To Thine Own Self Be True

Flying through the air.  Knowing I am destroying the planet en route.  I live in a world full of paradox.  No easy answers. Keeps me up at night.  For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with being here.  From what I was told, I was born dead (I don’t remember it : ) and the doctor and assistant in the tiny clinic had to work to revive me and bring me back.


Something about that set the tone for my whole life.  Some say, it is because my soul/spirit had some deeper purpose for being here.  For me, I call that version, “crap”; it was because I knew, even then, that I did not want to be alive.  Not here.  Not at this time.   Either way, it is just a story.  What happened was I DOA (Dead On Arrival) and the doctor played God and brought me back—because that is what they are “supposed” to do.


My life has mostly been a struggle tinged with moments of joy.  I have felt pain and suffering deeply and intensely overwhelmingly since I was a child.  Dead dog in the lap of a woman sitting in the street keening in Spanish, tears drenching her face and shirt, both covered in blood from her animal friend who had been hit. Child being slapped across the face in the grocery store because she was talking too loudly. Being told I was loved while being beaten, forcibly restrained, and having soap shoved into my mouth because I dared to have an opinion and speak it.  Baby bird I tried to save and failed while it died of malnutrition despite my best intentions.  I could fill pages with grief.  But what’s the point?  And this is the constant question of my life, “What’s the point?”


Anyone who has read my blogs, knows that this is a re-occurring theme for me.  I do not write about it to get others reflections.  It never works anyway.  Nothing anyone ever says gives me answer to the unanswerable question of my life, “What’s the point?” I have tried to commit suicide—when I was too young to succeed even with the most valiant of efforts.  I walk around frequently having visions of slitting my wrists and wading out into the warm sea that I love so much so I can become food for Mama Ocean.  And now, the irony is, the only reason I don’t kill myself is because I feel too damn responsible and obligated for this whole world I seem to have created around me.  I, mean, how freakin’ terrible would it be if the woman (that would be me) who constantly says, “Every time you take a breath… a miracle just happened.  Now start living like it.  Start living a life worth the miracle and magic of every breath.” All of a sudden offed herself?!?  I mean, of course, there’s a heck of a lot of people who would actually be quite thrilled.  Some might even read this and start yelling, “Yes!  Do it!  Go For It!” And of course, there are also a whole slew of people who wouldn’t give a damn one way or the other.  But it’s all the other people whom I can’t seem to shake as the ghosts of my dead future.  So, I continue to live for them.  Which is so pathetic and ironic.


Recently, I had an experience where my heart broke yet again, feeling like it was shattering into shards like knives that kept cutting me more and more.  Because I do my best to live my life as car free as possible, I had to rent a car for this particular trip, and as I drove back to the place I had been staying, I started praying and begging and pleading with the Universe to have someone lose control of their vehicle and smash head-first into me, killing me not them of course.  And when that wasn’t working I figured it was because it’s not fair to wish crisis and tragedy on someone else, so then I started praying and asking that something uncontrollable happen to the car I was driving, so I would wreck and die, but it not be on purpose, so I wouldn’t have to answer to the voices in my head about being one big tragic, let-down.  I then deactivated my Facebook accounts because at least that way I could experience a virtual death, which is the closest thing I have right now.


Pretty pathetic, huh?  I get so damn tired of this rewind, play of my mind and life.  There is no answer to this question that haunts me and tears and claws at me throughout almost every day.  For me, life in and of itself is not worth sticking around for.  My parents had sex, my mom got knocked up, and out I came.  Not some deep religious, philosophical, or transcendental purpose.  It’s called Biology.


I came up with this idea, that for me, Love is what makes life worth living for.  So I struggle to keep coming up with something to love to keep me here.  And every time my heart breaks (which is an almost constant in my life) all I can think about is wanting to die.  So I die a thousand deaths to my wish since the day I was born—the wish to die.


It really is quite pathetic.


Death is the easy part.  Staying here is by far the greatest challenge of my life.


For now, I head to the Caribbean, one of the places I go to where, when I am next to the sea, the unanswerable question seems to quiet for a while.


One thing I know is that it is ultimately my life and no one else’s and if some day I decide I have had enough, I will post a goodbye note, and then I will go.  It is my life.  It is my right—to live and to die by my motto—“To thine own self be true.”  Even when I struggle with knowing what is true for me.


Here’s to all the people who struggle with being radically true and to wondering, “What’s the point?”


Love (because that is what keeps me here),



Published in: on February 4, 2011 at 5:09 am  Comments (46)  

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  1. The link below is to something I posted in November. It was quite timely for me then, and I refer back to it quite often. It’s meant a lot to me.

    What you’ve written here is sad. Still, strangely, it’s encouraging, because it reminds me that even you do not have it all figured-out nor wear a cape and have a big “S” on the front of your costume. Rather, you simply share this humanity with me and all the rest of us. And, though I don’t really “know you”, you know, I’m quite glad that you and your thoughts and expressions are in the world at the same time I am.

    A very wise Winnie The Pooh once said “It’s friendlier with two.” It is. Thank you for being here with us, in this place and time.

    Here’s the link:

    Much respect,


  2. Have you ever thought that maybe THERE IS NO POINT to ANYTHING?

    Or, that maybe the purpose to Life – ISN’T about ACHIEVEMENT or, GOALS?

    Maybe Life – just, IS.

    And no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try – one day – it – will leave you.

    The Universe has been around for(conservatively) 13.7 billion years. We are here for – well, 70 to 100 or so, of those years (optimistically).
    Why are you in such a RUSH to end this experience, Julia?

    From someone who thought his life was over at 24 – and who is now on the brink of 40 – I can honestly say, that I’m just beginning to learn to take Life for what it is: A Gift

    You know, when I was born – the doctors thought I was dead too.

    I wasn’t.

    I was just sleeping – all the way out of the birth canal…

    – and they woke me up with a spank!

    When’s the LAST time you had a good spank Julia? ;D

    Mathew Titus

    PS. If I don’t get to wish you later on FB – here’s an early HAPPY BIRTHDAY! =)

  3. Butterfly,
    you feelings are not pathetic. “The definition of Ahimsa is to live so fully and presently in love that there is no room for anything else to exist”
    Julia Butterly Hill
    your words remind me of the poet Rumi and the mystics.

    maybe it’s time to give to yourself the gift of love, compassion, and nurturing that you have given the world. The material world is impermanent. “The Buddha taught that because conditioned phenomena are impermanent, attachment to them becomes the cause for future suffering”

    I too struggle with the lack of Ahimsa in this world. Everyday, I fight the good fight for the lives and freedom of all living things. And I have thought of committing suicide because of the lack of truth and love here.

