CHAPTER ONE: Awareness
: back to Synopsis
Our planet is alive. The air, water, fire and geologic
systems are the life-giving constituents that compose the Earth.
Time and unfathomable mystery interlace these elements into harmonious
relationships. The millions of life forms that surround us evolved
together over hundreds of millions of years. A theory describing
Earth as a living being was articulated twenty-five years ago in
James Lovelock’s book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth:
The entire range of living matter on Earth from
whales to viruses and from oaks to algae could be regarded as constituting
a single living entity capable of maintaining the Earth’s
atmosphere to suit its overall needs and endowed with faculties
and powers far beyond those of its constituent parts...[Gaia can
be seen] as a complex entity involving the Earth’s biosphere,
atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback
of cybernetic systems which seeks an optimal physical and chemical
environment for life on this planet.
Now, a new planetary danger has arisen. The Earth
bleeds on the cross of human industry. We are facing a critical
epoch of our existence. The way we humans interact with the living
Earth has set the stage for an extinction spasm affecting a significant
proportion of all life, including our own species. But just as near-death
experiences can result in the expansion of normal awareness, so
too can this degradation that puts us at risk precipitate the emergence
of a new relationship between humans and the natural world. The
crisis we have created has become the impetus for the next step
in the evolution of human consciousness.
From Land Development to
My personal awareness of these circumstances began in the early
seventies when I started my career with a Wharton MBA in international
finance. I went to work in Southern California real estate development
and for a few years was perceived to be a person some environmentalists
love to hate.
It wasn’t that I was insensitive to the
beauty of nature; I just thought there was plenty of it, so it wouldn’t
matter if some were turned into high-end housing enclaves. Then
one day, as I walked through acreage in the Santa Monica Mountains
that was slated for development, I overheard a group of trespassing
hippies discuss the greed of those who would despoil such exquisite
beauty. Their conversation penetrated my consciousness and helped
to initiate a process that eventually awakened me to the living
spirit of the Earth and to humanity’s place in the matrix
My journey took ten years, covered eighty countries,
and required me to explore the hidden terrain within my own being.
At the end of that time, I began EarthWays Foundation in Los Angeles
to promote social justice and environmental preservation.
In the following decade I carried out a variety
of projects. Initially I took them on from a sense of obligation,
and the work was often a struggle. However, as I continued my exploration
of personal awareness, my comfort level grew and my efforts in the
world became more effective. Now this work feeds my soul.
This book is about the lights that guided my way
from well-meaning but self-centered naiveté to what I call
“conscious activism.” To elaborate my philosophy I include
stories from my own experiences, but also from fifteen social change
leaders who describe what informs their worldview and inspires their
courageous actions. These accounts show us how to liberate the human
spirit from addiction to a production/consumption ethic so that
we may rejoin the community of life as contributors instead of destroyers.
Why is a focus on expanding consciousness important
for effective social change? How can we integrate the new understandings
we discover in order to create a healthier society? These and other
related questions provide context for us to examine personal and
Based on my own consciousness research I have
identified seven attributes that characterize conscious activism.
These are the beacons we use. They shine across centuries and cultural
boundaries. Each one provides guidance to dissolve our isolation,
demystify paralyzing concerns, and show how individuals can make
positive changes in the world. Collective transformation is the
In order to emphasize our embedded nature, I use
a vast time scale and the evolution of our consciousness to frame
the human story from its inception to the present day. I invite
you to join our treasure hunt as we weave our way through the crisis
and opportunity of our time.
I can hardly imagine living without hope. As for
the future of the world, there is a colorful spectrum of possibilities,
from the worst to the best. What will happen, I do not know. Hope
forces me to believe that those better alternatives will prevail,
and above all it forces me to do something to make them happen.
(Vaclav Havel, Living in Hope)
Our cultural perspective needs a reality check.
If we are to survive the negative consequences of our own technological
cleverness, a sufficient number of human beings will have to awaken
to the realization that our individual well-being is not separate
from the overall health of our planet. Both grow from the same ground.
If cultivated, this ground of being will yield
a healthier society. These realizations are the natural consequence
of an expansion of personal awareness into a felt sense of connection
with the Earth and with the creative source behind all manifestation.
