty of the Upper Yarra, at the Yarra Valley Living Centre.

So in this post, the important differences between the experiences of meditation and the outcomes, plus a suggestion to reserve a place soon as accommodation is more limited than it used to be, but first

                Thought for the day

   Meditation provides a direct and reliable means 

   To go beyond the activity of the ordinary thinking mind

   And enter into a direct experience of our still mind.

   By doing so, we come to know

   The truth of who we really are; 

   What is in our heart’s essence.

                                       Ian Gawler

Consider this… 

What is it that helps you to meditate regularly? 

Is it in hope of a particular outcome? Resilience, relaxation, clarity of mind, increased vitality, performance, healing, wellbeing, awareness… All very useful. All very reliable meditation outcomes.

Or do you meditate regularly because you like; dare I say, even love the practice itself? Deep, natural peace. The bliss. The clarity. The inner contentment. What a relief! What a joy! 

Or is it?
 So many I speak with are not entirely satisfied with the experience of their practice. 

For some, meditation feels more like a chore; something I “have to do”; another thing to squeeze into a busy day. 

Something that gets bumped to tomorrow when the pressure ramps up. 

And that is just when you need it most.

Others make the effort to meditate in hope their health, their life will get better. 

And often it does. 

But then when the immediate outcome has been accomplished, or conversely, when they start to feel as if their desired outcome seems unattainable, the meditation stops.

Meditation helps in so many ways, yet if we do not enjoy doing it, we are highly likely to lapse. 

So how to enhance the experience of the practice itself?

Ever wondered about what really motivates many people to go on a meditation retreat? 

It is the experience! 

A meditation retreat can provide the environment, the leadership, the like-minded company, and most importantly, the time and space to deepen your experience of meditation. 

And then that experience can inform and inspire our ongoing practice. 

It can bring the joy to the practice!


So maybe it is time, time to take some time out, to make the time, create the circumstances, go to a suitable place with suitable people, and meditate a little more deeply. 

On retreat you can relax. Let go. Allow the dust to settle. Allow daily concerns to drop by the way. Allow yourself to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind and enter into the deeper experiences of meditation.

“I felt as if a hood had been taken off my head and I saw, really saw for the first time in my life. 

“As all this began, I could feel the anticipation that something extraordinary was unfolding, yet my fear was also mounting. Perhaps because I have been quite diligent with my meditation practice these last 3 years, perhaps because so often it has been difficult, perhaps because I did persevere these last few years because I really wanted the outcomes, perhaps because of all this, now I was determined to stay with the fear, stay with the experience.

“As I did so, it was as if my fear dissolved into light. At first it was massive swirls of light, then just all-consuming light. It was as if the light was all through me. I was the light and the light was me. 

“ It is almost impossible to describe the feeling adequately. It was rapturous. More; I was ecstatic, and the feeling lasted for days”.

The fact is that these experiences are real. 

Yet there is a bit of a trick to all this. 

The secret is to focus on the process, not the outcome. 

If the experience becomes another outcome to seek, then it may prove very elusive. 

The wise thing to do is to enter into an environment where one can have the confidence, support and guidance to let go. 

Completely. Let go. Relax. Let go. Deeply. Let go. 

Then the experience comes. 

And once it does, that experience will be ever with you. Then the experience will be something you can come back to. Then you will be keen to meditate for the sake of the meditation itself; for the experience, not just the outcome.

Meditation in the Forest, 11am Saturday 22nd to 2pm Friday 28th June, 2024 

Yarra Valley Living Centre, 55 Rayner Crt Yarra Junction, Vic 3797

Drs Ian and Ruth Gawler, with Melissa Borich

Details and Bookings LINK HERE

25 January 2024

The Gawler Meditation Teacher Training – May and November 2024

Have you ever considered becoming a teacher of meditation? Some make a career out of it; many teach part-time within their communities, workplaces, schools; there are many possibilities…

Having led my first meditation teacher training program way back in 1988, it is a real delight to be able to offer 2 programs in 2024. Ruth and I love teaching teachers and we will be joined by Murray Paterson who has a wealth of experience in adult education and meditation practice and teaching.

