Well, actually, it's about me, for now. I'm Burton Smith and I'm going to tell you my story. Along the way, the reason for this website may become clear.
That's me on the left with Rennie and Kirsten.
Burton is my birth name. But I have had many others, starting with a family nickname that only my family knows. Not you.
Along about 1968, our high school senior class went on a class tour to the IBM Thomas J. Watson research center in New York State. The first time I saw an IBM 2741 computer terminal running off an IBM 360, I was hooked. And I stayed immersed in IBM 360 computers all through my next 4 college years and several years past that, working on the first nation-wide "time-sharing" computer network.
I was an early geek, you could say. But always somewhere in my consciousness, wilderness was calling. During that time, I remember winter camp-outs in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. And a few weeks spent hiking the Long Trail from Massachusetts to Canada.
Eventually, I couldn't take the 9 to 5 office life anymore and left to hitchhike across the USA. This was 1972, remember. Hitchhiking and living rough were portrayed as the glamorous and adventurous life to lead, which is true, to a certain extent. But day after day, and month after month, the glamour wears off. After growing tired of traveling by thumb, I decided the truly wonderful life was to follow the rock-concert circuit.
I headed back East deciding to go to the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, NY. This was July of 1973. What most people don't know is that more people attended the Summer Jam than attended Woodstock in 1969. And in Watkins Glen, I had my first truly mind-bending experience.
Sitting in the first few rows of chairs from the stage, I suddenly got the impression that someone was watching me. I turned around and bam! Just a few rows back were these people wearing brightly colored robes and right in the middle of them was a person – who was thinking the same thoughts that I was thinking. What? I know that sounds far-fetched, but sometimes you just know what's happening, even if no one else would ever believe you.
Right in the middle of a concert is not a great time to meet someone and ask what the heck? But as soon as I could, I found them, and after hearing what they had to say, knew that they were the ones I was supposed to meet and spend time with. 20 years actually was how long I lived with them. This was the era of Indian spirituality with gurus coming from India and starting temples that spread across the US and the world.
So I took a guru and was given the name Bhavisyat – which is Sanskrit for "one who knows the future." I couldn't handle a city temple, so I went to a farming community in West Virginia, to spend 20 years there, mainly as the forester. That's right – I spent my years there, deep in the woods, day in, day out, no matter what the weather.
I do appreciate my time there. As a young person, I needed the structure and the regulations. I needed someone I respected to tell me how to live my life. All of us were told how we should live our lives, and as difficult as that sounds to the Western ear, it was a good life… until the time came that I realized I wanted to run my own life.
In 1989, I found a book by Machaelle Small Wright called the Perelandra Garden Workbook. Sometimes, you hear about books changing your life. For me, this was the one.
She introduced me to the fact that anyone can communicate with Nature. Whatever you need to know about gardening (for example) can be had simply by asking. The process is facilitated by kinesiology. Of course, it helps to know exactly who and how to ask, which was the focus of the Garden Workbook.
By asking questions of Nature that have yes or no answers, you can create magnificent gardens – which is what I did. I started not knowing anything about gardening. In one season, I created the most marvelous flowering garden. As an example of how this works, I didn't know anything about herbs. So I started by asking the colors of herb flowers and made a list of herbs and their flower colors – by using kinesiology. When I looked up the colors in a library book, they matched! That's when I knew I really had something.
I spent many months growing seedlings, developing first-class fertile soil and arranging flower bed designs in patterns that I had received – by asking. It was such a happy time. For me, when I connect to a particular nature energy (whom Machaelle calls a "nature spirit") my body fills with the energy… so enlivening and encouraging. I felt like it wasn't just me making the garden, but me and a whole host of others that I could query at any time.
Wonderful! Fulfilling! Healing!
Until I was told to shut it down and get rid of it.
The guru wasn't a fan of the project and wanted to do something else with the grounds. And OK. He was the guru. That's what I had to do. But I guess that was about the time I also started telling others that there were more philosophies of life than just what could be found in the Vedic scriptures. For that, I got shut down, hard!
That started the process where I eventually left the community in 1993 and went to North Carolina to live. Would it surprise you to know that North Carolina is just about the lushest and lovliest forested area in the US? I mean, rhododendren and azalea bushes grow wild. How cool is that? I was so taken by the area that I decided to go for a long walk.
