Tuesday, December 2, 2014

for Julia Butterfly's Passion for Luna

Olivia, my daughter, created a memorial to Julia Butterfly Hill in Rivers and Revolutions, a wonderful experiential interdisciplinary course at Concord Carlisle High School. Their assignment was to create a memorial to someone they admired, and Olivia's group chose Julia after learning about her as an environmentalist. When Olivia sent me the picture of their tribute, memories came flooding back.

Olivia told her group that Julia is my friend, but she wasn't sure many believed her. I responded that Julia is not just my friend, she is my hero, and I am so grateful to know her. She's the real deal. She talks the walk, as she walks the talk, in an inspiringly authentic manner. She's taught me so many valuable lessons both in conversation and through her writing in The Legacy of Luna and her blog entries. One of her many nuggets is,

"Only once we let go of all we know, including our self-centered concerns, and break free of the cocoons we spin around ourselves to shut out the world can we become the truly beautiful being we were meant to be,"(121).

We met in 2007 at a yoga retreat in Costa Rica led by Seane Corn, Ashley Turner and Suzanne Sterling. Julia was another participant, though she often runs her own retreats. For those of you who do not know Julia, she lived in Luna, a Redwood Tree, for over two years in order to save Luna's life, but she did not set out to do this. She joined a group and volunteered to spend some time in Luna, but she fell in love with Luna which led her on a remarkable journey of passion and service. I can envision the moment I read the following passage in her book. I was on the beach in Costa Rica sitting on my favorite log after swimming in the warm ocean waters, floating on my back looking up into the sun filled sky feeling the first contentment and peace since my husband and I had separated more than a year before.

Julia was in many storms when she lived in Luna because it was the time of El Nino in the 90s. At one of her breaking points and moments of despair, she began to hear a voice.

"The trees in the storm don't try to stand up straight and tall and erect. They allow themselves to bend and be blown with the wind. They understand the power of letting go," continued the voice. "Those trees and those branches that try too hard to stand up strong and straight are the ones that break. Now is not the time for you to be strong, Julia, or you, too, will break. Learn the power of the trees. Let it flow. Let it go. That is the only way you are going to make it through this storm. And that is the way to make it through the storms of life," (112).

What a powerful lesson in flexibility and uncertainty as opposed to rigidity and certainty. In many ways it initially feels scarier to live in the unknown, but I can speak from experience that it gets easier and more comfortable, such that the known becomes almost dull and uninspiring. Whenever I do tree pose in a yoga class, I think of Julia. As my foot wobbles back and forth and my body sways making little adjustments to balance, I remember the words Julia heard in Luna, whether they were God, Luna or Julia's intuitive self, it doesn't matter. I believe they are all the same.

In tree pose, I also remember Julia's most important words to me. After Costa Rica I went on another retreat, this time co-led by Julia and Seane. It was a yoga and service retreat at Omega, and I was like a dog with a bone seeking my purpose. How could I connect my yoga to service. How could I take my passion for my yoga on the mat Off the Mat and Into the World. I had so many ideas, and many of them involved helping teens find their passions and connect it to service. These were the seedlings for ABC Legacy back in 2007.

When I get excited about something, I talk fast. I zoom ahead into the future. I see things, and I don't always take the time to translate what I see into a vision that others can understand. Julia said to me, in a lovingly stern manner, "Susan! Slow down! You have information humanity needs. But you have to find the space and silence in order to speak so we understand." I do go fast. I do zoom ahead into the future. I do see it, and it's been Julia's words that I've used as a mantra to try and use my yoga and meditation to slow down, move into the space and silence to find the words so other's understand what I know to be true. What I see to be true.

Thus, when I am in tree pose I envision the tree with the roots going deep into the Earth, so that my wings as branches can reach to the sky. Root to Rise are cues I give during Sun Salutations, and those words come back to the wisdom Julia imparted. In essence, Julia's passion for Luna inspired me to ask myself, "What's my tree? Who or what is my Luna?" I realize now that I am passionate about helping teens and 20s, the Millennials find their own passions, their own Luna. So, in deep gratitude, "Thank you Julia."

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