These Gawler meditation teacher trainings will be personalised, interactive and fun. They will be informed by ancient wisdom, our collective experiences, and the best of modern research. Maybe it is time to join us?, but first

Thought for the day

Learning to meditate is the greatest gift 

You can give yourself or another in this life.

For it is only through meditation 

That we can undertake the journey

To discover our true nature,

And so find the stability and confidence 

We will need to live, and to die, well.

We are calling these the Gawler meditation teacher trainings. There are two modules. Each stands independently, but ideally you would join both as they do build on and complement each other. Completing both trainings does meet the 80 hour learning requirement that is an essential pre-requisite for joining Meditation Australia. Our courses are accredited by Meditation Australia for this purpose. 

Each module is fully residential. Sure, many people do like to learn things online and often do so successfully, but this is meditation. It is best learnt directly, in person. Also, by being residential there is a huge bonus. You leave your normal life behind for a few days and in doing so, you can concentrate fully on the program, and importantly, you will have some time to yourself…



Have you ever been on a holiday where it was fun, yet you returned and a few days later it was all over; almost forgotten? Sure, the schedules are quite full for the trainings, but we have factored in some free time for self-reflection, walking amongst the beautiful – and inspiring – grounds of the Yarra Valley Living Centre; and there are the dual possibilities of time to talk with like-minded people, and some time for simply being quiet. It will be worth the effort to make the time, to travel and to attend in person. Come back from this and life will be different, and you will have a skill you can use into the future…

Meditation Teacher Training – Module 1: Mindfulness-based Stillness Meditation

11am Monday 6th to 3.30pm Friday 10th May, 2024

The Mindfulness-based Stillness Meditation module will cover all the essentials of how to present a meditation course in-person or online. 

(Yes we do help you with how to present online as we recognise so many people are requesting this for actual meditation programs). 

A comprehensive approach to meditation that covers preparation, relaxation, concentration and mindfulness plus stillness. 

An approach to meditation that goes to the very essence… 

Theory, delivery, session structures, promotion, finances, the special challenges and needs of online courses, and more…

Developed for those new to teaching meditation, and for those wanting to go further.

Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2: Contemplation

11am Saturday 2nd to 3.30pm Wednesday 6th November, 2024 

(inc Melbourne Cup holiday on the 5th for Victorians)

So many people in so many domains recommend the benefits of contemplation. Yet who is teaching how to do it? Very few it seems… This contemplation training will position you to be able to offer your community something of great value – a reliable way to practice contemplation. This training is also manual based and will enable you to deliver a much-needed program.

Of great personal value, this training is suitable for those new to teaching meditation, and for those wanting to go further. 

Highly experiential, it will provide a review of the first module that will have given more attention to the basics of how to develop, manage and deliver a meditation program or course. 

Here we will give some attention to theory, research, delivery, session structures, promotion, finances, the special challenges of online courses, but the emphasis will be on experiencing the key practices of contemplation, and working on how to best present a course focussing upon contemplation.

As a feature, ongoing mentorship can be considered for people completing these trainings.

Additional information and Booking details are available via this link

How to apply for either or both meditation teacher trainings:

1.     The first step is to contact our Retreat Manager, Sandy Clinton and express your interest via sandy@insighthealth.com.au or call 0432 240 427. 

Sandy will reply with more program details and forward our Application Form. 

2.     Once Sandy has received your completed application, she will arrange a short phone conversation to clarify what the trainings offer, discuss your needs, answer any questions and ensure the program is suitable for you. 

3.     Once accepted for the training(s), you pay a deposit or full fee to reserve your place.

4.     Full payment is due 3 weeks prior to the commencement of your training.


ALSO – ADVANCED NOTICE for MEDITATION in the FOREST! June 2024

It is back! After COVID, lock downs, so many ups and downs… 

Join us for the very popular Meditation in the Forest 7 day meditation retreat. 

Open to and suitable for both those newer to meditation, and those more experienced. 

Relaxation, mindfulness, stillness and awareness. 

