I recently connected with a woman on LinkedIn, Martha Jette. She is a former newspaper editor and five-time published author. Out of the blue she asked if she could review my book in exchange for reviewing one of hers. She indicated she would post the review of my book on her blog and promptly sent me one one her books, Glimpses 2. I couldn’t turn down a possibility like this so I had BookSurge send a copy of In Search of Simplicity to her address in Ontario.

A few weeks later Martha got back me to say she’d finished the book and I could see her review on her blog. It was then I discovered she provides reviews for a fee of $25 to authors who wish to have her services. I felt privileged to have received the benefit of her experienced perspective for free.

And you can imagine my delight when I read the review she penned and posted. I’ve pasted it below. This is just one of many surprisingly pleasant experiences I’ve had on this journey of self-publishing. For more on Martha and to see the reviews she’s written visit http://mjbookreviews.blogspot.com/



I just finished reading In Search of Simplicity by John P. Haines and feel like I’ve been given a great gift. That gift is a rare glimpse into the most remote reaches of our planet where people live the simple life – happy, long-lived lives with little more than their families and the clothes on their backs. It’s an almost forgotten existence that those of us in supposedly more progressive countries find hard to even imagine.
John began his mystical journey and search for truth after being sent on a two-year contract with Bell Canada International to Saudi Arabia. Already a manager with Bell, John always figured he’d pursue a corporate career. However, this was not to be. He found himself with new friends swimming amongst the beautiful coral reefs and abundance of life beneath the Red Sea, and his eyes were opened to a new and to him – as yet undiscovered world.


The itch to travel got hold of him and soon he found himself in such remote locations as Yogyakarta, Java, Papua New Guinea, Guilin in southern China, the Hunzas in northern Pakistan, Pahar Ganj, New Delhi, Nepal, Kathmandu, McLeod Ganj, Tibet, Dharmsala, India, Malawi, Africa and a sprinkling of tropical islands such as Kiriwina and Telofomin. He also traveled to such countries as The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Iran and Germany. Along the way, John learned about meditation, yoga, Buddhism, Chinese medicine, breathing exercises, the value of herbs and natural foods. As well he read books about renowned spiritual teachers, various philosophies and more. He also intermingled with the natives and learned their natural way of living long and contented lives. He learned that material wealth doesn’t come anywhere near as close to bringing happiness, as spiritual peace and good health.

“ I loved this wandering life where every day was an unknown adventure,” he said.
But traveling often on foot to less than sanitary places lead to some serious problems along the way. He suffered almost constant diarriah, severe headaches, fevers, a bout of appendicitis and even rabies. Even so, John came away from his traveling experiences a much more enlightened and happy man. He also fell in love. He met a beautiful Dutch woman named Lucia in McLeod Ganj who eventually became his wife.
I loved reading along as John traveled from one destination to another and I learned as he learned too. A couple of things really stood out to me. The first was an experience he had in Tibet. While meditating, he traveled out of body and understood the true essence of time, space and his place as a divine presence in the Now. He discovered his true Self. Anyone adept at meditation can achieve this and it’s truly a wonderfully enlightening experience.
As John traveled, many synchronicities occurred that put him at the right place at the right time, brought the exact information he needed or friends he’d met thousands of miles away suddenly appeared in some remote village. I also felt synchronicities while reading this book. John has been around the world but was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario. So was I! We shared an almost identical meditation experience and to my surprise, on Page 362 he recounted the time he heard the angels sing.
“The voices were, quite literally, out of this world,” he wrote. “I have never in my life, before or since, heard anything at all close to as beautiful as this. The sound was so profound and so melodious that it seemed to stir some deep musical memory in me.”
When I first told my daughters of a similar experience a number of years ago, they looked at me like I was from Mars. Now, with John’s written words, they know I’m not crazy! I have heard this heavenly choir on three separate occasions – all while I was praying in a meditative state.
The greatest lesson John learned through his myriad of experiences was that having just enough – was enough. Today, he, Lucia and their children live a simple, self-sufficient yet full life together in New Zealand.
I would highly recommend this book not only for it’s colorful descriptions of remote places and peoples, but also for the many insights that will have you re-evaluating your own life and how you live it. To get a copy of In Search of Simplicity go Here.

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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.


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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



A Dream

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

Turquoise Mountain


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

Aggravating Agitator

Behaving as if the God in All Life Mattered

The Garden Symphony

Will You Go Through the Fire With Me?

Rock Squirrels

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

The Hailstorm

Chapter 5: Of Gold Mines and Babies

Teaching a Horse to Fly

The Resistance Movement

The Threat

The Hearing

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

Educational Observations

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

Peace Pilgrim

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?

Amsterdam Respite

Close Encounters of an Artistic Kind

Sahaj Marg

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.

John Haines

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

John Haines relates another amazing synchronicity. This one occurs in the Hunza in northern Pakistan. It involves the book of Richard Bach called Illusions.

