Julia Butterfly Hill: What our Hearts Know

Belated postcard from Hopland, CA: It was a thrill to hear Julia Butterfly Hill speak at the Building Resilient Communities Convergence. This is the woman who spent most of 1998 and 1999 living in the canopy of an ancient redwood tree named Luna. Her extended protest brought attention to the plight of ancient forests and resulted in a three-acre buffer zone around Luna.

Julia Butterfly Hill in 2005, via flickr Creative Commons, by Scott Schumacher

Julia Butterfly Hill in 2005, via flickr Creative Commons, by Scott Schumacher

Now she calls herself a wholistic healthcare practitioner instead of an activist, because she is working on the “disease of disconnect.” What struck me about Julia is how much she embodied a heart-centered ethic. She began by expressing a commitment to affirming “what our hearts know: That we are all one.”

There’s little in our culture that supports the kind of inner transformation needed now. Julia called this era a time of spiritual crisis. “That place inside ourselves that is just ancient and knows only connection is in crisis.”

Methuselah, an 1800-year-old redwood in Woodside, CA

Methuselah, an 1800-year-old redwood in Woodside, CA

“What is it going to take to rebirth ourselves in this world where we are?” was her central question. She said it is a courageous act to keep our hearts open, because it means being open to the suffering of beloved creatures, communities, and ecosystems.

I appreciated that she called us to stay aware of our own tendency to rigidity, cautioning: “Any time we are passionate about anything, we are one breath away from being a fundamentalist.”

She invited us to “live so fully and presently in love that there is no room for anything else to exist.” To ask, What would love do in this space? What would love say in this room?

She said we need to bring all our integrity to bear in modeling a positive vision for the world. “We are so good at defining what we are against that what we are against begins to define us.” But it is also crucial to stand firm against wrongdoing. Even the campaigns that failed, she said, she would go back and do again.

It’s a matter of offering ourselves “in loving and joyous service to our world.”

Truly a transformative figure.