Quite simply, the regular practice of meditation can transform your life for the better!Ian Gawler
You may be taking up meditation to manage stress or to heal physically or mentally, to find more peace and balance in your life, to be more efficient at work or to perform better at sport, or to be a nicer person. Around 7,000 research articles confirm that all these outcomes can follow with the regular practice of meditation. It makes good sense to begin meditation with any of these intentions in mind.
While meditation has a myriad of well-proven benefits for our health, our healing and our wellbeing, the real gift of meditation is that it helps us to get to know ourselves better. And in doing so, meditation brings a deep confidence and contentment. A sense that we are fundamentally okay, that life makes sense. And what we are left with is a natural good humour and an easy smile; the essence of meditation.
WHAT IAN GAWLER RECOMMENDS
There are many different ways to learn and to practise meditation. Ian Gawler has been one of the pioneers who have brought meditation to prominence in the western world. Since beginning to teach meditation in 1981, through his public lectures and workshops, groups and retreats, Ian has introduced meditation directly to over 100,000 people. Having excellent teachers himself, Ian has written 5 bestselling books specifically on the subject.
Mindfulness into Stillness Meditation
Based on all this experience, the main method of meditation Ian teaches is what he calls Mindfulness into Stillness meditation. This is an ideal method for everyone interested in health, healing and wellbeing.
If you are a beginner, or if you are interested to learn to meditate using Ian’s approach, Mindfulness into Stillness meditation is where he recommends you start. Full details are in Ian’s latest book on meditation, Blue Sky Mind.
Ian has developed this method based on what he has learnt from his teachers – the main ones being Dr Ainslie Meares, the true pioneer of therapeutic meditation in the western medical world and author of Relief Without Drugs in 1967; along with the great Tibetan, Sogyal Rinpoche – the author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying – from his own personal experience, and from the shared experiences and feedback received from the many thousands of people he has taught and meditated with.
The aim of Mindfulness into Stillness meditation is to learn to deeply relax the body, to calm the mind and to progress using mindfulness into the deeper stillness of meditation.
In Mindfulness into Stillness meditation there are four steps – easy to learn, easy to practise. Those steps are Preparation, Relaxation, Mindfulness and Stillness
1. Preparation covers all the practical details related to where and when we meditate; along with the environment and the supports we use.
2. Relaxation – Here we learn how to consciously relax the body and the mind. To begin with we do this using the Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise. As we progress, we learn to relax more quickly and more deeply, but every time we meditate we begin by relaxing in a conscious and deliberate way.
3. Mindfulness – having relaxed, now we give our attention to practising and developing the capacity to pay attention to our present moment experience, free of any judgment or reaction. We learn to be more ‘in the moment’; more mindful.
4. Stillness. Finally, having prepared well, relaxed and become more mindful, now we learn how to let go into the calm, the clarity and the stillness of deeper meditation. Once the Mindfulness into Stillness method is well established, you may benefit from learning more about other aspects of meditation that Ian teaches and which deepen and expand the experience and the benefits.
These additional possibilities are briefly described later, in the section Expanding your Meditation.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BEGINNERS
or those new to this method
1. Start by reading the book Blue Sky Mind.
2. Then, be guided in your practice by Ian and Ruth’s downloads featuring all the Blue Sky Mind techniques. Dr Ruth Gawler, Ian’s wife, is a General Practitioner with a special interest in Mind-Body Medicine.
There is the option of using Ian’s classic meditation downloads that form a sequence that is numbered 1 to 5. As a beginner, starting with number 1 is recommended – Meditation – A Complete Guide, however, for most, starting with the Blue Sky Mind series will be more appropriate.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE MORE EXPERIENCED
THE BEST MEDITATION BOOK to begin with is Blue Sky Mind. This book will help you identify and solve any problems you may be experiencing and lead you into a more direct and deeper experience of meditation.
Also consider Meditation – an In-depth Guide, co-written by Ian and his colleague Paul Bedson. This book is remarkably comprehensive and details techniques for contemplation and guided imagery as well as meditation.
These are books to read, to re-read, to study, to be guided by.
THE BEST DOWNLOADS: If you are more experienced, Ian recommends the Key practices from Blue Sky Mind that are all included in the Stillness Practice download Bundle.
