GaiaYoga: The Art and Wisdom of Living Holistically—Unifying Spirit, Self, Community, and Earth

Posted on November 10, 2018 by
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This article, which appears online only and not in our print edition, was written for the Winter 2018 edition of Communities, issue #181, “The Culture of Intentional Community.” The full issue (not including this article) is available for download by voluntary donation here.

Aloha,

My name is Ano Tarletz Hanamana. I was born Jerald Dwayne Blair in 1969, and my first birthday was the first Earth Day. Living in Cleveland in the 1970s and then Phoenix in the ’80s, I experienced a typical suburban lifestyle during childhood. I grew up watching TV, playing video games, eating whatever the supermarket provided, going to public school, hanging out at the mall, and unconsciously learning how to be a consumer living in a single-family home.

My life began to leave the mainstream in 1986 when I went to college at The Johnston Center for Individualized Learning in Redlands, California. The Johnston Center was a small program (about 100 students) in a liberal arts school (about 1200 students). The Johnston Center was run very communally for a college and had a very liberal culture. We called professors by their first names, their offices were in our dorm, and we got written evaluations instead of grades. We designed our own degrees, developed independent studies, did cross-cultural experiences, and lived as a very close-knit community that spanned not only all four grades, but also alumni and professors.

Living and learning in this environment deeply nourished me on many levels. Having grown up an only child in an isolated nuclear family, I was delightfully overwhelmed by the plethora of social possibilities living in a dorm, in a community-minded, free-thinking institution. I was stoked much of my time in college for the learning and living I experienced. A seed was planted in me at Johnston of the joys of living at close quarters with others. But in college we’re not sharing survival together, not running businesses together, not raising kids together; it is the last gasp of childhood play and freedom, of being supported by parents, scholarships, fellowships, and loans. Though those relationships have endured, the container of all of us living together has vanished.

In January, before my last semester, three buddies and I went to Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize to travel and get college credit for it. The life-changing part of this experience for me was staying a few days with indigenous Guatemalans, in a small settlement in the mountains, a half-day walk from the nearest village that had one phone. I arrived dehydrated and depleted and just recovered there and observed the people. I couldn’t speak their language and they couldn’t speak mine, but they transmitted something to me I’ll never forget. They were just living their lives as a clan/tribe together, no electricity, no shops, no pretense. Seeing them I thought to myself, “My life and all that I’ve been involved with is so contrived, so disconnected from what matters.”

I returned totally disenchanted with college, American society, all of it. I barely could stick it out for my last semester, and when I graduated in 1990 I was very clear that I was not interested in what I saw out in the world around me. I had lots of “No’s!” but hardly any real “Yes’s.” I didn’t see myself returning to Guatemala, so I moved to Eugene, Oregon with some friends to “form a band and save the world!” I got involved with the hippie scene in Eugene and it was livable enough.

During my first summer there I stumbled on to a dietary teaching called Instinctive Nutrition, which was (re)discovered by a Frenchman named Guy-Claude Burger. The teaching was simple: our natural food, like that of every other animal on the planet, is raw, and our body knows how to interact with whole, raw, organic foods in such a way that when a food smells good it means our body might need it, and if it tastes good it means our body does need that food. Unfortunately, this simple instinctive hard-wiring and relationship doesn’t work with foods that have been cooked and processed; essentially these foods deceive our senses through misleading smells and tastes that don’t accurately reflect their essence. I was struck by the elegance and pre-cultural nature of using instincts because it went below all other diets and saw humans as simply another animal, subject to the same “laws of nature” and species’ limitations.

In the height of summer I started eating this way and began foraging for much of my food. I became something of a wild animal roaming the alleys of Eugene on my bike day and night in search of plums, apples, pears, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. I supplemented my diet with the distressed produce from Eugene’s many health food stores and watched my whole understanding of reality shift over the course of the days, weeks, and months. I had found my first “Yes.” The “truth” of instinctive eating was so clear to me and I began a love affair that continues to this day with eating whole raw foods by instinct.

During this time I got exposed to Peace Pilgrim—the woman who walked across the US between 1953 and 1981. She fasted unless offered food, slept outside unless offered shelter, and spoke of peace—internal and external—everywhere she went. I was deeply inspired by her in many ways, so in the fall of 1990 I decided to hitchhike across the US and stop by and visit my classmates from Johnston along the way. I went from Eugene to Boston to Austin to Phoenix to Redlands and Los Angeles, and back up to Eugene. What struck me most on the trip was the situation all my friends were in. The huge sense of family, all living in the dorm together, was gone—each was in an apartment on their own or in their parents’ house. I was deeply saddened seeing this and realized I did not want this to happen to me. I still wanted to live in community.

Back in Eugene, in 1991, my two bandmates were living at a youth hostel called The Greenhouse. And one day while I was hanging out there this man came back from being at some farm on the Oregon coast. He was talking to me and I think some others and began ranting and raving while waving this giant tomb of a book called Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual. While I didn’t really glean any actual understanding of Permaculture from this conversation I was very clear it was very important and I logged it into my consciousness as my second “Yes.”

