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August 25, 2003

My Tribe

In the 70s I was part of an exodus from the cities to "get back to the garden" and live "The Good Life." We had Joni Mitchell's song on our lips and Scott and Helen Nearing's book under our arms.

This phenomenon was happening all over the world, and I followed the country roads back to Nova Scotia. There, with a gang of long-haired, vegetarian, mystic revolutionaries, the "Dogsnest Farm" commune was born. It was a beautiful thing, but it didn't live long.

Some of the communes succeeded, but most did not. The intentional community movement still exists, but it is still haunted by the same problems. There is a drive to pull together, and a force that breaks things apart.

The drive for union takes us from an emotional and physical state of separation to a state of connectedness. The neurotic force that divides us breaks us apart with inner and outer conflict.

At Dogsnest Farm we were brought together by that ancient healing drive for family and tribe. Unfortunately, we were too emotionally immature to make it work.

Developments of a revolutionary stature never last long if they are driven by minds and emotions that are still blocked. In the song "Revolution," John Lennon sang: You better free your mind instead. As it turns out, he did primal therapy, and so did I.

My first primal with Mary Dell began with a deep, aching loneliness. I began to cry heavily and ask, "Where are my people?" I was yearning for the deep connection I had never had with my mother - or with my tribe.

The tribe is essential for our humanity. It supports our territorial home, our food, our shelter, and our families. Most important, it supports the mothers as they carry, deliver, nurture, and love their new babies. In this big, protective container we can grow up strong and healthy. If necessary, we can rest and heal.

Where are our tribes? Neurotic, mechanized society has torn them apart and dogmatic religion has often made the rest repressive and bigoted. And so most of us live, work, and drive our lives away in little boxes separated from each other.

In 1999, many years after Dogsnest Farm dissolved, I went to my first IPA Convention. There were children and there were elders. There were newcomers and oldtimers. There was seriousness and silliness. There was solitude and closeness. There was laughter and there were tears.

It felt like I had known these people for years. For the first time in my life I felt a deep sense of being at home. I had found my tribe.

The Plains Indians lived in small bands, but they always came together every summer for the Sundance - the "gathering of the tribes." Following that same ancient call, primal people come together every summer to do the same.

Maybe I'll see you there.

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