Excerpt from THE BHIKKHU AND THE BUTTERFLY: A Conversation between AJAHN PASANNO and JULIA BUTTERFLY HILL – Full Interview
JBH: My whole approach to the people I meet is to communicate the language of love, so I make it a point not to have conversations based on issues. I learned in the tree that “issues” are just symptoms of a disease.
IM: But Julia, how do you talk about the environmental crisis without talking about individual issues, without talking about the species die-offs, or the need to transform our oil-based economy? Where do you go?
JBH: In my organization, Circle of Life, every time we approach an issue or problem, we approach it from the place of the solution versus the place of the problem. We focus our intention and awareness on what it is we want: peace, love, justice.
When I climbed up in that tree I was new to activism, but I soon realized that we had become so good at defining what we were against that what we were against was beginning to define us. I saw the problem in meetings where activists were “clear-cutting” each other with their words and their anger. As people were talking, I could literally hear the chain saws in their words, cutting each other apart. I saw that the peace rallies had become antiwar rallies, places where I couldn’t even walk up close to the rally because of the way people were speaking through the megaphone; it sounded like they were dropping bombs.
This all became clear to me about halfway through my time in the tree, when I was experiencing a lot of pain and really felt like I was falling apart. That’s when I went deeper and realized I had climbed up in the tree not because I was angry at corporations and governments—although I was angry at them—but because I loved the forest and I loved the planet and I loved this sacred life that we’re all a part of. And so I began to approach all the issues from that place of love.
When we are committed to approaching issues from the perspective of what we want—rather than what everyone else is doing wrong—it’s important to look into our own daily practice to see all the ways we are out of integrity with the world we want to live in.