Deeper association with others creates intimacy, as does appreciation
for the wild beings around us. Noticing becomes caring becomes loving,
and what we love we will come to protect.. This new level of concern
provides a grander life stage than before and thus has a liberating
effect that reduces some of our own personal and emotional discontent..
The process changes individuals and thereby coalesces into positive
At present a production and consumption ethic
predominates and separates us from a deeper understanding of the
interrelationship of all things. The Earth’s creative source
is a place of unfathomable mystery. It takes form as natural harmony,
which is the mutually beneficial reciprocity woven into the web
of life that has allowed life on Earth to endure and evolve over
billions of years. Its basic qualities are connection and interdependence.
To be in natural harmony is to be in healthy relationship. Our children’s
survival demands that we protect this web by finding our appropriate
place within it.
The Human Animal
Humans are complex and paradoxical. The interactive
structures of our brain, from the primitive reptilian stem (which
began to develop several hundred million years ago) to the recently
developed neo-cortex, endow us with the capacity both for compassion
and for the reckless abandon with which we mutilate the Earth through
war and the pursuit of profit.
This volatile combination of our imaginations, inventive capabilities
and irreverence toward the dynamic systems of the Earth frequently
insulates us from the reality of our dependence on our planet for
our very existence. But the further we step away from the Earth
as our source of life and wisdom, the more alienated we become.
When our ingenuity operates unmediated by a heartfelt connection
to Earth’s inherent intelligence, it works against us. Then
our interior confusion is mirrored by our willingness to perpetrate
We are a dominant ecological influence. From the
dawn of our species it took several million years before one billion
people populated the planet in the early 1800s. Now there are over
six billion of us, and we will add another billion in the next fourteen
years. The disruptions of our life-support systems are exacerbated
by our population growth. Our compulsive extraction of finite resources
consumes the Earth’s body and compounds the problem.
Humanity’s creative expression has branched
in two directions. The first is the centuries-old promotion of domination
and unchecked population growth. Because of the longstanding notions
that equate expansion with progress, development plows ahead like
a derailed locomotive. This is the branch we clutch with one hand
and saw off with the other.
However, the second branch involves the dawning
realization in increasing numbers of people that ecological health
is crucial to our physical well-being and to the actualization of
our creative potential. Though the destruction is expanding, so
is the appreciation for our interdependence with the living Earth.
One ally in this deepening understanding is reverence, which buoys
sprits and regenerates resolve. Many conscious activists dedicate
their lives to finding the tipping point at which the wheel of human
destiny will turn from destruction to reverence.
We have the knowledge and technology to achieve
sustainability. However, we have failed to implement it to a sufficient
degree because too many of us believe the misperception that we
benefit from the same inverted priorities that have us sacrificing
our life-support systems on the altar of material profit. An ultimate
scientific realization is upon us: evolution proceeds only through
Lack of awareness of the basic unity of organism
and environment is a serious and dangerous hallucination. For in
a civilization equipped with immense technological power, the sense
of alienation between man and nature leads to the use of technology
in a hostile spirit – to the "conquest" of nature
instead of intelligent co-operation with nature. (Alan Watts)
What is the role of conscious activism in the
face of unbridled corporate production, insatiable public consumption
and the resultant ecological degradation? How do we, the consumers,
recognize the impacts of decisions that unwittingly oppress others?
Europe and the United States controlled the world at the beginning
of the twentieth century—thus, fifteen percent of the nations
had authority over the remaining eighty-five percent of the globe.
Resources of the less developed countries were extracted for the
benefit of the colonizers. Unmitigated power ruled, and native peoples
Today, transnational corporations carry out the
new form of colonialism that is the global economy’s hallmark.