    “what would love do in this moment” JBH

    I’m sorry that your heart was broken. But it too is temporary. I send you love and healing. Please extend your amazing love to yourself. Just breathe and let go. “It is important to rejoice and celebrate the miracle of our lives” JBH

    Death is not the end
    Death can never be the end.

    Death is the road.
    Life is the traveler.
    The Soul is the Guide

    Our mind thinks of death.
    Our heart thinks of life
    Our soul thinks of Immortality.

    Sri Chinmoy

    “Love is the only reality, all else is illusion”
    “Love heals all”

    Your friend,
    Jet 🙂

  4. Julia … vegetarianism can cure diseases …

    Do you ever give your mom and dad a hug ?

    How is Luna ?

    Its too easy … your dad is a preacher …

  5. i was dead
    i came alive
    i was tears
    i became laughter

    all because of love
    when it arrived
    my temporal life
    from then on
    changed to eternal

    love said to me
    you are not
    crazy enough
    you don’t
    fit this house

    i went and
    became crazy
    crazy enough
    to be in chains

    love said
    you are not
    intoxicated enough
    you don’t
    fit the group

    i went and
    got drunk
    drunk enough
    to overflow
    with light-headedness

    love said
    you are still
    too clever
    filled with
    imagination and skepticism

    i went and
    became gullible
    and in fright
    pulled away
    from it all

    love said
    you are a candle
    attracting everyone
    gathering every one
    around you

    i am no more
    a candle spreading light
    i gather no more crowds
    and like smoke
    i am all scattered now

    love said
    you are a teacher
    you are a head
    and for everyone
    you are a leader

    i am no more
    not a teacher
    not a leader
    just a servant
    to your wishes

    love said
    you already have
    your own wings
    i will not give you
    more feathers

    and then my heart
    pulled itself apart
    and filled to the brim
    with a new light
    overflowed with fresh life

    now even the heavens
    are thankful that
    because of love
    i have become
    the giver of light


  6. You really are not alone. So many struggle with feelings of emptiness, loneliness, doubt, fear. I know I do.

    The fact that you care about the world you live in and actually try to do something says a lot about you. People who have a heart and care are often heartbroken over what goes on in this world. Your life is sooo valuable, please do not throw it away. It would be like Leonardo da Vinci burning the Mona Lisa only infinitely more tragic. You are a beautiful person and you were made to LIVE !

    Tell the thoughts and voices of doubt and fear to get lost !
    Doubt and fear never produce anything beautiful or alive. Only love and faith can. You can email me if you wish to talk sometime… but no matter what reach out to good, genuine people. Surround yourself with people who can love you and speak positive words of life into you.

  7. Julia,

    Thank you for being real. Thank you for being you. Enjoy the Caribbean.

    I appreciate you very much. I haven’t been able to write the list of specific gratitude I intended, because I can’t find words good enough. Your interview for the social entrepreneurs had a profound impact on me. You so eloquently summed up everything that was feeling important to me, but was just kind of jumbled up inside of me. Thank you again.

    On a private note — and you can edit this out or not publish the whole thing — I, as my ego-personality, certainly don’t have answers to anybodies questions. I do have the ability to connect with people on the level of our true selves — spirit, essence — and help them to understand their own answers. It is truly my honor and joy to experience people, and life, in that way.

    And I have just come through — well almost through — a very challenging time when I felt totally unplugged from everything familiar. I took it as a new evolutionary step and I’ve heard of many people who went through the same darkness recently. I’ve experienced lots of depression and crap throughout my life, too. It sure sucks to not know what is going on or why. I’m grateful I can access a higher perspective. But when I’m ‘in the dark’ I feel I can’t get out by myself. So I really am honored to work with people in similar situations.

    So, yeah, this planet is a freakin’ confusing place. I appreciate your honesty. And if you want to look for another perspective, I’d be honored to assist. You’ve got my website — more info on there, although it is getting ready for a rebirth, too. Just email me.

    (cuz it feels good)


  8. Oh, I hate typos. Sorry for “anybodies”, should be “anybody’s”, right? I don’t care much about grammar but spelling errors bug me. Love

  9. I’ve often pondered the same thing Julia as we are all hurtling thru space on a giant rock with no definitive answers on origin or end destination.

    If we weren’t indoctrined with the idea (that this is quite acceptable) from a very early age I think we’d all go mad actually thinking about it, I mean as you say, “Whats the point?”

    But alas there just has to be a point and I guess thats why they call it “faith”

    I feel that dreams tell us alot about what will be in store for us when our bodies decide they’ve had enough and release our energy/soul into the universe.

    Until then enjoy the Caribbean, the sea and perhaps a
    Banana Daiquiri or two.

    Remember also that you are very fortunate to be in a position to do so. There are alot of folks whose situations, whether physical or financial aren’t.

    Have a great weekend kiddo…

  10. Wish I was going with you to the Caribbean.. to the park.. fishing.. not to worry I don’t use a hook..
    You get the best of my love..

  11. I’ve just been reading Joseph Campbell’s biography, so I guess I can’t help wondering if questioning the point of living is a problem associated with a broken mythology. What myth is it that requires life to have a point?! A myth that has lost its connection to the infinite, that’s what. Life just is; our lives just are. That breath you take isn’t just a miracle intellectually, not if you take a moment to really feel it, get that chill running up your spine.

    Anyway, I often need to remember to keep recharging my spiritual batteries, and not to buy into the nihilistic mythology that life is merely the playing out of biological science! I hope the Caribbean does it for you.

    When my goal-oriented nature smacks into the oppressive futility of it all, I know it’s time to chill out and go for a hike. Even if I have to drive to the trailhead.

  12. to thine own self be true; that is so accurate…no matter what anyone says, life is between the self and the creator.

  13. i’m holding hands hearts with u in prayer now and always,beloved.i’m here.