In January of 1996, I started at the Western end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and walked for 3 months on the Parkway up to Virginia. During that time of year, the parkway is closed so it was just like having a paved hiking trail to myself. That was when I discovered how much I liked living with just what I could carry… a tent, sleeping bag, food… and not much else. Just walking, walking, and absorbing the delightful scenery.
I suppose it isn't too hard to understand that I got tired of hoofing it, and started thinking of a better way to go. What's the next step up from walking? Right. A bicycle.
In June of 1996, I got on a bus with all my gear and a packaged-up bicycle, and got off in Burlington, Colorado. After re-assembling the bicycle, and tying all my gear to the frame, off I went, North. That summer, I went through Colorado, to Wyoming and Yellowstone; then across Montana to Idaho and Oregon; and down California to Arizona.
Living outdoors for months on end allows for a different perspective. I no longer saw the Earth as the background for human activities and dwellings. The Earth became the foreground and I began to see how humans arranged themselves on the Earth, plus the reasons why they chose a given area. It became obvious. And I got to experience how bio-regions change from one to another – in slow time. Riding a bicycle through an area is a totally different experience than rushing through in a vehicle.
Again, starting in January 1997, I rode the bicycle from Arizona, taking the southern route along the Gulf Coast and Florida; then back up to North Carolina… where the most wonderful thing happened. In the very town that I had been living in, from '92 to '96, I found another spiritual community that called out to me. I became an Ishaya and stayed there for four years, learning the practices and becoming a teacher.
Whereas Eastern practices call for chanting of various phrases, the Ishayas taught that the "monkey mind" needed to be controlled and offered a series of "attitudes" that could be repeated as a meditation, whether resting or in daily activity. Of course, now I understand that one's whole life is created from one's thoughts. But at the time, the ability to change from having any negative thoughts to hold only positive thoughts was a great benefit.
And another name was given to me: Vidya Ishaya, where Vidya means "knowledge, wisdom,understanding." Basically, your name was meant to exemplify aspects of your personality as determined by the senior leaders. So Vidya was OK by me. And that's what most of my friends still call me.
Eventually, I ended up in Ashland, Oregon. And if you know anything about "spiritual towns" in the US, that shouldn't surprise you. Once again, I was in a place where I was primed to meet the next great Teacher in my life.
In 2006, a poster displayed the smiling face of Rennie Davis, who was holding a talk about the New Humanity. I attended – and the rest, as they say, is history. (The New Humanity website is at www.ffh.org )
Rennie and his partner, Kirsten Liegmann teach courses in the New Humanity centered around 13 deceptively simple-sounding Life Principles.
Here is the quote on their first page: "As Earth's ecosystems collapse, species disappear and disasters ravage entire regions… As we witness a worldwide descent into fear, depression, and anti-life… A passionate global New Humanity tribe is igniting a potent Field of Possibilities to break free of fear and imprisoning emotions. Are you ready to fully commit to a journey to evolve? To ignite the largest movement in human history and transform the way we live and thrive on Earth?"
The teaching is deep, deep, deep. I have the rare privilige of being a friend of Rennie's for 12 years now. Every single talk I have ever attended that was given by Rennie (and then Rennie and Kirsten) have just blown me way.
And Kirsten is the penultimate Earth Whisperer. What is Earth Whispering? Another quote: "The Earth and a group of humans once lived in harmonious accord. Deep respect, love, communication and understanding were the qualities of this human-Earth relation. These human ancestors possessed extraordinary Earth talents, the echo of which continues to be heard in Aboriginal cultures today. We may have forgotten their talents but they are embedded in the memories and genetics of modern day Earth Whisperers as well.
"With today's volatile Earth events shaking our cities and burying communities under rubble, floods, fire and ash, the call to return to an ancient human-Earth accord and reawaken our latent Earth talents has a new urgency. Forgotten understandings that provide the mastery to activate those ancient talents and access the deep wisdom are currently arriving in the world."
I consider it my honor to try to share a little bit of such knowledge and some of what others are also doing to live their lives as good Earth Stewards and even Earth Ambassadors. I am in the fortunate position of being a web developer (as my occupation) so it's my desire to use these skills in creating a website that shares some of the new Earth Know-How. Some of these concepts may seem new and different, but oh how they'll attract those who are meant to be attracted. I know how that works!
My vision is for this website to grow and expand, and inspire. Do you want to play? It easy to get in touch.