“Just as a candle can not burn without fire, men can not live without spirituality.” ~Buddha
I was so moved recently by “Fierce Light,” a documentary about how spirituality motivates people to take bold action in order to change the world. What brought me to an ocean of tears in this documentary was an interview with Julia Butterfly Hill, the environmental activist who lived in the ancient “Luna” tree in the Redwood forest in CA for 2 years straight to save the tree from its demise. During her peaceful demonstration, Julia had witnessed her co-activist, David Gypsy Chain, die under a tree that fell on him because it was cut down. Even after this painfully heart-wrenching ordeal, Julia remarkably kept her vigilance for social activism and hope alive, ultimately saving the Luna tree.
It was obvious that Julia’s journey to continue to have faith in mankind came from a deep place of spirituality. She believed — and rightfully so — that when we kill our trees, we kill ourselves because we are all one with nature and this Universe. Her deep sense of this spiritual Oneness with nature, because humans are dependent on it, made her so vigilant in her beliefs that she sat in the tree for 2 years without ever stepping on soil.
While Julia Hill — who is a one in a million souls out there — embraced her spirituality so deeply to change the world, we do not have to go to such brave extremes to make it useful in our lives. Spirituality, as I always say, should be used as a practical tool for transforming our own lives because the foundation for healthy and happy living is to have a peaceful mind and soul. Like water or food, we can not live without it.
Through spirituality, we connect with the higher energies, which reveals the truth about ourselves, so we can make choices in our lives that bring meaning and fulfillment — that is happiness. Spirituality, used in its universal and purest form, which is love, brings out the best in people because then we live in service of others and God. It is also our greatest resource in life because it helps us to manage our greatest obstacles we face every day. Where do we find the strength to move on when our loved ones die on us or when we lose our job or when we find out that we have a fatal disease like cancer? Where do we find hope in our hopeless days to deliver us from from darkness into light, from night into day, from bondage into freedom?
I do not believe that a college education — and even the best ones — can help us deal with these life altering challenges. The best education to cope with life is spirituality. Rather than spending thousands of dollars on an expensive college, which doesn’t even guarantee a better life, we can tap into the free education of spirituality, which I guarantee has a much higher rate of success for helping our lives. Because it is when we connect to the divine energies within ourselves, we can tap into our own inner strength and resiliency that provide an emotional life line to which we can anchor ourselves, allowing us to handle any situation. Without spirituality, our life line is lost in the sea, just wondering in treacherous waters with no purpose.
Through spirituality, especially during hard times, we have faith that the Universe has a greater wisdom and plan for us even when life seems so unfair or beats us down to our lowest point. Our faith allows us to hold onto hope and carry on, just as Julia Hill did after witnessing her friend die. We can also learn to let go of hate, anger and resentment, which all lead to self destruction, and love again. We can close one chapter of our lives, knowing that God will open a better one and has already planted that seed. And we can take our hands off the steering wheel and let God do the driving even with our blinders on knowing that there is a divine plan. Through our spiritual faith, we can get up every time we fall down. Whenever I’ve had disappointments in my own life, I placed my faith in God by letting go of the situation, and the outcome always came out better than I could ever have imagined. In hind sight, we can see 20/20, but in looking forward, our future looks blurry, which is when our faith in spirituality becomes our best glasses for the possibility of seeing a bright future.
I am so passionate about promoting spirituality because I know its transformative power in people lives, so I always think, “what a shame,” when people pass on it, especially when it’s free! Knowing that the power of spirituality is almighty and magical, how can we not tap into it? I believe that many of us were brainwashed into a negative view by religious righteousness. People who make it about religious doctrines and dogmas — that preach it’s their way or the high way — I believe, is doing a disservice to the enormous benefits of living a spiritual life. They make it voodoo so people run away. I had a roommate who shunned spirituality because when she was forced to go to church, she had to listen to a Catholic priest dictate how everyone should live. This turned her off to her church, religion, and to spirituality as a whole, which I can understand. For me, spirituality is simply a practical tool to help us navigate our lives. When spirituality is stripped and naked from all of the dogmatic teachings and rituals set by churches, temples, etc, it bares itself in Universal truths of love, peace, and compassion, transcending all race, color, creed, religions or political beliefs. These truths only show us the path to our light, not darkness.
No matter what kind of spiritual path we embrace — or lack thereof — during the course of our lives, I don’t think too many of us will be regretting about how much money we made or what type of house we lived in when we’re on our death beds. In our final hours, I believe that we all come to a spiritual place, where we are ready to set our egos free and prepare our souls to return home and become one with this divine Universe. While my sister Sun never lived a spiritual life, when she was diagnosed with cancer, she turned her energies to God and serving her family and friends. In her final days of her life, she sang “Amazing Grace” even under heavy morphine, preparing herself to return to the heavenly kingdom of God. Even when we never lived a spiritual life, we all touch upon it when our souls are ready to move on to the astral plane.
But why must we wait for death to stare us down to touch on spirituality when we can connect to it right here, right now? Our greatest power in being alive is when we live in the present moment by tapping into spirituality. It is in the power of now, where hope and fearlessness live, that we can accept death, so we can embrace life to its fullest. Spirituality teaches us that death is just another transformation of our souls into a higher level of consciousness, so death is not really death but really another life after life, so we do not have to fear it.
On a global scale, spirituality has the power to make people call to action in ways that change the world, as we saw in Julia Hill’s case. In “Fierce Light,” John Lewis, a Black activist during the Martin Luther King civil rights movement, said, “Soul force is this power, the spirit, this faith, or whatever you want to call it or describe it. It is so over powering and so moving. It’s a force that can stand the storms. It is a force that gives you the power, the courage, give you the stuff.”
Spirituality gave Rosa Parks the courage to sit on the bus among white people; it gave Julia Hill the power to sit in the Luna tree for 2 years; it gave Mother Teresa the calling to serve the poorest of the poor; and it gives each and everyone of us the power to live in our own truth.
My heart is always a little heavier when I think about all of the endless problems in the world — wars, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, environment — but what gives me hope in such dark times is my faith in spirituality, which I believe will continue to spread its wings farther out into the world with the message of love and hope — because we are not only ready for this much-needed message, but it’s the only answer to our problems. While spirituality is the most powerful way to make a real difference in the world, it is also the only way to find and come home to ourselves.
I leave you with the most profound — and spiritual — words by Julia Butterfly Hill that shook the depths of my soul and brought me to an ocean of tears:
When I was in Luna, there was a point when I wanted to give up hope because they had cut down so many trees around me. They had cut a tree down on top of a 24 year old activist named David Gypsy Chain that killed him. And every time I say that, I start to cry, and I will for the rest of my life, and I didn’t want to have hope anymore, because I was so angry and I was in so much pain…. But in that moment, I didn’t want power, didn’t want to make a difference, I just wanted to come down and say forget the world, I’m just gonna go and take care of myself. But I was praying, that’s what I do. At the end it came to me was: Julia, as long as your heart is committed in action and you have hope, even if you’re the only one left, then there is hope in the world…
By Moon Cho, Creator of Ying & Yang Living