When the fall of 1991 began I realized that I had no interest in being where it got cold. As much I loved Eugene, the organic farm I lived on, and all the friends I’d made, there was no way I could stay there. So I left.

After another serpentine journey that took me across the US, to The Canary Islands, down to the tip of Florida and back to Los Angeles, I stumbled my way to Hawaii on January 1st, 1992, and eventually to the Puna district where I now live. Without the internet or any contacts in Hawaii I found the first two other people I’d met who knew about instinctive eating. The two of them lived next to each other on two adjacent three-acre jungle properties near Kapoho (many of you might heard of Kapoho now, as it was covered by lava in June by Pele). The three of us began exploring Permaculture and eating raw food together and over time named the place we were living “Pangaia,” which some of you may have heard of.

During this time I became very close to a mentor/friend named Ma’ayog who filled my mind and soul with this visionary teaching and stories of this community he was involved in called Shivalila. The teaching struck a deep chord in me. And I began to want to create what he was talking about. In simple terms he was talking about living in conscious tribal community, but the Shivalila teaching was more than that, it deeply considered child-raising, sexuality, liberation of consciousness, human nature, etc. Shivalila in some ways reminded me of the joy I knew living at Johnston, but with the promise of doing something that was multigenerational, and cradle-to-grave. Herein I found my third “Yes!”

Throughout 1992-1994 I diligently supported Ma’ayog in bringing together another incarnation of the Shivalila community and I was successful in this—several of my Johnston friends and a circle of new friends brought to life a community about a mile from Pangaia at a land they named Kuaihelani. At the time I was not socially adept enough to make the cut to be part of the second Shivalila, even though I was so much involved in bringing it together. I was able to see beyond my own pain of rejection and see the wisdom in their “no” to me. So with my tail between my legs, in 1995 I trekked over to Kauai and then Maui to see what else I could find. In Maui I found a girlfriend and brought her back to Pangaia and then to Shivalila. I lived at Kuaihelani with my girlfriend for a few months, then she left and I stayed on for about two more months and eventually left, pretty miserable. I could feel/see the truth, power, and beauty in what was being lived there, but there just wasn’t a niche there for me. At the time I was very hurt and despairing, but in hindsight I’m glad I didn’t stay.

Soon I headed to Marin County, California and connected with other instinctive eaters. I should mention now that I had created an early version of the book that I eventually published called Instinctive Eating: The Lost Knowledge of Optimum Nutrition during 1994-95 and this served as a bit of a calling card for me to be received in Marin. In early 1996, an instincto teacher from France named Bruno Comby came and gave a workshop about instinctive eating at the woman’s house where I was staying. Here I met another woman, Deborah Boyar, who already had an early copy of my book, and shortly after the workshop she and I became lovers and I moved in with her and lived with her for three years outside Santa Barbara.

I reluctantly stopped living in community (though we travelled to Hawaii and my friends quite a bit). With Deborah I began to do a lot of relationship, psychological, and spiritual work. We completed the Hoffman Quadrinity Process and I explored the teachings of her guru, Franklin Jones, a.k.a. Adi Da or Da Free John. I was very struck by Adi Da’s teaching, though I was also disturbed by some aspects of it. Eventually, my girlfriend and two of my friends from Hawaii, including one of the men I co-created Pangaia with, went to Fiji as Permaculture consultants to Adi Da’s private island ashram. This was certainly an enigma and a powerful learning experience for me. To keep it short, I was very impressed with the Fijian culture, who were like the indentured servants to the American/European culture of Adi Da and his devotees. Their settlement was many, many homes in a huge oval with acres of lawn in the middle as well as a community building. On the outside of the circle was an elementary school and every evening during the last hour of daylight most of the folks played rugby on the big lawn in the middle. (I noted later when we left the island and flew back to the main island how all the settlements I saw on the outer islands were these kind of circles, designed around human connection and needs, not around driving.)

After a month, we left, and I said to myself, “Well, Adi Da probably is who he says he is, and he might be the only way to the fullest spiritual realization, but if I have to endure the culture he’s created I’m not going to do it, period.” So I got back to Santa Barbara rather disappointed, but soon Deborah showed me an advertisement for this other spiritual community called Waking Down.

Waking Down was pioneered by Saniel Bonder, who had been a longtime devotee of Adi Da. Saniel left him after almost 20 years, utterly discouraged because he came to Adi Da to become enlightened like Adi Da, not be a roadie to a spiritual rock star. Much to Saniel’s surprise, during the year after he left Adi Da he stumbled into the same realization his guru spoke of so voluminously. But Saniel had the gift of seeing the error in how Adi Da taught (not what he taught). Saniel began teaching and he was effective at igniting this same realization in others in a matter of months to a year or two. Deborah and I were very relieved to discover Saniel and the other teachers of Waking Down, and towards the end of 1998 I had what they call a Witness Awakening. Finally I understood that their teaching wasn’t just a bunch of eloquent words, but there was a real “product” under all the marketing. I basked in the glow of this realization for days and logged the Waking Down process as my fourth “Yes!”

