when by physical and mental barriers we violently detach ourselves from the inexhaustible life of nature; when we merely become man but not man-in-the-universe, we create bewildering problems and having shut off the source of their solution we try all kinds of artificial methods each of which brings its own crop of interminable difficulties.
when man leaves his resting place in universal nature, when he walks on the single rope of humanity, it means either a dance or a fall for him, he has ceaselessly to strain every nerve and muscle to keep balance with each step and then, in the intervals of his weariness, he fulminates against providence and feels a secret pride and satisfaction in thinking that he has been unfairly dealt with by the whole scheme of things.
but this cannot go on forever.
man must realise the wholeness of his existence, he must know that hard as he may strive he can never create his honey within the cells of his hive. he must know that when man shuts himself out from the vitalising and purifying touch of the infinite and falls back upon himself for his sustenance and his healing, then he goads himself into madness, tears himself into shreds and eats his own substance.
deprived of the background of the whole, his poverty loses its one great quality, which is simplicity. his wealth is no longer magnanimous; it grows merely extravagant. his appetites do not minister to his life, keeping to the limits of their purpose; they become and end in themselves and set fire to his life.
then it is that in our self-expression we try to startle and not to attract; in art we strive for originality and lose sight of truth which is old and yet very new; in literature we miss the complete view of man which is simple and yet great, but he appears as a psychological problem or the embodiment of a passion that is intense because abnormal and because exhibited in the glare of a fiercely emphatic light which is but artificial.
when man’s consciousness is restricted only to the immediate vicinity of his human self, the deeper roots of his nature do not find their permanent soil, his spirit is ever on the brink of starvation and in the place of healthful strength he substitutes endless rounds of stimulation.
–sri nisargadatta maharaj
the harold r. johnson land-based healing program
the human species has evolved on this planet for about 300,000 years. for the first 290,000 years we were all hunter gatherers, then about 10,000 years ago, some people began playing with the idea of agriculture. their lives have steadily worsened since then. they have more material in their lives, more substance, but their lives increasingly lose its essence.
about 250 years ago these people entered the industrial revolution and again they gained substance and lost essence as they were driven off the farms and into the factories. their last connection to the land, their hands in the dirt, was permanently severed.
about 60 years ago with the development of the transistor they entered the technological revolution. now they are very materialistic, they are wired in. but their essence, their connection to the life of the planet is so thin that most can no longer even imagine it.
as hunter gatherers evolving on this planet for three hundred millennia we understood our place, our relationship with all the other species that we coexisted and coevolved with.
not everyone participated in the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago. indigenous people around the planet continued as hunter gatherers. our connection, our relationship with nature remained. our lives had essence.
with colonization, indigenous peoples were forced off the land, onto reserves and into residential schools. the sudden severance of the connection, the relationship with the land had dramatic negative impacts. dispossessed and disconnected we struggled in this new imposed world to find who we were, where we belonged.
our societies decayed, our knowledge keepers died with what they knew. ceremonies were lost. the people were lost. elders, people who remembered, kept saying “we have to go back to the land.” some of us listened.
we understand our connection to the land. long ago my ancestors died and were placed upon scaffolds, an offering to the sky. their bodies rotted, the scaffolds rotted, then fell to the ground. the worms took my ancestors atoms into the earth. the grasses and other plants reached down with their roots and took up those atoms and brought them to the surface. the deer and moose ate those plants and i eat the berries from those plants and i eat the deer and the moose. atoms that once were in my ancestors are now in me. when i die, i too will return to the ground and the worms will disperse my atoms for the plants to take up once again.
i do not say i own this land. i say instead, this land owns me. i belong here. i belong to this land. i am related to the plants who hold my ancestor’s atoms. i am related to the deer and the moose and the wolf and the bear and the birds. they too carry atoms from my ancestors. in the same way, i am related to the earth and to the worms.
we are learning. it has taken decades and generations, but we are figuring it out. we tried self medicating ourselves with alcohol and other substances. they didn’t work. they brought more suffering and trauma.
then we tried land based healing. we knew from memory and from the words of our elders and the few remaining knowledge keepers that the land was healing, that it rejuvenated us.
western world therapies for substance use disorders typically have success rates around two to five percent. alcoholics anonymous and twelve step faith based therapies have success rates closer to eight percent.
camp hope, initiated by jarred nelson and joyce knight at montreal lake saskatchewan achieved success rates in the seventy percent range. we’ve proven it works. take people back out onto the land, allow them to reconnect, work them through the trauma brought by colonization and they will respond. jarred told me that sometimes when he brought people back to the camp at the end of the day, they would be crying. they would tell him “i’m an indian, but i never set a rabbit snare before. i am an indian, but i’ve never set a fish net.”
the reason for the success of camp hope was that the clients reconnected with the land. they discovered who they were. they were indians. they discovered where they belonged. they belonged here. this was their home, their birthright. when people know who they are and where they belong, their essence increases. land based healing is a resurrection. it brings our people back to life by reconnecting them to the life force of the planet.