Our Advocates / Inspiring Stories

Browse through a collection of inspiring stories and video testimonials from our past retreat participants…

Melissa Little – July 2020

“I was able to tour this facility a few months ago, beautiful peaceful surrounds and the staff were comforting and inspiring. The library was well stocked on topics difficult to find generally.”

Robert Tuckett – Mindbody Medicine Retreat, Nov/Dec 2019

“My wife and I attended the recent Mind Body Medicine Retreat.  It was a positive experience and very beneficial.  We were very impressed with the retreat lectures and the friendly and supportive environment.  The positivity of the participants was amazing.”

Divya Gordon – Overcoming MS Retreat, November 2019

“The nature and the site itself are absolutely beautiful. There are kangaroos hopping around and other plants and creatures to discover. Everything is well catered for, the garden to table service, very inspiring. All of this is completely necessary and effective to revitalise your perspective and way of life. The Overcoming MS retreat I attended with my mother made a profound impact on us, our psyches, our relationship with each other and our habits. Thank you for your wonderful work”

Dianne Venables – Garden to Kitchen, September 2019
“I attended the ‘From Garden to Kitchen’ work shop last month. I love cooking and, being vegetarian, I was interested in the cooking section. We have raised garden beds and grow vegetables. I was looking forward being better informed re composting etc. In the kitchen session we were shown how to make a curry; yoghurt; salad, dips and more. We had the curry and salad for lunch and the dips etc for morning and afternoon tea. So much great information. A fun time. The garden session was great. Wendy and Ben showed us the garden. They gave us a huge amount of information covering many aspects of growing vegetables, composting etc. We made a No Dig vegetable bed and planted some vegetables. Stacey, Wendy and Ben are so knowledgable and passionate about their work. What a great day. Beyond my expectation.

Adrienne Leibman- Parkinson’s Retreat, August 2019.

“I was greeted by a very warm and friendly woman and shown to my room which was very nice indeed. The surroundings are also beautiful and the inside space is warm for Winter and very well maintained. I attended a Parkinson’s Retreat weekend with Assoc Prof Sanjah Raghav and Fiona a Parkinson’s nurse with over 20 years experience in this area. They were both very knowledgeable and approachable. The program was inspiring and has made me change to an organic diet, practising yoga and meditation. I have only excellent things to say about this Retreat.”

Lewis Rowell – Outsmart Cancer Retreat, July 2019.

“I believe the retreat has illuminated a path forward out of a dark confusing medical situation and given me clarity on how I may overcome my cancer.
I gained information and knowledge that will support me in looking after my body during the healing process. While it confirmed a view that meditation, nutrition and exercise are important for maintaining health, the retreat introduced me to the value of Qigong and spirituality.
I found the sharing of knowledge between participants valuable and showed me that I am not alone on my journey and that I have people I can stay connected and talk with on my journey.
The retreat has given me the confidence to persevere with my program and to how to overcome my fear of cancer.
I intend to remain committed to my health plan to honour the retreat community, myself, my family, my partner and my sponsor.”

Kristine Fitzgerald, Geelong – Return to Peace Retreat, June 2019

I completed the Mindfulness-based Stillness Meditation teacher training course at the Gawler Foundation in June 2019. I went there not knowing what to expect, but I would now recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone who is thinking of doing the course. The Yarra Valley Living Centre provides an opportunity to escape from the demands of everyday life, and also provides an environment which promotes rest, healing and growth. I learned so much from Paul and Maia and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience; including the accommodation, meals, beautiful grounds for walking, wildlife and the friends I made in my time there. All aspects of the week were organised and professional. I would like to thank all the staff members involved and if you are considering going, just do it!”

Jim Cummane – Return to Peace Retreat, June 2019

“I recently participated in the ‘Return to Peace Retreat’ at the Gawler Foundation. This could only be described as a very special experience because of the quality of facilitation and the hands on experience that the retreat provided.

The retreat definitely lived up to its ‘name’ and helped me rejuvenate my meditation practice with further understanding and insight. The opportunity to share this experience with beautiful people all on different healing journeys, was also incredibly unique.

Victoria and the Greater Melbourne suburbs provide many opportunities to participate in meditation and healing opportunities; however, based on my experience and reflection with many others, none comes close to the experience at Gawler; where the environment, the special food, and the quality of people and facilities are first class. Finally, the value for money was extraordinary, given I am retired and watching closely the dollars I spend.”

Ruth Flowers – Return to Peace Retreat, June 2019

One of the favourite places in my universe. Unique and special, where I go to reset my body, my mind and my life. I learn more about the benefits of mindfulness meditation each time, and how to keep and foster it in practice. Great guidance. Add to that, the gentle food, the labyrinth, the birds and the natural bush surroundings … I cannot recommend this place (and its people) for your meditation practice highly enough.

Louise Williams – Return to Peace Retreat, June 2019

I have made retreats in numerous locations, but I find the Yarra Valley Living Centre to be unsurpassed in every way. Paul Bedson is a wonderful teacher, able to express ideas that everyone, no matter their background in meditation, is able to understand. Thanks to Maia and all the Yarra Valley Centre Staff, the courses run seamlessly and each participant has a sense of being individually cared-for, nurtured and set free to learn and experience all that is on offer. Beyond the teaching and meditation, there is the beautiful food, the environment and the ambience – my Yarra Valley Living Centre memories will always call me back.