Soon, Y2K was approaching and there was no way I was going to be away from Hawaii if that kind of potential insanity was coming down the pike, so I broke up with Deborah in order to move back to Hawaii. On the way back I stopped in Marin to soak up on Waking Down energy before I went back to my raw food Permaculture people in Hawaii. Here I reconnected with one of the Waking Down teachers, Mercedes Kirkel, who became my intimate life-partner from 1999 to 2007.

In April, I arrived in Hawaii and eventually Mercedes joined me there. Together we explored the field of relationships I had developed in Hawaii, and after sincere effort, we couldn’t fit into any of them very well. I felt very disappointed by this, but the love, energy, consciousness, and chemistry between us was so compelling that I was willing to start something new with her.

In 2000, while I was living at Pangaia and Mercedes was back caring for her daughter in Marin, a book arrived in the mail (sent by Deborah.) The book was Nonviolent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg. I devoured the book and knew immediately it was my fifth “Yes!”

So, Mercedes and I ended up spending much of the early 2000s studying NVC with Marshall, Bay NVC, and other trainers, and I could see how all my other attempts at community were destined to fail because of the lack of NVC practice and consciousness.

But before I get ahead of myself, I had another very important encounter during 2000. There was a man named Pianky living at Pangaia, and he had developed a teaching he called Integral Science. Pianky is probably the vastest mind I’ve ever encountered. I would (with others) stay up to all hours philosophically arguing with him about what we were doing at Pangaia, and what was “right” and “wrong” with it. I would leave many of these conversations with a brain ache, stretched out to the edges of my consciousness and beyond. Many of us had the same response to Pianky: “We understand what you are saying and hear your criticisms, and it’s important, but come on and let’s get practical and do projects, grow food, etc.” After weeks of these debates with him I left one evening with a different stance. I realized that I in fact did not understand him, and that he was saying something that I actually wanted to understand, so I shifted my attitude and became his student and started taking him seriously. Underneath his dense scholarly language of pseudo-Taoist and pseudo-Ken Wilber rhetoric, Pianky had an insight that changed the direction of my life and led to the birth of the teaching/vision/practice that I’ve devoted my life to, GaiaYoga.

At the time I was the strongest defining force for the vision that was being cultivated at Pangaia, and it was roughly, Instinctive Eating, plus Permaculture, plus Shivalila, plus Waking Down, plus Nonviolent Communication. At that time, I wasn’t very strong at leadership in the last three elements, but I was with the first two. So I took Pianky’s criticism very personally. I wanted to make a contribution and was very upset to imagine there was something ineffective or unhealthy about my pursuits. On the other hand, if I really was living “an error,” I wanted to know and make a correction. Well, it was hard to understand Pianky’s “correction” because he wasn’t saying there was anything “wrong” with my five Yeses. He was saying there was something off about the patchwork approach I had.

Pianky’s passion was wholeness. And his message was actually very simple once I waded through all his complex language. This is how I articulate it now: At both the individual and cultural level there’s only one life-focus that will produce the results we say we want. That focus is not any one or two things, it’s not diet, or spirituality, or sustainable agriculture, or relationships, or children, or love, or any of those wonderfully important things. The ONLY focus that is truly effective is wholeness itself, balance, itself, integration itself. This became my sixth “Yes!” But it was different from the other Yeses, because metaphorically it was like an operating system on a computer, and the other Yeses were like programs. Let me explain with some more metaphors.

Imagine you have a bicycle wheel and for simplicity’s sake, let’s say it has three parts: the tire (what actually contacts the ground), the spokes, and the hub. Most people (me included up until this time) tend to focus on the spokes—the different areas of life like career, relationship, kids, personal growth, politics, diet, sustainability, etc. Most folks pick out a couple of them that they resonate with and make their life about that. I’m a doctor, I’m a mother, I’m a political activist. The issue is that this approach will never produce a tire that rolls straight (unless by total luck).

So at this time in my life I was geographically and emotionally/psychically jumping from one focus and group of people to another. I hung out with my raw food and Permaculture friends in Hawaii at Pangaia and then I’d get sick of the lack of conscious community so I’d go up the road and hang out with Ma’ayog and the Shivalila folks. But then I wasn’t getting fed at the spiritual level so I’d hang out with the Waking Down people in Marin. Well as much as I was fed by them spiritually, they were all just living in the suburbs eating crap so I’d head back to Pangaia, but then I was utterly frustrated by the quality of communication there so I’d hang out with NVC people (sometimes in Hawaii, sometimes in California). And then I got lonely for my college pals and I went to a college reunion—where I had this quality of family but none of the consciousness that these other groups had. So there I was, a bouncing ball attempting to nourish my body/mind/soul/emotions.

