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my hero, julia butterfly
julia butterfly is totally amazing. she lived in a tree so that it wouldn’t be cut down, for like 2 years.
i used to hang out in trees when i was little, ask my mom, i didn’t want to come down.
but anyway, why i love her is that she is into taking action. this is a great interview with her. if you don’t feel like reading it, just know that it’s one thing to be spiritual and another to be spiritual by taking action to make the world a better place.
because of julia, i don’t use straws (excess plastic for no reason) and i try not to use napkins or paper towels (save the trees!)
Activate Your Spiritual Self (Excerpt)
Sounds True: How did you come up with the term “spiritual activation?” How did that occur to you?
Julia Butterfly Hill: As I got involved with the activist movement, I saw that in direct action there are often a lot of fingers pointing out, while in the spiritual movement there’s a lot of focusing into the inner self. But there felt like there was a profound disconnection between actions and spirit.
I had the great honor of speaking at a conference called “Spirituality and Social Action.” I began by saying, “If we truly want to have long-lasting transformation and healing in the world, we’re going to take the word and out of “spirituality and anything.” Spirituality is not a way of life – it is life. To truly embody spirituality it must become a verb. And that’s when it came to me as “spiritual activation.”
ST: It seems that some spiritual practitioners avoid issues of environmental activism, and likewise, some committed environmental activists avoid meditation and spiritual practices. Why do you think this gap exists?
JBH: We are all, as we know, born sponges waiting to absorb. I think of part of it as what I call “generational toxicity buildup.” When you put a toxin into the environment it doesn’t dilute; it gets stronger. The same is true in our human environment. We’ve been dropping toxins in and numbing our consciousness, addicting us to what I call “comfortability.” We become conditioned and we live more and more in generations that are being born into being used to having disposable lives.
I feel like there’s a question in the universe that’s just boiling right now: Will consciousness change the world? And my response has been, “Consciousness alone cannot. Consciousness in action can.”
I feel that we become products. We’re dealing with generational toxicity buildup and so the world now more than ever is begging us and asking us to wake up and to realize that every moment, every day, we all make choices – and every single choice changes the world. It’s not can we make a difference – it’s we do make a difference. What kind of difference are we going to make? That is the question we must ask ourselves.
As people who are rooted deeply in spirituality we must come to understand this, and come to ask ourselves, “What would the divine do in this moment?” The divine wouldn’t cut down a tree for a paper plate and throw it away. The divine wouldn’t look at a paper towel and wipe its hands on it. It would say, “That needs to stay a tree. We don’t need to cut down a tree to wipe our hands.” The divine would not be extracting oil and petroleum out of the heart of the Mother. So in spirituality movements we have to hold ourselves accountable to that.
Activist movements usually come from falling madly in love – and then falling deeply into pain. This spurs people into action. Sometimes we get so lost in the pain that we get more and more focused outward. It’s easier to point out everybody else’s problems than to go inside where it’s scary and where it’s fearful and where it’s deeply painful. And that’s why I feel it’s so important that the two come together, because we need all aspects. It’s all facets of one movement, but the facets have forgotten each other. It’s time to bring them together so we can shine like the gem that the universe is asking of us right now.
ST: I’ve met so many people who say, “I want to know what my role is, I want to know. I’ve been doing this, I’ve been doing that. Nothing quite feels right. It all feels somewhat external to me.” And my question is how do you really help that person find their own way to make a meaningful contribution?
JBH: I will reflect back yet again on the spiritual component, that spirituality means a connection to the sacred. For each person, the sacred is going to mean something different. I think more often than not the people I find who are looking for that next thing have yet to find their sacred. So sometimes I encourage people: go search for your sacred.
Going to search for your sacred usually means going very far inside. Go in there – it’s scary in there, and that’s why a lot of times people don’t find that “this is it.” Because it’s too intense to go into the pain, the breaking down, the melting, the liquefying that has to happen to open up that large.
So if people want to open up that large they have to be willing to do the work. One of my personal prayers is “May every breath that enters my body be a prayer.” That is so important for me – recognizing that ego does not control the world and that we’re a part of something much larger. And humbling ourselves before that, humbling ourselves to the fact that we cannot be attached to outcome. We must do the service for the sake of the service, for the sake of love, for the sake of the beauty. That, I think, is crucial in helping people find that, yes, we have to challenge ourselves to go deeper. And when we go deeper we will find what it is we’re looking for.
I didn’t go into the tree looking to become an activist. I didn’t come to California looking to become an activist. I had a question in my heart that said, “I have to be more than what society tells me and I have to be more than what my parents taught me. My parents taught me my life was only about believing in certain laws so that I can go to a better hereafter. Society taught me believing in certain laws so that I could make a lot of money so that my legacy can be how many houses and cars and jewelry and clothes and all those things. A steering wheel slamming into my skull in a car wreck in August of 1996 steered me in a new direction and said, “There’s got to be something more.” And I went in search of that. I do believe that in order to really find that calling you have to be willing to fall apart. And that’s a challenge.
ST: Why is falling apart so critical?
JBH: Our greater calling is attached to the divine. Our greater calling is attached to something much more than ourselves. When we are rigid and attached we have decided who we are and what our world is and what it’s all about – we know it and we’ve already figured out what kind of a vessel we are. We’ve got it. That’s that.
If we’re going to open to the higher calling we have to allow every aspect of who we think we are and what we think the world is to be challenged, and to be challenged fiercely. Maybe it doesn’t mean falling apart as in going into deep depression and “oh my goodness, my life! I quit my job and everything’s falling apart!” Falling apart just means everything we’ve conceived and believed of ourselves and our world must be willing to be beaten by the storms. There’s no way that when you get beaten by the kinds of storms that will come that part of you won’t fall apart.
The caterpillar becomes a butterfly by liquefying. We must reach that point where everything we perceived ourselves to be will appear to be crumbling and falling apart. But it will be a process of growth and transformation like we could never have imagined possible.