Between 1998 and 2002, I worked at the Yarra Valley Living Centre, more commonly known as the Gawler Foundation, after its founder, Ian Gawler, who himself was diagnosed with cancer and went through his own personal journey of healing himself.
It was here that I started working with people dealing with cancer.
People from every state of Australia (and from overseas) came to attend programs and retreats and I was honoured to meet hundreds of wonderful people.
One of the main features at the Gawler Foundation was the ten day ‘Cancer Retreat Programs’, which happened, on average, about once per month; with up to 40 people attending each program.
Generally, half of these would be people dealing with cancer and the other half were their carers or support people.
On these ten day programs, there were several main features that were shared, taught and encouraged.
These were: the practice of meditation, a good (vegetarian) diet, good nutrition, a sense and practice of good health and well-being and a very positive mind-set. Lots of fun and laughter was also encouraged!
I was initially employed as the organic gardener to look after the vegetable gardens, orchard and other parts of the 100 acre property, however, I soon found myself involved in many other roles other than gardening.
I deepened my own journey into working with people dealing with cancer each week as I got more involved with the programs.
One of the highlights for me, and there were many, was to build a big bonfire down by the river under the magnificent Manna Gums for each program and facilitate an evening of ceremony, which often included singing, didgeridoo playing, fire twirling, story-telling and some sort of letting go or cleansing processes for all of the guests.
Other highlights over the years were working on a children’s program, facilitating meditation sessions, sharing insights and education on organic gardening, food and nature and offering didgeridoo healings.
Being on the Management Committee for a couple of years and being in the company of, and being a student of several internationally renowned teachers, such as Ian Gawler, Caroline Myss, Rabbi Laibl Wolf and Sogyal Rinpoche, was a wonderful way for me to get a deeper understanding and education about meditation, cancer and other related topics.
Over this period of time, I became a vegetarian, learned how to meditate more deeply, took on more of a leadership role in my work and learned how to be more compassionate, patient and understanding of people’s needs, challenges, fears and concerns.
It was during this time that I started my study to become a holistic counsellor, psychotherapist and trainer. I knew that I wanted to work with people and the three and a half years at the Gawler Foundation was a good platform to do this.
Even though I did not have any physical cancer to deal with in my own body, I became very aware of aspects of my life that needed changing or healing. By addressing many of these issues and challenges I feel that I averted or prevented myself from getting ill.
Working With People Dealing With Cancer Taught Me So Much
For me, the lessons I learned from other people going through their own journey with cancer gave me the insight, courage and determination not to go there myself.
Prevention became my tool. Over the years I have studied, worked with and gained much more understanding of dis-ease.
Now, at the age of 52, and 14 years after leaving the Gawler Foundation, I still choose to live
You can read the FULL version of this article in our quarterly eZine, ‘Holistic Living Magazine,’ look for Edition 4 on this archive page. There’s many more articles about cancer waiting for you too!
Adrian Hanks – Life Mastery Coach