Ruth and I will be joined by the Melissa Borich who brings all her experience in personal practice and teaching yoga and meditation for many years. 

For your part? 

Simply make the time and come along…

Relax. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Yarra Valley with its big trees, fresh air, beautiful grounds, the Little Yarra River, and sublime meditation sanctuary.

You can simply let go, and let be…

TIMES: Saturday 22nd June starting at 11am to 2pm Friday 28th June (after lunch) 2024

VENUE: The Yarra Valley Living Centre, 55 Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria, Australia

DETAILS and BOOKINGS: Will be posted on the website soon, and will be featured in the next blog… 

 


10 January 2024

Ruth’s Back Pain, Long COVID and Recovery. Part 3 – The Nightmare and the Recovery

In this final episode, what Ruth did to recovery, plus bookings are now open for the Meditation Teacher Trainings in June and November - details below.

At the end of 2022, Ruth was beginning to recover from 6 tough months with Long COVID. However, she was still beset by severe back pain and so, feeling somewhat generally improved, opted for surgery. Happily, the lumbar laminectomy was successful, but following the anaesthetic, her long COVID was re-ignited. It was now worse than ever. 

So in this final post: what happened, what Ruth tried to overcome the Long COVID and some speculation around the nature of this tough disease; but first

Thought for the day

   Every challenge we encounter 

   Is an opportunity to learn to stand on our own again, 

   Grounded and immoveable by any external force, 

   Unperturbed by inner grasping or turmoil. 

   This is the final truth of being human, 

   Even if we cannot see it yet.


             Cristina Moon


Ruth experienced 18 months of severe back pain that overlapped with 15 months of severe Long COVID whose symptoms began post-vaccination. Now recovered from both, here is her timeline with a short s summary of the experiences:

2021

June: Back injury while sea kayaking. Extreme left lower back pain

August 21: First COVID vaccination – Pfizer

September 15: Second COVID vaccination – Pfizer

2022

January 11: Third COVID vaccination – Moderna

January 18: Surge of overwhelming anxiety felt (detailed in Part 2) that was a prelude to increasing anxiety, generalised fear, insomnia, lack of appetite and weight loss.

June 15: COVID infection, coughing but relatively uneventful recovery in around 9 days.

June 29: First incident of dysautonomia with physical collapse, low blood pressure and low heart rate.

July 4: Second incident of dysautonomia with collapse, low blood pressure and low heart rate. Hospitalisation; thorough investigations all showing normal results.

July 14 and 15: Third incident of dysautonomia with collapse, low blood pressure and heart rate. More detailed investigations including specialist immunology; again all showing normal results.

July 17: The Long COVID symptoms became continuous/chronic. 

By now the dysautonomia was continuous, day and night, with marked anxiety, fluctuating abnormally fast or slow heart rate, anxiety with jaw chattering, excessive sweating, extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, trouble swallowing, nausea, trembling and weight loss (From 58 to 51kg), profound insomnia, headaches and vision problems. Ghastly physical sensations resulting in extreme physical tension.

At the same time - post-COVID - my mind was severely affected with what was diagnosed as “Organic Brain Syndrome” due to inflammation of the brain. This manifested as debilitating and severely restricted lack of concentration, intolerance to bright light, having marked cognitive decline and amazingly limited ability to make decisions. Even when I did come to a decision, I would then be confused and vacillate from moment to moment.

November and December: The Long COVID symptoms began to lift, exposing the severity of the ongoing back pain. Given my health was now improving, and reasoning the chronic pain may be holding me back from full recovery, I sought out another surgeon. Upon more investigations he indicated surgery had a 50/50 prospect of success, and I then got another neurosurgical opinion which agreed. So with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, I made plans to go ahead with the surgery.

2023

January 5:  Left lumbar laminectomy

The surgery was uneventful (although a diagnostic epidural in the lead up had created its own ongoing complications) and the back pain diminished. However, post surgically, the Long COVID flared up badly and became much worse than it had been beforehand.

Over the next 6 months, the Long COVID symptoms remained extreme and continuous despite me trying many modalities and receiving help from a remarkable group of family, friends and health professionals.

