If you’re reading this, a lot has changed around you and continue to change as the months go by. While we all know change is inevitable, you’ll hardly ever feel prepared for the next life-altering chapter and like many other things, your mindset will determine your outcome.
When we think about change, nature’s most profound example is perhaps a caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly. Lately, I’ve become intrigued by the idea of what it must be like for a caterpillar during that time; a little petrifying, perhaps uncomfortable and vulnerable yet knowingly hopeful. With all things considered about the great adversity that is 2020, as we bend and mould and hold still to readjust, many of us might identify with the vulnerability of a little caterpillar. But as we flirt with the unknown of what lies ahead, I want to offer instead that we lean in more on optimism, the kind that gifts our wings.
An ode to liberation almost, the process of metamorphosis stories change that is closely connected to the human experience, now more than ever. While some wait for the return of “normal”, i.e. being able to go outside paranoia free, how about we redefine our concept of freedom, starting with our minds. Shift focus from what we can’t control and instead connect with the present moment in a way that we breathe easier. This looks like relinquishing our anxieties of the future and like a caterpillar, let nature take its course and embrace the process with faith that we’ll emerge on higher grounds. So like a caterpillar, let’s:
Caterpillars usually find a very comfortable and discrete place to make their cocoon. They also change the colour of their cocoons to blend in with the background as a sort of protection from the outside world. In our quest to evolve mentally we have to do the same; seek higher ground and create the atmosphere conducive to the shift we want to see. We have to step away from distractions, surround ourself with the things and like-minded individuals that support our growth and most importantly, envelope ourselves into that which elevates us beyond our current state. This brings us to the next lesson…
The first part of the transformation requires the caterpillar to shed its skin. Then, once in the cocoon, caterpillars liquify with the exception of a few solid parts to start the process of transitioning. After a few days, the solid parts create the structure that forms into what we know as the butterfly. Similarly, as we work towards being the more mindful versions of ourselves we have to release the things that no longer serve us. We need only to keep our solid foundation, the parts of us that we love and reflect our best self.
One of the most interesting things about metamorphosis is that leading up to the transformation, the caterpillar starts hardening the inner layer of its skin to later shed the soft outer layer and use the hardened part as the base of its cocoon. Everything that a caterpillar needs to become a butterfly came from within itself. This is very much like all of us. Your growth is your responsibility and once you realise this, you’re already on your way to new heights. When the butterfly later releases itself from its cocoon the wings are small and crinkled. It has to pump fluids from its body into the wings to make it stronger so it can fly. Every step of the way we have to go deeper to the core to get exactly what we need.
While in the pupa stage, the chrysalis (butterfly) remains in one place for an average of 15 days. We’ve heard it before, things take time and patience is a virtue. One doesn’t become a butterfly overnight but through focused intention and stillness, we rise. So, settle down and take the time to rest your mind, body and soul, it’s indicative of our growth.
Another amazing fact is that experiments have shown that butterflies “have memory” of their life as a caterpillar. I think that’s beautiful. In becoming a butterfly, we’ll see a shift in perspective but there’s value in remembering where we started. Thats how we empathise, that’s how we course correct, that’s how we remain firm in our gratitude for how far we’ve come.
Practising mindfulness is incredibly special. Like with a butterfly, it is the process of growing our internal wings to lift us up so we can see the world from a higher place of consciousness. Instead of being weighed down by the things we can’t control or be anxious about what will happen to us next, we can live fully now and accept moment to moment life in its flow. From an egg to the larvae to a caterpillar and then a pupa and finally a butterfly, change is a constant process in nature’s life cycle and so too for the human experience. We can draw on the lessons from these parallel worlds so that we can ease into the unknown with a little less misery.