Lifeflow Meditation Centre

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Lifeflow Meditation Centre
Main School Vajrayana
Sub School Tibetan, Karma Kagyu, Vipassana, Burmese
Founded 1981
Teacher(s) John Burston, Ann Calvert, Lisa Hancock, Gretta Koch, Ian Nuberg, Robyn Walden
Director(s) Dr Graham Williams
Contact Infotmation
Address The Lifeflow Meditation Centre
8/259 Glen Osmond Rd
South Australia 5063
Country Australia
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Phone (08) 8379 9001

Established in 1981, The Lifeflow Meditation Centre has been providing high quality meditation and mindfulness teaching in Adelaide for over 30 years. It is one of Australia's most experienced meditation centres. With our studio in the city and our retreat centre in the Adelaide Hills we offer a large range of courses and retreats to suit all levels of experience.

About the Lifeflow Meditation Centre

The Lifeflow Meditation Centre is a wholly Australian, not for profit, educational organisation founded in 1981. The Centre teaches meditation in a way that is student focused, simple and straightforward while retaining the depth of the tradition. The Lifeflow meditation technique is extremely practical, free from belief and jargon, and is easily accessible so that it can be readily integrated with everyday life. All the teachers have at least ten years of training and experience, teach from their own experience, give personal guidance, and can answer simply and directly in plain English any questions students may have.

Where does Lifeflow Meditation come from?

The meditation practices taught at the Lifeflow Meditation Centre are based primarily on both the Burmese and Tibetan meditation traditions.

From the Burmese (sometimes called Theravadin) tradition, we have the highly developed Insight, or, Vipassana practices. These advanced practices lead to a direct realization of the nature of the mind and consciousness. Aspects of these practices are incorporated into all of our classes, as the nature of insight is clear seeing, regardless of whether it is an introductory or advanced meditation exercise.

From the Tibetan tradition, we have incorporated important Mahayana and Vajrayana practices. The Mahayana practices focus on developing compassion, or, an ethical approach to living that develops respect for yourself and for the community and environment in which you live. The Vajrayana practices become relevant at advanced stages of meditation work, where a Member will work extensively with a specific Teacher.

With all of these practices, the aim has been to teach meditation in a way that is relevant and practical for everyday life. The aim of Lifeflow Meditation practices is to live in such a way that thoughts, emotions and actions are not in conflict with one another. For this to happen, the meditation practices and teachings have to be grounded in personal experience. As such, each Lifeflow Meditation teacher will naturally present a slightly different approach to the meditation teaching and practice, depending on their individual life experiences.

The Lifeflow teachers

The Lifeflow Meditation Centre provides highly qualified and experienced meditation teachers at all courses and retreats. The principal teacher is Dr. Graham Williams. He has been trained in the Tibetan and Burmese Buddhist meditation traditions, and has over 25 years of teaching experience with local, interstate and overseas students.

There are six other teachers in the Centre, who make up a dedicated and committed team. Each teacher has at least ten years of individual meditation training, including many months of advanced retreat practice. They have all been trained in guiding meditations and leading courses and retreats for people from all walks of life.

Lifeflow Teachers
Director - Dr Graham Williams
Teachers (in alphabetical order)


The history of the Lifeflow Meditation Centre has been one of steady perserverance towards a common goal: translating the knowledge, skill and wisdom of the meditation tradition (principally two of the Buddhist traditions - see Where do the Lifeflow Meditations come from) into a form that is relevant and applicable to contemporary Australian life. The association owes its existence to the effort and dedication of the Director, Dr Graham Williams, and the many members who continue to contribute time and energy to the organization, nearly all on a voluntary basis.

Dr Williams first encountered the meditation teaching when he was studying music in Paris in the early 1970s. During that time he became a student of the Canadian Namgyal Rinpoche. Rinpoche was part of the Karma Kargyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Rinpoche had also trained extensively in the Burmese tradition of meditation as well, and so was able to teach across both traditions. Dr Williams spent ten years training under Namgyal Rinpoche.

Upon his return to Adelaide, Dr Williams began teaching at the Elder Conservatorium at the University of Adelaide (see Dr Graham Williams – music biography). It was during this time that many of the students at the Conservatorium became interested in meditation and what it could offer. Gradually, Dr Williams began teaching meditation, organizing and running retreats and guiding people in their meditation work. As membership increased, an Incorporated Association was formed in 1981 to ensure accountable management of funds and resources.

