When I arrived in Colombia from the United States two years ago, I had no idea I would still be here two years later, or that I might live the rest of my life here. But that‘s what’s happened. I’ve fallen in love. No, not with a beautiful Colombian woman. I’ve fallen in love with the Heart of the World – la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. And you know what they say: the only danger is in never wanting to leave!
I came to Colombia at the invitation of the indigenous elders, the Mamos, of la Sierra. I’m a writer, something of a spiritual writer. I had written a book with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and I was in New York where he was to be the featured presenter at the Newark Peace Education Summit in May of 2011. Earlier I had met a delegation of Kogi, Arhuaco and Wiwa elders from la Sierra. They had been participating in an historic gathering of Native American elders from throughout the Americas, and were also presenters at the Peace Summit. They would also be meeting with the Dalai Lama.
During the ten days in New York, the Mamos and I became friends and they extended an invitation to me to come to Colombia, to live with them, to learn from them, and to write a new book that would present their environmental and spiritual message to the world – their message that our Earth Mother is in danger, and she will surely die if we, the ones they call the Younger Brother, do not change our ways.
Obviously I accepted their invitation.
I arrived in Colombia in September, two years ago, and spent the first three months living in Medellín with friends who worked with the indigenous peoples on issues of protecting their sacred lands from exploitation. I loved Medellín. It’s the best of both worlds – a thriving modern city, yet nestled between two fingers of the Andes countryside. City life and country life rolled into one; the perfect place for me to get my first taste of beautiful Colombia and its people and its culture. If I ever felt the need to live in a ‘city’ again, I would probably choose Medellin over any of the many cities I have visited throughout the world.
But I was in Colombia to experience the rural life, and in fact a country life of a sort that pretty much disappeared from the earth some five hundred years ago. The indigenous peoples believe la Sierra to be the Heart of the World, and I would not disagree. I’m now living part-time with the descendants of the Tayrona, in their villages of thatch roof huts, and full-time in my simple home in the beautiful eco-village of Minca, surrounded by coastal jungle and only a half-hour drive up the hill from Santa Marta.
Little has changed in the indigenous villages since their ancestors fled the conquistadores five hundred years ago. There’s no electricity and no machines, most notably no automobiles. Very few metal tools. In the village of Minca things are not much more modern either. Electricity, yes, but very little need for it. Few modern conveniences and the automobile is largely replaced by the trusty mule. I live a very simple life, by choice, and I’m rediscovering my connection with my Earth Mother. My one concession to modernity is a laptop computer, the one on which I’m writing this note and also writing my book, a novel, tentatively titled, Journey to the Heart of the World.
I often lament the fact that my laptop and the internet keep me much so connected with the ‘outside world.’ The Heart of the World is best enjoyed unplugged!
But plugged in I am, so I’m writing this note as an invitation for you to expand your knowledge of Colombia, to experience the natural beauty and the spiritual energy of la Sierra. The quaint village of Minca is a popular destination for Colombian tourists and backpackers from around the world. It’s a perfect place to escape the heat of the coast, a magical wonderland of rivers and waterfalls, of jungle plants and trees, exotic tropical birds and animals. There are more than twenty species of birds here that occur nowhere else in the world!
Mostly it’s an opportunity for you to make your own personal journey to the Heart of the World, a spiritual journey of discovery into the way the world used to be and was always meant to be. An opportunity to rediscover the peace that comes from being in harmony with nature and letting go of that which distracts your senses, and to focus instead on the simple things that are truly important. In la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta you can rediscover who you are and who it is you are called to be.