June: Recovery begins

Almost one year after it started, I began to have some “good days”; days when the symptoms were markedly lessened. I called these “zombie” days because although they were an improvement, I felt like a stunned mullet. But this was better than the state of panic on the bad days. But then it would be devastating when the symptoms returned as severely as ever the next day. For months there was this remarkable alternating pattern of one good day, one bad day, followed by one good day, one bad day, and so on… and on. This rollercoaster and unexplained pattern went on for months, was quite dispiriting and led to some periods of feeling completely hopeless.

Mid September: Recovery

It is a strange and wonderful feeling after having been so sick for so long, to wake up one day and realise you really are getting better! 

It felt like a miracle, but actually was probably the result of a combination of many things finally coming together: time, and the many things I had tried and the many people who had helped me. 

My recover progressed rapidly and within 2 weeks I was dramatically improved, with a new lease on life. 

It surprised me as much as others! And I decided I would never have an mRNA vaccine again.

What Ruth did

From Ian again:

This blog has nothing to do with medical advice. Yes, Ruth is a doctor, but this is an account of how she navigated a very tough health issue in her own personal way. There is a need to understand her physical and mental condition was both extreme and persistent. As a result, she consulted many experts in their fields, investigated as much as possible on the internet and read widely and took account of advice from her medical and allied health professional friends (some of whom were suffering similar issues). 

Because so little is known of this condition, Ruth has decided to share the full range of what she tried, recognising that hers is clearly one case and does not provide the basis for anyone else’s decision making. If you are dealing with this or a similar tough health condition, it is essential to seek out the best advice you can, weigh it up, then make, and own your own decisions. 

What follows are Ruth’s words:

1.     Love and practical support

i)               From caring people 

Especially Ian and the Brahma Kumaris (the group that has been handed the Yarra Valley Living Centre following the collapse of Gawler Foundation). I had unreserved support and residential care from Morni, Caroline, Gopi, Kalvinder and Pamela. Genuine unconditional love. Sandy Clinton’s dedicated practical support and promise to see me through whatever happened.

Babysitting, cooking and driving from my sons Saul and Misha, brother David and his wife Carolyn; sister-in-law Susie and husband Ross, plus friends Naomi Travers, Vyv Mishra, Kate Grosser, Sally Browne, Loretto Hosking, Rabbi Laibl Wolfe, and Ilan Watchivka. 

I could not drive or shop or cook for over a year.

ii)              Health Professionals 

Dr Hilda Jessop, Prof Ian Brighthope, Dr Vicki Kotsirilos, Dr Rachel Darken, Dr Danielle Villiunus, Siegfried Gutbrod, Dr Kerryn Phelps, Mr David De La Harpe, Dr Peter McArdle to name the main ones.

iii)             Allowing and asking for help.

Learning to let people care for me, accepting and asking for assistance. Being more honest and open about everything.  Letting go of unnecessary inhibitions.

2)    Recognising the crucial role of my mind

There were many times when I felt so bad, so desperate, I was wishing I would get cancer and be able to die in a hospice. I had even put my name down at an Aged Care facility after a year, because I believed I would not recover and it was too much for Ian to care for me for the rest of my life. 

Having worked in Mindbody Medicine for so many years, the extreme nature of these thoughts led me into a deeper realisation of the key role my mind played in whether I would recover or not; or end my life. 

This realisation and determination to get through the illness forced me to do the practices of breathing exercises and Tibetan Buddhist prayers and visualisation. 

This was all very challenging as I had no concentration to speak of; but I did my best to meditate daily for as long as I could manage, and I did make a conscious decision to live for my family. 

I was extremely dysfunctional and needed to use various medications to get through the days and to sleep at night (although even then, my sleep was very erratic).

3)    Healthy diet and exercise

I ate, and still do, a (mostly) organic, whole food, plant-based diet with regular eggs and fish once a week. I took 2-3 vegetable juices (bottled- Biotta) daily over the first 6 months, reducing down over time. No alcohol for over a year. Made myself walk for 30 mins a day no matter what. Feet on the grass for grounding.