Tara Hills Retreat Centre was purchased in 1982. At the time of purchase, there was only the main house (where the Teachers now stay during retreats and courses) and a garage (which has now been completely replaced by the new Maier Dining Room – see below ). Prior to this time, all classes had been held in Adelaide, but gradually the teaching efforts focused more on retreat work and classes at Tara Hills. The retreat accommodation building was constructed in 1990 and the main teaching hall in 1992. Funds for these acquisitions and buildings were raised entirely by donations and bequests. In 1994 and 1995 we replanted trees and shrubs at the bottom boundary of the main of the property.

In 2006 the Centre undertook the complete rebuilding of our kitchen shed. Thanks to a generous bequest by the late Mr Bernhard Maier, the Centre was able to construct a purpose built dining hall and kitchen. As part of the new building, a separate room was constructed to house the Centre's library, plus putting in disabled toilet facilities. The new dining room has been greatly valued by everyone who has been on retreat – it offers stunning views of surrounding Native Valley, and is a joy to use through all seasons of the year.

Kurlana Mallee Sanctuary, the association's second retreat property, is used only for advanced retreat practices. Kurlana came into being thanks to the generosity of the dairy farmer, John Thorn, who owned the cottage and surrounding mallee scrubland. He offered the unused cottage to Dr Williams for retreat practice.

From these early days, the Centre's use of the property gradually increased, and it was eventually purchased in 1990. As part of the purchase, the 1000 acre mallee scrub block was converted to a Natural Heritage area, which protects the scrub from any further clearing of its native vegetation. In 1998-99 and in 2003 we completed an extensive revegetation program. This involved replanting a large area of cleared land behind and in front of the scrub with trees and bushes indigenous to the location. Our revegetation efforts have sparked the interest of neighbouring farmers, who have now begun similar Landcare projects. We have also undertaken extensive maintenance of the original farm cottage, which was one of the very first built in the area (about 1910).

In the late 1990s, it became clear that the association needed to establish a teaching venue in the city to make the teaching more available to a wider range of people, and to set high ethical and practical standards for the teaching of meditation in the wider community. This move was led by John Burston, and has resulted in the formation of our successful city program (and adopting the name of The Lifeflow Meditation Centre) which now offers a range of courses from 7-week introductory courses to a five-year part-time program of study. Our City Studio was originally located in Norwood, however we reached the point where we needed a larger teaching space and in 2008 moved to larger rented premises at Morphett St in the city.

For many years we had been looking for a suitable venue to become our principal city centre – with space for additional teaching rooms, offices and a larger main teaching room. In 2010 we purchased our current Studio on Glen Osmond Rd. During that year we thoroughly renovated the interior and then commenced teaching there in October that year. See location details on our City Studio page.

Tara Hills Retreat Centre

Tara Hills is the principal retreat centre for the Lifeflow Meditation Centre. It is set amongst the rolling hills, large gum trees and abundant bird life of peaceful Native Valley. It provides an ideal space for retreats: here you can open your senses to brilliant night sky, fresh air and expansive views that can be enjoyed from the property.

It's easy to get to, yet it provides the seclusion of being in a quiet corner of the countryside. It's about a 45 minute drive from Adelaide, just past Nairne in the Adelaide Hills.

Tara Hills was purchased in 1982 and has been used as a retreat centre since that time. The accomodation building,main teaching hall and dining room have all been purpose built by the Lifeflow Centre for retreat practice - providing a very comfortable environment and making full use of the surrounding views and countryside.

There are five main facilities

Walden retreat building - this is our larger accommodation building. There are 10 Standard single rooms. Each room has a good quality single bed, storage cupboard, plus a heater and fan. The building is very well insulated, and is pleasant throughout the year.

Our new architecturally designed accommodation building, in use from June 2015, features four rooms (either single or double) all with lovely north facing views across the valley and their own en suite facilities. (Photos coming soon!)

Glover hall - all group classes, meditation sessions and stretch and breathe sessions are held in this spacious hall of 100 square metres in size. Filled with natural light, it has great views onto our landscaped gardens and in the distance to the other side of Native Valley. Next to the hall we have a sheltered area for use during fine weather.