  14. I think the greatest joy in what you have written is that your true self has been alive forever and will continue to live on regardless of your self-imposed attachment to not living in your current shape and form…

    There is a part of you that’s like a brick wall of nonacceptance and disbelief… I often denied that part of you… At times wept because there are so you are so entirely unreachable.

    As if you’re somehow determined to prove to the world that you have a right to keep yourself disconnected and separate. So much love flows to you from so many sources, yet you think you’d have less misery if you refused it. And yes sometimes that’s wise, but you abuse that power!

    A little bit at a time, step by step that wall is always softening, the resistance is always lessening, the blending into all that is is more and more ok with you regardless of how long you’re in this specific body or the next one of the one after that.

    I’d do nearly anything to be back up in Luna, or anywhere else with you, when your were in those rarest of rare moments when you opened up and knew nothing but joy and fulfillment.

    And even now as I write this I’m watering that fertile soil, that fertile seed… And in this life or in the next I have now doubt that both of us will again be back in the arms of “we.” Planning a return… Planning to celebrate that are spirits are always eternal, always free!

  15. Dear Julia,

    I have a couple of quotes which are on my heart and I’d like to share them with you in response to this post.

    The first is by Max Ehrmann, poet and philosopher… ‘Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the Universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.’

    The next is by one whom I feel is most definitely like minded with yourself; radical. ‘He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really co-operating with it.’ ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    I hope these help you to fight for your humanity ~ your own humanity, as well as everyone else’s. Your guardian angel will always protect you until it’s truly your time.


    Lydia ~*~

  16. (Always Love :0 )

  17. I just want to address the transporation issue. You should not be so hard on yourself because you use a car or plane to reach your destinations. The way cities and states are mapped out leave us no choice but to use what ever means of transporation needed to get from one place to another. I consider myself eco wise, I primarily use public transportation to get from point A to point B. Yet if someone offers me a ride, I do not dismiss it. Nobody expects you to ride a bicycle to every place that you are invited to speak. You fly a plane somewhere, no big. You drive a car, no big. You can compensate your carbon footprint in other ways, but please, do not be so hard on yourself that it makes you miserable. Trust me, it is not worth it.


    Hey, I am 56 year old Af-Am male. A product of the 60’s and 70’s.
    Started a BSU (Black Student Union) at the age of 14!! in my high school in ’69. It was done because it ‘needed’ to be done. A major activist in the flower and anti-war movements. And one of the major west coast organizer and leader for the ANC organization during the anti-apartheid movement up at Cal in the 80’s. I did it because it ‘needed’ to be done. My whole life has been about activism – because it needed to be so.

    And now at the age of 56 – seeing what direction many of these folks who we had fought and died for back in the day during the ‘struggle’; one indeed has to ask; ‘so what was it all about’? ‘What was the point’? And I still have no answer.

    I too feel the frustrations of the world today. Many of us 60-70’s era ‘heads’ do. Imagine if King, Malcolm X or Sojourner – or John and Bobby Kennedy came back from the dead. What would they say? Is this the direction they were hoping when they were trying do the right thing during there time in order to improve humanity? I think not.

    I have met you on a few occasions. You probably don’t remember. But the first thing, the very first thing that me and my 50 year old friend said to each other regarding your spirit is that; Julia was born at the wrong time! — I know this, because I was too!

    Boy, could we have used you back in the day during the struggle. Man you would have loved it!
    Unfortunately you were born at the wrong time. But then again perhaps maybe you were’nt not. After all, you managed to save a 1000 years old redwood tree whose ancestors and children are forever grateful.
    I’d like to talk to ya sometime. Your not alone in your feelings about this sick and hideous world. But according to the ancient text J, we ‘have’ to go through this era of darkness. We have to. Because if we do not walk thru this tunnel of darkness, we will never reach the light. So hang in there. The Gods and Goddesses shall return to the earth again. This was prophesized by both the ancient Egyptians and ancient Maya.

    Be well Babe!

    p.s. I yanked my FB page too! Many, many people have especially after seeing the movie “Social Network”.
    I was very disappointed in what the Mark Zuckerberg the founder of FB did to his best friend. I just could no longer support him being the loyalist and a person of principle that I am.

  19. Thanks for the reminders Bill. : ) It’s like the “refresh” button on the computer. : )



  20. Thanks Jet!

    Love this poem from Rumi!


  21. Hi Richard,

    i wish i would have been born then as well. i would have learned a lot, and hopefully, i also, would have contributed a lot. : )

    Instead, i was born in 1974. My birthday is coming up. 37th. How did that happen? : )

    Lots of Love,


  22. is life a thing which should not have been?

    thats what you need to contemplate for yourself. and if you come to the conclusion that it IS something which should have been, then you just have to say “Yes” to it, that is all. Saying “yes” to life- exactly as it is, even without complete understanding. That is something honorable.

  23. butterfly my friend just wanted to express my concerns as an RN-social volunterer you keep talking like several people i have seen do serious harm to a creation of god/almighty/ the big one. i’m going to try and be more honest with you when i can, keep picking my words to avoid upsetting your beliefs in the process im cutting a big part of my own soul and probably sound very odd, as i was led by the sense in my soul to monitor you, we know, as busy as i am i am one who will simply say luv ya and ask u 2 forgive me for not speaking more plainly that said i’m late for service. praying the almighty spirit watches over u AND WE ARE GOING TO TALK ABOUT U CLOSING FB disconnect sister is not an option no soap required but as one u have HELPED TREMENDOUSLY stay here, u don’t get out b4 me =)
    by the way the grapevine says your poetry was inspirational ….are u on your vacation yet?=)

  24. Wow. Sending you a giant warm universal hug from all the loving mothers who fiercely love life and will embrace our hurt children, no questions asked.

  25. Dear Julia,

    I just wanted to say that I think turning off facebook is a healthy decision. I am glad that is the way you chose to experience a little suicide. You always said, “Don’t television, Tell a vision” I think facebook and television have a lot in common. Both use screens and have ads, etc.

    I don’t use facebook much anymore, but I do like to read your blogs from time to time.

    At the time you wrote this blog you were depressed, but you, founder of the Circle of Life know everything comes in cycles. There is a time to be depressed and a time to be happy. I hope that since you wrote this blog you are feeling better.

    If you are really contemplating suicide though, sometimes seeing a doctor, if it is the right one, can be helpful.

    Love and friendship,

    Mark N.

