newspaper-article Tillsonburg News, September, 2008
Radiate Love Radio. Listen as John is interviewed by Brian Schrokosch December, 2008.
Here John Haines gives an amazing example of a synchronicity he experienced with Yeshi Dhonden, the great Tibetan doctor in northern India.
The Power of Coincidence
The Secret behind The Secret
The Oneness of Humanity
Finding One’s Mission in Life
A True Life Parable for All Ages
Restoring the Magic in Your Life
Synopsis: In Search of Simplicity
The book is written in the first person. Although it is factual and autobiographical it only covers a portion of the author’s life, beginning with a two year stay in Saudi Arabia as an advisor to Saudi Telecom. At the end of a vacation in Kashmir, John’s Indian Airlines flight is hijacked to Lahore in Northern Pakistan.
After leaving Saudi Arabia the author’s world tour is cut short when he lands in a hospital in Norway with a spinal meningitis-induced coma. Waking from the coma just long enough to prevent a potentially lethal injection of penicillin (to which he is allergic) leaves John with questions about the nature of existence. This changes his trip into a journey of discovery that spans two and a half years and every habitable continent save South America. A remarkable, almost unbelievable, chain of coincidences leads the way and shows the author when he’s on the right track. Travels initially range through South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Meetings with remarkable individuals ensue, including Mark, the ex-advertising executive from America, who gave it all away to plant trees in the Australian hinterlands.
In Papua New Guinea the author is profoundly touched by the simple, harmonious way of living of the Trobriand Islanders. During a freighter trip up the Fly River, also in PNG, John begins to clarify his vision of creating a simple, self sufficient lifestyle. At the end of that river journey John sees the devastating environmental impact of one of the world’s largest gold mines, Ok Tedi. He then goes off the track to come face to face with some of the last people on the planet untouched by Western civilization.
After a brief poignant interlude in the Philippines and a return to Canada to attend a wedding, the story resumes in China. Here John gets an appendicitis scare and encounters the insanely apathetic Chinese medical system. Strength of will propels him forward and upwards over the Khunjerab pass into fabled Hunza in Northern Pakistan. Deteriorating health and further coincidental meetings in Nepal and India propel John to seek the assistance of the great Tibetan healer, Dr. Yeshi Dhonden, in Dharmsala in northern India. It is also in Dharmsala, home of the Dalai Lama and a thriving Tibetan community, that the author experiences a profound spiritual awakening that leaves his life transformed and his purpose clear. At this time he meets Lucia, his future wife, and begins to receive a series of coincidental messages pointing him in the direction of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
An eventful return to the Hunza takes on a surreal quality through an encounter with a ghost and beams of light projecting from the mountains. All told, eleven months are spent in the Himalayas before that undeniable chain of coincidences leads John through Africa to Europe for a reunion with Lucia before heading to New Mexico to meet his destiny at a unique property outside Santa Fe. Here, this story ends and the sequel begins. That book is due to be released later in 2009.
In Search of Simplicity is the extraordinary story of an ordinary man, told with a blend of humor, penetrating insight and adventure. The book is no mere travel saga. It is an adventure into the very heart of life that leaves every reader transformed. There is a message of ecological oneness and of the unity that exists at the core of all religions and beliefs. There is a message of hope and personal healing and finding one’s personal mission in life. And the story is all the more real because it is true and is tempered with sometimes humorous incidents and flashbacks to earlier times in the author’s life.
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General Questions for Interviews
1. How is it that you came to write this book?
2. Can you tell me about the time you were hijacked in India?
3. We’ve all heard of cases where people have died or been debilitated after coming down with spinal meningitis. You’ve had it twice and you’re here to tell the story. The second time you ended up in a coma in the hospital in Norway? Did this experience start you on what you call your search for simplicity?
4. What caused you to visit a place in Australia’s outback where people live(d) underground in houses hewn from sandstone?