The oppression is just as extensive, but far less visible. This
system uses people as fuel. It is an engine of competition that
burns the delicate fibers of our compassionate connections to all
life. Here is how conservationist, author and professor Wendell
Berry describes our situation:
… We have before us the spectacle of
“unprecedented prosperity” and “economic growth”
in a land of degraded farms, forests, ecosystems, and watersheds,
polluted air, failing families, and perishing communities. We
have an “environmental crisis” because we have consented
to an economy in which by eating, drinking, working, resting,
traveling, and enjoying ourselves we are destroying the natural,
the God-given world. (“The Idea of a Local Economy,”
Orion, Winter 2000)
What a creative species we humans are: spacecraft,
microchips, cyberspace, splitting the atom and nuclear power, mapping
the genome and, now, genetic engineering. The growth of scientific
rationality during the past several hundred years has enabled a
remarkable range of inventions. It also accentuated our myopic worldview,
for the shadow side of this fact-dominated form of knowledge is
that it functions at the expense of other types of awareness.
We humans come into this world with an inheritance of mammalian
senses that are the basis of our emotional makeup. They were our
ancestors’ main source of vital information for tens of millions
of pre-human years: when to be alert for danger, when it was safe
to mingle with other species and when to relax on the warm rocks.
Our mammalian forbears stretch back to a period prior to the end
of the dinosaur age about sixty-five million years ago, an epoch
when our largest relative was probably less than twelve furry inches
long. Our rational brain is a recent evolution. Complex thinking,
the amazing agent of human creativity, often muddies the clarity
of our emotional wisdom. When we calm our minds and consult our
feelings we more readily connect with the suffering we cause.
For many, the anxiety for our lives and concern
for our children’s future would be overwhelming if we were
to acknowledge the depth of current environmental destruction. Thus,
we stay in denial. But we need all our wisdom inheritance, including
our full range of senses and intuition, to help us reenter our proper
place in the natural order.
Love the world as your self, and you will be able to
care for it properly.
(The Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu)
Buddhists often use the concept of “least
suffering” to guide their choices. It means that whatever
path avoids or reduces overall suffering is the one to follow. Christians
tell us to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.”
Scientific evidence from recent DNA technology reveals the far-reaching
extent of humans’ intimate connection to all living things.
We are all brothers and sisters, and we are suffering. The Pulitzer-prize
winning poet Mary Oliver expresses this relationship thus:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you about
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
Are moving across the landscapes,
Over the prairies and the deep trees,
The mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air,
Are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination,
Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
Over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.
--Dream Work, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1986
Our responsibility is not only to preserve the
rainforests and wetlands. Changing social consciousness is essential
in transforming how we treat one another. The environmental philosopher
Joanna Macy characterizes three concurrent areas of activism needed
to bring us into harmonious relationship in time to prevent ecological
collapse. The first is direct action to slow the mutilation of the
natural world. The second is the creation of alternative organizations
and infrastructure to accomplish this preservation and restoration
work. The third is the change in consciousness of individuals and,
consequently, entire societies so that it becomes socially unacceptable
to gratuitously destroy anything while pursuing personal gain.
It is possible to change human consciousness,
and this is the enormous challenge and opportunity of our time.
A great many people have awakened to the awareness that is needed
to initiate the process, and it is well underway. Difficulties abound,
so courage is needed to persevere in the face of accelerating disruption.
Seven Attributes of Conscious Activism
The following seven attributes provide a context
within which we can learn to bring our best efforts to bear. They
provide an ongoing thematic structure for this book and are examined
in detail in following chapters.
Becoming truly nonviolent is a lifelong process that involves refining
the art of kindness, concern and tolerance, even in the midst of
passionate disagreement. It need not be the absence or suppression
of anger or other emotions. It is a behavioral choice we make again
Second: Not Knowing
The mindset I call “not knowing” enables us to put aside
our entrenched ideas and reactive behaviors. Intellect and intuition
become more balanced. It is a place of open mind and heart accompanied
by spontaneity and presence.
This is a means to self-discovery. As we come to understand our
motives, we gain freedom to choose not to succumb to our outmoded,
conditioned response patterns. Through self-inquiry we expand our
personal imagination, experience the numinous transpersonal realm
and develop inner wisdom and resolve—the wellspring of a healthier
On a planetary level Eros is the cosmic attractor that acts as an
omnipresent connector of all things large and small. On a personal
level it is the archetypal energy of loving connection that is inherent
in all beings and represents loving-kindness through interrelationship
and appreciation. Love and beauty are more than ethereal qualities.
They are essential presences that can help us resolve the problems
we have created. When we love something, we want to help it thrive.