Manty Arnott – Reclaiming Joy, April 2019

“Had a truly inspiring 7 days at Gawler Retreat – Reclaim the Joy with Ruth Gawler and Melissa Borich. I can thoroughly recommend this experience to anyone wanting to “re-set” and take some time to look after yourself. The food was amazing, the yoga was fantastic and the meditation was challenging but inspired me to continue.”

Carley Wheatley – Meditation Teacher Training, March 2019

“I attended the Meditation Teacher Training at the Yarra Valley Living Well Centre, as I believe this is a world class teaching facility. Paul and Maia Bedson have a way of being able to connect with students to enable them to fully and deeply understand the practice of Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation (MBSM) and provide them with the tools and confidence to facilitate a comprehensive 8 week course.  I have been given a gift to be able to share with and empower others to learn to enhance their life through the power of meditation. Thank you Paul and Maia and everyone at the Yarra Valley Living Well Centre and I can’t wait to come back to complete the other training modules especially the Kids Meditation! Thanks so much.”

Review Meditation Teacher Training Yarra Valley Victoria

Cherie Louise – Meditation Teacher Training, March 2019

“Life-affirming Meditation Teacher Training set in the idyllic Yarra Valley be prepared to be nurtured on every level. Peace and quiet delicious vegan food no distractions and absolute World Class Training.

My Teachers were Paul and Maia Bedson who not only teach with open hearts but so willingly share such a great wealth of knowledge. This is my second visit and I really look forward to returning it is a true home coming. It was more than I could have imagined I highly recommend the Courses and the location. The biggest thank you to everyone at the Yarra Valley Living Centre… I am so blessed I am so grateful.”

Dr Su Lin Wan – Meditation Teacher Training, March 2019

“I attended the Mindfulness-based Stillness Meditation Foundation Teacher Training [in March] 2019 with Paul and Maia, and found it both personally and professionally enriching and would highly recommend this.”

Penny, NSW – Meditation Teach Training, March 2019

“I feel very grateful to Paul and Maia Bedson for the two life-changing weekend Meditation Retreats that I have had the opportunity to attend at the Yarra Valley Living Centre.  The clear teachings and varied structured activities really helped me to feel and understand how to establish and continue a mindfulness meditation practice and were presented in such a safe, caring and supportive atmosphere. The Centre itself is a very comfortable, peaceful place with caring staff and wonderful food surrounded by beautiful  bush and kangaroos.”

Melinda Hahn, Victoria – Neuro slimming, February 2019

“I found the Neuro slimming retreat to be a wealth of knowledge to carry with me for life!  I feel much more empowered with info & have a greater sense of confidence for the future. Helena’s presentation was full of enthusiasm & knowledge. Truely invaluable & motivating. The Gawler premises was relaxing, clean & comfortable whilst the meditation room was most impressive! Thank you all for a memorable retreat!”

Jacqui White Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis Retreat Yarra Valley Victoria

Jacqui White – Overcoming Mulitple Sclerosis, February 2019

“What a wonderfully beneficial week at the sensational OMS Retreat!  I can highly recommend this to anyone, from those with an early diagnosis to those who have lived with the disease for years and our wonderful significant others.  There were friendships made and inspiring stories shared.  Informative presenters, fun fellow attendees, and the OMS CEO was in attendance, which made it an extra special course.  The surrounds, facilities and food were the vegan icing on the cake!”

Tanya Clarke  – Wu Tao Dance Therapy Retreat, February 2019

“I attended a weekend retreat run by Wendy Nash on Wu Tao Dance and Art therapy and found it very enriching and inspiring. The small group who attended worked cohesively together in a supportive environment and since coming back to my day to day life have been able to meditate regularly and also continue to practise the five dances Wendy taught us. I would highly recommend it to anyone else considering attending a future retreat if it is offered again.”

Roger Coleman Review Nutrition Retreat Yarra Valley Victoria

Roger & Margy Coleman, Queensland – Eat Well: Live Well, February 2019

“The Eat Well Live Well Retreat was a real treat. It was my 3rd visit to the Centre and arriving on Friday felt so good. The welcome was so friendly and easy, and the program ran as smooth and efficiently as ever.
One of the major reasons for going to the Retreat was to take my wife, Margy. Since we have both retired this was now possible, and she also thought the Retreat was marvellous, especially the content that Maia presented in the main room sessions and the cooking demonstrations up in the house and for the first time, mediation now seems do-able to her. She hasn’t missed a day since leaving the Retreat. Maia’s knowledge of nutrition for healing and meditation is amazing, and she is so generous with sharing it. We couldn’t have asked for a better presenter. The Chef’s presented some amazing meals with the help of all the wonderful kitchen staff and so tasty. The group we shared the Retreat with were all special friendly people, and we hope they got out of it as much as we both did. Neither of us wanted to leave on the last day, in fact, we just wanted to stay around and talk to everyone and share our experiences. Thank you once again.”

Carley Wheatley, NSW – Weekend Meditation Retreat, January 2019

“My first experience at a mediation retreat was truly life changing.  Paul and Maia Bedson and the staff at the Yarra Valley Living Centre were so warm and nurturing.  The knowledge I gained in two days was amazing, Paul and Maia have a way of teaching that resonated with me and was easy to understand. The practice I learnt was easy to implement into my daily life as well as other hints and tips I have included into my family’s everyday life to become more present with each other.  The food was delicious too!”