  26. interesting that I’m reading this post today, since today was yet another day I was thinking of dying of not being here anymore. And again I remind myself of the important work I have/”choose” to do… and wonder why have I chosen my life to be such a struggle, I know I create my life, so I know I’m creating a life of struggle… but why can’t I just create a life of joy? I live with passion and purpose, but it doesn’t seem to be enough.

    …Is there a way to turn back and stop caring? how do I do it? ’cause I too don’t want to be here anymore…

  27. Dearheart Julia and Ingrid,too:
    i feel that This kind of profound grief despair could be very fertile ground for enriching your depth of purpose and expansion of awareness if channeled into a radically liberating meditative spiritual practice like CHOD.Don’t off “yourself” instead continously OFFER the entirity of your beingbody as the supreme nurishment of awareness for all beings everywhere to feast upon.
    (Please see full concise description of Chod ,two quite inspiring anecdotal articles and a potent instructional audiolink below)

    Chod has been described as shamanic, tantric, and yogic in nature. A far cry from simple silent sitting meditation, Chod is a dynamic practice of visualization, mantra, song and symbolic ritual.

    “I, the fearless Yogin,
    with unfabricated awareness
    as my only refuge,
    Now dance beyond self-clinging, reducing samsara’s concepts to dust.” “In the absolute gift of the dharma, my mind stream is liberated.
    Even if evil and demons emerge, Illusions do not follow. ”
    -From the Songs of Chod

    Used for removing inner and outer obstacles, alleviating disease, and directing weather, Chod was the first Tibetan Buddhist lineage (not from India) founded by the MahaSiddha Machig Labdron. The practice is one of facing ones’ death and the insubstantiality of existence. It is a training in giving up grasping and dissolving Self-fixation. It is an immersion in the view of triumphing over neurosis and dualism through loving kindness, rather than struggling against the fragmented aspects of “Self” that one created in the first place. This practice is one of tremendous importance for these times when people are suffering greatly psychologically and need a powerful method to retrieve their own sanity, awareness and wholeness.

    Originally practiced by Buddhist Yogis (non-monastic, non-celibate practitioners), Chod is the essence of the Tantric practice, in which our entire world is seen through a vision of non-duality and fearless compassion.

    Facing Threat
    It was 2003 when we had our last public Chod Retreat. We didn’t know it, but by the time we began, a raging wild fire had already been consuming the city for four or five devastating hours. We were in the desert outside San Diego. Our Residential meditation community, the Gompa, used to be in an old converted hotel there. During the retreat I taught about relating with our fears and personal demons through the Chod practice. Many people there engaged with issues in their life that they had avoided for decades. It was insecure, tender, powerful and joyful. We were outside and vultures circled while we practiced. Our mantric songs filled the sky and our instruments echoed in space as the ritual unfolded. It was not until after we ended our classes for the day that we heard of the fires. Derrick and I, on our nightly sojourn to the BuddhaField (back then in Kensington) had made it out of the town. Before we could reach the Retreatants by phone to warn them, we saw that their roads were closed and a fire that was consuming the landscape now surrounded them on all sides. I prayed and they packed, hoping they would not be trapped by the firestorm.

    Eventually, they were somehow evacuated and were able to call us. They had made it out with the texts and sacred items of our precious school. Trapped somewhere between San Diego and Arizona, with no gas, no food, in a hotel together with many strangers, a paranoia began to brew. Someone said in the call that they were afraid that the Gompa was going to burn down because they had called forth their personal demons in the Chod. They feared that working with their fears and hang-ups would attract the worst luck and all kinds of inauspiciousness. That phone call was a historic one in our Sangha as the teaching on threat was no longer remote.

    That is the great superstition we have inherited. The line of thinking is that if we engage with our fears and we look at the threat – it will get worse or we will lose everything. We think all kinds of problems will happen, or that it will be too much pain, too much insecurity, too much fear for us to handle. If we think about or talk about our future death or the death of our loved one’s, it is seen as impolite or a horrible omen. We try not to think of losing our relationship and tell ourselves repeatedly that “everything will be ok.” Whatever the threat is, whether it is impermanence, the skeletons in our closet, death, loss, insecurity, hurt, heart-ache, sorrow, hang-ups or the ghosts of our past – we have a cultural superstition that if we communicate with that threat, if we take a step towards our fears – that the worst will occur. The problem in this line of thought is thinking that we have anything more to lose. The threat is already holding our lives hostage. Many times we have not loved fully because of the threat. Many times we have bought things we didn’t need because of the threat. Many times we were so pent up with insecurity that we didn’t enjoy our greatest moments or the greatest people, because of the threat. Many times we are so busy avoiding the threat that we missed having a real relationship with our children, our spouses, our community or our Teacher. Many times we have hesitated and missed out on our lives because of the threat. We have even gone to war and let more than a million people die, because of the mistakes we made in our crazed effort to squash the threat before it manifested. Avoiding facing the threat hasn’t worked out very well for anyone ever.

    In the days following the firestorm, when we found out what had happened, it turned out to be quite the opposite of that superstition. The six-day fires had indeed consumed 500,000 acres, killed 16 people and burned down 2,427 homes and businesses, causing the worst damage in the history of San Diego and California. But one building did not burn down. The only building that had not burned down in the area was our Gompa. Somehow, for some reason, the fire burned down the rest of the town, hundreds of miles in all directions, but the Gompa and a fifty-foot perimeter around it, had remained unscathed. Our Chod practice of facing our fears and dealing with our demons had not resulted in making our situation worse in the face of the raging flames. The opposite had actually occurred. Whether by miracle, magic or coincidence, facing our fears in the Chod did not bring about any devastating consequences and instead, quite the contrary, our beloved Gompa had somehow remained an inflammable fortress. Later in the following days, it even became a refuge for firefighters who discovered it standing there and turned it into a base for their efforts. That is what happens when we face our fear with awareness, contrary to our superstition, it does not make everything worse – it becomes a base for further liberation.

    We have all seen together what fear can do to a society. Fear as a political weapon for manipulating us has proved very successful. As long as we are dominated by fear and insane in the face of threat, we will never be a free, sane or peaceful people. No political policy will ever be enough. No military campaign will ever extend far enough to meet fear’s reach. No amount of shutting down will ever be powerful enough to protect us from the risk of being hurt. The threat is present in so many forms; our control, our plans, our security, our self-image and our strategies are constantly being undermined by it. Our existence is so tenuous and tentative. Even if we try to avoid it, we cannot.

