It’s a true story, drawn from my life and lives,” writes John Lundin in the opening paragraph of the first chapter of Journey to the Heart of the World. It’s also a story that had to be told. A story as epic as the mountain where it is set, as timeless as the traditions of the Arhuacho and Kogi peoples, and as poignant as the future of our planet.
After two years of living in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and conducting hours upon hours of interviews with elders and youngsters of the three main indigenous groups which inhabit this coastal mountain range, American author and environmentalist John Lundin completed a much anticipated work.
Part fiction, part fantasy novel, John’s latest release follows in the footsteps of his first book, The New Mandala – Eastern Wisdom for Western Living, written in collaboration with his Holiness the Dalai Lama and which received critical acclaim when released in 2010. According to the author, Journey “is in part autobiographical, having been born out of my own very personal journey to the heart of the world and my own on-going spiritual quest.”
Lundin’s intensely-spiritual and literary journey began on Chicago’s South Side, when the Reverend involved in a Protestant Christian ministry was asked to participate in the 100th Anniversary Parliament of the World’s Religions. The Dalai Lama was the key note speaker, and Lundin, impressed by what he was hearing established a relationship with the spiritual leader and months later, Lundin invited by the his holiness traveled to the Tibetan Buddhist community in Dharamsala, India, to begin an epic undertaking: the share the profound and simple truths that are common to virtually all spiritual traditions.
After a year and a half in the remote Himalaya and studying the secrets of Eastern Wisdom, the Reverend-turned-author returned to the States, where his work was published by Helix Publishers.
Eastern Wisdom catapulted this theologian and hospital chaplain as a thinker on profound spiritual issues; and one spring day in the Catskills, Colombia was calling, it was destiny, his destiny, and next port of call. As John said goodbye to his mother, consumed by cancer, she whispered her final words to her son: “You are the sun and the rain. Watch the water, watch the birds, watch the sky.”
Death had closed but one chapter in life, but another one was about to reveal itself to this kind and generous man, who loves music and healthy political debates.
A retreat with Native American indigenous groups, including a delegation of Kogi, Arhuaco and Wiwa from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta resulted in a direct invitation to John to spend time on their ancestral land and to understand the urgency of their message: Our Mother Earth is sick. Climate change and global warming is destroying our natural habitat. We must either begin to change our relationship with the Mother Earth, or we will perish. This was the message John was given. And an urgent one for humanity.
When climbing up to Arhuaco communities nestled in the Sierra Nevada, across suspension bridges where streams had run dry, across fields ravaged by deforestation, the writer knew that time really was running out for our planet, even, he admits, as he was living on a “Colombian Time” ensconced in the idyllic community of Minca. While the Elders gave their account of why our Earth was so gravely ill, the companionship of four youngsters from the Arhuaco inspired Lundin with their belief in a universal “brotherhood” and who harbored a hope for humanity in their hearts. “It was with a hope that we, you and I, might one day be good ancestors to our children and grandchildren, that I listened intently to my wise teachers and wrote this little book,” states John. “We are all on a journey to the heart of the world.”
If the Lamas of the East “had figured it out”, states Lundin, so too have the Arhuaco, the Kogi and the Wiwa. “The great truths of all the world’s wisdom traditions are not rocket science.”
Weaving a spiritual message around an environmental reality was a challenge John Lundin would face when taking on
his Journey while writing in a “pastoral Shangri-La” consisting of a mud hut with intermittent electricity, unreliable internet and cold running water. At sunrise when Lundin would sit down at the computer, parakeets and hummingbirds would flutter to his words.
During moments when John had time on his side, he contributed to The City Paper, got involved in organic coffee farming and developed strong friendships with others expats who settled in Minca to run eco-hostels, and even a recording studio.
Lundin stresses that his objective with the Elders of the Sierra wasn’t paternalistic, nor a need to ‘do something’ for Colombia’s indigenous peoples. “I came to learn from them and to share their environmental and spiritual message. I have tried to respect that.”
Portions of the proceeds from the sale of Journey to the Heart of the World will go to help fund a new initiative of indigenous youth in Colombia with the first chapter of Earth Guardians, a youth movement based in Boulder, Colorado. This new Guardianes de la Tierra, will allow indigenous youth to take the message that has been handed down to them for generations and spread it among youth across Colombia, and even the world. And a movie adaptation of Journey to the Heart of the World is underway. Lundin’s Journey will be published in print by Humanitas Media and is dedicated to the four young Arhuacho prophets, Jwikamey, Bunkey, Dugunawi and Dwiaringumu who accompanied the author on his many walks.
The book is available in September and priced at US$14,99. A Kindle version is now available for download at US$4.99.