I’m presently working on two books simultaneously. One is the sequel to In Search of Simplicity. It will be called Beyond the Search. The other is a little book of essays, quotes and affirmations. That one is being read by a friend now.
I thought I’d paste below a few pages from the very beginning of Beyond the Search. It will be available soon.
Radio host, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.
“In Search of Simplicity is a unique and awe-inspiring way to re-visit and even answer some of the gnawing questions we all intrinsically have about the meaning of life and our true, individual purpose on the planet. I love this book.”
Barbara Cronin, Circles of Light. For the complete review visit: http://www.circlesoflight.com/blog/in-search-of-simplicity/
“In Search of Simplicity is one of those rare literary jewels with the ability to completely and simultaneously ingratiate itself into the mind, heart and soul of the reader.”
Heather Slocumb, Apex Reviews
Chapter 1: A Cross-Continental Journey
Following the Yellow Brick Road
The Path of the Spirit is Magical
Part One: Land of Enchantment
Chapter 2: A Place in the Sun
Close Encounter of a Serpentine Kind
A Warm and Feathered Welcome from Nature
A Transplanted Eccentric
In the Arms of the Angels
Chapter 3: Cooperating with Nature
Of Worms and Other Wild Things
A Taste of Perelandra
A Loving Welcome to a Strange World
Of Bathrooms and Bidets
Behaving as if the God in All Life Mattered
The Garden Symphony
Will You Go Through the Fire With Me?
All Are Welcome
Chapter 4: The Challenges of Solitude
More Encounters of a Serpentine Kind
There is Power and Grace in a Name
This Was Our War
Chapter 5: Of Gold Mines and Babies
Teaching a Horse to Fly
The Resistance Movement
The Birth of My Teacher
The Storm after the Calm
The Turning Point
Chapter 6: The Self-Sufficient Life
The Essential Importance of Trees
A Solar Food Dryer
Water: A Precious Resource
The Essene Way
Who Were the Essenes?
Our Version of the Essene Diet
An Admirable Bean
The Fire of Life and Cooking with the Sun
More Snakes with Rattles
Graduation to Wild Foods
Diet for a New America
Chapter 7: Gardening Naturally and Organically
Why Use Organics?
The One Straw Revolution
The Founder of Permaculture
Permaculture Principles: Guidelines for Sustainability
Chapter 8: Moving on From the Dream
Jellie and the Peace Walkers
A Change of Plans
There’s Only One Way to Spell Truth
A Peace Walker Returns
Lashings of Ignorance and Dollops of Greed
Part Two: Arizona
Chapter 9: Cherry Valley Ranch
Restoring Health: Investigations of a Natural Kind
Part Three: Golden Bay
Chapter 10: Welcome to the Land of the Long White Cloud
Fruit Forest Farm
A Gentle Approach to the Possum
Willing Workers on Organic Farms
Retreats in Wangapeka
A Reformed Rainmaker
Love is Letting Go
The Man Who Planted a Forest
The Dream of a Frenchman
Part Four: Canada and Europe
Chapter 11: A Risk Worth Taking
Pulsing in Provence
A Modern Indian Saint
There’s An End to Depression
Linguistic Labors of Love
Chapter 12: Can One Let Go This Much?
Close Encounters of an Artistic Kind
Chapter 13: Finding Balance
The Oldest Organic Orchard in the Country
Traditions to Touch the Heart
The Roots of Relationship
Epilogue: Some Lessons Learned
Beyond the Search is my story. It also contains the stories of those I’ve met along the way and those who’ve walked the path before. I may not have met them all, but the trails they’ve blazed and the examples they’ve lived illuminate the story and at times carry my pen across the page.
In my first book, In Search of Simplicity, I describe the magical, serendipitous journey through many lands that brought me from the brink of death, finally, to that inner place from whence we all emanate—that place of absolute power and love, the Source of all creation. That discovery changed my life.
I also found, towards the end of my years-long quest, in a remote hill station in the foothills of the Himalayas, the woman of my dreams—Lucia. That discovery, too, changed my life.
In the course of my travels a dream began to form: a dream of returning to the land; a dream of self-sufficiency in the high deserts of New Mexico, to a place I’d never been before.
Beyond the Search chronicles our attempt to live the dream; to live simply, nobly and in harmony with nature and each other; to live an unfettered life, unplugged and disconnected from all forms of media, while remaining connected to the messages coming from nature and from within.
It is the story of our challenges and adventures—from rattlesnakes and a devastating hailstorm to an international gold mining company intent on developing an open pit mine on the other side of our fence.