Many experienced meditators find the specific process set out in the Mindfulness of Thoughts practice very helpful to take them beyond the distractions of excessive thinking and turbulent emotions into the deeper stillness of meditation.
IAN’S MEDITATION DVD
DVD – Meditation Live: If you find watching and learning via DVD useful, Ian has been professionally recorded giving a full day’s workshop (4 and a half hours in total on 2 discs) while teaching Mindfulness into Stillness meditation. Ian introduces all the theory, answers questions and leads all the key techniques. This can be used like a course over a number of days or weeks, stopping after each guided meditation.
Audio recordings are excellent if you find listening to the theory helpful, and most people find listening to guided meditations really effective – both when they begin, and if at any stage your meditation needs a boost. It is like having the meditation teacher with you, present each day, and we encourage people to use them regularly.
THE BLUE SKY MIND DOWNLOADS
PLEASE NOTE These guided meditations are available in both Ruth and Ian Gawler’s voices as they lead all the exercises and meditations from Ian’s latest meditation book Blue Sky Mind. They are only available as downloads, not CDs and contain no instructions, just the guided practices. They are intended to support you as you learn, develop and deepen your meditation.
Each group of the downloads as listed below is bundled together and made available for purchase as a single unit.
The Stillness Practices
These are the key practices most recommended for daily use. Of them all, many find the Mindfulness into Stillness practice the most useful, therefore it is recommended as the main practice.
- The Direct Approach
- Mindfulness into Stillness – the Main practice
- Relaxation into Stillness
- Mindfulness of Thoughts
The Relaxation Practices
This group of practices is excellent for learning how to relax the body and mind at will, and experience life in a more relaxed, stress free and calm manner.
- The Centre of Awareness Experiment
- The Conscious Relaxation Experiment
- The Conscious Contraction and Relaxation of the Muscles Experiment
- The Relaxing Body Scan
- Rapid Relaxation
- Profound Relaxation
The Guided Imagery Practices
These two practices are included here as so many people find them helpful for letting go of busyness, finding inner peace, as an adjunct for both healing and disease prevention, as well as powerful support on the spiritual path.
- White Light Imagery
- The Journey of Transformation – accompanied by lyrical harp music.
RUTH AND IAN GAWLER’S CLASSIC MEDITATION DOWNLOADS AND CD’S
PLEASE NOTE, These guided meditations are available as both downloads and CDs. Most are available only in Ian Gawler’s voice, however, Ruth has recorded one CD and download in this series – A Woman’s Voice. Together Ian and Ruth also have recorded the much loved children’s CD and download – Meditation for Children.
While these recordings pre-date the Blue Sky Mind series, many continue to find them helpful.
1. Meditation – A Complete Guide. This provides an excellent starting point and the download to support your regular practice. On it, Ian introduces the theory of Mindfulness into Stillness and then leads two key exercises.
2. Relaxation for Everyone. On this download, the focus is on learning to consciously relax the body as well as the mind. This download has been recorded with the sounds of nature in the background for people who find a natural setting conducive to relaxation. A series of 4 exercises will help you to learn how to relax rapidly and thoroughly. A feature on this download is the track where the relaxing and lyrical harp of Peter Roberts accompanies Ian’s voice.
3. Deepening your Meditation. Here we move on to learn greater skills with concentration and mindfulness. The sound of the didgeridoo helps to hold the focus of concentration with the world-renowned accompaniment of Marshall Whyler. This download appeals to teenagers as well as adults and contains some instruction from Ian and the use of the breath for focusing the awareness.
4. Meditation – Pure and Simple. Specific exercises are led by Ian that help you to manage a busy mind with lots of intruding thoughts! These techniques also provide a very useful starting point for people with anxiety or depression. This download helps to create some space and objectivity with the thoughts and feelings, leading to a greater awareness of the mind’s activity and consequently a greater capacity to disengage from unhelpful patterns.
5. Mind-Body Medicine. Here Ian introduces and leads two key imagery (or creative visualization) meditations, one accompanied by Peter Roberts on harp. These techniques are excellent for relieving stress, for regaining energy, peace and balance; as well as being highly recommended for those on the healing path or those who like to use their minds more actively in meditation.
