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This is how we create the world we want to live in: by being bold enough to dream the impossible dream, even if it defies the status quo, or others think it is crazy. Then we have to be bold enough to live our dream in such an inspired way that others join us, saying, “That’s the world I want to live in!”
How does one plan to live in a tree? I don’t know. I didn’t even know how to climb using ropes before I got to the base of Luna, the 1,000-year-old redwood I lived in for 738 days in the 1990s to keep it from being cut down. We live in a production-driven society rather than a purpose-driven society. We approach everything backward, looking at the result first. But we don’t have to know how to do something before we begin it. People thank me for what I did, saying, “I could never have done that!” And I think, “I couldn’t have either!” But passion and purpose called me to live my life in a way I didn’t know was possible.
Often we feel overwhelmed and isolated and think, “I’m just one person; how can I make a real difference?” And sometimes it’s easier to shut down because we’re busy, and there’s so much wrong in the world.
But yoga teaches us to take action, to do service for the sake of service, to embody the world we want to live in. Yoga teaches us to say, “I know the world I want to live in can only come alive through me.”
One of yoga’s greatest lessons is reminding us of the power of union. When we are on the mat and our breath is not in union with our asana, there is struggle and disharmony, a lack of peace and joy. When breath and asana are in union, we are in that divine flow, and we can see the possibility for growth in the midst of challenges, adversity, and fear.
The same is true of our work out in the world. The greatest change happens when we are more committed to being connected than to being right. When we feel passionately about something, it is easy to become self-righteous and what I call “granolier than thou.” But while we might feel good about how “right” we are, what are we changing in the world around us? Connection and union translate to peace, power, and joy in our activism, just as they do on the mat. This is why yoga is so important for a life of activism. Yoga is what makes the difference between becoming worn out and discouraged that the world is not what we want, versus being happy, lit up, and at peace, knowing we couldn’t have lived any other way. It’s the difference between living life as a reaction against what we don’t like, and living in alignment and connection with the vision we hold for the world.
Consciousness alone won’t change the world. Consciousness in action will. So uncover your purpose by asking, “Who am I supposed to be in my life?” There is a symbolic tree for every single one of us on this planet. What do you want your legacy to be?
4 Steps to Find Your Cause as an Activist
Yoga teacher and activist Seane Corn does this journaling exercise with students and in her Off the Mat, Into the World workshops. Try it, and ignite your fire for making positive change in the world.
1. Write down two or three words that someone who loves you would use to describe you. Choose the qualities you think others appreciate about you, whether it’s that you’re spunky, smart, playful, funny, or grounded.
2. Write down your ideal vision of the world: Maybe it’s “I envision a world that’s free of violence” or “where everyone has organic food to eat” or “where people are open-minded.”
3. Write the ways that you express those qualities in the world. Maybe it’s through cooking, or teaching yoga, or knitting.
4. Put it all together into a single statement: “I will use my intelligence, spunkiness, and humor, through cooking food for the people that I love, teaching, and making art, to create a world that is peaceful and free of violence and in which everyone has an open mind.” Then, do it!
Julia Butterfly Hill is an activist, author, life coach, and co-founder of the Engage Network.