So, seeing it through Pianky’s lens, I saw that none of these individuals or groups had a tire that was rolling straight. They all had a different combination of spokes over-tightened and under-tightened. Some made certain spokes out of titanium, while others were like rusty tin. But each group’s members had the same warble to their tires that they considered “normal.” I expanded my view and saw that all groups were doing this, whether political, religious, corporate, or educational. Almost everyone had a fragmented life-focus and had blinders on to the rest of the areas of life. And when their lives weren’t working they all just did more of what they already were doing. Raw foodists ate more raw food or fasted, Permaculturists planted more fruit trees and bought more solar panels, spiritual folks meditated more, capitalists worked more to make more money, NVC folks did more emotional processing, Tantra people had more sex, and tribal community people went looking for more community members.

Moreover, if you were a woman in a vegan community, for example, and you got pregnant and wanted to eat fish (thus changing the tension on some of your spokes), you were considered to be not rolling correctly anymore and you’d have to choose between your community and your body’s needs. This is not a livable situation, and is a perfect example of why no particular life focus or choice makes a functional foundation for a community. This mattered to me a lot because I was coming to see my life mission: which is to articulate in consciousness a template for humans to live together in a holistic and sustainable manner that is truly effective and functional over generations, and to manifest a land-based community that is cultivating this consciousness together. It also mattered to me because at this time the free-thinking “liberal” people were splintered into dozens of special interest groups and they were getting steamrolled by the conservative people who marched together as one giant force. The inability to live together or find common ground to cooperate politically was crippling all the people I cared about.

Over time, another metaphor came to me that really made it obvious: Imagine you have a car, a $100,000 Rolls Royce, and everything on it is in perfect shape, except the ignition switch is broken. Despite everything else, your car isn’t moving. Now you fix that, but someone deflated all your tires; you’re still not going anywhere. So you get that fixed, but, oops, no oil in the engine. OK, so fix that, and you take off down the driveway, but the roads are all torn apart and filled with rocks. You’re still not going anywhere. You get the roads fixed, but then there’s a war in the Persian Gulf and no more oil is being sold. Again you’re not moving.

When it comes to cars, most folks are holistic—they take care of the whole car (and hope the powers that be are taking care of the infrastructure of roads, and fuel, and lubricants, and spare parts, etc.). No one just takes care of the carburetor, alternator, and tires and ignores the rest and expects their car to work. Either the whole system is working or it isn’t. But at the life level people don’t develop their life around this understanding. They focus on career and money and let their relationships fail. Or they focus on art and spiritual growth and are broke. Or they focus on their kids and have nothing to give their community and themselves. Etc.

Wholeness comes from the same root word as health. To have health, all the body must be healthy, not just some of it. All the car must be working. All the spokes must be high quality and in balance. So again using the bike wheel metaphor, the error Pianky was pointing at was focusing on the spokes rather than focusing on the hub. If one focuses on the hub, then we can balance the tire and notice and care about all the spokes coming into the hub. Then we can true the tire and actually get a smooth, straight ride. So! What’s the hub? Wholeness itself, balance itself, integration (of all the elements of life) itself.

Pianky’s criticism was of my patchwork approach that had no real center, no consciousness of wholeness. This was a huge breakthrough for me, and I then saw how all the teachings and teachers I valued were representing part of the whole, something fragmented, something pre-designed to not produce the results I really wanted. There was no way to apply any of these teachings or even a combination of them and get a whole culture or a whole life. I needed a “greater” principal to hold all of these elements of life. I also needed a word to call this.

(As much as I respected what Pianky had taught me, I also saw that his teaching was way, way too scholarly for anyone but serious intellectuals to get into it; also all he really had was the hub, he didn’t have nearly the clarity and practice with different spokes. He also really didn’t understand intimacy and relationship. So I essentially impregnated myself with his ideas and let another teaching be birthed through me.)

At the time I was thinking about the coining of the word Permaculture, and how Bill Mollison and David Holmgren had to come up with a word to capture the idea they had developed. I actually think half the success of their work is just the name—it captures the imagination immediately. So after a long meditation, the word came to me while I was making love to Mercedes back in Marin. The word? GaiaYoga.

In 2001, Mercedes and I wrote a booklet outlining the GaiaYoga teaching. The core of the booklet is the ideas I’ve been presenting and a map we developed called The GaiaYoga Matrix—which is a map of wholeness. (See diagram.) I quickly realized that to create holistic culture we needed to have a language to discuss it. I was already struck by the power of the feelings and needs lists in NVC, which give words to our inner landscape, thus bringing them out of the shadows and into consciousness. I realized that where there aren’t words there isn’t consciousness—if we can’t talk about it and bring it into the social field through language, we can’t really connect with it or share it. So I set out to develop words to describe the differences between holistic consciousness and culture and fragmented consciousness and culture. After teaching out of the booklet for a couple years I realized that people, including my peers, were very confused about community and so we developed an additional map, the Five Spheres of Community (see diagram), which integrated some of what Pianky had articulated that was lacking in the GaiaYoga Matrix.

I felt relieved to get this far in developing a seed of consciousness for cultivating sustainable and holistic culture. And out the inspiration we had, at the end of 2002, Mercedes and I bought an 18-acre piece of raw rainforest land a few miles from Pangaia and Kuaihelani and named it GaiaYoga Gardens (GYG). We built our first Tropical Breeze House (see Stefano’s article in issue #179) and moved in the summer of 2003.

