Our Winter Solstice Celebration


Education is what remains after one has forgotten

what one has learned in school.

                     Albert  Einstein                                                                                                             

I recently worked for five days as a relief teacher at our local area school—a school serving children ages 5 to 17. I was appalled at the lack of respect many of the high school-aged young people had for themselves, for each other, for learning and for the teachers. Clearly, many didn’t really want to be there. Language was shocking. Frankly, for me it was soul-shattering work. I wonder about the home life that creates young adults seeking love and attention in such inappropriate ways.

The weekend restored my faith in humanity. Between 80 and 90 people attended our local Ceili on Saturday night—including our 17-year-old daughter and a group of her high school friends. They had a great deal of fun and danced and mingled respectfully with the younger children and the adults.

Sunday night 25 of us – aged 6 to 90 – gathered in our home to celebrate winter solstice. One by one we lit candles, placing them in a spiral of cedar boughs and fragrant flowers, bringing the room to light. Young and old expressed their wishes: for peace, for the world’s homeless, for suffering children, for the environment and for Mother Earth. We sang together and afterwards shared food and meaningful conversation.

It is this which I long for: meaningful activity with meaningful sharing. Isn’t this what we’re here for? One attendee in his 70s is an inventor of some repute (he has invented the water blaster and various aeronautical devices and airplanes. He told me he’s had almost no formal schooling. In his words he’s therefore had ‘less un-learning to do.’ Is it not time to re-evaluate our educational systems and motives? What are we trying to create? Free individuals or simply those prepared to tow the line?

Interestingly, I’m immersed in the third of Vladimir Meġre’s Anastasia books, The Space of Love. Anastasia speaks of the methods required to create real people fulfilling their missions as true creators on this planet. Her ideas for upbringing and education are vastly different from the systems we’ve created in the world.

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


Subscribe to In Search of Simplicity by Email


I have been overwhelmed by best wishes for my birthday last Sunday. I thought I’d make a short post as a way of thanking all those who wished me well. Your thoughts and intentions are appreciated.

In a way my birthday started early with a joyful night of dancing and music at our monthly Ceili. It was, in fact, the fourth birthday of the Ceili (pronounced Kay-Lee) and because my birthday was the next day, I was asked to blow out the candles on the huge chocolate cake commemorating four years of Ceilis in Mangonui. The cake was covered with green icing in keeping with the St Patrick’s Day Theme.

Sunday (my actual birthday) I called dances for a mini-Ceili held outside in nearby Kerikeri for a group of Baha’i friends celebrating the Baha’i New Year after the end of their annual fasting time. It was just as well the fast was over because Lucia and I had brought along the half of the green-iced cake that hadn’t been eaten the night before.

Rainbow Falls Kerikeri

Next we had a lovely walk through a eucalyptus forest down to the Basin in Kerikeri before joining some other dear friends for an autumn equinox celebration. This involved simple song, dance, ritual and the sharing of home-grown and prepared food. Lucia and I were joined on the day by a New Zealand man who’s recently returned to his homeland after many years overseas running yoga retreat centres in Wales, Greece and beyond. It was lovely to share my birthday with a like-minded soul and new friend.

So, it was a great birthday spent doing the things I love—singing, dancing, walking, sharing… It doesn’t get better than this.

I, of course, received some birthday cards. The one from our eldest daughter touched me. It was a handmade card with a beautiful hibiscus flower on it. She wrote, ‘I hope you like the card; the hibiscus reminded me of you, as you always used to pick them and put them on my pillow.’ Our actions and intentions return to us. Lovely!


Kerikeri Basin

Click Below to:

Subscribe to In Search of Simplicity by Email

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.

The Beach Dancers. John in Purple Wig!

I’ve made several posts over the last months describing my family’s involvement with our monthly Céilís in Mangonui. I thought I’d paste below an article I wrote this week for the Northland Age, a local paper. Hopefully it creates for you a picture of this special event. The photos should help too.

Saturday, September 19th saw the unfolding of the monthly Céilí (pronounced ‘kay-lee’) in the Mangonui Hall. One of the features of a Céilí is the opportunity for attendees or band members to present an ‘item’ at some point in the evening. These items can take the form of a song, a dance, a story, a skit or an instrumental performance. Over the three and a half years the Céilí has been running in Mangonui there have been some pretty amazing items. The September Céilí was no exception. First, after about four dances, MC Brian Farrant announced there were some people about to arrive modelling 1920s beach wear. In bounded 8 members of the Kaitaia Scottish Country Dance club led by their gregarious leader, Brian’s wife, Gladys Farrant. The beach wear was colourful, if not exactly true to the period, and the dancing performed by the group brought smiles and laughter to the audience. Not to be missed was Gladys chasing fellow dancer and interestingly attired Ron Rice with a child’s plastic spade.

One of the founders of the local Céilí, Jill Freeman, entertained with the hilarious story of the gender of a computer (a story currently making viral rounds of the world via emails) and later, after more dancing and supper, Kerikeri’s Bill Dawes demonstrated his considerable prowess on the tin whistle. One listener was overheard saying, “That first song was powerful. It brought tears to my eyes.” Bill was quick to point out after his poignant offering that it was all done on a $5 whistle!