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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.


Here John Haines gives an amazing example of a synchronicity he experienced with Yeshi Dhonden, the great Tibetan doctor in northern India.

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


Here John Haines gives an amazing example of a synchronicity he experienced with Yeshi Dhonden, the great Tibetan doctor in northern India.

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.

The following is a condensed version of the third chapter of In Search of Simplicity. It describes my experience of spinal meningitis in Norway in 1986, the second time I’d encountered the deadly disease.


London, May, 1986.


“Can you tell me where I might find the Russia-Scandinavia tour bus?” asked the blonde stranger.

After a restless night spent in one of London’s crowded traveler hostels I had been searching in vain for the bus that would take me on my next adventure, a six week camping tour of Scandinavia and the Eastern European communist states. The 8.30 am departure time was rapidly approaching.

“Do you know where the tour bus is?” asked the young man again. I was more than a little surprised to have this absolute stranger voice the very question that was on my lips.

“Funny you should ask. I’m looking for the same bus,” I responded, smiling back at this man. “Let’s look for it together. It can’t be far away.”

So it was that I met Dean, the shy, muscular Cape Town native who was taking time out from construction work in London.


We found that bus around the next corner. We were the last to arrive. We quickly discovered that aside from a couple of Canadian girls in their late teens, we were the only travelers on the tour who were not from Australia or New Zealand. There is something divinely ‘right’ about two lost people meeting each other. Perhaps it happens more often than most of us realize.

The bus took a ferry across to Belgium and we spent the first night of the tour in Amsterdam. Over the next week we carried on up to Denmark and we were soon enjoying the beautiful fiords north of Oslo.


We were driving along a road cut through snow banks the height of the bus. I leaned over to Dean and said, “I feel horrible.” I was beginning to feel sick to my stomach and had the faint onset of a headache.

 “Perhaps you’ve got a touch of food poisoning, John,” said Stan, the red haired Kiwi whom both Dean and I had befriended.

“Maybe I do,” I groaned, lying down on the seat. In a matter of minutes I had a whopping headache. It felt like my cranium was beginning to swell and my neck was stiff and throbbing.

A few minutes later I called out, “I think I’m going to die!” I had never voiced these words before and I wasn’t sure where they were coming from now. I was terrified. I must have been delirious.

“John, take a couple of aspirins,” interjected Maree, a petite Australian friend. It was rare for me to use any medicine but I was grateful for this offer now.

I lay down again and dozed off.

I was incredibly grateful when the bus stopped and our travel was over for the day. I was doubly grateful that this was to be our first stay in quite comfortable cabins, after night after night of camping. The thought of a tent was not an appealing idea. Dean and Stan helped me to a lower bunk.

I had excruciating pain in my head, which now felt as if it was swollen like a balloon.

“My neck is too stiff to bend. Can you guys help to get my shoes off?” Dean and Stan were happy to oblige. They helped me get under the covers.

That night passed by in a blur of repeated somnolent trips to the toilet to vomit. Despite evacuating my stomach throughout the night I felt even worse in the morning. My head felt as if a herd of Norwegian reindeer had stamped on it all night. Stan and Dean supported me as I stumbled out to the bus. That is all that I remember. At this point I slipped into a coma.

I heard later that our tour leader became very concerned. They stopped at the next village and consulted with a doctor. When the doctor observed my comatose form and noted the other symptoms, which now included spots all over my arms, he diagnosed spinal meningitis and prepared to give me a massive injection of penicillin.

I awoke abruptly from the coma to find that I was lying on my back. I saw a doctor above me holding a large needle before my eyes. The doctor was flanked by two nurses on one side and three female friends from my trip.

Maree looked at me in surprise. “Oh, hello John. You’re awake. Are you allergic to penicillin?”

“Yes,” I replied and slipped immediately back into the coma. That memory is still etched indelibly in my mind over twenty years later.


The next day, twenty seven hours after I initially went into a coma, I returned to consciousness with a splitting headache, in what appeared to be a small, private hospital room. I was being drip fed on intravenous.

After a short time, a nurse, with a cloth over her mouth and nose, looking like a bank robber in white, quietly entered the room.

“Oh, hello. Good to see you back with us. You’re a lucky young man,” she exclaimed.

“Where am I?” I asked. “What’s going on?”

“You have spinal meningitis. You are in the hospital in Molde, a small town in Norway. The doctor will explain more to you later.” She checked the intravenous and some monitoring devices and then left the room as quietly as she’d entered. My impression of her now was more of a talking ghost than of a bank robber.

A few hours later the doctor visited me.

“Hello John,” he said. “How are you feeling?”

“My head aches and it feels like I could sleep for a week,” I responded, remaining prone in bed.

He looked at me understandingly. “That’s not unusual. You will be with us for a while. We are all happy to see you out of the coma. Do you have any questions?”

“How did I get this, meningitis, that is?” I asked.