To be transparent, I entered into the process of buying land and pioneering it as a human settlement with great despair and resignation. I saw it as a sign of my failure to create community with people who already had colonized land. I didn’t want to take over even more land for humans, but I really saw that none of the people I had cooperated with were sincere in making community or working with a vision that I had any confidence would work. I accepted my “fate” and got into it, but I did not relish all the work ahead of me of re-creating all the infrastructure and planting more orchards and gardens. Also, we didn’t have a community (yet); it was just the two of us.

Mercedes and I had a very passionate and often disharmonious relationship that catalyzed immense growth within me in every area of life, but after years of effort, we could not create a foundation to build a community on. Despite all the good ideas, and a website to attract people to us, the dynamic between us didn’t support a stable reality. In late 2007 we started to separate. I dated a few women in that time and in May of 2009 Melekai and I began our intimate partnership. And in October 2009, after a tumultuous and emotionally draining “divorce,” and a miraculous fundraising effort, Melekai and I bought Mercedes out of GYG and together we’ve been stewarding the land and the culture ever since.

In 2010, Melekai and I were in full swing in growing our dreams at GYG. We had many people living with us, but we were far from manifesting the quality of consciousness and commitment we wanted. Little did I know I had a huge paradigm of growth and healing ahead of me. After attending a handful of weekly meetings that completely blew me away, I went through the Mankind Project’s (MKP) weekend initiation into manhood in April. The New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA) was born out of the modern men’s movement championed by Robert Bly and gathered inspiration from numerous indigenous cultures’ initiation processes for young teenage boys. The weekend is a process where men create a man-womb to bring men of all ages into their mature and conscious masculine. Going through the weekend after all of the spiritual, emotional, communal, and communication work I’d done over the years, I thought it would be remedial, but I was willing to do it because I really wanted to be part of what I saw in the weekly meetings. Well…I was blown away and transformed by the weekend, and could see more clearly why my life was still not working. MKP gave me the support and tools to truly understand and address projections, shadow work, integrity, life mission, and what it means to be a man amongst men.

After the weekend I went to 51 out of the first 52 weekly “i-groups.” We integrated much of the consciousness and practices into the fabric of GaiaYoga Culture, and gratefully found most of it equally applicable to men and women. Whereas before I found projections, shadows, sub-personalities, and lack of congruency in people utterly mysterious and covered in a thick cloud bank, now I can navigate all this territory in myself and others with the same kind of ease and matter-of-fact-ness with which I sweep the floor. What used to run me from the unconscious is now mostly well lit and conscious. And you guessed it, herein I found my seventh “Yes!”

Fast forward to 2013. Melekai and I are plugging away at GYG, we’d birthed two children, a boy, Elohi, on 4-22-11 (with the same birthday as me!) and a girl, Iolanthe, born 6-8-12. Folks had come and gone, some were staying for more than a year, but still we hadn’t really developed a solid core of people we could trust in having a future with. I was working on the first album of my band, Nagdeo, with my fellow Johnston alum, Diga, who was also a core member of the second Shivalila community at Kuaihelani. Their community of about 10 adults and five children went through a painful “divorce” about 10 years earlier, and I was curious what the few of them who were still together were putting out into the world. I was wondering if their website was “advertising” their intentions around Shivalila, or if they had some “watered-down” presentation.

Sadly to me, he reported that they weren’t putting out Shivalila, and were presenting themselves as more of Weston-Price diet and Korean Natural Farming place—not that I have any issue with this, but it wasn’t their full truth. I left the conversation realizing that I was doing something similar—that I had a similar vision as them (though I had seen errors and gaps in the teaching, which explained to me why their divorce went the way it did). Based on this conversation and a powerful process I did in my men’s group I decided to write an essay presenting what I really wanted. I saw it as a “coming out of the closet” essay, really revealing my dreams, desires, and clarity to myself and my circle of friends. Well, three years later it was a book, my magnum opus. After a lot of consideration I titled the book True Human Freedom: The Inspiration and Argument for GaiaYoga Culture. At last I had it all down on paper—and I didn’t realize how much I had to say, and how much it would change our community.

Now when people come to GYG they usually read this book first and actually really get a clear picture of what we’re creating. They can say Yes or No to us. It’s clear, whereas before it simply was not. So it was no wonder I/we weren’t finding people who were 100 percent with us; we weren’t showing them who we were clearly enough.

One of the biggest things that happened while writing the book was that I realized how much I needed to acknowledge and fully integrate the Shivalila teaching/vision into GaiaYoga Culture. I had been putting out a PG-13 version of what I want and how I understand human nature. So I integrated both the covenants of Shivalila, their social agreements, and their map of culture and consciousness, that I re-named the 11 Domains of GaiaYoga (see diagram), into the core of what I now present when I teach GaiaYoga.