    I’m writing on this subject this month, because it is the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq. In all the five cities of our communities we are having a Peace Offering to speak about it. Whether we take responsibility for it or not, our own personal aggression and ignorance may have contributed to the tidal wave of aggression and ignorance that made this possible. It would be easy to say that the War is the President’s fault or the government’s fault. But the more I learn about history and politics, the more I see a parade of names and faces marching to the same drum-beat of human aggression and ignorance. The enemies change. The villains change. The politicians and policies change. But the anger and aggression stays as steady as the threat is constant. There is another alternative, another way to deal with the threat. The Masters of our tradition and great leaders of history have shown us that there is another way.

    This is a five-hundred year project. It is not just about this war and this time, it is about all aggression, all ignorance and all time. This is about developing a whole culture of sanity and awareness beginning with our selves and beginning right now. For the sake of 5,034,000 people, for the sake of all the people in our lives who we have hurt or missed because of the aggression and ignorance that we threw around in our frantic effort to squash the threat, we must discover the alternative. I wish I could say that we only need to do this in our politics. But I look around my own world, my own California world of educated, progressive, spiritual and even Buddhist people, and I see it there too; arguing, hate, fighting, fundamentalism and willful ignorance. We are living in a cultural and personal climate where the only acceptable and “brave” way to deal with threat is to kill it, or ignore it. But there is another way.

    The problem with trying to kill threat is that it never dies. It is there in everything. Even love is one big threat after another. No matter how we try to manipulate the situation to make it more secure and definite, the threat remains. Life is innately insecure. People behave in ways that we do not want. Mean words happen. Heart-break happens. Out-of-our-control happens. Death happens. Chaos happens. Emptiness happens. The Samsaric predicament is to think it could ever be any other way. We keep trying to find the right person, outfit, job, relationship, possession or bra size thinking that if we did it differently, the threat would not be there. We believe that there is security at the end of the rainbow. We lecture our lovers and friends on all the ways they are not meeting our needs, because we see it as their job to make sure we are not insecure. We avoid the people and situations that make us uneasy. We make better plans and get more controlling. We think that something must be wrong that the threat remains. Remain it does, insidiously staring at us from every corner, from behind every set of eyes. We might get enraged or we might shut down, freeze up and become the icy, resentful, sophisticated cynic. Both responses are aggressive and it is our widespread acceptance of that way of being that allows war to continue as the knee-jerk reaction of our society. There are enough individuals in our country living that way, so that war would make sense as a social answer to a deeply personal question – how do we deal with threat? There is no question that we will face it. Nothing we have done yet has eradicated it. They only variable is how we will relate to it when it does arise.

    There is an alternative to avoiding, ignoring, aggressing and attacking when threat arises. In Tantric Buddhism, we have the Chod. In the Chod, we are no longer trying to kill the threat. Therefore, we can communicate with it, and oh the tale it has to tell. The threat speaks to us of what we are.

    We can face the threat; face it and awaken to a deep understanding of what it really is and why our aggression is futile against it. Our superstition is that if we relate to our fears and our demons and actually confront the threat that the worst will happen, so we use aggression to avoid all communication and squash all possibilities that the threat might introduce. But this is a mistake. Tremendous power can be harnessed by looking right into the face of what is. Freed of the obsession of avoiding the threat, many other possibilities can open up before us. We can relax. We can open. We can experiment. We might approach the threat with loving-kindness and find we have created many demons out of our fears, demons that only we set free. On a social scale, diplomacy and addressing root causes rather than symptoms becomes possible, as we look deeper into the causes of conflict and make the appropriate changes in our relationship to others. Dealing with the threat teaches us that things are not always what they seem. In the Chod we learn how to enter the chaos of our lives, the pain of our past and the intensity of our emotions with a heroic openness. It is a training through which we find ourselves face to face with our worst fears, the skeletons in our closet and the ultimate threat, out of which all other threats arise: the insubstantial nature of what we are. We can wake up and find the threat as the occasion for enlightenment.

    On a social scale or even an individual scale, if we are willing to communicate with the threat, we may be shown we are not who we thought we were. We may see our mistakes, be informed about the consequences of our past aggression, about the importance of our interdependence with others. We may see many things that we formerly could not imagine. In the Tantric Buddhist path this is the communication we trained for, the intimate and continuous dialogue between self, other, society and all things. This is a communication that can only happen when we put down our pre-emptive weaponry. That willingness to open in the face of threat and set aside our knee-jerk reactions long enough to explore other options, is the only way in which ignorance, war and aggression could be made no longer necessary.

    We were in Lake Tahoe recently and I felt honored to meet, befriend and share dharma with the people there. Our host, Cheri, is a snow-boarding instructor. Cheri and her kind friends, Matt and Kelly, volunteered several long, arduous days to teach me and my students to snow board. It was intense! We fell many times on our bottoms, on our wrists, on our faces, on our throats, on our sides and on each other. My favorite aspect of it was the part of the training where Cheri told us that we would have to lean forward, directly down into the “fall” line, the slope of the mountain. She explained that in order to learn the next skill, we would have to go against our physical instinct to lean back away from the speed and instead, lean into it, lean right into the break-neck speed, the out-of-control descent. In other words, we were being told to lean right into the threat. Until that time, we had been protecting ourselves; scooting down the mountain in slow motion, moving a few inches at a time. Now, to learn our toe-side maneuver, which would allow us to steer and make us genuine snow-boarders, we would have to do the last thing we wanted to do, let go of all safety and all self-protection. She told us, we don’t even have to let go of all control at first, just go beyond control for just a few seconds; count to three, and then turn out of it and slow down. So we did it like this. For the count of three we risked our lives and hung out in total fear. Then we did it for the count of four and five. Some daringness arose. The feeling that we could handle it came up. The feeling that it was okay to be out of control and that whenever we needed, we could take care of ourselves and our situation with the skills we had. This is what happens when we face the threat. We get better and better at relating to it. And the threat gives us something in return – greater freedom and even greater skill.

