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. 


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