Review Ruth Gawler Retreat Yarra Valley Victoria

Sue Scott – Ruth Gawler’s Retreat, December 2018

“Ruth is very clear and provided me with the tools and encouragement to look within. Leaving [The Yarra Valley Living Centre] feels hard as this is such a special place. It has been a life-changing experience.”

Ross & Margaret Evans – Cancer Fundamentals, December 2018

“My wife Margaret had gone through a horrible 7 month period after being diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. Fortunately for both of us, we stumbled across your website, as we both were drained and needed a better direction to start believing for a better outcome. We found that your retreat has given us a much better directional belief for the food we should eat for better health; meditation to focus on building inner strength, exercise to help in the healing of our bodies, and; a general better feeling of well being for us both. You showed us all very much that you were compassionate and had a very caring natural attitude to give us the best chance for our Wellbeing. We are enjoying the recipes in your Eat Well: Be Well cookbook.”

Melinda Hahn  – NeuroSlimming, November 2018

“I found the Neuroslimming retreat to be a wealth of knowledge to carry with me for life! I feel much more empowered with info & have a greater sense of confidence for the future. Helena’s presentation was full of enthusiasm & knowledge. Truly invaluable & motivating. The Gawler premises was relaxing, clean & comfortable whilst the meditation room was most impressive! Thank you all for a memorable retreat!”

Aleksandra, South Australia – Cancer & Beyond, November 2018

“This is a second time I have participated in a cancer retreat and once again, it proved to be the right and timely decision. Before coming to the beautiful Yarra Valley, busyness and demands of day-to-day life were slowly weakening my commitment to my health. The retreat enabled me to refocus and regain clarity. I have met a lovely group of participants with whom I shared experiences and who have inspired me with their own survival stories. It felt good to be reminded of what is important and to ‘join forces’ with likeminded people. I particularly appreciated this aspect of communal when it came to meditations and emotional work. Maia and Paul guided us with their wisdom and experience, allowing us to steadily arrive to a place of personal motivation and renewal.
I highly recommend these cancer retreats and cancer follow up retreats to anyone who wants to take responsibility in their own healing. Being diagnosed with cancer is tough and whilst we endeavour to be strong and positive, this is not easy. The Yarra Valley Living Centre provides a safe and supportive environment where reconnecting with self and others is possible and provides a way forward.”

Lorie – Cancer Fundamentals, October 2018

“My experience at the Yarra Valley Living Centre was probably the best time l have had in my life. l felt like l was in a safe and friendly atmosphere at all times. The teachings l learned l have now taken home, and have applied them not just to myself but to my whole family – myself, my partner and my siblings are now all vegan (I am still working on my son, haha). The centre itself is just breathtaking, peaceful and clean. I felt that l was getting the best advice that l have ever received in the whole time l have had cancer. Since my first diagnosis in 2004, cancer has come back 3 times now, and I have never been given tools like the ones I was given during that 5-day retreat. I have recommended these retreats to everyone, even people without cancer… I feel anyone could benefit from what l  learnt at Gawler.  I cannot begin to thank everyone there, for the beautiful surroundings, for the people l have met, for the advice l was given, and for the food – which was next to none.”

John Shuster – Cancer Fundamentals, October 2018

“I found the substance of the retreat an “eye-opener”.  I learned that there was much I could do for myself to better enable my body to repair itself.  It was as if someone turned on the light at the end of the tunnel.  It gave me hope where there was none.  The comradery between the staff and the participants, who were from all over the world, was strong and unified, I no longer felt alone.  I felt inspired and motivated to do my utmost to defeat this disease permanently. Since arriving, my wife and I have changed our diet, practice Chigong daily as well as meditate.  We both maintain a positive attitude, stress fee and reject negativity. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this Retreat and highly recommend anyone considering attending.”

Iona NeuroSlimming Retreat Yarra Valley Victoria

Iona, Victoria – NeuroSlimming, November 2018

“I had the most incredible, insightful and beautiful experience with Helena Popovic completing a three-day Retreat at the Gawler Foundation, situated in the Yarra Valley in Victoria. I really relished the treat of a full vegetarian all organic meals being prepared for us and to spend time on myself in the company of like-minded people. Helena is super knowledgeable and has an amazing array of information at her fingertip. She was available throughout the whole time and took part in the activities with us, was without fail open to many of our queries or there to reassure and encourage us towards a better version of ourselves. Helena puts in a significant amount of energy into ensuring the retreat runs smoothly. Helena is great at explaining each part of the retreat (how & why) so you feel comfortable. There is a book written by Helena which outlines each of the missions and steps one can follow. Attendees get a workbook for note taking and to hone in on the steps towards a slimmer self. The accommodation is more than adequate offering single, twin share or dorm style (8 beds) rooms, set up to cater for various options and budgets. The location is just so peaceful with awesome views set amongst bushland. Overall I would highly recommend the Neuro Slimming Retreat for anyone wanting to have a body ‘reset’ and get on the road towards growth in body, mind and spirit. Thank you Helena! An experience to remember and follow through (in a good way!).”

Daniela, Victoria – NeuroSlimming, November 2018

“The weekend was absolutely fabulous. Very informative, with wonderful food and accommodation. Helena’s attention to detail and well structure weekend set me up for a positive mindset when it comes to daily nutritional and exercise routines.  The missions became possible!”