So let me briefly explain The Domains and the fundamental message I’m expressing in True Human Freedom:

First, we need to truly understand our nature if we’re to live congruent with it. Additionally, we need to have a culture that is founded on our nature or we will always be choosing between the two. True Human Freedom is founded on living in congruency with our self (body/mind/emotions/soul), our social nature, and Spirit, and also living sustainably with the Earth. Most humans nowadays have bought a mis-marketed vision of what “freedom” is. I call this “False Human Freedom” and it is the dissolving of these misunderstandings that leads to the possibility of our fullest potential.

Human beings are the just like other animals in that we have a natural diet, habitat, way of being social, etc. And there was a time that we lived congruent to this. Before humans tamed fire we lived in clans/bands as nomadic hunter-gatherers, ate only raw food, and stayed near the equator. We got our security, survival, and social needs met by being deeply cooperative and bonded with each other. These clans were intimately connected to nature and were able to raise healthy human beings, in-group, together. We also handled sexuality/intimacy within the group in such a way that competition, jealousy, insecurity, and mating didn’t undermine the functionality, survival, and integrity of the clan/band. We were not enlightened people; we were just living out of our genetic patterning in a way that was successful enough to survive. I call people living this way, aboriginals, and they lived in a natural human social structure. I label this cultural consciousness Domain 5, aboriginal/nomadic. (Domains 1 through 4 are what we call “nature.” Domain 1 is light, energy, forces; Domain 2 is atoms and molecules; Domain 3 is plant; and Domain 4 is animal.)

Unlike other animals, we have the capacity to alter how we live through tools, imagination, restructuring how we are social, cooking, etc. So, after humans tamed fire and developed more tools and language, people changed towards Domain 6, tribal/territorial. Here you have larger groups of people (generally speaking) in deep cooperation. Instead of a lone clan/band or a handful of them cooperating together, tribes contain dozens or more clans that all cooperate together as a larger social unit. Tribal people still are very connected to nature, but they are now cooking food, moving further from the equator, have more tools, fixed social roles (like chiefs and shamans), mythology, and domesticated animals. The “indigenous” cultures that people admire are from Domain 6.

The reason I’m clarifying these cultural Domains (there are two more to go) is because True Human Freedom is dependent on having a culture to support it. We need a supportive social system so we can show up as our real selves or we can’t actually “be free.” Otherwise, as I said, we have to choose between “our truth” and getting the very real cooperation and acceptance of our people.

To continue, over time humans gained more technology, developed agriculture, started making permanent settlements, and shrunk the unit of deep kinship from the tribe to the extended family. This is Domain 7, extended-family/village, which started about 10,000 years ago. Some of the early Domain 7 cultures were the Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and British Empires. Domain 7 has much more material power than the Domains 5 or 6, and also more people cooperating together—villages can be bigger than tribes. Empires are certainly bigger than tribes too. There is also currency, bigger conflicts, metal, ruling classes, slaves and peasants, more competition between families, and grains become a staple of most cultures’ diets. There is less connection to nature, less human bonding, and more material power.

Domain 8 was ushered in by the industrial revolution and the discovery of petroleum, and in that short time it has come to dominate the planet. Domain 8 is based on the isolated nuclear family, cities, industrialization, and the use of fantasy. More recently we have suburbs, high-technology, and the internet. Domain 8 people are the most disconnected from nature, each other, and Spirit, but unfortunately have the most material power. Domain 8 babies are usually traumatized by the alienation they experience in birth and infancy, because a baby, in truth, is a Domain 5 creature, even if it is treated like and molded into a Domain 8 citizen. Usually people in Domain 8 only intimately cooperate and live with a single mate and their young children and maybe parents. The extended family, though it exists in blood, is spread around the city, state, nation, or even world. Every couple is fending for themselves; and this leaves people weakened in so many ways!

A person experiences life primarily through the framework of the Domain that they were raised in and live in—their consciousness of origin so to speak. Our cultural consciousness profoundly impacts how we live, what we can and can’t do and be, and how others relate to us. So, if our cultural consciousness is one based on being disconnected from oneself, each other, nature, and Spirit then it is obvious that it cannot support True Human Freedom. Living in Domain 8 and expecting life to truly work is like getting on a bike and expecting it to fly! It’s simply impossible; it’s not designed to do that. A culture based on fantasy, authoritarianism, isolated nuclear families, competition, repressing emotions, and unsustainable agriculture, energy use, and building practices is designed to produce social, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dis-ease. See, the design’s working perfectly! And we all suffer it.

So humans have basically stumbled forward from Domain 5 to 8, essentially trading in close-quarters human cooperation for increasing material technology. Along the way much of our primal nature has been obscured and we’ve developed a lot of new strategies for living. And while people have repeated many of these cultural patterns over the generations, this doesn’t mean it’s generating health, wholeness, well-being, or fulfillment. A lot of what we do is very ineffective or benefits only the few at the top, or meets a few needs at the cost of other needs. At this point we can’t fix the problem by repairing Domain 8.