    That is the heart of Buddhist training. The more we befriend reality as it is, the more we find ourselves empowered to be in it and be free. We could possibly approach problems, conflicts and disagreements anew. Previously we thought that if we face the possibility of losing our relationship it would fall apart. But the opposite could now happen, we might become more appreciative and kind, our love-life enlivened and informed by the intensity of impermanence. Death is there, a fact of life, a fact of our every moment as who and what we are continually arises and just as totally, dissolves away, whether we are present enough to notice it or not. Because death is inextricably interwoven with life, when we face it, we find ourselves more and more alive. The lack of fixed-self, lack of guarantees and lack of definite reference points does not necessarily make us more insecure, it can free us up to be in the moment, open, without any predetermined scripts, without any preconceived agendas, available to life, love and the spirituality of all that is. We can find an ultimate confidence and freedom when we get present with insecurity, letting go of all the games we play and personalities we put on in order to secure ourselves and instead showing up genuine, with willingness to be a fool. Our flawed, open foolishness is actually a lovely, innocent and light place, where our Buddha-nature can shine through. It is so beautiful to show up as we are, willing to be wrong, open to the threat; there is such fertile ground in that. Facing the threat puts us in a powerful position. It is the only place from which social problems can be resolved. It is the only place from which war can end. It is the only place from which the path can arise- Kali Ma

    Sky Burial
    Kali Ma Troma Rigtsal Khadro
    My life is the story of nourishment
    For all beings
    For the winged ones
    They fly away from this feast

    Tearing away the meat of the dharma from its bones
    They eat to satisfaction
    All come to feast
    Subtle beings, people, buddhas, dakinis, demons
    The dakinis eat my raw red fleshy heart
    The buddhas sing mantras and drink the red essence
    Beings from all the six realms nourished to every fulfillment
    The mysterious interaction of the offerer, offering and those offered to as one
    That is this woman’s story

    Where was I born? The cremation grounds
    Where did I live? On the offering platter
    What was my life like? The Sky Burial
    What did I do? I consumed and

    I was consumed
    What else is there to say?
    Everything else is just appearance

    My red body arranged as a mandala offering
    The songs of mantras resounding
    Sky Burial of an American Dakini

    Existence consumes me
    Day by day
    Moment by moment
    All that remains from the feast is the sky of my nothingness
    Within which the winged ones fly

    Everything becomes what it takes in
    So too
    At the Sky Burial
    The Beings
    Take in and become
    The body of the Mother

    Another very insigthful explanation of Chod Practice by the best selling author of Feedin Your Demons Lama Tsultrim Allione(Parts 2-5)

  28. Dear Julia, I am sorry to hear of the pain you carry within you daily it seems. My own partner, radical librarian Celeste West was one of those people who was radically true to herself and took her own life in 2008. It was nothing short of a profound tragedy and loss, as it would be if you were to take yours. Celeste founded the first feminist library publishing house in the 1970s. She was a force in the women and feminist publishing movement also in the 70s and 80s. She was a primary force in the anti-censorship movement in libraries co-editing the book Revolting Librarians. A book was recently published about her, mostly of her writings. There is meaning to life. As Joseph Campbell wrote: we are meaning makers. We assign meaning to life. To our own life. Had she stuck around and let the new generation of radical librarians (and there are many of them) find her, she might have found meaning in feeling truly needed. As her surviving partner, I gently beseech you to rethink any suicidal ideations. I do not know what it is you need, but perhaps you could use a vacation from being an icon of hope and action. It requires a lot of energy. A quote by Zen Master Bunan fell out of a book of CW’s the other day: “Die while you are alive and be absolutely dead. The do whatever you want: it’s all good.” If you really and truly are in as much pain as your writings show, then I challenge you to suspend judgment about what it is that you think you know as fact, and allow it to be possible that there is a perspective of life that does not need to evoke such pain. Step aside from yourself in pain for awhile. (It won’t kill you). Not to be a mindless human, not caring what she does in the world, but dear woman, perhaps to focus on a smaller picture for a little while and find some peace and joy in the world. You deserve it, simply by being. Believe me, if you are indeed feeling this poorly, then your view of options is narrow, when the options are actually many. While you cannot see them, please exercise whatever faith or hope you have, that more and different and peaceful ones avail themselves to you.
    Love to you from Northern California.
    ~Tina Perricone

  29. Julia,

    How about helping some other kids have a brighter future to help make up for your not-so-wonderful childhood?


  30. Hi Steve,

    i have supported all kinds of projects that help support underserved youth. i have been doing work for youth at the margins since i was 14 years old.

    All the best on your project!


  31. I am seeing this post late, and I assume there are already scores of replies from others who are terrified for you, Julia, and want to offer a long-distance shoulder to rest your weary head on. By now, you’re probably tired of these reactions and have moved on. But for what it’s worth, and I have to say it or I’d never forgive myself, is to remind you that you are not alone — you have friends and allies everywhere, and we DO need you, selfish as it may seem, because you’re part of us and it isn’t right for you to want to leave us. Don’t you dare turn your back on us (yourself reflected in us). You know better than this, in your heart. You have a purpose, and that is bound up in the rest of us who have taken your cause as our own. We don’t ask to be born (maybe — quien sabe?) but we’re here now and we have to see it through, because that is the deal. We didn’t come here to stay, but there ARE things to do. You can’t see the end of your journey from here.

    Fight despair and take rest and strength from those you love and trust. Look to those who have walked your path before — there is wisdom in books written by fools. Hold on to the voice inside you, as you have before. Remember yourself. When I read a message like this, I know you are hurting and weary and wish there was more I could do, as one individual, but all I can offer is this advice and this admonition, that fear is the devil’s holy water. Do not give in to it. I have seen how strong you are and how you have the power to energize others. You’re feeling tapped out these days, but this will pass. I, too, remember vividly so many hurtful experiences witnessed, pain suffered by others, and I can read your heartache in your words. But do not add to the sorrows of MY life by any heedless action on your part. Selfish as it is, I want you here. We’re on this road together. I never feel hopeless as long as I have friends like you with me. Your life is not yours alone. Please, healer, take care and heal. Love, peace, et bon courage.

  32. Thank You Kevin for your kind words.

    But part of why i posted this post was to demand and proclaim my autonomy.

    i owe you nothing. Not even my life.

    i have no obligation to you or anyone else. i do not need to stay here in order to make YOUR life better. My life is mine. i choose to live it and to potentially at some point end it, according to my truth– no one else’s.