Denise Meditation Teacher Training Yarra Valley Victoria

Denise, Queensland – Cancer Retreat & Meditation Teacher Training

“My attendance at the Yarra Valley Living Centre, initially as a participant in the cancer retreats and more recently as a participant in the Meditation Teacher Training pathway, has been such a life-enhancing gift that I want to share. I believe the best way I can honour the expert teaching and learning that I received, is to “pay it forward” by teaching meditation myself. My time at the centre was deeply nourishing for my being and I will be forever grateful. Although I live far away from the Yarra Valley, I look forward to a return visit.”

Kathy – Meditation Teacher Training 2018

“Many years ago my husband and I met Ian Gawler at a seminar held at the Relaxation Centre in Brisbane.  My husband asked Ian what makes a person a good teacher.  Ian replied, “Be an inspiration.  Inspire others.”  My experience with the Meditation Teacher Training (MTT) pathway at the Yarra Valley Living Centre, has very much been about inspiration, both for myself personally and in inspiring others.
Paul and Maia Bedson are wonderful meditation teacher trainers. Paul has a gentle and compassionate way of teaching that reflects his deep wisdom, knowledge and understanding of meditation and life. He also provides a structure for teaching all aspects of meditation.  In addition to the skills and knowledge gained, students also undergo a personal transformation due to the safe space that is created by the trainers. Students are gently led through an experiential teaching process that offers self-healing, and an opportunity to free oneself from limitations and doubt.
Not only is the venue in a beautiful setting, but also the accommodation and food are excellent.  The staff are capable, caring, and beam with love for what they are providing to people who go there.  I like to think of the Yarra Valley Living Centre as an oasis of radiant light, beaming out to those who are on a meaningful journey in their life.
It is with a grateful heart that I reflect on my personal experience with meditation, my teachers at the Yarra Valley Living Centre, and my more challenging teachers who taught me about life. If it is inspiration one is looking for or wanting to share with others, the Yarra Valley Living Centre is the place to find it.”

Lisa Fitzpatrick, Ocean Shores, NSW – Meditation Teacher Training 2018

“This is one of the best training’s I have ever had the privilege to participate in. Paul is an incredibly skilful, experienced and knowledgeable instructor. The material we covered was well-paced and the entire course was both transformative and grounded. Maia and Paul provide a warm, intelligent and impeccable level of safety which enabled all the participants to open fully to the vulnerable and transformative process of becoming a meditation teacher. I feel 100% equipped to go out and teach with a sense of deep gratitude for the quality of education and insight that this training has provided.”

Jenny, Nurse & Massage Therapist, Ballarat, Victoria – Meditation Teacher Training 2018

“I attended guided imagery and contemplation meditation teacher training course, recently and found the course fantastic, it has been an exceptional experience, and I have so enjoyed the progressive outcome following the course.  While at the Gawler Foundation, we were totally nurtured mind, body and soul for the whole week, and the care all the staff showed for us was amazing.   Paul and Maia, were fantastic in their role, and lead us with such sensitivity through the whole week, I feel honored to have been taught by them.”

Dey Alexander – Meditation Teacher Training 2018

“I highly recommend the meditation teacher training offered by the Yarra Valley Living Centre. The training has given me much more than just the tools I need for teaching meditation. Several aspects of the training that are worth noting.
First, the teachers. Paul and Maia Bedson are warm, wise, kind and generous. They embody the practices they teach. They hold a space not just for learning, but for personal growth and healing.
Second, the mode of teaching. Running the training in a retreat format means that there is time to really engage with the material, not just intellectually, but experientially.
Finally, the venue. The Yarra Valley Living Centre sits in a beautiful, quiet location. The grounds are spacious, well-kept and inviting. The accommodation is clean and comfortable. The meditation sanctuary offers a peaceful place to meditate. The food is wonderful. And the staff are happy and helpful.”

Pam Wheatley, Victoria – Meditation Teacher Training 2018

“I attended the Yarra Valley Living Centre’s Mindfulness-based Stillness Meditation Teacher Training in June 2017, then returned in October 2018 to complete the Guided Imagery & Contemplation module. My intention was to simply explore the principles of meditation for myself, to further develop my practice and help me to navigate the ups and downs of life, however, I was so inspired after completing module one that I began a monthly meditation practice at our local Yoga & Pilates Studio and have more recently commenced a mindfulness meditation course. The experience and learning was exemplary and highly valuable to my ongoing personal and professional development. Paul and Maia Bedson are well organised, inclusive and have a wealth and depth of knowledge which they willingly share in an open and positive environment.”

Anthony Breslin Cancer Retreat Yarra Valley Victoria

Anthony Breslin, Melbourne – Cancer Fundamentals, September 2018. 

“I had a wonderful experience during my time on the Gawler retreat. It was so informative and educational and the messages on meditation, food and mental attitude were so well related through repetition and substance.”

Ken Welsh Cancer Retreat Yarra Valley Victoria

Ken Welsh – Cancer Fundamentals, September 2018

I recently attended The Gawler Foundation’s ‘Cancer Fundamentals Retreat’ as a support for my son who has a brain cancer. A friend had attended the programme several years ago when she was told she might have three years to live with a rare cancer. She followed the Gawler diet strictly for a couple of years and has adhered pretty closely ever since. She is still alive more than 15 years later.

