Article Regeneration

Spotlight on Hanne Strong

Hanne M. Strong: serves as President of the Manitou Foundation, which she and her late husband, Maurice Strong, founded in 1988. The Foundation, based in Crestone, Colorado has granted land to spiritual, educational and environmental groups through the Manitou Foundation’s Land Grant Program and through the Strong’s personal land holdings. The Baca/Crestone Community currently houses many of the world’s wisdom traditions and is referred to as the “Refuge for World Truths”. It is the largest intentional, interreligious and sustainable living community in North America.

Mrs. Strong, has been an advocate for environmental conservation and restoration for many decades. In 1994, she established the Manitou Institute & Conservancy in partnership with Laurance Rockefeller and placed over 1,900 acres of the Foundation’s land holdings under Conservation Easements. The Manitou Habitat Conservation Program (MHCP) protects and preserves the pristine mountain range, wildlife habitats, and fragile eco-systems above the Baca Grande development zone.

She served as a Senior Advisor, organizer and lead fundraiser for the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders held at the United Nations in New York in 2000. It was the first conference of its kind ever held at the United Nations.

Excerpts from a conversation with Hanne, by Raven Burrell 

Hanne is no stranger to the radical changes that can occur when we are willing to surrender ourselves to a shift in consciousness. She has put her body in the way of this kind of transformation in her personal life, which is what makes her so apt for the message she carries. When I spoke with Hanne it seemed like her small life was enveloped inside a much greater purpose that had been running the show for several years now. I was curious about her initiation on this path of purpose. In what form did her calling come and how did she make way to hear it? Although she had been a seeker from a very young age, Hanne found herself in her early adult life working as the head of a commercial design firm and living on Broadway. One ordinary night, she was walking by her apartment building when a large boulder fell off a balcony several stories above her and just barely missed her. The way she described it was like turning on a light switch. Her close encounter with the boulder was simultaneously accompanied by epiphany, there was no lapse of time between the fallen boulder and a breakthrough in her consciousness that instantly understood something in her life had to change. She told me that she immediately went upstairs to her apartment and opened the window. As she stood there looking over Broadway, she found a deep and powerful place of surrender, saying to herself, “creator, I give you my life, show me what to do.”

It wasn’t long after that fateful night that Hanne met her husband, Maurice Strong, who was working under the Secretary General of the UN at the time, mainly in charge of environmental issues. Shortly after, the couple moved to Kenya to start up The UN Environment Program (UNEP). During her time there, Hanne founded The Foundation for Social Habilitation, an NGO that worked with children who lived in squatter settlements, teaching them to plant trees in their communities. She gathered prominent leaders to serve on the board, such as Wangari Maathai and Richard Leakey. Throughout her life with Maurice, Hanne worked closely with top climate scientists, spiritual teachers, indigenous wisdom holders and world leaders.

Hanne’s initiative in Kenya foreshadowed her later work with The Earth Restoration Corps (ERC), a vision she maintains today. Hanne clarified that, all along, the question guiding these projects has been, “how do you restore the planet?” The ERC is a global environmental educational program designed to train young adults in ecosystem restoration and green livelihoods. The training is holistic and includes different kinds of non-denominational spiritual practices that teach the youth to balance their energy and ground into something deeper than what the eye can see.