    Life is not nearly dramatic as we make it out to be. Death is a part of life. It is not some story about how long we are supposed to be or not be here. They are part of the same dance. i have no right to take another life except the need i have to live demands that i take some life. But outside of that, i have no right to take another’s life. However, i have every right to do whatever i want with my own life.

    So again, thank you very much for your care.

    However, i do not take on the responsibility of owing you anything because i do not.



  33. .

    …solo deja que la ViDa quiere Ser…
    …SinO para que soñar un despertar…
    …Nuevo Tiempo…
    …volvamos a jugar inozentes livres i Silvestres…
    …inventemos los Diaz…
    …vivamos el futuro prezente…


    …Contemplate Tu Soul…
    …ven julia toma ayahuasca yage i entiende la Muerte i vive Tu Viva…
    …la vida me a regalado varias veces la oportunidad de vivir la experiencia i ahora vivo tranquilo i soy dueño de mi muerte…
    …como de mi ViDa…
    …ya llegara la partida de la Mano del cielo… …Star…

  34. Julia,

    Do not look at your fears as a threat. Fear is an emotion that should be embraced just as mindfully and as caring as we embrace Love. Accept and embrace all your fear; do not suppress it or put it away for a rainy day. Embrace all of your emotions. Give them a big hug and feel them. Feel Them. Do not repel them or scold your self for feeling them. This material world is a physical manifestation of either the Love or the Fear in our own consciousness. When suppressed fear eventually manifests itself into our material world it becomes anger, hatred, violence, war, and murder against others and Our Self.

    Love to You-


  35. Life and death are much the same –life is quicker. Your death will come soon enough–no need to worry about that.
    Everything that you can see (as well as smell, taste, touch and hear) has come from you. Living provides the opportunity to purify your perception of self and others. To dissolve otherness is to resolve all reality back into the emptiness of your own heart. Love is the only solvent that will work. Space is curved–what you throw out there will eventually but inevitably come back to its origin.

  36. Your story touches me deeply.
    Thanks for courageously sharing.
    I send angels of peace and hope you’ll feel whole.
    We are one with this world of pain and suffering, as we are one with all life and beauty in this world.

  37. Julia,
    You must have read the Celestine Prophecy. There is something about the idea that every exchange with anyone is an exchange of energy. And in a perfect meeting, those involved give an equal amount of energy back to each other relative to what they gave out. And when that happens, both tend to leave with more energy than they came with to the exchange. If you agree with this premise, then you can imagine where that should leave you right about now as you turn 37.

    When you held my hand at grace before dinner on Newton Street in Mt. Pleasant (DC) in January of 2000, right after you climbed out of tree and started your speaking tour, energy didn’t leave my hand to feed you. I took your energy and became a vegetarian at that moment and I have been one ever since. So I took a lot of energy without having any chance to give it back. And you have done this hundreds and hundreds of thousands of times for as many people. You SHOULD feel like you do now (if you are human…and you have permission to be such).

    As many of us writing to you have done, we have given far more of our energies towards an ideal the world needs than the world has returned. You just happened to have greater natural gifts than most of us and were able to do so much more than most of us to bring about positive change, positively affect people’s lives, shift the course of parts of humanity in the way it needs to go…than any of us will do individually if we have 10 lifetimes to do it in. And is the cost 10 to the power of something greater for you than for us? Probably. But what many people seem to be saying in their posts is that we are all fighting for similar things and experiencing similar struggles.

    After championing sustainability in an incredibly unsustainable way for too long, I crashed and burned in my mid to late 30’s and at 42 I’m only starting to crawl out of the crater that was formed when I crash landed. But I cling to the hope that I will find a way to care better for myself and figure out how to let the energy of others (and the Caribbean, etc.) refill me. When all I’ve ever known is giving out or giving away, it isn’t coming easily, but I know I have to do it. And it is likely you will have to allow yourself to care for yourself for once…for a while. And it won’t be natural or quick but the reward awaits.

    You are right. Your life is your own to do with it as you wish as is mine, etc. So throw off the burdens of shouldering the future of humanity for a while and allow yourself to bend with the wind so you don’t break as you so eloquently once said.
    Ghandi embraced and eventually embodied this paradox which he was known to quote…

    “Everything you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s very important that you do it.”

    You and I and the rest of the posters here are on a journey to embody this too. It is frustrating compared to our youthful perspectives, but mastering this seems like the key to our ability to stay engaged over the long haul in a sustainable way. Living from this perspective allows us to unshoulder the burdens of the future so we can enjoy the present for a change. So unwrap the present in front of you and kick it a little!


  38. Hi Russ,

    Thank You for such a thoughtful and generous message. It is nice to remember all the way back then… and to know you became vegetarian makes my heart smile with joy and gratitude.

    This journey and dance between care, action, and restoration/rejuvenation seems a more difficult one to figure out. : )

    So much love, gratitude, and blessings,


  39. Dear Julia,

    I write this to you on the day of my birthday. I must say that the plentiful gifts that your life has given to this earth have, more than once, filled my life with inspiration. But this one I must say is one of the best birthday presents I have ever received anyone, anywhere.

    Allow me to briefly explain:
    I was writing yesterday a screenplay i have been working for years on, one of the principal characters is a young woman with a butterfly tattoo that she got as inspiration for your time in Luna, and in researching about the dates i stumbled upon this blog
    This year marked a very hard and heartbreaking period of my life. As you, I have have put others needs in front of my own well being for enough time to have it catch up and actually hurt me.

    You want to hear pathetic, hear it from the guy that always speaks and professes love but wound up sowing fear from where he thought he planted love. Its because i believe in truth so much that i believe in the healing power of the “dark times” and i think that to love oneself one must learn to love even our darkest moments. And those moments can be really scary for most people.

    Anyways, The point is that just as you i have found myself dwelling on the apparent futility of changing the world for good, trying to mantain a smile (and an appearance of sanity) of hope for other people amid so much hopelessness. And i almost turned to suicide three times last year from it. the first time my two wonderful dogs saved me, the other an angel and the last one (on christmas day) i cant remember what it was that saved me. The only thing i can tell you is that i was suddenly filled with a feeling of peace and benevolence that comes from the Source.