Firstly, the facilities were very comfortable and warm so there was no need for the many changes of clothes I had taken in response to the Foundation’s pre-event email. The food was plentiful and nutritious in keeping with the Gawler healing diet. I must say the blandness took a little getting used to but soon became very pleasant. The staff members were all amazing. They were very helpful and fonts of knowledge in their respective fields of expertise. Needless to say, the surrounding environment was magnificent and the walks very peaceful, even the kangaroos were friendly!
Most importantly, the cancer message was presented clearly. Importantly to me, it was supported by medical research from professorial staff from a variety of prestigious universities around the world. Associate Professor Craig Hassed delivered a live presentation which provided compelling evidence in support of the entire programme.
The attendees included a medical doctor, a lecturer in Veterinary Science, an academic psychologist and nurses and teachers. An audience well schooled in the science involved and highly enthusiastic at the approach being presented.”
Libby Brookman Cancer Retreat Yarra Valley Victoria

Elizabeth Brookman, Cancer Fundamentals, September 2018.

“I recently attended your 5-day cancer retreat as a support person. To my surprise,  I received incredibly valuable information that I am now able to use in all aspects of my life. The experience was wonderful. So much better than I expected. I thought the course was exceptional value for the money invested. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Vanessa, Melbourne – Expand Your Practice, September 2018

“Paul and Maia offer a peaceful space of stillness.  I always enjoy an emotional release, a physical lightness and find myself connecting to a space of Grace.”

Art of Mindfulness Retreat Yarra Valley Victoria

Deb – Art of Mindfulness Retreat, August 2018

“I recently had the good fortune to attend the ‘Art of Mindfulness Retreat’ facilitated by Daniel Cerny. Over the weekend, which I shared with my sister, we woke to birdsong, we stretched our deliciously nourished bodies and rested our overworked minds. We were gently encouraged to look into our hearts, accept, love and sit with what came up for us. We were guided in meditation and lulled by some beautiful harp music. We wandered throughout the property under the watchful eyes of the many kangaroos with their joeys (so cute). The warmth, generosity of spirit and openness of Daniel, the staff and the other participants made for a truly beautiful weekend that sent me back into the world lighter of heart and with some tools to continue on my meditation journey. Thanks!”

Louise Mindfulness Retreat Yarra Valley Victoria

Louise – Art of Mindfulness Retreat, August 2018

“The Yarra Valley Living Centre is a nourishing, relaxing, rejuvenating environment that makes a real impact on your heart & soul. Daniel Cerny was an informative & inspiring practitioner who has a real gift of imparting knowledge with compassion & humour. Thanks to Daniel and The YVLC team for helping me on my personal pilgrimage of self-discovery self-care & mindfulness.”

Sonia Mindfulness Retreat Yarra Valley Victoria

Sonia – Art of Mindfulness Retreat, August 2018

“From start to finish it was a very relaxed, well organised and above all highly informative weekend away. Daniel was very knowledgeable, engaging & generous with his time. I left with the tools & inspired to continue daily meditating and put into practice what I had learned. ALL the staff were great and compliments to the chef’s whom provided delicious, memorable & wholesome meals. Will be returning for future retreats.”

New Pathways through Mindfulness, Karen Hansen
Autumn 2018, Living Well Magazine, read the full article here

“…I decided to sign myself up for Module 1 of the MBSM teacher training course at the Yarra Valley Living Centre. I decided to do the training because I wanted to understand the role of meditation for the mind in depth, and perhaps in helping myself, could help others like me in the future. The implementation of MBSM in my life has helped me incredibly. I meditate and use breathing techniques daily. I still have many challenging days, however, MBSM has given me a tool kit to cope. Along with slowing down the pace of my life, letting go of multi-tasking, eating healthily and getting plenty of rest and sleep, I feel hopeful and happy now.”

Ineke Kershaw, New Zealand
January 2018

I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma – bone marrow cancer – thirteen years ago, at 49 years of age. It is an incurable form of cancer, however many people have led normal happy lives (the longest I have heard of is 19 years and still going strong) thanks to maintenance drugs such as Thalidomide.

Unfortunately, the usual treatments and drugs didn’t work for me, so when my blood counts escalated I was offered a bone marrow transplant from a donor, which I accepted. Drug-therapy stopped and while the transplant was being organised, I was warily permitted to attend the wonderful cancer retreat at The Gawler Cancer Foundation course. Amazingly, following on from the retreat, my blood counts immediately improved. This trend continued and I was able to delay the transplant for 6 months, at which point my counts began to plateau. Major rejection (graft versus host disease) was expected afterward but this never happened and I have always wondered if this was due to the meditation and diet we practiced. The effect of the transplant was disappointing, but six months later I was on no medication and that’s how things remained for TEN YEARS. My counts gradually improved then stabilized at a low level – this is unheard of in our part of the world, and I believe it was totally due to our change in lifestyle.

After attending the cancer retreat program, I felt an internal shift and change in my attitudes. My wellbeing became a priority in my life. This, coupled with initially sticking to the diet and meditating 3 times a day, gave me a real sense of power and control over the cancer, which must have helped immensely. Our lifestyle changed to a more peaceful existence, we associated more with positive people, and my supportive husband grew a huge vegetable garden. Having David attend the course was essential and he still says it was one of the best holidays he has ever had!

Unfortunately, after a ‘storm’ of lifestyle-related stress, I have recently relapsed and now have bone lesions. For a brief period, I allowed myself to get far too busy and feel that it put my immune system under too much pressure. So, in November, we were privileged to attend Ian Gawler’s last Cancer & Beyond course before he retired. It was a very special time and I am sure the lessons re-learned are going to stand us in very good stead. After some treatments to control the pain, I am pleased to say I am once again medication free.