Beyond the Search is a triumph of the spirit. It is an inspiration to anyone wishing to live a little more simply, a little healthier and more connected with nature.
Join me: join us, on this journey into a world of cooperation and great peace for all the nations and peoples of this planet.
I hold the pen, but who is the author of the story?
I walk the path, but who guides my feet along the way?
In an age in which we are taught we each forge our own destinies can any of us escape a deeper destiny, a timeless book in which we each inhabit a page?
In an age that preaches independence are any of us truly independent—from each other and from the spirit that carries us along? A spirit barely hidden from the world we call reality; a reality which is but a meager impression in the macrocosm of life.
In these pages you will come to know me and Lucia, the woman who shared my dreams and who continues to dream with me today.
You will follow our sometimes faltering steps on our shared journey as we join in creating gardens and a family in New Mexico, Arizona, New Zealand, Canada and the Netherlands. A humbling discovery was made in the years described herein: to realize the truth is one thing; to live it is another.
In the end it is neither the degrees we’ve attained nor the positions we’ve held that measure our success. It’s the love we’ve shared and that we allow to flow through us that is the real measure of who we are.
I openly share my life and my love with you. At times I play the fool. Always I am the eager student. In reading this story perhaps you too will be my guide. Welcome.
A Dream, 2007.
It was a beautiful crystalline American Southwest summer day with nary a cloud to mar the azure tint of the sky. We were traveling north on the interstate highway and had just passed a small modern city. My passenger was a high school student, Michael, in his late teens. He had been visiting and helping us for a few days. Earlier that same stunning morning we had said goodbye to Lucia before jumping into the car for the two hour drive to the airport. Michael was flying home to his parents in Vermont.
The road followed a narrow ridge of rock and earth, like the back of some ancient giant dragon, the rest of whose body had been devoured by the sands and rocky scree of the New Mexican high desert plateau. On our left stood mammoth centuries-old trees, the likes of which one only finds in a handful of protected areas anymore. After this narrow band of trees the earth fell away sharply to the endless flat, open desert below. On our immediate right plummeted another cliff into a gorgeous, turquoise lake, an unexpected oasis in an otherwise stark and parched environment.
“Michael, look! They’re cutting down some of those old trees.” My voice was tinged with awe. There was no judgment. I was simply amazed to see the magnitude of those trees, some of whose trunks were now dangling precariously, ready to fall at any moment. Men with huge chainsaws worked feverishly to sever the remaining bits of wood that just held the trees together.
As I returned my visual attention to the task of driving the car, I saw, to my amazement, that our vehicle had left the road and we were now soaring over the lake with the full momentum of the 70s era airborne Chevrolet. I hadn’t heard or felt when we broke through the guardrail, as my logical brain said we must have done. It was obvious we would soon crash head on into the approaching cliff.
Just to the right of this cliff I noticed a sort of natural, twisting rock lane rising up from the shore of the lake, as if a lava flow from some dreamtime volcano had frozen in place. This lane led to a mostly horizontal stretch of rock, above which soared a broad, rainbow-shaped arch of solid rock. The unreal blue of the sky and the rugged landscape beyond could be seen in part through this huge, natural arch.
All this was noted in a furious instant. I made a decision and turned to Michael.
“Let’s head for that lane of rock to the right of the cliff.”
Now you know that one can’t control the direction of a car once it leaves the surface on which it is being driven. Michael and I didn’t know that. Together we leaned and looked in the direction we wished to go. The car responded instantly to our intentions. It would be touch and go, but based on our present trajectory I estimated we would just clear the lake, if we were lucky.
Above us, barely visible in the shadow of the arch, were the faces of a man and two small children, each anxiously watching our approach.
Luck was with us and we hit the lane, tires bouncing and skidding, just where it rose from the lake. The onlookers smiled with relief and so did we.
Just another day in paradise, I thought as we drove on and returned to the interstate. Michael made it to the airport on time.
A Cross-Continental Journey
Following the Yellow Brick Road
Kansas, February, 1989.
I’d been driving all day in the second hand Ford pickup I’d purchased the week before in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was Santa Fe I had left in the light of a rising sun twelve hours earlier. From the shadows of the Sangre de Cristo peaks, I’d driven north to Colorado through the forested foothills of the Rockies. It had been yet another beautiful clear day, with the cool winter sun reflecting rainbows from the snow on the side of the road.
At Colorado Springs, an immaculate military town, I’d turned east, losing elevation as the gentle rolling hills and high plateau in the rain shadow of the mountains gave way to the flat, monotonous stubble and snow-covered prairies of Kansas.