    Call it God, creator, benevolent being or entity or whatever, but it is only Love. It is also from there that i learned that it is ok, it doesn´t matter if we don´t fulfill our “mission”, life is a gift and as such we can do with it whatever suits us better. And as love, it gives us ways of doing it that cannot hurt.

    With the gift of curiosity, that embarks us in the best of journeys; also comes the burden of doubt. Because when we try to furiously cling on to something it just hurts us more, like when you where on that first storm in Luna, you ended all beaten and bruised, but when you let go and went along with the universal force of the storm it was much less painful.And you danced with the storm, thank you for that. Thank you for dancing with the universe.

    And i guess my point is that the bliss and peace, that you got feeling of connectedness, IS THE POINT. Its in the connection with the universe when we feel joy, and its in the disconnection when we are depressed.

    Kind of like that feeling of catching a first great wave that hooks you, and on looking for that feeling is that we go in the search of love. But i know, that you know, it just gets better everytime.

    Of course there are times when we can´t find it anywhere, dark times that also fell worse (or rather we feel worse) because we thought we had gotten through them, and we feel weak and useless because we swore we would not let ourselves feel again hurt.

    A cocoon must be a pretty dark, cramped and at times lonely place. The process of metamorphosis is a painful and blinding one. I can just imagine that when the cocoon breaks those first rays of light must feel like blinding shards of glass in the eyes. That is why i think sometimes the light can scare some people as much or more than the dark.

    A butterfly goes through a physical transformation once in her life. But as humans, in spirit, i think we can go through a bunch. Some faster than others, and some so slow that we could swear we have accomplished them but we are merely halfway. And it can be scary.

    I have had a few friends (and also my brother) that just got to that point and went through with suicide, because i think they were too sensitive souls in such insensitive times. When my brother did it 14 years ago, i swore i would never do it, but i am grateful of life to have got me to a point where i can understand that profound hurt, understand them teaches me to understand my own self, and to forgive me, and to love me.

    And when you love yourself you cannot but love everything and everyone that has crossed your path; and those that will cross it. It fills us with the hope of the infinite potential as long as we remain creative.

    So remain creative dear Julia, your work already inspires and heals the universe, you are not a chosen one, you have chosen your path and there is nothing you owe the universe. Having the strength and valor to put into actions and tangible work what you see, is really inspirational. And it feels great being inspired, thank you for that. My aspiration in life is only to inspire and hats off to you on that front dear lady.

    This creation that is life is so vast and amazing that we sometimes feel we need to understand it. But i think the point of it is not to understand but rather to BE it. We are after all the creators of creation!

    So all rambling aside, thank you. Because in a moment i have chosen to get away from people i can tell you hardly have i ever felt so accompanied than from your words. And for that i can tell you that i will pray every day from no on so that whenever one of those really dark and creepy paths cross you , that the benevolece of the universe seeps into your soul and that your bliss, the one around the corner, becomes ever more joyful.

    With all my grattitude and love,


  40. Thanks Emilio. i am so glad my writing support you on your journey.

    Love and Inspiration,


  41. It’s my belief that anyone who’s chosen to live a lifestyle that inspires and engages the public does have some responsibility to that public. Legally you are of course not obligated to remain alive for your adoring fans but morally and ethically….? What of the children who look up to you? Would you want your legacy to be ruined by suicide? What message would that send to the world? Like it or not…you signed up for your station in this life and because of your Fame, the price you pay is having the Wonders and the burdens of being Julia Butterfly Hill. My Daughter is only one of the countless people you have greatly impacted by being the wonderfully courageous Woman that you are. I cringe at the thought of You taking the cowardly way out. It’s so easy to die…. It’s living that takes courage.

    Death comes to all of us….in time. Don’t rush it!
    Not only would you leave a horrible legacy, you’d miss out on all those incredible, wonderful beautiful, moments of……………….?

    Ya have to LIVE to find it out.

    You don’t have to be a hero anymore, you’ve done more than most people do in several lifetimes.

    It’s OKAY to just be……


  42. don’t die sweet woman, not yet. you are an inspiration and love…I totally understand and relate to everything you write.
    we are here now and I didn’t know anything about you until my friend sent me a link to your documentary and I watched it and it completely inspired me. I know what happened with Luna happened so long ago and I don’t know what you do now but it doesn’t matter. The more people with a pure soul of love are desperately needed on this planet, energetically in this universe right now. We are here for a reason. I know you already know this!!
    sending you love and peace. Jodi

  43. This is going to be a controversial post, but what the hey… if you feel as bad as I think you do during these dark moments, then I maybe you’ll consider any option in order to feel full of life, happy and enthusiastic again (all the time!) even if it goes against your ethical and moral beliefs. I have no agenda here, and nothing other than my own experience to share…

    I used to be vegan, and suffered from the exact same hopeless feelings as you. ‘What’s the point of it all’ used to be my mantra.

    And then I discovered primal (paleo) eating. I went from eating zero animal products, to eating animal fat (I still don’t do a lot of protein as I just can’t stomach the thought, but with just a bit of lard and butter in my diet I’ve had NO dark thoughts, no hopelessness, no suicidal feelings. My thinking has become light, life has become fun, and I feel truly blessed to be alive instead of having these moments of darkness and depression.

    I used to think it was my lot in life to have to feel pain. Indeed, I often felt as though I could feel the entire pain of the world, and it tore me up inside. Made me feel like a had a big, dark gaping hole in my heart. Now I know that none of us have to feel that pain. You really don’t have to suffer. At least try it, if only for week. I swear life can be amazing all the time. You are such an inspiration to so many people.

    Much love Butterfly.

  44. Hi John,

    i have struggled with feelings like this my whole life–LONG since before i became a vegetarian (age 14), so eating dead animals is not the answer. Furthermore, you can get 100% of the same vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc… from a plant based diet as from eating the pain and suffering of animals. You have to pay more attention to your diet, but is 100% possible to get 100% of all the same health complex nutrition from plants as in animals.

    Thanks for your kind wishes,


  45. Have you ever considered creating an e-book or guest authoring on other websites?

    I have a blog based upon on the same subjects you discuss and would really like to
    have you share some stories/information. I know my audience would value your work.
    If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.

  46. Thanks for your interest in my sharing on your blog. However, i can’t even keep up with my own writing, let alone creating even more content for other sites. All the very best,

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