Namgyal House - this is where the Teachers stay when conducting retreats and classes. This is one of the original buildings on the property, constructed of western red cedar throughout. Up to three teachers stay here during our public retreats.

Maier Dining Room – this architect designed facility was completed in 2006, and includes a spacious kitchen, dining room and a disabled toilet. The dining room features stunning views across Native Valley and the surrounding farms; at times the view becomes a breath taking backdrop to mealtimes. Everyone who enters the dining room comments on the vast expanse of space, the open yet tranquil feeling that the room conveys. Click here to see a picture history of the construction of this building.

The property is 65 acres in size. We have begun a revegetation project at the bottom of one of the paddocks - when you are on retreat, you are welcome to walk through this area. In addition, we currently have a landscaping project underway - each time that you come to Tara Hills it will probably look a little different!

Also, there are many fine walks on the nearby roads and on a clear day there are expansive views all the way to the Coorong National Park.

Tara Hills is very easy to get to from Adelaide (via the freeway going through the Adelaide Hills), and normally only takes about 45 minutes from the city centre. We'll provide a map of directions to Tara Hills for anyone booking into a Lifeflow Retreat.

Aboriginal heritage around Tara Hills

The Tara Hills Retreat Centre in Native Valley lies within the traditional lands of the Peramangk people who lived in the Adelaide Hills for thousands of years before European settlement.

According to The Manning Index of South Australian History this area became known as Native Valley because it “was the site of a permanent Aboriginal encampment set amongst trees, with an assured water supply”.

The home lands of the Peramangk tribe stretch from Myponga and Currency Creek to Gawler and Angaston, east to Strathalbyn, Kanmantoo and Mannum and west through the Mount Lofty Ranges in line with Hahndorf, Woodside and Charleston. It is believed that when Europeans first arrived in the Adelaide Hills around 1830 there were close to 1000 Peramangk people living in the Mount Barker area and that they were often referred to as the Mount Barker tribe. Their neighbours to the west were the Kaurna people living on the Adelaide Plains. To the east and the south lie the lands of the Ngarrindjeri people and the country to the north through the northern Mount Lofty Ranges is the traditional home of the Ngadjuri tribe

The settlers called any land that was not surveyed and cultivated “wasteland” but in fact the countryside around Tara Hills was rich in native fauna and flora providing abundant food and water for the original owners as well as firewood and bark for dwellings, shields, canoes and utensils. The creeks flowed freely and the ridges and valleys were covered in red gums, sheoaks, acacias and native grasses. Kangaroos, wallabies, emus, possums, many varieties of birds, snakes and lizards were plentiful as well as edible plants and delicacies such as the moth grub, insect larvae and birds’ eggs. During the summer months the Peramangk moved freely through their territory and beyond, trading with their neighbours from the Adelaide Plains and the Murray River region. During the wet winter months, however, family groups stayed in their local areas camping in sheltered spots, and making homes in large red gum trees which had been hollowed out by fire. Bark sheets, animal skins and fallen tree branches were all used to keep out the rain and cold and possum and kangaroo skins would be worn for extra warmth. The Peramangk were well aware of the regular cycles of drought and rain and had learned to live with the land so that it continued to give and support life.

The introduction of crop farming and intensive stock grazing in the 1840s changed the land very quickly and made it impossible for the Peramangk to continue their traditional way of life. The changes also surprised the settlers, but they did not have the knowledge to reverse what they had put in place so the degradation of the land continued. Sheep and cattle polluted the creeks, introduced plants clogged the waterways and killed the native grasses, fences, dogs and the competition for pasture drove the native animals away from Native Valley and the clearing of the land destroyed much of the original forests. On top of this came introduced diseases such as small pox, whooping cough and measles to which the Peramangk people had little or no resistance. Many people died. Those who survived tended to move to other areas: down onto the plains or north and west to find more suitable homes with other tribes related by kinship ties.

Much evidence of the Peramangk people can still be found around Tara Hills. Ridge lines used as trade routes by the Peramangk turned into country roads. Hollowed red gum trees used for shelter, winter homes and storage can be seen throughout the district, some very close to Tara Hills in neighbouring paddocks. Trees where the bark has been cut away to build canoes and other utensils can also be found closeby. Listed heritage sites in the Native Valley area include camp sites, rock art, scar trees and stone placements

Peramangk heritage also lives on in many place names through the Adelaide Hills. Brukunga, the name of a small town near Tara Hills and for many years the site of a pyrite mine, comes from the Peramangk word Barruka-ngga meaning “a place of hidden fire”. The Peramangk are said to have traded fire-making kits with other tribes using the pyrite from this area. The Tjirbruki songline runs through the Brukunga area and according to the legend Tjirbruki’s body became a rocky outcrop at Brukunga.