Together, Hanne and Maurice founded The Manitou Foundation in 1988 to create a sustainable interfaith community in Crestone, Colorado. Hanne Strong knew that Crestone was where she needed to be as soon as she stepped off the plane. They purchased the land and Hanne moved into the Luis Maria Baca Ranch along with her mother, daughters and sister in 1978. She was just settling into her new home when an old man knocked on the door. “I have been waiting for you to arrive,” he said (I could imagine Hanne shrugging on the other side of the phone to underscore her ease with absurdity). She continued, “he was 85 at the time, so I invited him in.” Hanne and this man spent the next few days together as he related to her the prophecy of the land that had so clearly spoken to Hanne upon her arrival. Hanne described the man, “I immediately sensed his kindness and a certain light in his eyes.” His name was Glen Anderson, and he was known as “the prophet” to the locals. He proceeded to tell Hanne that she was to bring the world traditions together right there in Crestone and demonstrate to the world “how to live simply.” He further conveyed to Hanne that Crestone’s destiny was to bring forth a new civilization of evolved beings. After receiving this information, Hanne fasted in the mountains for four days and, through her own communication with Spirit, confirmed the prophecy. During her time in the mountains, Hanne also came to know that the land she was on was Hopi territory and that she must consult with the Hopi elders about this prophecy. She already had an established relationship with Hopi elders and was able to speak with them from a place of trust. After travelling to Hotevilla and attending a Kiva ceremony, the Hopi elders confirmed Glen Anderson’s prophecy and further stated that she was to build near the Eastern Mountain, “where the light comes into the world.” So, Hanne received their blessing to go forward with the project, she was told it was also part of Hopi prophecy.

Over the years, Maurice and Hanne gave away land to various religious traditions and spiritual lineages to build places of worship that would become refuge to seekers around the globe. Before the pandemic, Crestone was taking in about 20,000 people on retreat every year.

Hanne has learned to move nimbly within the world of human politics in a way that does not forget what truly matters. This invaluable place of contribution allows her to access societal resources of money and power and transform them into an offering that returns us to the genuine resources that life on this planet so abundantly provides.

This is her prowess, her valor. It is a tenacity that holds her intact enough to continue to surrender to the vision of what she cannot yet see.

A few words with Kosmos

Kosmos | So Hanne, humanity has gotten itself into quite a pickle.

Hanne | No kidding.

Kosmos | What are your thoughts at this moment in time?

Hanne | Well, I’ve been aware of this moment for 50 years. Fifty years ago, my husband organized the first environmental conference in Stockholm, Sweden, where the world was actually warned about climate change. So, the world knew 50 years ago.

This was during Nixon. Cheney put out the word that the American lifestyle was not up for grabs. We’re not going to change the lifestyle of Americans! I was on the front row of most of the meetings, and they were just not willing to give up oil and gas. And if they had done it 50 years ago, we might have had a chance.

But now one of my advisors, the Chief of the Iroquois Confederacy, Leon Shenandoah- he was the Tadodaho of the Iroquois Confederacy – said, “Hanne, now we have crossed the line of no return. It doesn’t matter what they do, it’s too late.”

And you look at it, I mean, look at what just happened at the Climate Summit in Egypt. It was a complete joke. Over 600 people from the fossil fuel industry infiltrating the conference, convincing them that there is no way we’re going to make it without the fossil fuels.

Anyway, you’re right. We’re in trouble. We’re in real big trouble.

Kosmos | Yes. We are in a polycrisis or what some call a permacrisis. We too have been aware of this at Kosmos for a long time.  So now that we’re in the midst of profound change, how best can we live our lives? And what can we do to help the world yet to be? There is a world yet to be.

Hanne | That’s right. And of course, this is what I’ve been working on forever and ever and ever. The only solution that I see is that we train at least a billion young people. We stole their future – so we train millions of young people to restore their own consciousness, and when that is restored, restore the Earth.

We have already trained thousands of young people here. The first thing we do is take them into the sweat lodge, and then take them out on a vision quest where they can make connection with the elements. If you’re not in touch with the elements and you don’t have gratitude for them, which have kept life on Earth going since the beginning of time, it’s over.

Kosmos | So, the first step in your view is to inspire in young people a love of the Earth – a love of nature and direct experience of the Earth.

Hanne | When you sit out there on a vision quest – and I’ve done it myself, so I know what it’s about – you go out with nothing from this world. You go into the world of spirit and there things are very different. Very different. And unless you feel that love and gratitude for Mother Earth, you’re not going to make it. You’re going to run back home. When you do get filled with this absolute reverence for Mother Earth and gratitude for the air, and the water, for the fire, the sun, it generates powerful love energy. Almost 100% of the kids get it.

Kosmos | I think it’s a very tender time for children. They can see what is happening. They sense it, and they have a tremendous amount of suffering as a result.