The Céilí band, Spootiskerry Spraoi (pronounced ‘spree’), was there as always providing foot stomping, toe tapping music led by band leader Jax Pellett on fiddle. This band gives their musical accompaniment entirely voluntarily and the composition of the band is fluid as members take off temporarily to fulfil other obligations. Replacement musicians jump to the fore to ensure great music is heard and danced to every month. The aforementioned Bill Dawes was one such fill-in on Saturday together with Grant Goodwin on the Bodhran (‘bow-ran’). People who were lucky enough to attend Trial by Jury by the Bay of Islands Singers would have seen Grant in another musical role.

The Céilí organisers invite you to attend on the third Saturday of every month at the Mangonui Hall. The next one will be October 17th. The doors open and the music starts at 7.00 pm.

Dancing begins at about 7.30 pm. Entrance fees are $2 per adult plus a plate for supper. Entry is free for accompanied children. It doesn’t get much more reasonable than that.

This is good old fashioned fun for all ages in an alcohol-free setting in the enchanting ambience of historic Mangonui Hall on the waterfront. Come along and enjoy. No dance experience is necessary and it is perfectly permissible to simply watch.

The Kaitaia SCD Beach Dancers in Mangonui

The Kaitaia SCD Beach Dancers in Mangonui

Subscribe to In Search of Simplicity by Email

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.



I’m a lucky man. I wake up every day in paradise and I go to sleep in the same place.


In the last year we’ve lost almost every penny of our savings, after having been mortgage-free most of our life together.


Yet I don’t feel sorry for myself. I am so lucky.


I was introduced to yoga by Lucia 20 years ago when we met in the Himalayas. I continue to start nearly every day with a refreshing taste of yoga and meditation, the ultimate breakfast for me. Now, after many years away from it, Lucia has resumed teaching—two early morning classes each week here in our house. I attend them, along with a small malleable group of good friends. I feel like I’m living in an ashram. I am so lucky.


Late most afternoons, when much of my work for the day is done, I retreat to my room for Six Healing Sounds and relaxation. This quiet time feels so good to me. I am so lucky.


Most Wednesday evenings I walk along the beach, turn inland and up a hill to the radio station where I interview some amazing person for an hour on radio and cable television. I call that show Voices from the North and I love doing it. I am so lucky.


Most Thursday evenings a dear friend leads a small dedicated group of us in Sanskrit chanting. I walk along our beautiful beach to and from her home. I am so lucky.


Other evenings I walk alone or with Lucia, work in the garden or play outside with my children, the air alive with the heavenly fragrance of Queen of the Night and Datura. What more could a man ask for? I am so lucky.


Every month my family attends our local Ceilidh, an alcohol-free evening of live, quality music performed by talented local musicians. We dance for hours, swept away in the joyful atmosphere of community. I am so lucky.


I have one small problem: finding the time to put into place all I am inspired to do, write and share. I take it one small happy step at a time.


At night, before bed, I pick up my guitar and sing one or two of my devotional songs, make a simple prayer asking that I can continue to be a clear channel of service to humanity, and I fall peacefully asleep. I am healthy, I am happy and I’m in love. I am so lucky.


Our most recent Céilí (pronounced ‘Kay-lee’) was celebrated on Saturday, January 17th in the old, wooden-floored Mangonui Hall here in New Zealand’s Far North. The hall is situated across from the wharf in the quaint fishing village of the same name.

Doubtless Bay

Doubtless Bay

By the way, Mangonui means ‘big shark’ and this is time of the year when the beautiful and harmless (to humans, at least) Bronze Whaler sharks come into Doubtless Bay to give birth.

I’ve mentioned our Céilís in previous posts and thought I’d take the time to tell you a little bit more about these great community events.


As always, participants had a great time. The local Céilí band, Spootiskerry Spraoi (meaning ‘oyster witch having fun’) did their usual outstanding job of entertaining and inspiring those who wished to get up and dance. At a Céilí there is no obligation to dance. Some go simply to enjoy the music and camaraderie. As everyone says, ‘It’s great fun to watch.’


The music and dance is mainly Celtic, meaning that much of the music has its roots in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, SW England and Brittany. The original Celts moved into southern Europe from the East several thousand years ago and eventually migrated to the British Isles. Their descendents can be found throughout Europe today.


This is folk dancing for the whole family with some dances having their origins in places as diverse as Greece and the Ukraine. Anyone, regardless of age or experience, can join in. Every dance is demonstrated and called. In other words, there is plenty of guidance provided throughout. And the emphasis is always on having fun!


Our Céilí happens on the third Saturday of every month. The doors open and the music starts at 7.00pm and the dancing begins at about 7.30pm. Entrance fees are $2 per adult plus a plate for supper (in other words, it’s a potluck). Entry is free for accompanied children. You have to admit this is a good deal for an evening out.


One of the traditions of Céilís is that anyone can contribute an item during the course of the night – for example a song, a dance, a joke or a story.


This is good old fashioned fun for all ages in an alcohol free setting in the enchanting ambience of historic Mangonui Hall on the waterfront of a placid and gorgeous harbor. We (our family) feel absolutely blessed to be part of the Céilí community. These monthly events are brought about through the combined voluntary efforts of many people including the band members. I encourage anyone out there to initiate dances like this. They are incredible community-building affairs. They say the Aquarian Age is about working together in groups. Our Céilí embodies this principle. By the way, the traditional Gaelic spelling of Céilí is Céilídh.


Here are the names of some of the dances that we often do:


Gay Gordons
Dashing White Sergeant
Strip the Willow
Virginia Reel

Two Step



The video is not from our Céilí but gives you a sense of the fun of it!