We will always remain deeply grateful to Ian for dedicating his life to helping thousands of people coping with cancer, to live longer and to live well. He is an amazing man.

 Danielle, Cancer Fundamentals Retreat
January 2018

“Thanks for making a retreat program specifically for people dealing with cancer! Cancer is a huge wake-up call and the retreat gave me what I needed to take control of my life again and the confidence to know that the steps I’m taking now are scientifically based and will give me the best opportunity for recovery.  After reading Ian’s book I came to the retreat hoping to learn how to meditate and be a healthy vegan. I got so much more.  I got the fundamental tools and the confidence I needed to take my recovery journey seriously. In my situation that could be the difference between life and death.  I’m very grateful to the TGCF Team for your dedication – thanks.”

Spirit of Place, Elizabeth Melican
Summer 2017/18, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“In October this year, I attended my ninth retreat program at the Yarra Valley Living Centre – the new Meditation Teacher Training, Module 3 immersion – and, as always, I felt my heart expand with gratitude as I entered the grounds. There is a special energy, or spirit, about the place – the land, the trees, the river, and the deep peace that has been found by so many people who have visited there – which is palpable to me even before I reach the centre itself.”

Awakening Around Roses, Michelle Endersby
Summer 2017/18, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Brian and I are both very grateful for the solid foundation of health that we have achieved through our long association with the Yarra Valley Living Centre and the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis program – for the profound nurturing experiences we’ve had there, and the tools and techniques we have learned to be able to tune in and nourish ourselves on such a deep healing level.”

Finding Peace, Suzanne Walsh
Spring 2017, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Prior to coming to The Gawler Cancer Foundation, each time I attended a medical appointment I was a bundle of nerves and invariably a flood of tears would appear. Both Robert and I keep on shaking our heads with amazement at the peace that seems to have enveloped us. Because of this ‘peace’ I almost crave my meditation time to ensure that the ‘peace’ continues. Our new diet regime is also working a treat – in part due to the amazing help I am getting from my brother, who is relishing giving his sister cooking lessons. Our week at the Cancer Fundamentals Retreat was life-changing and I will treasure the time spent with everyone. Thank you both for giving so much of your selves and helping us.”

The Sea of Hope, Katherine Meritakis 
Winter 2017, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Although I did not know much about the [Cancer Fundamentals Retreat] program itself, I knew that for several years prior to my diagnosis, my life had been complex and misaligned with my core values and fundamental personality. I had been living on the edge with extreme ‘busyness’, endless to-do lists, and high levels of stress. I knew that if I had any chance of recovery, and reclaiming my life, I somehow needed to visit The Gawler Cancer Foundation and learn about their philosophy and principles.”

“At the conclusion of the retreat I felt more peaceful, and empowered to be the driver of my own cancer journey. Our future is a mystery for all of us – that is the beauty of life! However, with the knowledge gained from The Gawler Cancer Foundation on lifestyle, diet, meditation and emotional healing, I feel more equipped to stride forward positively, rather than allowing gloomy statistics to dictate my future.”

Rosslyn Lam – In Five Short Days
Autumn 2017, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Information provided in the sessions on diet, exercise and meditation was evidence-based, comprehensive and compelling. It all made sense to me now, and I knew this was the framework that I needed to live my life in the best possible way going forward. I had tried meditation in the past, now I knew how it worked and why it matters. I believed in it for the first time, and I realised the impact it can have on the cancer cells in my bones. Practising it seemed so much easier with this foreknowledge; the meditation sessions were delightful.”

cancer retreat testimonial paul kraus

Paul Kraus, cancer survivor and author

“… You might be interested to know that next July it will be twenty years since Sue and I came to the first 10 day retreat. It was a time when I was given six to nine months to live. There has been no trace of mesothelioma left in my body for some years. The brain tumour was surgically removed three year years ago and, Praise God I stay well. There is no trace of the tumour recurring. The metastasised prostate cancer – well I am ageing and happen to be 72, so I am not stressed. I live well, still meditating twice a day, taking important herbs and vitamins and trying to live a well balanced life. I will always remain grateful for Ian and Ruth Gawler and the blessings I received from the Foundation. Thanks, Paul.”  February 2017

Paul Kraus has his own website and has authored a number of books that highlight Ian Gawler’s work. For more information, please visit paulkraus.com/works-list

Ben Kerslake – Paying it Forward
Summer 2016/17, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“… my time at The Gawler Cancer Foundation had such a positive impact on my life and my diagnosis. I believe what I learned at the retreat has played a huge role in my current state of health, and I really want to help other people who are facing a cancer diagnosis get to a retreat program. I’ve set up a bursary fund at the Foundation, where funds raised by us can be allocated to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to attend a cancer retreat.”

Dr Melissa Monkivitch – Exploring Intentions for the Future
Summer 2016/17, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“We were so impressed and enthused by our experience at the [Set Your Compass] retreat, that we returned the following year to immerse in the process again… time out, reflection, sharing, meditating, hoping and dreaming about all that is possible in this blessed life that we live.

My partner and I are now married and are a much stronger and healthier unit thanks to the time spent on this weekend. I cannot recommend it enough and plan to book in again in the not too distant future!”