Kansas. The name and the place forever remind me of someone else embarking on a magical journey. Dorothy and her dog Toto left the dust bowl of Kansas and followed a yellow brick road to find a wizard in the Land of Oz, a wizard who could direct them home.
I still found it amazing and somewhat magical how I had ended up here, a lone traveler in a small red truck on a slick road in Kansas, also heading home.
I grew up in Ontario, the place I was now aiming for like a bee pulled to honey, or a metal filing irresistibly attracted to a magnet, on this solitary cross-continental winter drive.
Five years and a month earlier I’d left my work, my family and my home in Canada on an adventure. That adventure had carried me and my backpack from the Middle East, where I’d worked two years as an advisor to Saudi Telecom, through Europe, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand to Papua New Guinea in search of truth and simple, meaningful existence. From there I’d crossed the breadth of China and the nearly three-mile high Khunjerab Pass into the Hunza, a Shangri La-like land of apricots and centenarians. All told, eleven months were spent in the Himalayas. In McLeod Ganj, the home of the Dalai Lama and a thriving Tibetan community, I’d overcome severe illness, experienced a profound spiritual awakening, met Dutch-born Lucia, my partner-to-be, and received a remarkable chain of synchronistic messages directing me to embark on a life of self-sufficiency near Santa Fe, New Mexico, a place I’d never been before.
I’d arrived in New Mexico to find that the place I was pulled to belonged to a man I’d met in Nepal almost a year before. He and I negotiated a settlement on the twenty acres of land his tiny handmade house sat on. And now I was bee-lining for Ontario to pick up the furniture, books and other personal belongings I’d put in storage five years and a month before, so that I could begin my experiments in self-sufficient living at the base of Turquoise Mountain, near Cerrillos, thirty five minutes southwest of Santa Fe.
There’s something about solitary travel that allows the mind to wander in ways it has rarely wandered before. Perhaps the newness of the surroundings spawns newness of thought, unencumbered by the conditioned associations of the familiar. My mind and my thoughts investigated a question I’d been forced to ask a few times these last years.
What is the biggest fear most of us have, besides the fear of public speaking, that is?
The answer arrived without hesitation: The fear of dying. The fear of death.
Is this simply the ultimate fear of the unknown? If fear can be described as ‘false evidence appearing real’ the evidence is based more on our own conditioned ruminations than on any concrete fact.
How much had my scholastic and religious education prepared me for dying, for death? The Tibetans and ancient Egyptians each had ‘Books of the Dead’, clear guides for those left behind to assist those on the next stage of their journey after having left behind their bodies and their loved ones. And there was a whole recent body of Western literature that investigated the possibility of life after death.
Ah, the fear of death. It’s a strange thing, isn’t it, since death is inextricably linked to every birth. As far as I could see, from the moment one is physically born, every subsequent moment brings one closer to death. If that was the case, and I could see no way around it, if one fears death, one carries that feeling through every moment of living. This struck me as being a counterproductive way to live.
When I was struck down with spinal meningitis in Norway I’d been absolutely terrified of dying. I don’t know why I felt that way. I just know that was how I felt.
When Dr. Yeshi Dhonden treated me in India with the herbs of his specialty, Tibetan Medicine, my already severe symptoms initially deteriorated further and I feared the worst. I don’t know why; I just know that was how I felt.
It seemed to me my years of work and travel subsequent to my formal education had been packed with more consequential and practical learning than all my years spent in school. I began to view my entire life as a school.
I loved my traveling life, even though on more than one occasion, I’d been extremely ill and come face to face with my mortality. I love the unknown. I love adventure. Wouldn’t death be the ultimate adventure? Why had I feared it then?
It has been said that there’s nothing to fear but fear itself. Where does fear originate? If one lives completely in the present moment, is there room for fear?
I’d always considered myself an optimist. I’d even created a mnemonic in Saudi Arabia to help me with the challenges I faced in that land and work environment so different from anything I’d experienced to that point in my life: POP or Patience, Optimism and Persistence. It could have as easily been an extension of that well known adage, ‘If at first you don’t succeed: try, try again.’
My last couple of hours of driving I’d been accompanied by a steady drizzle. It reminded me of the kind of winter weather I’d left behind in Southern Ontario. It was the kind of weather that plays havoc with roads, turning them from dirty slush one moment to hazardous ice the next.
America is criss-crossed with interstate highways, the four lane divided roads designed to get motorists from point A to point B in the shortest possible time and, seemingly, in the least picturesque way.
This trip of mine was to take me from the continental divide to the Great Lakes, following in general the flow of water from the flanks of the mountains on an inexorable journey to the sea. I was determined to maximize my enjoyment of this trip. So I would take America’s Blue Highways, the two lane strips of asphalt that visited the little towns and scenic byways of this massive country.