4)    Gut dysbiosis and constipation treatment

I tried multiple therapies for the dysbiosis that had developed early on and persisted, (now recovered) including Trimethoprim, Doxycycline and at a different time Rifaximin. Probiotics, especially Lactobacillus reuteri.

Constipation was a consistent issue so I did many things to manage that including using suppositories and enemas. All my life I have had an irritable bowel, well managed with diet and medications.

5)    Supplements

Again, I experimented with a wide range of supplements, took some for a short period, while I continue to take others. I am deliberately not detailing doses or duration of taking these, as this varied and was dependent on other factors.

In no particular order, and each person needs to make their own decisions:

High dose Vit C orally (already mentioned), High dose Vit B1 and B3, Tressos B, Vitamin D, N Acetyl Cysteine, CoQ10, Curcubrain, Flaxseed oil, Nattokinanse, Quercetin, Bromelains, Dandelion root tea, Magnesium, Essiac tea and GABA.

6)    The FLCCC Protocol for Long COVID

I experimented with some of this including Prednisone, High dose Vit C, Fluvoxamine and Ivermectin.

7)    Medications

Included at different times, in various doses: Seroquel, Temazepam, Diazepam, Lexapro, Ducolax, Movicol, Medicinal cannabis, Melatonin, low dose asprin and Mirtazepine.

8)    Additional Therapies and spiritual support

All of these seemed to help to some degree; very hard to quantify:

Hyperbaric Oxygen – I had 40 treatments of 1.5 hours duration each,

Acupuncture – conventional and by Laser, Aerobic exercise, Shiatsu, Massage, Reflexology, Reiki, Yoga with my legs up the wall daily for 10 – 20 mins to increase intra-cranial perfusion. Journaling, regular Counselling, Prayer by me and for me, Healing Circles via Allevi8 and BKs. 

What caused all this?

Ian writing again:

Clearly, there is no consensus on what causes Long COVID, but what is clear is Ruth had been chronically healthy for decades, yet immediately after her third COVID vaccine she developed a raft of debilitating symptoms. These symptoms were aggravated and heightened shortly after she went through infection with COVID. She met no one who had long COVID who was unvaccinated, contrary to what is written in articles.

My own sense is that Ruth had an initial effect from the vaccine, and that sensitised her to the COVID virus, it was as if the vaccine generated an autoimmune response that affected both her body, brain and therefore her mind.

Some are calling Long COVID “Long Spike Disease” as the spike proteins have been implicated. 

If you are interested, here is a link to a recent research paper on this: 

Theoharides TC. Could SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein Be Responsible for Long-COVID Syndrome? 

Mol Neurobiol. 2022 Mar;59(3):1850-1861.

Clearly more good independent research is needed, and it is worth noting that after a slow start, this line of research is gathering momentum. 


MEDITATION TEACHER TRAINING in 2024

With Ian and Ruth Gawler, supported by Murray Paterson and Sandy Clinton

Aspiring to teach meditation? Or keen to expand and deepen your skills?

Are you applying for registration with Meditation Australia and need an approved course?

Ian and Ruth Gawler have been teaching teachers of meditation for decades.

Murray Paterson is a long-term meditator and leader in corporate and adult education.

The two trainings for 2024 will both be manual based, be sound in theory and be highly experiential. There will be many practice sessions where you will be encouraged to experiment with your delivery style and to hone it. 

You will be guided and supported to develop confidence and competency.

All programs will be in-person only, fully residential, at the Yarra Valley Living Centre.


Meditation Teacher Training – Part 1: Mindfulness-based Stillness Meditation

Monday 6th to Friday 10th May, 2024

This is a basic yet thorough training in how to present a meditation course, whether in-person or online.

A comprehensive approach to meditation that covers preparation, relaxation, concentration and mindfulness plus stillness. An approach to meditation that goes to the very essence…

Theory, delivery, session structures, promotion, finances, the special challenges and needs of online courses, and more…

Developed for those new to teaching meditation, and for those wanting to go further.