Thus, Eros is engaged concern that results from recognition and
appreciation of interrelationship.
Fifth: No Enemy
I may disagree and be disgusted by someone’s actions. But
it is not helpful to detest the person, or to make an enemy out
of someone with whom I differ. Just putting aside fear and hatred
is revolutionary behavior that can change society. For only by co-creating
a healthier world can we hope to ensure a viable future.
Sixth: Vision, Free of Reaction
Activism without vision could more accurately be called re-activism.
Active opposition often adds more energy to the very things that
we oppose, whereas, providing new alternatives can attract others
away from the old system. Vision in the present is essential for
creating a healthier future.
Attachment to goals often leads to disappointment and burnout because
we are losing ground. But the other side of grief is joy and both
are part of a heightened sensibility and concern for others. When
I stay focused on the beauty in my life and grounded in gratitude,
I am more joyful and thus more effective in my efforts to create
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
We have refused
Again and again
--David Whyte, “Enough,” from Where Many Rivers
By practicing the seven attributes we find the strength to prevail
over material addictions that could ultimately consume us all. We
are called on to modify our definition of power from the ability
to control to the capacity to nurture. When fear informs our decisions,
corporate interests easily manipulate everything from international
policies to our daily purchasing decisions. But only when we numb
our senses are we able to destroy the Earth’s delicate web
of dynamic beauty.
Deepening awareness eventually integrates us with
natural harmony. This, in turn, reduces anxiety-related compulsions
and extends our interconnections. We are all partners in life: the
trees give us fruit, shade and medicine. We depend on all the oxygen-producing
green plants for our existence. They give us our breath, and our
breath is our life and spirit.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the Earth.
-- Rumi, thirteenth-century Sufi poet
Conscious Activism in
Practice: Julia Butterfly Hill
This article is an excerpt from
Andrew Beath’s book Consciousness In Action, the Power of
Beauty, love and Courage in a Violent Time (Lantern Press, 2005)
Our actions reveal our depth of connection. I
define conscious activism as engagement in the world that expresses
our most profound understanding of the nature of reality. It is
imbued with appreciation and reverence and encourages compassionate
connection—the basis for lasting social change.
Many of the most effective activists I know exemplify
the qualities I am elaborating here. One moving example is Julia
Butterfly Hill. Her story provides a translation from the seven-attribute
theory into personal practice that creates transformation.
Modeling the Seven Attributes
Julia spent more than two years living 180 feet up in an ancient
Redwood tree known as “Luna” to protect it from being
cut. Her notoriety stems from the courage and perseverance that
kept her perched in Luna’s branches in the face of on-going
assaults from the weather and the lumber company and from her
heart-felt presentations of what the Redwoods taught her. I discussed
Julia’s personal story with her, and we framed our conversation
in the context of the seven attributes of conscious activism.
Her example brings life to these concepts.
In her youth Julia accompanied her father, an
evangelical preacher who traveled the country giving sermons in
tents. By her early twenties she owned and operated a restaurant.
Then an auto accident changed her life. Her old personality patterns
disintegrated because her injuries caused short-term memory loss.
But they also expanded her emotional vulnerability. She was forced
to leave the business world behind.
To allow herself time to heal she traveled across
the country. In northern California she happened upon the majestic
groves of cathedral-like Redwoods while these ancient trees were
in the process of being commercially logged. The activist group
Earth First! was attempting to save some of the oldest trees by
living on platforms high up in their branches. If the loggers
cut a protected tree, the fall would kill the person living in
Julia’s injury, and the winds of chance
that blew away her former reality, combined to show her the urgency
of defending these ancient trees. She volunteered for a two-week
turn, but her dedication extended the adventure beyond two years.
Know what is enough, and you’ll be rich.
--The Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu
The Nonviolence of Letting Go
When I spoke with Julia, I could feel her words
coming from a deeply informed place within her. As a result of
her relationship to the forest, she emerged from the tree as an
eloquent spokesperson for the natural world. I asked her to talk
about her personal transformation while in Luna and about how
the elements of conscious activism apply to what she had experienced.