Tomorrow I was due to follow the Missouri River until it disgorged its vast bounty into an even bigger river, the mighty Mississippi, at St. Louis, the biggest city in this part of the country. I was getting in touch with the land and waters Mark Twain had immortalized and which had fired my youthful enthusiasm so many years before. I was no Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer, but I was on a journey of discovery nonetheless.
I turned the vehicle lights on. It was that in-between time of dusk when visibility was at its deceptive worst. I turned north onto an even quieter two lane road, another byway new to me. There was very little traffic. My destination—Southern Ontario—lay mostly east and somewhat north of my present location, so I had to occasionally alter my course. I noticed too late that the drizzle, my misty companion of the last two hours, had stopped. Not only does visibility diminish at dusk, but the temperature drops.
I should have known better. I should have slowed down. As it was, I was already traveling at 45 miles per hour, well below the speed limit. My years spent overseas had dulled my winter driving senses.
I only knew the road had turned to ice when the truck began to spin. Fortunately no one was coming the other way on this quiet and dead-straight country road. Just as fortunately, the truck kept its spins, initially at least, to the icy pavement. The roadsides were more of the snow-covered fields I’d been traversing the better part of the day.
My attempts to adjust the spin were futile. I was definitely not in control. After a couple of full 360 degree revolutions the truck decided to slide straight backwards, presumably still at 45 mph. The headlights were doing an excellent job of illuminating where I had come from. I could only hope no other vehicles were coming the other way. The lights also made clear the deep ditches on either side of the road. Once my friction-free projectile of a vehicle left the road it would surely hit a ditch.
All this happened in a few short moments but, just as I’d experienced years before when catapulting over a waterfall in a canoe, time seemed to stand still. I could see I stood a good chance of dying. I seemed to have ample time to analyze this possibility. There was no fear. All I thought of was the inconvenience this would cause for my family and for Lucia, my partner-to-be. How would it be for them when they received calls from some stranger, probably a police officer, telling them of my unfortunate demise?
Unlike my experiences in Norway and in India, fear played no part in this. There was only crystal clear—dare I say icy clear—analytical thought free of emotion.
I continued to adjust the wheel, but the truck showed not one iota of respect for my efforts. The truck and I were in someone else’s hands and so was my family.
The truck turned again, 180 degrees, until the headlights were once more pointing in the direction I was headed. I began to pump the brakes, remembering my defensive driver training. The truck slid onto the right hand gravel shoulder and the braking took hold. I just managed to stop before entering the ditch.
The engine stalled.
I sat for a moment and gave thanks for my survival. Miraculously, the truck hadn’t hit anything and hadn’t blown a tire. I turned the key and the motor turned over, coughed, hesitated . . . and started! It was my lucky night.
I slowly and very carefully drove from the shoulder back onto the road. It was still slick, but I was crawling along now. It took considerable time to cover the five miles needed to reach the first little roadside hotel. Along the way, I passed two vehicles that had obviously left the icy road. One was overturned and attended by a tow truck and police car. Someone obviously hadn’t been quite as lucky as I.
When I settled into my simple lodgings for the night I reflected on my lack of fear during the brief icy trauma. I wondered if all my experiences traveling had taught me something after all. Death seemed less an unwanted stranger and more an obscure companion; not something to be feared, rather something to be accepted as an inevitable visitor at the end of life’s journey, at the end of one’s allotted time span. Death would visit sooner or later—at the right time.
I’d dodged the bullet once again and been given more time to live. There was work to be done. Tomorrow I would continue my cross-continental journey. Carefully. And then I would pick up the furniture and other possessions put in storage so many years before and return to New Mexico to begin my new adventures in self-sufficiency on a remote high desert property near Santa Fe.
I could see now this adventure involved another kind of work as well: the work of awareness.
I said time seemed to stand still when the truck began to spin. Reality exists where there is no time. Perhaps the trauma had temporarily jarred me from the illusory time-measured world into that timeless realm which the mind and thought cannot visit and where fear is a stranger.
Fear is surely a conditioned response that takes place in the conditioned world, rather than in the Eternal Present. Reality can only be found beyond the mind, and only revealed when the mind becomes quiet.
Surely, part of my new adventure would be to learn to return to that precious state of Reality at will, rather than relying on the suddenness of a trauma to jar the incessant thought and mind into a state of rest. I could see I needed to learn to live in a state of passive alertness, a state without judgment where one accepts things as they are.
Here surely there could be no problem. There are no problems in Reality. There are only problems in the minds of men. Oh, I had so much to learn.
To Be Continued