Living with Gratitude – Brenda Scarlett
Spring 2016, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Since my diagnosis over six years ago my life has changed dramatically. It’s as though I had a life before cancer and another after cancer. Putting my health first became imperative, so I made the decision to return to Apsley – my beloved birthplace – to live in a way that brings me happiness, and maintains balance in my body, mind and soul. I now live my life with purpose, passion, gratitude and peace.”

My New Normal – Elizabeth Schefferle
Spring 2016, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“At my last Neurologist appointment I was told that things looked good, my symptoms have subsided and I am mostly not troubled by them at all. I know my efforts have been rewarded and will continue to be rewarded whilst I remain on the OMS program. So with spring in the air, bulbs and blossoms about to bloom, let’s reflect on the positive changes we can make whilst on the OMS program. As I have indeed experienced there are so many positive outcomes within reach for all of us with MS, if we commit fully to the OMS lifestyle.”

A Big Learning Curve – Deirdre Loveless
Spring 2016, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“I don’t think it was any one single thing – the whole [Life and Living Cancer retreat] was a really big learning curve, and a truly valuable experience for me at that time in my life.
Everyone had an opinion about what I should have been doing following my diagnosis. My family, my friends, they all had strong opinions about what would be best for me, but my time at the retreat really empowered me to be proactive, and gave me to the tools to connect with my own internal knowing of what was right or wrong for me… rather than getting pushed along by what others were telling me. Ultimately we all know our own bodies better than anyone else.”

Going Well, Laurenz Gattermayr

Dear Mr. Wayne Nicholls,
After reading the article, ‘Choosing my own Path through Cancer’ by Rick Freeman, I can put my own name and experience to his story. I did attend a 10-day Life & Living Retreat in July 2012, after being diagnosed in November 2011 with inoperable and incurable Lung Cancer. After radical chemotherapy, radiation treatment and the prognosis of 12 months to live, my emotions were shattered. Luckily my GP in South Australia mentioned The Gawler Cancer Foundation to me four and a half years ago. I took everything that Siggy, Paul, Maia and the rest of the staff taught us onboard. My oncologist discharged me in August 2015 and my specialist discharged me in March 2016. I am still meditating and sticking to a vegetarian diet as strictly as I possibly can. Next year, if possible, I aim to attend the follow up retreat.
I am 79 years old and going well thanks to The Gawler Cancer Foundation; and advocating very strongly for your work. If you could please pass on this note to Siegfried or Paul. Thank you very much.
Best wishes and greetings.
Laurenz Gattermayr

Wellbeing Lifting Everyday, Ann Bidstrup

I am writing to thank you all for a wonderful ‘Weekend Meditation’ at your beautiful property.

I have been a financial member of the Foundation for a long while and I know you do lots of good work, however this is the first time I have participated in one of the retreat programs.

Right from my first phone call when I spoke to Sandy (and later on, Dianne) I felt the caring, nurturing quality of the staff at the Centre.

This weekend I was delighted to actually meet Maia and Paul Bedson, who I have long admired through their excellent articles in the Magazine. I found them to also be wonderful teachers who generously and patiently gave us kindness, understanding and unstintingly shared their wisdom all the time. I loved how they wove their energies throughout the sessions. Under them a diverse group of people linked together and friendship flowed.

I am a teacher and run workshops too, so I was particularly aware of how beautifully crafted Paul and Maia’s program is, to help everyone understand, feel, begin to integrate and become practised enough, to go home and continue with their mindfulness meditation.

During the course, and now at home, I am so grateful to have learned this kind of meditation, I can feel my wellbeing lifting each day – it is a real gift.

As well as the meditation, I also loved the delicious and ‘oh-so-healthy’ food, the Sanctuary, the quality of the property (inside and out), the abundance of nature, and the very special bonus – Michael Johnson and his harp music!

It all combined to create a wonderful experience that has been so good for me.

I know you do this kind of ‘good’ over and over again for many people – I am full of admiration and will be telling more people about you.

Thank you very much.

Ann Bidstrup

My Gawler Experience – Tim Baker
Winter 2016, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“By week’s end I think most of us would agree the experience has more than met it’s three-point mission – to provide hope that we can influence our prognosis through our own actions, to empower us to make informed decisions about our treatment options, and to help us achieve inner peace whatever the future might hold for us.”

My Journey with Overcoming MS – Corinne Nijjer
Winter 2016, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Once I committed to the diet and lifestyle recommendations I had been taught at the Overcoming MS Retreat, everything began to improve – I lost weight, I no longer felt depressed, I began a love affair with running, and literally everything in my life improved for the better. I went from feeling hopeless and defeated, to feeling empowered and in control of my body and health.”

Choosing my Own Path through Cancer – Rick Freeman
Winter 2016, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“I came away from my first retreat program with a much better understanding of my relationship to cancer, lifestyle and the life choices that we make. My diagnosis affected all of me, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Time at the Yarra Valley Living Centre gave me the opportunity to explore these areas of my life within the context of my cancer, and I began to develop the resources to set out on my cancer journey, with much less fear, and the ongoing support from the amazing staff.

The Gawler Cancer Foundation has given me the tools to recognise, understand and manage the psychological crisis and emotional anxieties caused by the diagnosis of cancer, and how best to try and achieve a cure!”

Rick Freeman further explains the impact 4 of our programs have had on his life in this video…

Vana – Life & Living Cancer Retreat participant, February 2016.

