I was born near the edge of the Bavarian Alps. My parents grew up as children during WW2, having survived those hallowed days running from bombs and hiding in the country-side. After the war, my family experienced the loss of their homelands, as their farm-land in the Swiss country-side was forcibly sold at the massively inflated Deutsche Mark. My mother was a little girl when Oma came home one day with a glass of apple juice and said, ‘Now, we drink the family fortune.’ That was all it was worth.
My whole life has been a search for home. Healing the traumas of war and returning to healthy relationship with all of life. And through a series of initiations, I’m slowly awakening to this understanding: All of life is my family. For the heart of God beats in every living being. This is our way back home.
Our culture is based on supremacy. My parents grew up in a fascist regime that taught that people with one religion and ethnicity were inferior. Supremacy is rampant today, too. We see ourselves as superior to the plants and animals with whom we share this planet. We see our race as superior, our gender as superior, our sexual orientation as superior, our faith as superior.
We think that people from another culture should work to make our clothing, manufacture our toys, grow our food. We think that animals and plants should exist just to serve human needs. We think that human beings should be able to reproduce over every last corner of the Earth, without concern for all the different species of life that grace this Eden.
These beliefs are simply an expression of our ignorance. For all of life is created equal, and every living being is created with a spark of purpose. We have only forgotten this temporarily, but it remains the truth eternal.
I spent my childhood hunched over a computer screen, trying to escape from the madness of being raped by my father, while my mother turned a blind eye. Disconnected from my body, from the land, and from my family in Europe, I hid in a fantasy of computer games, searching for adventure in a virtual reality where I could feel at home. It was what I had to do to survive.
My adulthood has been a slow walk back to my body, to the land, and to my family in Europe, listening to the stories hidden in my body, listening to the stories of my people and culture, and listening to the stories of this land of Turtle Island where I now reside.
As a child, we moved away from Germany to Calgary. I heard the pow-wow drums on the reservation near the house I grew up in, in Southwest Calgary. I was drawn to the sound, but afraid, because I had been taught to fear First Nations people. So I suffered in silence.
As an adult, I went through years of psychotherapy and group work to face the pain of my family’s wounds. At some point, I hit a wall. How much healing can we do sitting in a therapist’s office? I had already studied yoga and meditation, but wanted to go deeper.
Soon after, I found myself living in a hut in the Peruvian Amazon, working directly with a Shipibo elder who was teaching me about prayer through blowing tobacco smoke and working with local medicine plants. I spent two months in this little hut, eating river fish, plain rice and green plantains, bathing in the cream-colored river and singing spontaneous songs that came to me, perhaps from my deepening relationship with the medicine plants.
This time alone in Nature was a profound reawakening for me. It reminded me that my own little trauma was part of the much larger trauma of our human family, and that our healing depends on developing a respectful relationship with all of life around us, and within.
To heal, we need to reach back to a time when our ancestors listened to the land, to the waters, to the plants and animals. All of us had indigenous ancestors, before supremacy came and waged war on them. Empires and religions came with their ideas of superiority. And many of those old ways were almost lost.
But, listening with the attitude that our family is speaking to us thru Nature, we can heal ourselves. We can return to balance with Mother Earth, and we can save ourselves from our own annihilation.
We urgently need to rekindle these old ways, and to share these stories. I discovered the power of storytelling after returning from the Amazon, and embarking on a motorcycle journey across the US and Canada to support my fellow survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The stories of that journey are told through three documentary shorts, produced in collaboration with survivors and our allies.
It’s a challenge. But in my short 40 years, I have gone from hiding behind a computer screen, to swimming and diving in the waters, foraging and fishing and hunting for food, protecting ecosystems and supporting indigenous cultures. I believe that anyone can change.
Our traumas contain the keys to our own transformation.
That is why I am still listening and remembering. Learning to trust the land, to work with local and indigenous communities, to educate and to film this great transformation of life on Earth.
~ Mark R