Rewilding Body and Soul: My Personal Journey

I grew up in the Wayehutta Valley in Cullowhee North Carolina. It was a world of sparkling springs, bubbling creeks, and my front yard and backyard was an entire mountain. We walked on footpaths which were called ‘Indian Trails’ and we were told these were formed by the actual Cherokee Indians who roamed these lands which were the original ancestral home of the Cherokee Nation. Arrowheads were everywhere and spring water was all I knew. Me and my siblings would run barefoot in the garden, climb trees, make shelters from sticks and leaves, and roam freely all over the vast forest discovering new treasures with each hike. Our favorite playground toys were wild grape vines which could be turned into swings, and seesaws made by putting a log in the crotch of a tree.

All of this vanished in an instance when my family moved to Kansas when I was seven. Suddenly there was land with no mountains and sidewalks and houses seemingly every inch of the ground. It was a sudden shock to be taken from my childhood paradise and this would be my new reality. I kept looking for a wild place to hide and explore, but this tiny town on the prairie was my new home. The creeks were muddy and the water didn’t even move most of the time. The rocks were jagged, dull and ugly, unlike the polished gems found everywhere in my former mountain creeks, and the water tasted terrible.

I learned to live with this sub standard version of life but longed so deeply to return to my homeland. Looking back, it was still a pretty amazing childhood, full of fields to run in, and a town so safe and small I could ride my bicycle anywhere. One of my favorite adventures in that tiny town of Iola Kansas was discovering John Brown’s Cave. This was an actual cave that you could walk through it and come out the other end. Other than that, finding creative things to keep from getting bored, like jumping off the tombstones in the nearby cemetery, and walking over fields and farms to get to the roller rink on the weekends.

I had become a pretty typical teenager by the time I was 15. On the outside I looked about like everyone else. I had a nickname “Hill Jack” some people called me, because they know I came from the Appalachian Mountains. I was a track star and also one of the first skateboard bad asses during the early days of that sport. On the inside I was completely lost, still grieving for the life I left behind, trying to fill my emptiness with becoming a cool guy like everyone else. But one day this too fell apart as if a tornado plowed through my psyche.

One day in ninth grade history class we were watching a documentary on the Nez Perce Indians which were the last wild tribe still roaming freely in the Northwestern Region of the U.S.  during the late 1800’s. The U.S. Calvary was sent to put an end to their lifestyle and culture, by moving them to a Reservation. So far, in all of the history classes I had been exposed to, the white people were always the good guys, and the Indians were the ones who were bad. And never was I shown that the white people actually stole the land and the culture from the Native Americans. But in this film, I was having a strange feeling, because the esteemed materialistic culture based on having the best car and best house, clothes and everything that people pursue, was about to be shattered. Because these strong but peaceful and dignified people living in tipis and riding horses to hunt buffalo, were more who I felt I was than everything else surrounding me. The film showed the conquest of these native people and their grand failed attempt at escaping to Canada where they would be out of U.S. jurisdiction. When the film ended I was in a state of shock. What a huge loss! Living close to the earth in tipis seemed to me far superior to this life which was cutting me off from the outdoors and to life force.

I walked home alone after school telling my buddies I didn’t feel well. I didn’t know where to start but I knew a few things. One, I was going to not watch T.V. any more. It made me feel sick. I had to find my own life, my own voice, my own identity. I knew that somehow the things surrounding me and the messages coming at me were shaping me, and I wanted to know who I was really. Because now I had nothing,  if I didn’t feel aligned or a part of my culture. I also started journaling as I sorted through my thoughts and emerging awakenings about who I was on the planet.

I went to the library and found a book called ‘How the Indians Lived’.  How did these grand, strong, dignified and peaceful people get the way they were? How did they get the seemingly magical powers to live outdoors in the weather without modern houses, and live off the land hunting wild game?

There were two key things. It was important to be outside. And one of the ways to be outside was to sleep outside. Another important practice was wearing moccasins instead of hard soled shoes. So I found another book on how to make moccasins, and somehow taught myself how to make them. I wore them to school, along with the beaded leather headband I made as well. I also started sleeping outside, dragging my sheets and blankets onto the yard in our crowded apartment complex in Lawrence, Kansas. I also got rid of furniture in my bedroom.