Meditation Teacher Training – Part 2: Contemplation

Saturday 2nd to Wednesday 6th November, 2024 (including Melbourne Cup holiday for Victorians)

So many people in so many domains recommend the benefits of contemplation.

Yet who is teaching how to do it? Very few it seems…

This training will position you to be able to offer your community something of great value – a reliable way to practice contemplation. This training is also manual based and will enable you to deliver a much-needed program.

Of great personal value, this training is also suitable for those new to teaching meditation, and for those wanting to go further. It too will be highly experiential, as well as delving into theory, delivery, session structures, promotion, finances, the special challenges and needs of online courses, and more.

Criteria to join these Meditation Teacher Trainings

Both trainings are broad. They are both specifically designed to be accessible and valuable to beginners and the more experienced teachers. In past trainings, this mix of participants has made for a very engaging cohort.

It is recommended applicants have at least 2 years of regular meditation practice and some experience with speaking in public. All applicants will be requested to discuss the suitability of the trainings for their needs and situation with our training manager.

FOR DETAILS AND BOOKINGS: CLICK HERE





02 January 2024

Ruth’s Back Pain, Long COVID and Recovery. Part 2 – Long COVID begins

Many people endure back pain; for some it is severe back pain. As Ruth explained in the previous post, her experience was quite severe - as it has been for many others - but for Ruth, the back pain was then overlaid with Long COVID. 

While the illness nearly did kill her, she is now recovered and is keen to continue her story to add to the record and open more enquiry around this emerging and perplexing condition called Long COVID. 

Also, read on below for outlines of the meditation retreat and meditation teacher trainings Ian and Ruth will present in 2024, but first

   Thought for the day

       I am being driven forward


       Into an unknown land.


      The pass grows steeper,


      The air colder and sharper.


      A wind from my unknown goal


      Stirs the strings of expectation.

      Still the question:
Shall I ever get there?


      There where life resounds,


      A clear pure note


      In the silence.


                     Dag Hammarskj√∂ld

Ruth continues to recount her story:

Having COVID itself was relatively minor for me. In June 2022, six months prior to the successful back surgery, I contracted a moderate COVID 19 infection which seemed straight forward enough at the time; a flu-like illness that lasted 9 days with quite a bit of coughing. Although debilitated by what had been by then a year of excruciating back pain, I was not worried by COVID and believed I would recover fully. I had been vaccinated three times as recommended and indeed, I recovered uneventfully. 

However, trouble was brewing. 

Since my third booster vaccination back in January 2022, things had been changing significantly. 

Visceral anxiety had begun to fill my days and this was really odd; I had been a daily meditator for decades. I was often described as a “very calm person”. 

Yet at the same time, I was becoming more and more fearful; abnormally fearful of just about everything. 

Quite soon, insomnia emerged as another major issue; getting to sleep became harder and harder.

Self-doubt and loss of faith was also on the rise; it was hard for me to know how many of these difficulties were coming from living the past year with major, chronic pain, the 14 acre property we lived on needing regular attention, or how much it could be attributed to my sensitive nature and all the upheavals associated with the COVID lockdowns?

At first, I did not imagine the vaccinations had contributed to all this, even though the rise in anxiety and sleep disorders clearly started straight after that third vaccination. Also, about a week after that third and most recent vaccination in January 2022, I had woken up at 3am with an almost over-whelming surge of anxiety in my stomach, and the urge to empty my bowels. Very odd, I thought at the time... 

But there was a lot more to come. Two weeks after recovering from the actual COVID infection, Ian and I were sharing a delightful meal together at a restaurant near Gundagai - Nimbo Fork Lodge, a sort of half-way stop over to Sydney. We ate the same food and really appreciated it; delicious! We were enjoying ourselves on the first evening after leaving home on one of our road trips. Ian was fine; but suddenly, I was not. 

A very strong wave surged over me with tingling sensations racing through my head and down into my hands, leaving me feeling like I would faint. 

It was so dramatic, I actually wondered if I had been poisoned, and my mind flashed to images of Russian dissidents being done away with. 