5. A famous anthropologist Malinowski wrote several books about the Trobriand Islanders, one with the provocative title of The Sexual Life of Savages. What did you learn from these people? Can you comment on the Kula Ring?
6. In southern China you came down with appendicitis after an interesting experience with butterflies. First what happened with the butterflies?
7. Dr. Alexander Leaf wrote articles about longevity for National Geographic back in the 70s. You visited one of those places, the Hunza, didn’t you?
8. Is this where you met the ghost?
9. You detail five months you spent in Dharmsala in northern India, home of the Dalai Lama and a thriving Tibetan community. Here you met an amazing healer Dr Yeshi Dhonden. Was he able to help you?
10.Your book is more than a travel adventure story. It’s also a love story. You met your wife Lucia in Dharmsala didn’t you?
11.You speak of coincidences at length through the book. This one about Gyan (prononouced Gee-on) is particularly funny. I’d love it if you explained that for our listeners.
12.These coincidences lead you half way around the world to Santa Fe, New Mexico. What is this coincidence about ‘The Land of Enchantment?’
13.At the end of the book you arrive in New Mexico, fulfilling this quest guided by coincidences. What happens next? Is there a sequel to In Search of Simplicity?
Questions with a Spiritual Slant
1. When you went to Saudi Arabia to live and work, as you describe at the beginning of the book, did you leave your home in Canada with some questions?
2. You lived outside of Medina, one of Islam’s holy cities. Did your stay there give you a different perspective on history and religion?
3. You describe your visit to Israel. Did you walk in the footsteps of Jesus?
4. You met a most interesting character in Queensland. You call him ‘Mark the Tree Planter.’ Tell us about him.
5. You met a man in the Star Mountains in a remote part of Papua New Guinea. He mentioned something about the Ten Commandments I find interesting. Can you explain that please?
6. Your book is an autobiographical adventure story written like a novel. But it’s more than that. There are stories of inspirational characters from history imbedded in the text. Milarepa is one such character. How has his life influenced you?
7. You also meet an unsual physicist who guides you on a journey an ex-telephone company manager could never have predicted. He speaks of the founder of the Bah’ai faith after visiting the Bah’ai temple in Delhi. What did you learn from your encounters with this physicist, Jurgen?
8. In Buddhism it is claimed that life can be suffering and the Buddha created a series of steps to transcend suffering. You and your wife-to-be, Lucia, have an experience in which you laugh about suffering. You also mention the story of Jonathon. Do you care to comment?
9. Your journey, your search, brings you in contact with holy places walked by the founders of the world’s major religions. You finish your story with an epilogue and an appeal for peace in the world. You include a poem that you say came to you while recording some peace songs while living in The Netherlands in 2003. Could you finish by saying that poem out loud please?
Questions with Answers:
Question: What happened while you were in Saudi Arabia?
Answer: This was the beginning of the shattering of the walls of the box of my beliefs based on my upbringing in Canada. There was nothing wrong with these beliefs; they were just limited. The people there had different priorities than I had at the time. My career was very important to me. The Saudis honoured religion, family and friends over work
Question: In what way do you mean?
Answer: I was raised in the Anglican Church. I found out that in the Koran, the Holy book of Islam, Jesus was acknowledged as a saint, as were others like Moses and Abraham. One of the questions I had when I went to Saudi Arabia was, “Why are wars fought in the name of religion?” I don’t think they are. They’re fought over resources –most recently oil. It is easy for men of power to convince enough young men that they are fighting for the ideals of their country. In Saudi Arabia the royal family controls the media. If I tuned into the Saudi channel, and remember this was during the mid-80s, things may have changed, it seemed you always saw the King cutting the ribbon for another new building. The news was selective and censored. I think this breeds ignorance.
Question: That’s quite different from our news?