Here is what she told me:
I changed while in Luna, but it was through understanding
myself. The experience gave me an unshakable belief in the interconnection
of life, because the only way I could survive was to become one
with the tree, to merge with it, to absorb it and have it absorb
The trees and storms taught me. In my struggle
to say I was something separate from the storms I was going out
of my mind. I heard the trees say, “Julia, we become one
with the storms. We don’t fight them.” The trees and
the branches that fight the storms are the ones that break off.
The ones that make it through are the ones that just give in and
flail and bend and do whatever they have to do to become one with
For me, part of getting to know Luna involved
getting to know myself as Luna and Luna as me. There is no separation.
Once I understood this, I changed dramatically.
People say, “We hear you talk about prayer
all the time. Who or what do you pray to?” I pray to what
I call the Universal Spirit. That’s one of the ways I have
of describing it. There’s also the Greater Self and the
Consciousness of Oneness. These titles denote the same thing for
When I pray I put it out to the Greater Self,
of which the individual is an integral part. There is no time,
space or separation. Some people respond and I’m grateful
for the opportunity to mirror the wisdom we already know. It’s
been said before, but I say it through the lens of my experiences
and style. This awareness is universal. It was the forest that
helped open the pathway back into my deep self through Luna. For
others, something else will provide this opening.
There Is No Enemy
The source of the solution is inside all forms
of life. It’s in the seagull flying over us now. It’s
in the trees, wind and rain. It’s in George Bush and in
Bin Laden. Some people get angry when I make that assertion. “How
can you say those evil, terrible people have this within them?”
And I think, well they’re doing some pretty terrible things,
yes, but that sacred point of life is within them, as well. They
are lost from it, but it’s there.
People who do destructive things are sometimes
my greatest teachers. When people hear me talk about the message
of love, transformation and spirituality, a lot of them assume
I was in a fairy-tale forest with birds around me chirping and
lush greenery everywhere. They see me sitting in the lotus position
at the top of the tree contemplating the meaning of the universe.
But I sat through the most painful journey a person who loves
the forest could have immersed herself in. I sat in a forest being
cut down. I sat through hours and hours of chain saws buzzing
every day, destroying one tree after another, helicopters hovering
above me, napalm smoke burning my lungs and eyes, and emotional
assault from people within the environmental movement I thought
I could trust.
It was an attack on every level and that’s
why I know the importance of love and sacred spirituality. They
are the essence of life. This is what enabled me to get through
the experience. I learned it by having to use it in order to survive
and stay sane. So now this knowledge is unshakable. Some people
think the message of love and spirituality is all fluff, or not
really dealing with the issues, as though I’m just avoiding
the tough stuff. But that is definitely not so. I learned about
the power of love through direct confrontation with hostile forces.
Love goes right to the heart of the matter, to its source. That’s
why it has the potential to transform any situation.
Introspection and Self-Discovery
I am sometimes greeted with violent responses,
verbal, energetic or physical, when I talk about what I discovered
about myself, and all of us, while in Luna. Opening a pathway
into consciousness can be frightening, especially if you don’t
know it’s closed. When it’s brought to your attention,
it’s a shock. It was for me with my experience in the Redwoods.
When I first entered the forest, I became conscious
of an essential piece of my being that had been hidden underneath
religion, society, even my concepts of who I am. These blockages
began to dissolve as my tears fell onto the forest floor. I sobbed
because the beauty around me reminded me of the forgotten beauty
within. I could not have explained it at the time. Later I realized
the heart hurts when it grows. My naiveté washed away as
I began to see something unexpected within my center in the middle
of the woods.
This was in July of 1997, before I went into
the tree. Just a few weeks later I found out the forests were
being destroyed. I saw my first clear cut, mudslides, destroyed
homes and police using pepper spray on the activists. I sobbed,
screamed, raged and cried because it hurt so. It was very painful.
The more you immerse yourself in the forest’s sacred presence,
the more you learn. The loss overwhelms many people, but for me,
it became a reason to live.
Before climbing into Luna I didn’t know
I had reason to look for anything, but I had a vague sense I needed
to find purpose for why I’m here on Earth. I knew I needed
my purpose and my essence. I compare it to the caterpillar. It
feels compelled to spin into a cocoon. It doesn’t have a
teacher showing it how, or telling it what’s going to happen.