Ian watched on as I could do nothing else but slide to the restaurant floor. 

As I lay prone in the middle of the restaurant, and with his eyes wide in disbelief Ian asked 

"How are you feeling? You have gone as white as a sheet”. 

I replied, “I feel like someone has injected me intravenously with a bolus of atropine”.

I asked, “What was that drug they gave Putin’s competition, that nerve drug?” 

My whole body was now alive with pins and needles and I was very lightheaded. All very suddenly. 

Being a doctor, my mind soon turned to more logical explanations… maybe a Transient Ischaemic Attack (mini-stroke) I thought, as I lay on the floor. Maybe I had been so stressed by a year of severe backpain and now this travel, that I had simply overdone it? But then I had felt OK all day! My mind continued to search for an explanation.

Not only was I fully conscious this whole time but I could think and communicate, even problem-solve. 

I was trying to understand why my cardiovascular system was responding so abnormally. 

My heart rate was very low, around 50 beats per minute and yet my Blood Pressure was also very low. 

This was really odd. 

For a healthy person, if your blood pressure drops, your heart rate will speed up to compensate. 

My heart was doing the opposite; I had low blood pressure and a low heart rate. Very odd.

With me collapsed on their floor, naturally the restaurant staff were quite concerned. Also, not surprisingly, all the customers at their tables in the small restaurant were now staring at me. Being in a remote area, the manager wanted to call the air ambulance, but I said I was a doctor and I would prefer to remain on the floor and see if I recovered.  Ian reassured them, and eventually, after about half an hour, the sensations and light-headedness diminished. Slowly I sat up and then scrambled back on to my chair. We skipped dessert!

Returning to our accommodation, it took me another 4 hours to recover fully; then I slept uneventfully. The next day I was feeling fine with no trace of the drama that had occurred the night before. Weird…

So on we continued with our journey to Sydney; then ten days later it started again. This time it was mid-morning when I felt the light-headedness coming on. More slowly this time, but with the same tingling sensations. Fearfully, I told Ian, “It’s happening again”. 

We consulted with a medical specialist friend and on his advice, high-tailed it to Accident and Emergency. The rest of the day was spent with me on a hospital trolley bed in one of those open-at-the-back hospital gowns while I was examined periodically, and a huge battery of tests were performed; all of which came back normal. 

Come the evening, a diagnosis: “Post-Covid Syncope”.  I was told they knew very little about it, but to rest and drink lots of fluids. Not particularly re-assuring, but later in the evening I had recovered well enough to leave the hospital. Next day, feeling fine again!

We had bookings to honour; people were expecting us, and we did not want to let the team down, so we kept going with our “Travelling Roadshow” (as we called our multi-city tour of meditation workshops and organisational meetings for our Buddhist Community - Rigpa).

A week later we were in Adelaide where I was in the front row listening to Ian giving an evening talk on meditation. 

Feeling happy to be sitting with two long-term cancer survivors who had come to our groups many years before, my mood changed quickly when the same symptoms recurred yet again. 

Quite quickly, I realised I could no longer remain upright on my chair and eased myself slowly onto the floor, trying not to disturb the rest of the audience. 

Ian could see I was basically OK and kept talking as if nothing was happening.

This time my mind quickly began to wonder if I had something major going on, like an endocrine tumour, a major brain problem, or something even worse. In a helpful synchronicity, a kind friend who had seen me collapse and who had joined in comforting and supporting me, offered me his own Endocrinology appointment for the next day. 

Again, the symptoms improved quite quickly and then cleared within four hours. However, next day I did meet with the Endocrinologist; a wonderful old-style physician who asked me questions and examined me thoroughly. His conclusion? 

“I think it’s probably one of those Post-COVID syndromes”. He suggested a series of blood tests for when we returned to Melbourne, “to exclude any other rare causes”. This I did, but again, everything measured – and that was a lot - came back normal. Reassuring in one way, but still leaving a mystery unsolved.

We had one more commitment to fulfill, so with some trepidation, next we flew to Brisbane. By now what had started out as an episodic condition was becoming chronic. I was feeling worse and worse. 