Reclaiming Life – Michael Bradley
Autumn 2016, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Attending George Jelinek’s MS retreat at the Yarra Valley Living Centre in October, 2013, we thought we were going to eat boiled lettuce and braised air, but the food was exquisite. And what we learnt about MS and life was invaluable. We changed our diet the day we left the retreat.”

Matt Clear – Life & Living Cancer Retreat participant, December 2015.

The Ripple Effect – Jan Street
Summer 2015/16, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“Returning home we were so excited about implementing everything we had learnt into our lives.  Unexpectedly we both lost a lot of weight and started to feel amazing… we were different, and people wanted to know what we were doing.
During the retreat, I purchased Forks Over Knives for my dad, and after reading it he too immediately adopted a plant-based wholefoods diet, and has since been able to come off his blood pressure tablets, cholesterol medication, and reduce his diabetes insulin from 4 to 1 injection per day.  Furthermore there has been no progression of his Lymphoma, so he has been able to avoid treatment so far. At 78 years of age he rides his pushbike 100kms a week and plays golf nearly every afternoon. He is amazing!”

Bouthaina and Barrie – Life & Living Cancer Retreat participants, December 2015.

Inspiring People – Jackie Woodroffe
Summer 2015/16, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

Jackie Woodroffe is one of The Gawler Cancer Foundation’s first cancer program participants. In 1983 Jackie was diagnosed with breast cancer and after being told she between six months and five years to live, decided to attend The Gawler Cancer Foundation’s ‘Living with Cancer’ program.  On reflection, Jackie says that gaining an understanding of the cancer and how she could take control of it, and her life, has been instrumental in her recovery.
“I am very thankful to the Foundation and all the support from everyone throughout my life who encouraged me to stay with it.”

Wesley &  Frauke – Life & Living Cancer Retreat participants, October 2015.

Aleksandra – Life & Living Cancer Retreat participant, October 2015.

Governing Grave’s Disease – Hanna Pratt
Winter 2015, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“I have so much gratitude for everyone there, for what I’ve learnt at the Yarra Valley Living Centre, and what I’ve learnt from various speakers over the years at the many conferences I’ve been to. Keep doing what you’re doing – it sticks. The principles are so good they transfer across all areas of the health spectrum and are not restricted to a specific illness category.”

Travelling Well – Allison Cannon
Winter 2015, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“I have now been cancer free for over 10 years. That’s the longest period in my adult life without cancer and I think it’s no accident. I’ve remained a member of the foundation ever since that stay in 2001. I keep the magazines and re-read them because they give me upbeat news. I’ve been to the conferences when I can. I visit and just sit in the garden. I hope to bring my son one day because the life skills I learned gave me the strength to keep working towards having him.”

Len – Life & Living Cancer Retreat participant, March 2015.

Lemons with Lyme – Emily Harrison
Autumn 2015, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“In my search to find answers and better understand health and wellbeing, I found myself at The Gawler Cancer Foundation Conference several years ago.
It was an inspiring weekend and uplifting to be in the company of so many like-minded people. It provided an opportunity to pick apart the many different layers of ‘health’ and put small changes into place. I discovered qi gong and techniques around meditation and pain management that I still use to this day. In fact meditation has been a life-changer.For a long time I was fighting not to become my illness, while simultaneously forcing myself to overcome it. Neither strategy was particularly successful, in fact it kind of made things worse! It was surrender (at first through utter despair) that softened things. It was the soft surrenders, the depths of acceptance and the gentle whispers of the heart which truly changed things. The healing and peace-making had to begin from the inside out.”

Rick & Julie – Life & Living Cancer Retreat participants, March 2015.

Freeing Myself from Fear – Linda Rocke
Autumn 2015, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“I have attended ten retreats at the Yarra Valley Living Centre and each time I come away calmer, wiser, and soul-enriched to face life’s daily challenges. And a break from cooking is always a treat! At each program I meet amazing people who all have their own stories to tell. On many occasions, it’s hard to say goodbye.”

Planting a Healing Seed – Sophie Jackson (UK) OMS Participant
Summer 2014/15, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“I truly believe that if I put the skills that I was taught that week into practice, that I will be well, fit, strong, and healthy for a very long time, as well as happy, calm and content and with a strong sense of inner peace.  I am eternally grateful that I found my way across the world to the Yarra Valley Living Centre and I would do  it all again in the blink of an eye!”

Second Chance – Leonor Sorrentino
Summer 2014/15, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“I had the most marvellous experience at The Gawler [Cancer] Foundation. Those days learning and processing everything that had happened in my life gave me the confidence I needed to be sure I WAS GOING TO HEAL!!! It transformed our lives forever. We comprehended the power of our minds, the scientifically proven effectiveness of meditation and the pleasure of eating basic, pure, real food!!!”

The Gawler Mob – a song by Brendan “Mookx” Hanley
Brendan “Mookx “- Life & Living Cancer Retreat participant, December 2014.

Why I put my hand up to be a Gawler Foundation advocate – Autumn Tansey
Winter 2014, Living Well Magazine read the full article here

“So with the tremendous support of my aunt, family and friends, I attended the Life & Living 10 day retreat at the foundation’s Yarra Valley Living Centre. This is where my true healing began, because in that short time, I went from a fearful and broken human, to an empowered and broken human. Yes still broken. What I learnt was that there was no quick fix, but that I have choice. I didn’t leave there miraculously healed, but I left empowered, with the courage and tools to continue healing. And from this one retreat, my life was returned to me.”