These simple practices started putting me in a closer relationship between my body and my environment. People obviously thought I was crazy. Why in the world was I going backwards? I could easily accept a ride with a friend to school but they didn’t get it. That walking time was my therapy. I loved to walk barefoot to school and it also gave me a sense that I wasn’t stuck to someone else’s agenda.  I would walk many miles per day around town to work after school and back home. I preferred it even over a bicycle. At one point I managed to not get in a car at all for two weeks, feeling cars were robbing me of something essential that I wanted back. Somehow to know my relationship to time, space, gravity and body.

In college I found a path in Outdoor Recreation which I pursued and eventually graduated. There was an easy way to merge my values with the current culture and I continued to forge a unique life for myself as time went on. I took a six week outdoor leadership training with Wilderness Education Association and was taught by Paul Petzholdt himself, founder of the organization and dubbed “The Grandfather of Outdoor Leadership”.

At one point I became sick with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and this lead to researching Ancestral Health and getting rid of plastic and other toxins from my life. As I was also in a company that pioneered the early efforts at eco friendly organic furniture and bedding, I was familiar with designing with natural fibers. I noticed how my entire house had become ‘green’ meaning everything was organic, and yet my outdoor gear wax was made from toxic synthetic fabric which I could no longer use because it was off gassing chemicals. What a contradiction! What cognitive dissonance! Here I was going outside to get fresh air, grounding and sunshine and still not able to get away from those things I was trying to get away from.

One day I was hiking barefoot with a friend and I envisioned designing an entire set of backpacking gear made from natural fibers. Even though I didn’t know how to sew I couldn’t let go of this vision. I started doing research into natural fibers, made a very rough set of gear over the span of a few years and started backpacking with my rag-tag backpacking set. I experimented with beeswax-coated canvas, a wool sleeping bag, and a canvas backpack. Then I felt ready to move into a tipi and really study exactly what allows a person to stay warm in extreme conditions. This led to my discoveries in Cold Thermogenesis and a nutrient dense ancestral diet which produced a robust metabolism.

Every little thing I discovered opened up more healing, more vitality, more life force.

·  The cold stimulates a powerful process of detoxification and slows leakiness of electrons from the body. It also increases thyroid function and stimulates circulation.

·  The fresh air, especially near moving water like streams, creeks and waterfalls, brought live giving negative ions as well as biocynides from the trees which act as pain relievers and natural essential oils.

·  The grounding effects of Earthing allowed synchronizing with the life giving effects of the Shumann’s Resonance.

·  The exposure to natural sunlight and the cycles of the daylight/nighttime without interruption from artificial light allows the body to synchronize it Circadian Rhythms.

·  The nutrient dense Ancestral Diet high in nutrients including fats, proteins and mineral balancing fueled a metabolism which could withstand the elements which were also nourishing.

·  And the natural fibers allowed the body to naturally adapt to the ever changing temperature and humidity fluxuations which occur outside when not in climate controlled buildings. Because synthetic fibers trap moisture near the skin, thus interrupting the body’s heat generating processes. In other words, synthetic fabrics create a wall between the body and the environment, whereas natural fibers connect us to the environment similar to how animals have fur.

During my experimenting and healing process, I was also experiencing Kundalini Awakening and my sense of reality was becoming fuzzy. Because before this, reality was based on my identity, and identity was based on the story of where I came from, what I accomplished or didn’t, and all the mental constructs that I had formed throughout my life which is also called ‘conditioning’ and samskaras. I was becoming aware that mine and other’s sense of reality is limited and biased, that our beliefs are based on what we have been exposed to and what we have chosen to believe along the way. As I was enrolled in a mystery school called Oneness University led by Shri Amma Bhagavan and taught by local guides in Asheville, I was starting to see miracles happen in my life. Not just little synchronicities, but actual things would start to appear that I focused on. This was leading me along a beautiful path of unfolding into my truest and highest potential, as I was letting go of emotional baggage, memories, and attachments to the past.