The dysautonomia was becoming constant – the low heart rate accompanied by low blood pressure, and with this came feelings of fainting, nausea, a severe disinterest in food and ghastly sensations throughout my body. 

At the same time, sleep was becoming more and more elusive.

I was exhausted yet “wired”, I was unable to relax physically or mentally, and perhaps worst of all, I could not meditate. 

I felt so bad, I said to Ian “I feel like I am dying”. 

We just made it home, and I knew I would not be able to travel again until I had recovered.

So now, I was doing my best to manage my ongoing continuous and debilitating back pain, while feeling increasingly miserable with this little recognised or understood syndrome more recently described as Long COVID. 

And unhappily, it was about to get even worse…

In the next and final episode, Ruth recounts her darkest days with Long COVID, describes the many things she attempted in her efforts to recover, and then what finally made the difference, leading her back to good health.

RELATED BLOG

Ruth's Story Part 1 - Back Pain

ADVANCE NOTICE – save the dates; full details including bookings available soon… 

Meditation Teacher Training in 2024


With Ian and Ruth Gawler

supported by Murray Paterson and Sandy Clinton

                     Aspiring to teach meditation? 

        Or keen to expand and deepen your skills?

Are you applying for registration with Meditation Australia and need an approved course?


Ian and Ruth Gawler have been teaching teachers of meditation for decades.

The two trainings for 2024 will both be manual based, be sound in theory and be highly experiential. 

There will be many practice sessions where you will be encouraged to experiment with your delivery style and to hone it. 

You will be guided and supported to develop confidence and competency.

All programs will be in-person only, fully residential, at the Yarra Valley Living Centre.


WHY IN PERSON ONLY? 

WHY NOT ONLINE???

Would you trust a surgeon to operate on your brain that had only trained online?

Enough said...




Meditation Teacher Training – Part 1: Mindfulness-based Stillness Meditation

Monday 6th to Friday 10th May, 2024

This is a basic yet thorough training in how to present a meditation course, whether in-person or online.

A comprehensive approach to meditation that covers preparation, relaxation, concentration and mindfulness plus stillness. An approach to meditation that goes to the very essence…

Theory, delivery, session structures, promotion, finances, the special challenges and needs of online courses, and more…

Developed for those new to teaching meditation, and for those wanting to go further.

Meditation Teacher Training – Part 2: Contemplation

Saturday 2nd to Wednesday 6th November, 2024 

- including Melbourne Cup holiday for Victorians

So many people in so many domains recommend the benefits of contemplation.

Yet who is teaching how to do it? Very few it seems…

This training will position you to be able to offer your community something of great value – a reliable way to practice contemplation. This training is also manual based and will enable you to deliver a much-needed program.

Of great personal value, this training is also suitable for those new to teaching meditation, and for those wanting to go further. It too will be highly experiential, as well as delving into theory, delivery, session structures, promotion, finances, the special challenges and needs of online courses, and more. 

Criteria to join these Meditation Teacher Trainings

Both trainings are broad. They are both specifically designed to be accessible and valuable to beginners and the more experienced teachers. In past trainings, this mix of participants has made for a very engaging cohort.

It is recommended applicants need at least 2 years of regular meditation practice and some experience with speaking in public. All applicants will be requested to discuss the suitability of the trainings for their needs and situation with our training manager.

MEDITATION IN THE FOREST – 7 day Meditation Retreat

Saturday 22nd to Friday 28th June, 2024

With Ian and Ruth Gawler

supported by Melissa Borich and Sandy Clinton

It is back! 

After COVID, lock downs, so many ups and downs, join us for this 7-day retreat.

Relax.     Let go. 

Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Yarra Valley. 

Be cared for with delicious plant-based food and plenty of free time.

Be reminded of the theory and practice around meditation as Ian teaches in depth on mindfulness, awareness and stillness. Experience the inherent joy and love that flows from the depths of meditation; those depths that can be reliably reached when we take time out, let go of day-to-day activity, and rest in deep, natural peace.

 

FULL DETAILS COMING SOON – SAVE THE DATES