This begs the question, “What can we do?” Each of the human cultural domains is characterized by different social agreements in the intimate, personal, local, and collective spheres (if applicable); different ways of seeing the world and seeing our place in it. To thrive as a species, we need to create a cultural foundation to live our life that is actually in alignment with our Domain 4 animal body, our Domain 5 primal social and intimate/sexual needs, our spiritual reality and potential, and also integrates all the “good stuff” that we’ve developed in Domains 6, 7, and 8. This is what I call Domain 9! It’s a consciously “designed” Domain/culture that works to serve all of humanity because it is in alignment with all of who we actually are.

Let me highlight just one very important way Domain 9 solves a huge issue in human culture: meeting the need for security (emotional, material, primal, and social security) in a way that doesn’t undermine our other needs. In Domain 5 aboriginals met their needs for security through being bonded as a clan/band in deep cooperation with each other and being intimately in tune with nature (Domains 1 through 4). In Domain 6 security needs were met in a similar manner, except that often there would typically be a larger unit of cooperation, intimate clans working/living together integrated as part of larger tribes. Note that in both of these Domains our security changes little if we are or are not in an intimate relationship or if we dissolve an intimate relationship. If we have children with a mate and then stop wanting to mate with them our children are still cared for by the same people, our home is still in the same clan/band or tribe, we have the same hunters/gatherers, shamans, and other kin, caring for us, and we still care for the same people too. Perhaps we move out of one hut and into another or sleep next to someone else in our sleeping den, but somehow it works out and the group stays together. So who we have sex with and our security are not particularly linked—yes, of course it matters, but it’s not the foundation of our home, life, and security. This means we didn’t have to fundamentally choose between our real intimate-sexual desires and our foundational security.

In Domain 7, people mostly live in extended family land holdings, with some configuration of grandparents, children, grandchildren, uncles, and aunts and cousins living together—either in one larger home, castle, plantation, or farm. Often a woman would leave her extended family’s home and move into the home of her new husband (there are other models, but this is a common one). How security needs are met changes. There are needs met by the village (and perhaps an empire) for basic protection and providing of many goods and services, while the more intimate emotional, social, sexual, co-parenting, and day-to-day survival needs are met mostly or exclusively within the extended family. So, now whom I have sex with (especially if I’m a woman) is deeply linked with my security. As long as things are working it’s fine, but if my husband turns out to be someone I don’t want to be with, a woman has a very hard choice to make. Even the husband does, though it’s probably less disruptive. The children in this Domain are going to take a very hard hit if their parents divorce (if that’s even “allowed”) and likely lose access to one of them or at minimum have their family ruptured. This tragedy doesn’t occur in Domains 5 or 6.

Now, in Domain 8 it’s much starker. Mating pairs live alone as isolated nuclear families, and if either one wants to end the marriage then one or both of them lose their home, their economic foundation, and their one primary source of emotional and sexual connection. Of course children have it just awful in a Domain 8 divorce. One cannot make any changes about whom one is intimate with without huge repercussions (thus the secret life of prostitution, pornography, affairs, Ashley Madison, rape, and pedophilia). Obviously, this does not support True Human Freedom. The drive to be intimate-sexual with whom we want to is huge in most human beings (not just men). So, the ability to express it freely, without fear of loss of home, our co-parenting system, or the overall security of everyone involved is vital. Even though we have many “false human freedoms” living with technology and “independence,” the cost is actually very high.

To be clear, Domain 9 is holistic, addressing all parts of life. It’s not merely about expressing our sexuality in a liberated and responsible manner—I just find that an easy aspect of life to highlight for clarity and inspiration. A Domain 9 culture reintegrates the vital missing elements we had in Domain 5/6, and the main one is living again as a close-knit clan (likely, within a larger tribal unit). In other words, reorganizing functions that were provided from the intimate sphere (of the isolated nuclear family) and transferring them to an integrated personal sphere (of a bonded clan/tribe.) This includes needs around co-parenting, security in our land and home, economics and business, emotional support, and family identity. We also reclaim services that have been put out into the local and collective (like education of young, care of elders, food acquisition/production, human settlement design, development, and maintenance) and draw them back to the integrated personal sphere. From a cultural design perspective, the personal sphere is much more stable than the intimate, and able to hold enough people in it to provide the needs of a human being. Along with numerous other benefits, this supports us in living our intimate-sexual energy and engaging intimate relationships without fear of loss of home, hearth, our co-parenting system, or our children’s fundamental well-being and stability. This cultural design also supports the raising of much healthier children, easeful care of elderly, and the potential to enjoy healthy multiple-adult intimate relationships that echo the clans of Domain 5.

So this probably sounds pretty idyllic on paper, but I’m sure you can see that to participate in such a culture and to hold such a consciousness would take profound unlearning, relearning, healing, growth, and skill-building for all involved. Coming out of Domain 8, trained to be competitive, individualistic, consumeristic, emotionally disconnected, mentally over-focused , divorced from nature, etc., people have “anti-skills” for living this way, so it’s an uphill process for most to participate in, let alone pioneer, this kind of culture.