It just has this innate knowing. That was the intensity of my
tree sit. It immersed me in the innermost depth of my being. That’s
why I say I don’t see something other than me when I look
at Luna or anything else. I see another face of the divine, of
which each of us is a part --one of many facets reflecting the
One Self back to the other.
Living One’s Vision Creates Social Transformation
For me, one of the most beautiful results of
one’s journey is that it shines out to others, like a beacon.
When we go all the way through the transformational process and
integrate the changes, so they are alive within us, we become
not only a guide but also a catalyst for other people who are
at critical points in their transformation. As one of us transforms
we activate transformational energies in others, which enables
them to more readily reconnect with the wisdom of their innate
I saw this when a woman approached me after I
came down from Luna. She was crying and said, “I have a
story to share. A little while before you went into the tree I
was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I was given six months
to live. I heard you on the radio one day, and then I heard you
a month later. Not only did you climb into a tree and live there
for two years, you did it in the worst winter of recent memory.
You were on the radio during a terrible storm and you talked about
the trees teaching you how to bend and flow with the wind.”
She said that as time passed and she heard more of my reports
on the radio my voice changed: “As the way you said things
changed, I started feeling the transformation you were going through.
I decided that if you could go through that and change as you
were, then I could live through cancer.” She told me two
and a half years later and she had been in remission for a year.
We are like the caterpillar when it goes into
the cocoon and becomes liquefied; it’s a total acceptance
of death of the self we were attached to and a willingness to
become something we never believed we could be. I’ve talked
to people who have had serious injuries that led to their transformation.
But some people don’t have to go through anything so intense.
They just walk to a mountaintop at the right moment and it clicks.
Something connects and they come down changed. That’s their
spark of inspiration to take the next step, to search out what
they felt, why they felt it, and what they are to do with this
I want to give people both the inspiration and
means to undertake their transformational journeys. The impetus
for change need not be a life-and-death crisis. But the process
usually includes a stage of letting go of the familiar, as with
the caterpillar in its cocoon, so the unexpected can emerge.
I tell people if they wake up every day and ask
the question, how may I offer my life today in loving service
to the world, then they’ll intuit their own answers. That’s
really what I did up there in the tree and it’s what I do
now. That’s what kept me up there in Luna for so long.
I could not have stayed in the tree for 738 days
if my focus had been on destroying the loggers—which it
was in the beginning because I was so hurt by what was happening.
When an animal is hurt or afraid it’s instinctual response
is to strike out or to run. I went through both of those reactions.
Later, I woke up and asked, “How can I offer my life today?”
I also asked myself questions like, “Am I more effective
in the tree or on the ground?” By these means, I brought
my emotions, spirit and mental processes together.
The number one factor is taking the time to be
still. That was a crucial part of what I did. I sat in one place
for two years. This world compels us to be bigger, better, faster,
now. So to take a moment to be still each day is one of the most
revolutionary acts a person can undertake. The second step requires
us to be willing to be open. We get so convinced of who we think
we are, what the world is, and what our place is, that we close
off. But there is a larger world that you don’t realize
exists until you open to a wider spectrum of perception. It requires
an act of courage to face what you have not wanted to see, both
internally and externally.
Eros, the Art of Loving-Kindness
The root word for courage is the Latin word “cor,”
which means heart. That’s where true courage comes from.
It is the heart that motivates our greatest acts of courage and
kindness. Courage is not an act of bravado. It has nothing to
do with ego or adrenaline. It has to do with falling in love,
and having the courage to give over fully to it. I learned this
in the tree after I said, “Okay teach me this lesson; allow
me to love.”
By that point I had given myself over to it all.
My pain consumed me. It hurt to sit in the middle of a clear-cut
forest. I became one with it. To become one, and then watch yourself
being destroyed, hurts. I cry every time I talk about this, even
in front of large groups. I don’t suppress these feelings
because it is crucial to me that I never shut down again. And
the flip side of my pain is the joy I’m connected to again.
In the beginning of the tree sitting I didn’t know I would
ever experience joy again. I was too devastated. I became anger
that wanted to strike out. It was taking me over completely.