Lartingga-parri means “flooding land creek” and is the site of the wetlands at Mt Barker now called Laratinga.

Kanmantoo, from the word Kungma tuko means “different speech”. The Peramangk people had a distinct pronunciation different from their neighbours.

Yurebilla means “two ears” referring to Mount Lofty and Mount Bonython.

Piccadilly Valleyfrom the word Picolda meaning “Earlobe Place” (from a traditional legend)

Kuitpo = sacred or forbidden place.

Tarra = land that rises up steeply, a steep hill or ridge.

Taingappa (Tainga-Tappa): Foot Track; Trail – A trail that follows the Marne River from Wongulla to the foot of Mount Crawford. This was an important trade route that linked the Peramangk and Nunguruku peoples. Significant camping and art sites are located along the river with hollowed trees, burial and artifact sites. Evidence of semi-permanent huts with stone foundations have also been located in the Eden Valley area and stone fish traps along the Marne River

Kangari-lla (Kangarilla) means “Caring Place”.

Cuddlee Creek comes from the words Kadli-parri meaning “Dingo creek” named after the wild dogs that were abundant in the area.

Echunga comes from Ityangga,meaning “near by place”.

Myponga from Maitpa-ngga (Autumn food place)

Today many of the descendants of the original Peramangk still live in the Adelaide Hills and other parts of South Australia. They continue to maintain a deep spiritual connection with their traditional lands and to practise their unique cultural and heritage beliefs. When you walk along the creek or through the paddocks at Tara Hills you may feel a connection with the “old people” who lived here and cared for the land long ago.

Robyn Walden 6/8/2009

Kurlana Mallee Sanctuary

The Lifeflow Centre established its bushland retreat sanctuary, Kurlana Mallee Sanctuary, in the early 1980s in the Murray Mallee region of eastern South Australia (about 200 kms east of Adelaide) in the Riverland. Meditation practices undertaken here have been primarily focused on direct contact with the surrounding natural scrubland and native animals in a setting that requires attention to the delicate balance and interconnection of all life forms.

The Murray Mallee region of SA has been extensively cleared and developed for dry land farming over the past 90 years, usually on an indiscriminate basis on land with low productive potential and with little regard for the natural ecology of the region. Less than 15% of the original vegetation remains, often separated into small islands and narrow strips along roadways. Severe habitat loss and threats to the rich native plant bio-diversity and animal species have been the very visible result. Current government efforts to reverse this devastation are focusing on revegetating a 20 kilometre wide strip along the southern side of the Murray River in which the sanctuary is located.

Lifeflow took the opportunity to have a positive influence on the survival and health of the area in 1985 by purchasing a 400 hectare block adjoining the original retreat location. This incorporates 310 hectares of original old growth remnant mallee placed under a Heritage Agreement to secure the protection of the habitat in perpetuity. It is the only property in the immediate region which still has old growth uncut mallee which is an extremely important resource in providing nesting sites.

This area also adjoins another heritage-listed area, combining to create one of the largest single blocks of uncleared mallee vegetation in the Murray River's project area. The Lifeflow Board and Members place a very high regard on the conservation value of this unique area and their stewardship of the property. Cleared areas are already being progressively returned to natural habitat involving the direct seeding of 30 cleared hectares with local native species. A further 60 hectares is being successfully revegetated. Lifeflow has received supporting grants from the Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH) for this important revegetation project, working closely with the local council.

The sanctuary protects native flora and fauna and is home to many species of endangered birds and plants. The South Australian Ornithological Association has conducted a number of surveys in the sanctuary and has listed 200 species of birds found there. A survey of the flora has listed a number of endangered species, featured in The Mallee in Flower published by Parks Victoria (1989).

In addition, Lifeflow has progressively restored the settler's homestead in keeping with its heritage construction, affording retreatants the opportunity to connect with bushland living experiences of a bygone era in an isolated setting far away from the haste and distractions of suburban and inner city life.