I thought it would be good to start with my history, and how I’ve come to the practice I have so far:
I was diagnosed with colon cancer at the end of 2003. My surgery happened in December, a few days before my birthday. I started a meditation practice to aid both in the emotional aspects of that experience, and in my physical recovery. One of my big influences and inspirations was an Australian man named Ian Gawler, who, in the seventies, recovered from a very progressed cancer with a combination of meditation, diet, and other therapies, subsequently starting a support group in the Melbourne area, writing the book “You Can Conquer Cancer,” and eventually building a Living Centre in the Yarra Valley outside of Melbourne. I read his book, and two months after my surgery, traveled to the center for their 10-day Life and Living Program. This intense program, geared toward those affected by cancer, covered several topics related to dealing with illness, and one of the main focuses was a daily meditation instruction and practice.
Interestingly, the Yarra Valley was not the first place that I saw Ian. Because I had some medical tests to undergo in Melbourne the week before the retreat, I found myself with a free weekend in the city. I happened upon an advertisement for a Friday evening presentation by Sogyal Rinpoche, followed by a weekend teaching on Healing Transformation, and I decided to go. When I arrived, Ian was volunteering, working behind the information desk. I found out later that he and his wife Ruth had been students of the Rinpoche for several years, although Ian’s workshop never pointed to Buddhism or any specific religious faith.
Upon returning to Alice Springs, I kept up my practice, and found other people to meditate with from time to time. One group that met on Sunday afternoons was a small Sangha group. It was held in the artist’s workshop out back of the house of one of the members. Although I was not really studying Buddhism, they were always welcoming, and it was a pleasure to sit with them for a half hour in that quiet room, and feel their energy.