The journey of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly has become an important life lesson for me. Observing this process has taught me much about living my own life mindfully.
After the butterfly has traveled its own path emerging from a caterpillar, it can then bring forth new life to others. I think this is true for us also. We have to have the courage to live our own journey for our lessons to ring true to others. There is an authenticity to the words of those that “have lived it” that I gravitate towards.
The butterfly lays its eggs on a leaf—a safe place that will nourish the new life. It doesn’t just toss them out indiscriminately. This teaches me that a dream, a new beginning, a new relationship or a cherished project is to be placed in a safe place, a place that nourishes it, with people that root for my success.
The egg becomes larva. The activity that completely consumes the caterpillar at this time is eating. Yes, eating! It eats until it is too big for its skin and it no longer fits! I have found this to be true in my own life. To learn, to soak up new information and new experiences—to gather all I can to continue to grow—nourishes me. I have often found as I am learning and soaking up new life that I have outgrown the person that I was. It no longer fits. If I refuse to let go of my “skin” due to uncertainty, then I never meet the new person within me. The caterpillar often has to shed its skin four or five times. I feel I have lived at least that many lives in my seventy-seven years on this planet!Somehow, I just know when my “skin” no longer fits who I am in that moment. It feels heavy around me and begins to block out the light. I then have a choice of whether to gently let it go or hug it even tighter around me for security.
As the caterpillar lets go of each layer it has outgrown, a chrysalis is formed. This is a cocoon, a safe covering that holds it until it is ready to emerge as a butterfly. It hangs upside down. And I often feel I am upside down as I am in that “in-between” space of letting go of one place for the uncertainty of the next. Most of the time I get very used to the place I am in. It becomes comfortable. I think surely this is my permanent skin!
It is gooey and sticky inside that cocoon, but the caterpillar is being given all the nutrients it needs. And I have found that in those places where I take a deep breath and hesitantly move forward, the Universe moves forward to meet me. I somehow receive the nutrients I need—new friends, books, fresh experiences—to “hold me” in that time until I am ready to go forward. A moth or butterfly usually stays inside the chrysalis (cocoon) for about 5-21 days. I can tell you that most of my “in-between” times have been longer than 5-21 days! The interesting thing is that in harsh places, butterflies or moths can often stay in their cocoon for up to three years waiting for rain or favorable conditions. I have found in my own life that there is no given time for those uncertain spaces of molting, of moving from one “skin” to the next. In times of grieving, of rejection, of dreams crashing to the floor, I have had to burrow in and stay in the cocoon until I could feel some soft rain or glimpse a tiny ray of sunshine to even begin to stick my head out to begin the tentative steps to my next “skin”. Timing seems to be crucial in bringing forth new life mindfully. If I try to jump out too soon, flinging my arms in impatience, and shouting “I’m ready!” before the Spirit gives me that intuitive knowing, then I usually crash. The nutrients to sustain me aren’t there. I have jumped ahead in my own ego without all the needed preparation being done. On the other hand, I have often waited too long for the rain and sunshine to appear before venturing out due to fear of the unknown. I have found there is a delicate balance to this time. I have learned to ask myself if I am “resting” in a place due to needed self-care or is it really fear of going forward? Honestly answering this question to myself seems crucial at this point.
Caterpillars often find they have to camouflage themselves as sticks or bird droppings to scare off birds. And there are times I have felt I needed to “lay low” in camouflage and let the danger pass.
But if we can dare to allow ourselves to be fed until our “skin” no longer fits and then dare to allow new “skin” to be formed, if we can bide our time while being held upside down and nourished and held by a Power greater than we are, then we can become the amazing butterfly that was being birthed inside us all along.
Are we willing to let go of the past? Are we willing to let go of being a caterpillar? That is when we spread our wings and begin to fly.