This past Tuesday I went to see Julia Butterfly Hill give a talk on Leading Lives of Purpose, Passion and Power: Turning Inspiration Into Action. She delivered a message from the heart with humour, authenticity, passion and power. I was 18 when she climbed up Luna, the tree she called her home for over two years.
Since then she’s evolved and started many ventures, one of them is an organization called What’s Your Tree?, with a mission to help people find and focus on their purpose. I have been thinking about this idea of finding one’s tree… specifically asking myself, what is it that burns in me so strongly that I would be willing to face the depths of my own humanity for, and dedicate myself tirelessly to?
Curiosity and self-study
I have always been curious about… well, pretty much everything! I think all life experience is an opportunity to bring new awareness of oneself, a deeper learning. In yoga it is the Niyama: Swadyaya (self-study); study of sacred texts; any practice that investigates the self; any study that helps you to understand and know the deeper layers of being. I like to try new things — all the time! I have always been this way and probably always will be. I know and love this about myself.
Once in a while I set about getting good at something, but rarely do I have the patience to practice anything long enough to ever master it. I don’t think this way of living is a problem — at least I don’t anymore. Historically this aspect of self has not always been a virtue. For years I felt shame for having eight fingers in eight different pies. The problem came when the opinions of others started to matter more to me than the opinion I had of myself. Some people might label this kind of behaviour as a lack of focus, lack of commitment, lack of ability to sit still, lack of __________.
When you start to take on these beliefs and absorb them into your system, you can start to doubt who you are, or worse, question your worth. This is how negative spirals can start a crisis of identity. Luckily I found ways (yoga, meditation, coaching, art) to spiral up, out and into the air, once again free to dream and live in possibility.
“I’m an idealist. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.”
– Carl Sandburg, Poet
The Fool and human archetypes
My favourite card in the Tarot is called The Fool. I like to think of myself as a wandering fool who laughs at the joke. The Fool is the beginning and the end; the question and the answer. What am I born to do? What is my calling? What is my destiny? What is the legacy I want to leave in the world? All big questions to answer and I can’t help but think of the fool’s journey. His path is to travel through all the human archetypes, live out all the multiple selves, this is his path. I love the big questions, but I’m not sure they’re necessarily meant to be answered.
More and more I see them as being lived through. My spiritual practice is an inquiry into the experience of yoga, of union, of the the merger of opposites. To have an inquiring mind about where life takes you, how to live the answer in the question is a sacred practice — the practice of living. While I do believe that everyone has a calling, looking at life purpose as a question you are living out might serve as an antidote to the stress-box of thinking you have to “figure it all out” now.
How do we live the big questions?
How do we play the fool? How do we honour the sacred in this wild world? How do we dance in the fire? How do we embrace the mystery, lean into the unknown? How do we live lives of purpose, passion and power? How do we turn inspiration into action? How do we brave the storms of life? How do become vessels for our life’s work?
Life is a great pilgrimage. At the fork in the road, one person goes left, another goes right, and as the great sages always remind us, all paths lead to the same end. Put your hand on your heart, put one foot in front of the other and just start w a l k i n g.