Answer: In some ways yes and in some ways no. I saw how the news was sensationalised when I was highjacked on an Indian Airlines flight out of Kashmir. We too are not getting an accurate picture always. I had never been a big one to read newspapers, but that experience caused me to read and view the news less frequently, and to be very discerning with news I did see – listening to my inner voice to determine the truth rather than accepting it all on face value.
Question: Didn’t you get meningitis in Norway?
Answer: Yes. I went into a coma and only woke out of it just in time to stop a potentially lethal injection of penicillin. I can still see the friends, the doctor with the needle and a couple of nurses looking down at me. One of the friends said, “Oh John, you’re awake. Are you allergic to penicillin?” I answered, “Yes,” and went back into a coma. That experience set me on the journey of discovery that is the main subject of the book.
Question: What caused the meningitis?
Answer:I did research on the disease when I was well enough back in Canada. I found out it is sometimes called Soldier’s Disease because it tends to affect young fit people and for some reason has a high incidence amongst young soldiers in training. Further and more recent research shows a correlation between meningitis and certain vaccinations not long before. I believe that’s what caused it the two times I had it at ages 4 and 28. There’s a so-called epidemic in New Zealand. Perhaps it’s just coincidental (although I think not) but the “epidemic” began in 1990, the same year the MMR vaccine was introduced
Question: What did you learn from Mark in Australia?
Answer: He was a man who gave up nearly everything – his US Passport, even his last name (something many women do through marriage) to plant trees in the Australian hinterland. He had been an advertising executive and this touched me because I had an MBA and had , of course, studied marketing. I knew that advertising was designed to create a perceived need rather than a real one. No one needs advertising to sell things that are real needs. I wrote a song a few years ago called Lookin’ (COULD PLAY THE SONG IF IT’S A LIVE INTERVIEW) with a line in it that says, “Do you need a cell phone, computer and a car? Does it really matter if you don’t know who you are?” Mark made me think about what was really important in life. Many of us are so busy working in order to afford the next gadget we’ve lost sight of the importance of the greatest gift we can give each other – quality time. A genuine smile passing someone on the street can stay with that person for a long time. A look can last a lifetime. I’m thinking about the look of warmth I received from the Aga Khan in the Hunza months later.
What is more touching than cuddling with your child and reading them a good book? This creates bonds of love and the love of books, knowledge and discovery.
Mark made me wonder about where we may have gone wrong. Why don’t people think for themselves? It starts in the family and continues in the schools. Some say most of our conditioning and our conditioned responses is established by age 4.
Question: Didn’t Mark have three heroes?
Answer: Yes; Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi and Johnny Appleseed. He said Jesus made the mistake of choosing a disciple that betrayed him, He said Mahatma Gandhi was too political. That left Johnny Appleseed as his greatest inspiration. The message is just as important today. We need to plant trees to restore forests and to ease the continuing desertification of the planet. I watched an amazing DVD recently about the efforts of one older New Zealand man to help the farmers of India, 150,000 of whom have taken their lives since 1995. Peter Proctor is the man and DVD is called How to Save the World: One Man, One Cow, One Planet. One simple man can make a difference.
In Saudi Arabia, I saw petroglyphs, ancient rock carvings from thousands of years before of long horned cattle; in a landscape that is a desolate desert today supporting no cattle. That area wasn’t desert like it is today only a few thousand years ago. The Romans and their wheat fields in North Africa turned much of that land into desert. Much of the Sahara is man made and continues to be. Richard St. Barbe Baker, founder of Men of the Trees in the 1930’s, showed that even in that huge desert, intelligent efforts could reverse conditions.
Question: What did you learn in Papua New Guinea?
Answer: Like the rest of my journey it just sort of happened and unfolded in ways I could not have predicted. I used John Lennon’s words paraphrased from his song Beautiful Boy in the book. Life is what happens while you are making other plans. PNG and what is today called Irian Jaya make up the second largest island in the world (after Greenland). It is an island of almost unbelievable linguistic diversity. Something like 700 distinct languages exist in PNG. I wrote in the book of meeting a student at the National University in Port Moresby, where I stayed, who grew up in a little village on the Sepik River. He spoke 12 languages because he had to in order to communicate with his immediate neighbours in a jungle where the only road was the river.