I was still healing from the effects of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and I would take my newly made organic backpacking gear along with a bag full of healing Paleo foods and find a place along a creek to make a base camp. For several days I would hike, bath in the icey water, and let the sun thaw out my body and mind which had been frozen by a lifetime of stress and trauma. I found out cold water submersion was also practiced by ancient Yogis who considered it an Asana in itself which erases mental imprints for a total reset from flawed conditioning. And water became a powerful multi-dimensional tool both breathing the mist as well as bathing in it. So combining my practices from Oneness University, along with the Paleo Diet, along with living on the earth, I was creating a very powerful sanctuary and launching pad for my Awakening.

One of my favorite places was in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and not far from my childhood home in Cullowhee, North Carolina. When I discovered this place I had the most exquisite feeling of mystical depth and ease of being and I felt I could not get enough of being there. I also learned recently about the mystical powers of moving water and the fact water has life force and the ability to remember what happens to it. The thoughts and energies water is exposed to remain imprinted in the water. And wild water which comes from the earth and bounces off rocks for miles not exposed to barely a human has the life force, which is measurable, of up to 40,000 times more than dead tap water. Also, when we grow up on spring water, the memory of that water remains in us. And when we return to that homeland we can feel a powerful sense of belonging which is stored in the water. I was using the water to erase my imprints and bring me to a pure and whole state based on my primordial nature which is the mere essence of being beyond any story or influence. The Hindu call this state of being “Sat chit ananda”.  It translates to something like “I am existence, consciousness bliss” This became my mantra. I was no longer interested in trying to prove myself, or be somebody. There was nothing more beautiful than just being in nature like this where everything was alive and sparkling. There was a special quality of heart opening, forgiveness, and joy emerging which had never known. I was letting everything go as the water washed over me.

The first Lucky Sheep prototypes being tested. Wool sleeping bag, beeswax coated canvas tent and backpack.

One morning I walked out to a rock surrounded by the moving water of the creek and started writing, trying to express the feelings and openings coming to me.

My Bones Remember


My bones know these waters

They tumble and bubble

Foam and smash

Crash and bounce

Sing and dance

Riccoche down the mountain

Over boulders, logs, moss

And play with the fish and salamanders

On their way, passing through

The valley they carved

Sparkle and shine

In rays of mist,

mixed with dappled



My bones know this well

My bones remember

And sink down into

A peace

A silence with no

Coming nor going

Yet nothing but

Coming and going

A stillness hanging in between

Each coming and going

In a timeless time

A placeless place

Between worlds

I slept by the water all night long

And woke up feeling a pain long buried.

My bones remembered

Because they knew these waters

From the beginning.

I sit on this boulder

Water swirling on all sides, breathing in a smell so sweet I cannot leave

I can feel the pain lingering from the past.

I come from a story

I did not want to remember

A pain that to relive

Would destroy.

But here it’s okay.

Here by this stream,

this will pass through me.

I tried to forget

But these waters persisted

Would not stop singing

This happened

This was your life

But this was not you

See this, acknowledge this,

feel this,

and then let it pass.

These waters heal

These waters sing the song of the stars

Twinkling in the night sky

Wide, cold, pure, deep

Constant, cutting through

Millennia to get to the core

Right where the truth is

These waters sing

The story of the universe

You can hear if you can

Stand to listen if it

Doesn’t kill you first.

Most people cannot hear and could not bear to listen and feel.

Sit and sleep near beside the creek

And you will be pure

You will become the sound

the music, the energy

Nothing will be left inside you

It gets washed away one

Grain at a time until you

Become silent. You become

Truth and you exist

Whole and complete

Between worlds

Between time and space

Often you will want to turn and run

Go find something to do

Go find some people to

Validate you, entertain you.

Anything to get away.

Sit here, sleep here, walk here, be here

Breath the mist deep into

Your center core

Hear the pounding in the center of the river

On the bank

And further away

Feel the power and how

It changes you.

Move with it, stay with it.

Your story of

Who you are, where you came from

Goes downstream or evaporates

Now you are ever new

Fresh, vibrant, unencumbered

You are



Ancient Trees



And your bones remember.

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