Hanne | That’s right.

Kosmos | So a program like this can help them to have hope? And when I say hope, I’m not talking about false hope that everything’s going to be okay. I’m talking about a belief in the essential goodness of the human spirit, the energy of Life itself. But why should they trust us in this regard?

Hanne | The thing is, you’ve got to become a mentor. Young people don’t have all the answers. We need to mentor them. If we have knowledge that’s going to help them through this period, we have to pass it on. But it’s not just scientific knowledge, it’s indigenous knowledge, which has been around …well, millions of years, without destroying the planet, taking care of her, giving her gratitude.

I think it’s the only chance we’ve got, to restore Earth on a massive, massive scale, and that involves all of us. Even the armies are going to have to get involved. This has to be a national service. So instead of training young people to kill and bomb and blast each other, they would learn how to restore themselves and the earth.

There’s a very old Tibetan prophecy by one of the greatest saints of all times, Guru Rinpoché, that says, “the silken threads that keeps the demonic forces in bondage will be severed.” I really believe that is happening. I mean, you look at some of these leaders, they’ve got to be possessed: Putin, threatening nuclear war. North Korea. Iran and these executions.

Kosmos | Yes. It only takes one candle to illuminate the darkness. 

Hanne | Right. But evil is pretty powerful these days.

Kosmos | I think that many believe or feel in their hearts that there’s going to be a lot more suffering.

Hanne | Humanity needs to get down on its knees and say, we are sorry for what we have done – the fracking and the blasting. What is outside the Earth in glass and steel, towns and industrial complexes and the cars and so on, now weighs more than Earth’s biomass – all living things. And now with the green technologies, they’re going to have to take more out; the precious metals. Can you imagine what it takes to make a windmill and set up solar plants?

And then they’re going to make another bundle of money, and that’s what it’s all about. I went to Rome one time with my adopted father, who was an old Indian Chief, and we had an audience with the Pope. I figured, well, let’s do a press conference afterwards. A reporter asked this old man, “Chief, do you have any advice for us Europeans?” He said, “Well, I do. Stop worshiping money. Start worshiping God again.”

But I don’t think all humans are going to disappear. According to the Hopi prophecies, there will definitely be people that are going to make it, and we’re planning to make it out here.

Kosmos | You’ve devoted your whole life, Hanne, to these concerns. It must feel very frustrating and sad.

Hanne | Well, I feel the pain of the Earth. I feel it. Physically, I feel it. Because in my travels, I’ve seen the worst damage and I’ve seen the most beautiful places.

Kosmos | You’re like Avalokiteshvara, who feels the pain of the Earth and transforms it in her heart, into compassion.

Hanne | I don’t know about that. But anyway, I try to be. Because in Buddhism, when you take that vow, you vow never to rest till you have tried to help every sentient being wake up.

Kosmos | Yes.

Hanne Strong | The Karmapa, when he came here – he’s one of the first spiritual leaders we gave land to – said, “Endless Mahasiddhas will come out of this place.” And also that he will bring some of the most important artifacts and texts here for safekeeping

Kosmos | What can I do to help?

Hanne Strong | What can you do to help?

Kosmos | Yes. How can I help you?

Hanne Strong | Well, come on out. We’ll sit down around the fire and see what these two minds can do together.

Kosmos | I would enjoy that. Thank you for the invitation.

Hanne Strong | We should put up a site; what are the top-notch consciousness-changing techniques? I mean, there are so many, Qigong…just with the tapping, you can get rid of negative emotions. Or the Gayatri Mantra to align yourself with the highest energy in the universe. Anybody can do that, and it doesn’t cost you anything. You can live at the highest vibration.

oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ suvaḥ

tat savitur vareṇyaṃ

bhargo devasya dhīmahi

dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt

– Rigveda 3.62.10

“Source of All Life, we meditate upon thy supreme splendor. May thy radiant power illuminate our minds, eliminate ignorance and guide us in the direction of enlightenment by purifying our hearts.”

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Kosmos is the leading global journal for transformation in harmony with all Life.

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