The heart of PNG was so inhospitable to explore that its interior has remained as untouched, as untrammelled by Western Civilization, as only a few places on the planet, including the headwaters of the Amazon. In many remote regions white man wasn’t seen until the 1930’s. Heck, I was only the second white man to walk through one area I visited in the Star Mountains near the Irian Jaya border.
So I was able to take an anthropological step back in history and what I discovered gave me insight into this process we call colonization and the arrogance of Western man thinking that we have to help all these people. We have often forgotten that these so-called primitive tribes have as much or more to teach us as we have to show them.
· The man telling me about the 9 Commandments
· The Gold Mine at Ok Tedi. Our disconnection with nature leads to further arrogance and the need to conquer nature rather than to cooperate with her. Nature is not our enemy. Like Chief Seattle once said, “One day we’ll find out you can’t eat money.”
· The Trobriand Islanders in many ways (Kula Ring etc.) showed me what a simple life is all about.
· On the trip up the Fly River I began to get a glimpse of a self sufficient lifestyle/community idea that I went on to pursue after my travels.
Question: What is the message of the book?
Answer: It is filled with messages. But one key message is in my description in the book of a profound spiritual awakening while in McLeod Ganj (Dharmsala, home of the Dalai Lama) in Northern India. I became in touch with a greater reality. Although I did my best to describe it in the book it is indescribable. This experience changed the way I see the world. And I hope it has changed the way I act and interact with the rest of life. I discovered firsthand that all beings are interconnected (experience in the Tibetan Library) To paraphrase on old saying: When a butterfly flaps its wings in Switzerland, it is felt by the meditating monk in Japan. Physicist David Bohm spoke of the holographic universe. Any part within is capable of experiencing the whole. We’re on the verge of an unprecedented Renaissance of human endeavour, of individual and collective awakening. This is my message of hope.
Thinking for ourselves. Thinking deeply. Acting responsibly.
Another important realization. There is no one exclusive way to God. There are many paths, one destination. Like Alex’s (from the Hunza) realisation from his Zen studies.
And, finally, as I stated in the epilogue, I believe that world peace is not just possible, it is inevitable. I’d love to finish our talk with the poem United We Sing from the epilogue of In Search of Simplicity. If there’s time I can sing one of my little songs.like There is Unity or Your Heart My Heart.
Closing Question: Based on your experience and travels, what have you learned and what can you pass on to our listeners in way of closing?
Short Answer: Despite what happens to us, no matter how uncomfortable and temporarily discouraging the events of our lives can be, remain optimististic. As I say in the book, I nearly drowned going over a waterfall, I ended up in a coma in a hospital in Norway, I was scared out of my wits in the Himalayas, I had appendicitis in China. The list goes on. But I was always able to regain my optimism and you can too. (30 seconds)
Longer answer can be added if there’s time: Your job, should you decide to take it, is to accept each and every circumstance that comes your way with equanimity. To greet each and every event with a smile. To recognize that you are the architect and author of your life and you simply cannot create anything that is too much for you to handle.
Rise up and meet the challenges no matter how daunting they may at first appear. Cry if you must, then wipe the tears and use the gifts you’ve been given to deal with life’s crises. These gifts are your ability to smile and laugh. These are the transformers of emotion and they act instantly. You’ve used these tools many times before and you know they work. Use them again and again. Use them every day. Stare adversity in the face and laugh.
Think of life’s challenges as that which you’ve subconsciously asked for as tests. Now, pass the tests. You deserve a life of true abundance, of health and happiness, of rich and meaningful relationships You’re a child of God and your future is bright and joyous and secure. Accept that, be that, and you are free. (Additional 70-80 seconds)