Friday, September 20, 2013

Meet Ian Gawler

Meet Ian Gawler
Dr Ian Gawler is a long-term cancer survivor, mind-body medicine pioneer, and articulate advocate for the merits of meditation.
Meditation, in some form, has long been part of man’s development. The practice of quiet reflection and stilling the mind traverses religion, culture and gender as a means to connect with ourselves in the most intimate sense possible. In Australia there is perhaps no one who can speak about the benefits of meditation more eloquently, sincerely and personally than Dr Ian Gawler.
Is meditation essential to you? Meditation was a mainstay for me in adjusting to having a leg amputated when I was 24. It helped me to recover from a very difficult cancer. It has given me the strength and clarity to work for three decades supporting people faced with life-threatening illnesses. Perhaps most importantly, however, meditation has provided me with a path of coming to know myself better and to know something of the real essence of life itself. Meditation brings me a deep sense of joy and contentment.
What makes a good spiritual teacher? Authenticity. A good teacher will have had their own authentic teachers, will be able to impart authentic teachings, and will embody those teachings in an authentic way.
Can meditation be self-taught? This is possible, where we have access to high quality books, CDs, DVDs, and online, downloadable programs like Mind-Body Mastery ( A great feature of the latter is they can include email and SMS reminders to encourage us to practise.
How is your inner practice expressed in your outer life? One of the best measures of the effectiveness of your meditation is feedback from friends. When they say you are good to be around, the practice is probably going OK! What I notice for myself is a growing commitment to be as helpful to as many people as possible. This is not a grandiose thing; it is just a natural flow on from the meditation.
How do meditators and non-meditators differ? People who meditate regularly and effectively tend to be really nice to be around. They are more at peace. Their egos don’t get in the way so much. They are calm and clear, understand things quickly and well, and make good decisions and follow them through. Meditators tend to laugh and smile a lot – a smile that comes from a place of inner peace and contentment.
Do you have a goal in meditation? Some people say that meditation should be without a goal. If you are on the verge of enlightenment that may well be true. But the goals for me are firstly to become a better person, and secondly to move closer towards enlightenment.
Do you believe that all forms of meditation lead to the same place? The end point of meditation can be likened to climbing a mountain. You can approach from the East or West, take the slow route or the express helicopter. However you get to the top, the view is the same. So it is with meditation techniques: ultimately they lead to the same peak experience – the truth of who we really are. The challenge is to find the most useful and personally relevant technique.
What’s your advice for people who have never meditated? Meditation is disarmingly simple to learn and apply, and has played a major part in transforming the health and lives of many. There are currently over 7,000 scientific studies published in the medical and scientific literature attesting to meditation’s capacity to positively affect physical and psychological health and wellbeing. As a meditator, I know that meditation transforms life, but that doesn’t mean it makes it easier - developing self-awareness creates new challenges. In my experience, the first thing to aim for in meditation is mental stability. Learning to relax the body and mind and reconnecting with your own natural inner peace will do this. Then it is easier to investigate the new challenges in a way that is manageable and satisfying. A good sense of humour also helps!
Who do you admire and why? I admire my main teacher, Sogyal Rinpoche, for his authenticity, wisdom, clarity, and for his patience with me. I admire my wife Ruth for her unceasing humanity, for teaching me to love more fully, and for her patience with me. I admire all the people I have worked with who have faced huge upheavals in their lives and transformed them, plus colleagues, and the detractors who provoke me into attempting to find better ways to explain what I value and to reach more people.
What makes you laugh? Just about everything. I have to be careful sometimes.
Is longevity important to you? Woody Allen said he did not want to achieve immortality through his work; he wanted to achieve it through not dying.
Have you had to fight the oncology establishment for recognition of alternative treatments? Is fight the right word? Maybe. But let us be very clear that what I do is not ‘alternative’. My area of interest is best described as Lifestyle Medicine, and includes nutrition, exercise, emotional and mental health, as well as meditation. Anyone with cancer needs help to consider their lifestyle and gain the benefits therapeutic lifestyle change can bring. It has been wonderful to see meditation go from being some little-known, flaky technique in the Eighties, to achieving mainstream acceptance. GPs have led the way medically, embracing the groundswell of support for a more integrated way of managing health. However, in too many areas of oncology, things have moved very slowly.
Does meditation practice rate as a preventive medicine? Evidence is clear that meditation is highly protective against future illness. It does this by helping us to think clearly and make good health choices, and also by helping us to regain an inner, physiological balance that means the body is ideally poised to maintain good health.
Yours is an amazing story of triumph, hard work and clarity of purpose. Has having cancer has formed your life direction? Yes - and because I continue to work in the field that I do, I am constructively and happily reminded of it constantly.
Can you picture where you would like to be in 30 years? In 30 years I will be 92. I picture myself in a large vegetable garden, throwing tomatoes at visitors.

Source : Nature and Health



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