In the recent history of intentional communities and communes, while there have been some that have lasted, mostly what we’ve seen is that these sincere social experiments end up not being able to stand the test of time and they end up dissolving and their members return to Domain 8—probably wiser, but jaded and heartbroken. Like any “invention,” sustainable-and-holistic culture takes a lot of trial and error until a design is discovered that works. While I can’t guarantee what I’m calling GaiaYoga Culture or Domain 9 will “work,” I’d bet all I have that nothing else will work. Work to truly provide all our human needs in a holistic way generation after generation. The way I see it, people are interested in the path of least resistance. And if we have a fragmented worldview, then it looks like we can get away with ignoring various aspects of life, but with a holistic view that is activated in all The Domains, The GaiaYoga Matrix, and The Spheres of Community, we can see that the path of least resistance is nothing less than re-creating human culture from the ground up, using all the accumulated wisdom and technologies that have been developed over the eons and dropping what isn’t congruent with our true nature.

Unfortunately, pretty much all the community experiments I’m aware of don’t have this clear and holistic vision, so their cultures have “errors” in their designs. Since all designs reveal themselves accurately when applied in the world, these errors are expressed and lived by the people involved and are eventually the demise of the culture/community.

Even though I’ve been living in community since 1992 (1986 if you count college), I’d say it’s only been since 2016/17 that I actually have full confidence in what I’m doing and confidence that I can support people A-Z through the process of coming out of Domain 8 and into Domain 9!

Coming back to my life now, GaiaYoga Gardens is finally coming together with a core of people who have both shared intention and shared affection for each other. We’ve been navigating some very challenging waters together of clan-based polyamory, co-parenting, deep healing work, building trust with each other through life challenges. At this point we have six adults (two in their 20s, two in their 40s (Melekai and I), and two in their 70s who have financial investment in our land). Two others who are seriously exploring our community and three other people are in the process of shifting their lives into making GYG their permanent home, living part-time with us while they handle other responsibilities, relationships, and karma in their Domain 8 life.

During the actual writing of this article we are evacuated from GYG because of the lava flow in lower Puna—this has actually given us an unexpected opportunity to connect with longtime friends and residents of Puna in new ways that might lead towards more folks joining our community. About one-quarter acre of GYG was inundated with lava, but none of our infrastructure, orchards, pastures, or gardens were damaged. We can drive to our place, but it’s just too close to the river of lava that is flowing at about 1,000,000 gallons a minute down to Kapoho for us to feel comfortable living there. At this point we’re pretty confident our place will not see more lava inundation, but we don’t want to be arrogant and impatient.

We’re also signing papers today, July 9th, to transfer the ownership of the property from Melekai and me to a religious nonprofit which will finally provide a secure legal structure to support other people to have lifelong security and stewardship at GYG. This has been years in the making and I’m laughing at how it’s happening while we aren’t even living there. It means our return will have a legal structure that is congruent with our deep intentions.

So why did I write this article? Well I guess two main reasons.

1) I’ve felt heartbroken seeing and hearing stories about the results being produced by so many communities. I’m longing for effectiveness. If we who have the pioneering spirit to experiment with new cultures don’t come up with something that has universal application and really works generation after generation, humanity has no hope. I believe the seed of cultural consciousness I’m articulating is a huge contribution to the world and could make the difference between people seeing their communities falling far short of their hopes and dreams or becoming sanctuaries of stable and expanding sanity for the world! More than anything we need to know how to live together while being true to our whole beings. So I’m hoping that reading this article has inspired you, and furthermore you’d like to read True Human Freedom, which goes more fully into the social agreements, practices, challenges, and underlying consciousness of Domain 9.

2) I/We are looking for community members. We want to grow GaiaYoga Gardens and find more people who are ready to root in to a place and make a cradle-to-grave home and pioneer with us. You can find out more about our place or order books through www.gaiayoga.org. (Of course we’re also open to people staying with us short-term.)

I’m hoping this is the beginning of many more dialogues and explorations around GaiaYoga Culture and Domain 9. And I thank all the pioneers whose shoulders I am standing on who have made my research and contribution possible.

With Warm Aloha,

Ano Tarletz Hanamana

Update, September 13th: The lava stopped over a month ago and we moved back into GYG about two weeks ago. 🙂 We have a lot of work ahead of us after three months of exile, but we’re stoked to even have our home. We have been “Kissed by Pele!” and we know that we are blessed and empowered to be able to be here and continue with the life and culture we are creating. We’ve done much-needed core emotional/family work in our time evacuated from GYG and our social foundation is more solid than ever!

Ano Hanamana is the cofounder of GaiaYoga Gardens Intentional Community and the primary “mid-wife” in bringing the GaiaYoga Teaching and GaiaYoga Culture into manifestation. He’s also a father, musician/composer, eco-entrepeneur, and coconut tree free-climber. You can contact him at [email protected]; for more information, visit www.gaiayoga.org.

This article, which appears online only and not in our print edition, was written for the Winter 2018 edition of Communities, issue #181, “The Culture of Intentional Community.” The full issue (not including this article) is available for download by voluntary donation here.

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