My life is an ongoing experiment.
When I decided to become my own guinea pig of genuine humanness my whole life suddenly made sense.
I’ve always been a nonconformist. As soon as I could walk I would run around naked in the park.
Inconsistencies bothered me, particularly when I noticed a mismatch between what people said and what they did. By high school, I was astounded with the extent of duplicitousness in the world I lived in.
I rebelled as any teenager would. I turned to the counterculture…
… and subsequently to alternative spirituality. Growing up in the atheism of socialist Yugoslavia, I saw Christian doctrine as man-made and highly dubious, so I searched for a higher meaning elsewhere.
From atheism to a new religion
At that time, existentialist writers got under my skin. I couldn’t stop reading Camus, Kafka, Bulgakov, Joyce, etc. They left me with gaping existential questions. In the spiritual vacuum of my socialist country, I turned to the East.
I was 16 when I read Bhagavad-gita for the first time and a few other books on Indian philosophy. When I was 18, I met Hare Krishna devotees and six months later I joined their ashram. I didn’t know then that I’ll spend seven years of my life as a monk.
Austerity, meditation, celibacy, dedication to service and the study of Indian scriptures made a massive impact on me. I fell in love with the simplicity and freedom from unnecessary necessities. I found meaning in detachment and austerity.
My attention to inconsistencies was on pause for a few years. I was critical of the mainstream, but not of the Hare Krishna society.
Can I be normal?
In the last year of my monastic life, however, I couldn’t get around inconsistencies. I left the ashram and discontinued my strict spiritual discipline.
At the age of 26, I ended up alone on the street with three boxes of possessions, no family to go to, no money, no savings, no university degree… But I had a deep sense of providence and reliance on God.
That was enough to find a good job in a day and a flat in a week.
After so many years of living in a bubble, I didn’t know what the “real” world would be like. I didn’t know would anything I learned in the ashram even be worthwhile. It was!
I quickly learned that the world I entered loves reliability and discipline! I had those qualities and skills plus a lot more.
In contact with the mainstream society, I understood what a good translator and proofreader I’ve become, how well I could write, how advanced my knowledge of languages was, how handy it was to be a good chef and masseur, to have a good command of rhetorics and public speaking.
I was different, though. I didn’t fit in the culture, I wasn’t normal.
I couldn’t really merge with mainstream society. My attention to inconsistencies was more alert than ever!
I’m not normal and that’s ok!
For seven years I had been sleeping on a thin mat, waking up at 4 a.m., meditating and singing for three hours, working hard in the service of a higher purpose, sitting down on the floor to eat two vegetarian meals a day, squatting to poop, owning very little, having no money …
No wonder I had a hard time adjusting to what the majority called normal.
By that time I knew I didn’t belong to the ashram, but I didn’t belong to the mainstream either. There seemed to be no alternative, so I moved to nature to lead a life of a modern hermit, removed both from my spiritual tradition and the mainstream.
In my late twenties and early thirties, I developed my love for windsurfing, running, swimming, cycling, and farming. I learned about permaculture and ecovillages.
It took me another six years to understand the tension between my experience in the ashram and in the mainstream society and to put it into words.
Luxurious simplicity and genuine humanness
I discovered that the habits I adopted in the ashram had value beyond spiritual practices. I scrutinized them side to side with modern standard behaviors. My deep research resulted in dozens of articles and interviews. I decided to practice intentionally everything I wrote about.
Ultimately, the book Human: Instructions for Use was born in Slovenian in 2007. It became a hit and with the book, my experiment of genuine humanness has really begun …
What was the experiment?
I wanted to understand what is purely human under layers of artificial culture. Who am I really? What remains when I take the culture away? All of it! Is it even possible to go as far as what you could call a human-animal?
I decided to try. I was radical, but not to the point of seriously exposing myself in public and risking being taken to an asylum…
My most radical experiment in public was barefooting. I wondered can I get away as a nonstop barefooter. It turned out my society was pretty open to it, and in 2007 I adopted my year-around barefooting.
For six years I lived in a 9 m2 trailer with a total annual income far below the poverty line in Slovenia. But my expenses were low too, so I could even afford (second-hand) windsurf gear, traveling, and volunteering.
Those were the golden years of my writing. I published three more books and two hundred articles and essays. I gave a few hundred lectures and dozens of workshops reaching thousands of people.
A human serving the planet
My service attitude found its home in the community network and the World Cleanup movement. My individual way of life didn’t change much, but I took more responsibility, I engaged with the wider society, I took leadership.
Co-initiating and organizing a massive one-day waste cleanup in my country took my focus away from my books and towards networking, organizing a mass movement, training, and facilitating. To understand better what we’ve achieved in 2010, watch the documentary On that clean day.
It is a great honor to be counted among the pioneers of the now-global movement that engages tens of millions to clean up illegally dumped waste and litter in almost 200 countries.
Throughout all that, I stayed true to my decision to be always barefoot. So far I traveled to 43 countries barefoot, mostly to support teams in accomplishing their national one-day cleanups. I met high officials and facilitated dozens of events barefoot.
My life and work drew the attention of a film director Boris Petkovič so he made a portrait documentary Nara = Human. It’s a window into a year of my everyday life.
I 2014, I also co-initiated a community project in Slovenia, called Sunny Hills of Istria. Currently, I live there in a beautifully renovated old dry stone house, contributing to local and regional development towards sustainability and regeneration.
In 2019, I published the English edition of Human: Instructions for Use. The year 2020 is dedicated to launching the book and we’ll see where my service attitude will take me from there …