“For some unknown reason we have a few cases of it in this part of Norway at this time every year. A teenage boy died last week here in the hospital. Meningitis is highly contagious and it usually attacks children or young people who are fit and healthy. It is a mystery why one person gets it and another doesn’t.

 “As for your headache we have you on morphine through the intravenous for now. If you have difficulty sleeping we can give you some sleeping pills.”

He left, presumably to continue his rounds. I promptly fell asleep.

For close to two weeks I remained in that room, isolated from other patients and most of the nurses save for the friendly, talking ghost.

Despite steady improvement in my condition, there were a few little complications. The veins in my forearms became rigid and made it increasingly difficult for the nurses to rig up the intravenous for me there. They decided to use a vein on the left side of my neck. This worked well until I developed a huge herpes in that location.

Each time the doctor came by I would ask the same question, “Can I go home yet?” His response was always the same, “Not yet.” This made for rather tiresome conversations.

Finally, after nearly two weeks the doctor said, “We’re going to give you a spinal injection tomorrow to see if your cerebrospinal white blood cell count is low enough for you to leave.”

This should have been good news. But I lay in bed and wondered, What if the white blood cell count is too high for me to go home? What if they make a mistake with the needle? I don’t like the idea of someone jabbing me in the spine with a needle. I still remembered vividly having spinal injections when in the hospital with meningitis at the age of four. This current experience seemed to trigger deeply buried fears from that time of illness as a child.


The next day I was wheeled down to the belly of the hospital for my shot. All went well and there were no complications. I had to wait all afternoon for the results. I felt like a prisoner who had been on death row when the capital punishment law was revoked. I was waiting for the decision of the prison warden to see if I had served enough time.

Early in the evening, in the eerie light of a northern summer day, the doctor came to visit me. The smile on his face said it all. “The white blood cell count is low enough. You can go home tomorrow. Congratulations.”

“That’s great. Thanks,” I said, a wave of relief pouring through me.

“No thanks are needed,” said the doctor. “You have healed well.”

I started to get out of the bed.

“What are you doing?” asked the physician.

“I thought I’d pack my things. Isn’t my backpack in that closet beside the bed?”

“John, please stay in bed and rest until you are discharged tomorrow. This has been a serious illness. You have only just survived. Do you know how close to dying you were?”

“No,” I said a little sheepishly, getting back under the covers.

“John, you have to rest for at least another five to seven weeks before you can resume an ordinary, active life. If you don’t rest enough you could have a headache for the rest of your life.” The doctor seemed to be coming on strong but, in fairness, he could see that I was not inclined to remain idle for long. I took his words seriously. After all, I continued to have a raging headache that had hardly abated in two weeks. I was anxious to leave and get on with my life. I felt that this hospital and its mostly unsmiling faces was no longer a healing environment for me. Modern care and allopathic medicine, together with ‘angelic’ intervention (at the time of the nearly fatal penicillin injection), had saved my life. What I craved now was that greatest of healing forces, love, and I could think of nothing better than to fly home to Canada and stay with my parents until I was healthy enough to resume my travels.


I spent the next three weeks with my parents in their home on the north shore of Lake Ontario. It was just what I needed: frequent walks in the lakeside air, the sound of birds, the summer warmth, my parents’ love and practical care. I recovered quickly, gaining some of the weight I’d lost in Norway. The headache waned and then, one day, it was gone.

 My mother and I took another walk through the long grass beside the lake. The killdeers were nesting and singing the distinctive melody that gives them their name. Mom said softly, “We were so concerned when we went to pick you up from the airport. We thought you might be blind or partially deaf. We were so relieved to see you in a remarkably good, if weak, condition.”

 I made a trip to the library to research meningitis. In a medical text I read that in seventy percent of the cases in which the patient is not treated within 24 hours, death follows. Of the thirty percent that survive many have mental difficulties, blindness or associated long-lasting debilitations. I was a lucky man. Twice in my life I’d had spinal meningitis. Twice I’d fully recovered and I’ve rarely had a headache in all the years since.

As my health steadily improved I looked into resuming my world tour. But I could see that the nature of my journey had dramatically changed. Rather than seeking adventure and the discovery of new places, I was now in search of meaning, in search of answers to the deepest questions in life. I was now in search of truth and simplicity.

This experience had transformed me. I wanted to know what or who had woken me from the coma at precisely the right time to save my life. I wanted to know why I was allowed to live and what I was to do with the rest of my life.

I was fired with a burning desire to understand the deeper issues of life. Finished with floating on the surface, I wanted to dive beneath the froth and make some sense of the mystery that lay below the waves.

Perhaps most importantly, I knew now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was being guided on my path and that I was never alone.

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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.

Here John Haines describes having and recovering from spinal meningitis twice in his life—at the ages of four and twenty-eight. He goes on to speak of how his second encounter with this serious illness changed his perspective and his subsequent travels.

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.

Subscribe to In Search of Simplicity by Email