I almost gave up and came down. Then I prayed
and said, “If I’m going to be able to do this, I have
to find another way. I’m willing to surrender, but teach
me how to love.” Then it was one hardship after another.
I prayed, “Would you please give me strength. I need strength.”
Then, I’d get another hardship. What kind of karma am I
working off, I wondered. Finally, this understanding came: Julia,
do you get muscles by doing nothing? No. Strength is not something
that can be handed to you. You asked for strength, I’m giving
you the tools you need to become strong.
I think it’s crucial to remember that when
we surrender we are going to experience growing pains. They’re
inevitable. And if we stay rigid with resistance to the pain,
it can break us. Transformation threatens everything we take for
granted. And yet it will ultimately lead us to joy, courage, commitment
and compassion that we couldn’t imagine before and we didn’t
know we needed to be whole.
From Anger to Eros
In the first step toward healing there must be feeling. If we
don’t feel that connection and the pain this brings, how
can we heal? In today’s world, it’s not only our right
to be angry, it’s our responsibility. The question is, do
we act out of anger or love? That’s what makes the difference.
The reason I feel it’s our responsibility to be angry is
that anyone who looks at the world will recognize that we hurt
innocent life, and bring more children into the world who will
be injured. The anger comes from knowing we have the potential
to do it another way and yet we don’t. Then we let go, and
the anger becomes secondary. I do what I do because of my love,
not my anger.
My prayer is that I may be an open heart. When
I become angry at what we’re doing, I take it in and say,
“Okay, anger through love becomes fierce compassion.”
Anger is a powerful energy and I’m all for using energy,
whatever form it comes in, but using it for the good. When at
first I got stressed out in the tree, I’d take a deep breath
in and say, “Stress in and stress out.” I don’t
want to lose the passion of anger. It’s a vital life force.
Later I changed that practice and said, “Stress in, love
out,” with each breath. Because anger through love becomes
fierce compassion, I make use of the energy. I still have passion,
but I can look at someone who threatens to kill me, and my heart
melts. I see their injury makes them act that way. It helps me
transform difficult situations.
Eros as Intimacy
Listening to Luna helped me understand how to
survive the storms. People ask me to tell them about her voice.
Normally, voices are how we relate to something that comes from
the outside into the ear. But the information from Luna was coming
from within me. Luna was the mouth of the divine teacher. I think
transmission is a good way of saying it. I’ve always had
a hard time articulating it because we are taught to speak about
things strictly from the human perspective. How do you describe
a voice that doesn’t come from the outside in, but rather
comes from the inside, yet derives from another source?
The book The Secret Life of Plants shows
that they have their own way of communicating energetically. That’s
why transmission is a great word, because it’s more like
an energy wave that conveys information directly into our psyche,
if we are open to receive it.
Finding Joy Anywhere
People thought I was going to break down when
I came out of the tree. Thirty-six hours later I was in New York
City. I find joy in the challenge to be a living example of transformation.
That to me is the butterfly. If it doesn’t get launched
in reality, it just sits there and moves its wings but it can’t
quite fly. I see a lot of people who go through transformations,
but they get comfortable in the cocoon. It’s a little cramped,
but you know what’s in there.
It’s one thing to learn it, but it’s
another to become a shining example of the divine, as much as
possible, in every moment of every day. It won’t be destroyed
by what it encounters. It will transform it.
I came down from the tree and saw how many people
of consciousness shop at these wonderful Eco-friendly cooperatives.
Then they order a coffee in a to-go cup. I can’t stand it.
I look at what a disposable world we live in. I see in that cup
a tree, and I see in the plastic lid an indigenous culture somewhere
being pushed into genocide from oil drilling, and I see the destructive
drilling in Alaska. People say, “No drilling in Alaska,
no drilling in Alaska”, and then they have their food in
a Styrofoam container and their non-shade, non-organic, non-cooperatively
farmed coffee in a paper cup with a plastic lid.
Courage in daily life means you become an embodiment
of what you know to be true. It’s not enough to know it.
We have to be it in every moment. If we can’t do that, then
we aren’t transformed. Words are great, but if they do not
manifest as compassionate action, they are hollow. A lot of my
zest comes in the doing regardless of the outcome.