6. A Woman’s Voice – Mindfulness Meditations with Dr Ruth Gawler. On this download Ruth gently and lovingly leads you through profound mindfulness meditations using relaxation of the body and awareness of the senses. Meditation has over 7000 research studies attesting to its many benefits for physical and psychological health, healing and wellbeing. Mindfulness meditation is reliable, easy to learn and practise. Here, Ruth Gawler, a medical doctor and authority in Mind-Body Medicine, introduces and then leads you through two key mindfulness meditations
Meditation for Children – with Ian and Ruth Gawler. This download has been made specifically with the needs of modern children in mind. Ruth and Ian, experienced parents themselves, recognize the benefit of the invaluable gift we can give children in teaching them meditation.
On this download, your child is guided by Ian and Ruth through the Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise (such an excellent lead in to deep relaxation and gentle meditation), the imagery-based meditation called ” Finding Your Tree” (kids love it!) and finally, a meditation based on the White Light Meditation for helping to clear away worries or illness – ideal to use in bed at the end of the day, like a bedtime story for a deep, natural sleep. There is also an explanatory introduction, along with instructions for an adult who may like to act as the child’s guide.
IAN GAWLER’S BOOKS
1. Blue Sky Mind builds on Ian’s earlier books on meditation andaddresses the need for specific, detailed, yet accessible direction on how to meditate.
The book’s main premise is that the mind has two aspects – the Active Mind with its familiar thoughts and emotions that are changing all the time – for better and for worse; and the Still Mind that is beyond all that activity and is the reliable and constant domain of a pervasive peace and clarity, along with the natural expression of love and compassion. Meditation is defined here as the process that helps us to go beyond the busyness of the Active Mind into a direct experience of the Still Mind.
The book uses the analogy of clouds being like thoughts and emotions that come and go – sometimes stormy, sometimes peaceful, while the blue sky remains a vast, spacious and pure constant; hence Blue Sky Mind.
2. Meditation – an In-depth Guide, co-written with Paul Bedson. This is very comprehensive book and good to follow up with after Blue Sky Mind.
3. Peace of Mind provides an excellent but shorter overview of the theory and key techniques for meditation, contemplation and imagery. This book has assisted many people over 2 decades with recovery from illness and suffering. Highly readable for those with little or no experience; however, now out of print as superseded by Blue Sky Mind.
4. Meditation – Pure and Simple. Shorter again, this book focuses on deepening relaxation and specific techniques for moving past distracting thoughts into a deeper stillness. A little like a workbook that can be used for those who would like a shorter, more concise text but also now out of print as superseded by Blue Sky Mind.
5. The Mind that Changes Everything. Here the focus is on the creative use of the mind through affirmations and imagery. In this book, Ian explains how the mind functions and how we can use more of its potential in all aspects of life. A special feature is the extensive section related to healing. 48 techniques are featured that mobilize the power of the mind. There are many real life examples highlighting the possibilities. Very inspiring for those on the healing path.
6. You Can Conquer Cancer has specific chapters on meditation, as well as the full range of lifestyle based techniques that can be applied to the prevention and management of cancer, along with other chronic, degenerative diseases .
EXPANDING YOUR MEDITATION PRACTICE
There are many different kinds of meditation practised around the world and fundamentally they fall into three main categories. Once you have established a sound practice using the Blue Sky Mind approach, you may well benefit from learning and practising additional techniques.
Meditation for Health, Healing and Wellbeing. This approach is what has been presented so far with Mindfulness into Stillness. It combines relaxation, concentration, mindfulness and the deeper stillness of meditation. The aim is to relax physically and then settle the ‘thinking aspect’ of the mind; returning to a state of deep, natural peace; deep natural balance. The recommended technique is Mindfulness into Stillness as described above. What is helpful is to develop your skills by practicing the individual techniques set out in the sequence of downloads that cover relaxation, concentration, mindfulness and stillness.
Contemplation, Insight Meditation, or Analytical Meditation. This is where we use the mind more actively to investigate and understand an aspect of our lives, our consciousness, or even the stillness. This method has an aspect of inquiry. We are using the ‘thinking aspect’ of the mind to examine a question or idea. This is often effective for accessing our inner wisdom or intuition when used in combination with stillness. The theory and the practice of this method is presented by Ian on the download Inner Peace, Inner Wisdom
Imagery or Visualization. With this technique, we also use the more creative or imaginative aspect of the thinking mind. This type of meditation is explained and described in detail in Ian’s book The Mind that Changes Everything, and the key exercises are guided on the downloads Mind-Body Medicine.