If we observe the life cycle of the butterfly carefully, we can’t fail to notice how close this process is to what humans go through when in a period of expansion and growth. It is no surprise that there are so many commonly used phrases that liken the process to our life’s experiences.
We all start like that little larvae inside the egg. The newborn caterpillar eats the shell of the egg where it was born. At the start of our lives, we are learning to live in the world and our first instinct is survival; we would do what is needed in order to survive. We are looking for self-satisfaction and we don’t recognize other people’s needs until we become more aware.
The little caterpillar finds a plant and very happily feeds itself until it is all consumed. I am not sure if you have been the victim of a caterpillar eating your plants, but they don’t leave one leaf to spare. At this stage, we are very unaware of our actions and their consequences. We move around happily consuming, taking and just doing the survival “stuff”.
The caterpillar starts to grow and needs to shed its skin several times, so it can continue growing. Life circumstances push us in different directions: our studies, career, relationships and in the same way as the caterpillar, we need to “shed our skin”, detach from old identifications, face our problems and grow.
All of a sudden, the caterpillar starts feeling heavy; it is not so easy to move around, it becomes slow until it can’t move anymore. At some point, we feel we can’t continue living in the same way we have so far. We start questioning the whole of our existence. We know something has to change and life becomes heavy and difficult. This forces us into a deep self-inquiry and pushes us into an existential crisis. What next?
The caterpillar starts to build a cocoon, a protective layer that will keep it safe while going through its metamorphosis. While in crisis, we tend to isolate and find a safe place to reflect and move through what is to come. We do this instinctively; we generally have less contact with friends, as we want to be alone. We need to be in the dark, in order to find our light.
The caterpillar in its chrysalis stage goes through a series of changes. In fact, now the caterpillar is called a pupa and has to let go of its old structure. It dissolves almost completely, only leaving the essential organs as it starts to transform. As we go into the dark, we have the opportunity to let go of anything that no longer serves us for the next stage in the evolution of our being. It is dark, so it is scary. We don’t know what is happening to us, so we can only follow our inner guide.
The caterpillar allows for the process to continue organically, while us as humans, sometimes stop this process abruptly by finding ways to avoid the pain that these changes and transformations are bringing to our life. We have forgotten to trust and may resist what life is putting in front of us. Some of us decide to numb ourselves, in order not to feel and pretend all is well. The numbness mechanisms can be pills, drugs, alcohol and other self-destructive practices. If we persist in doing this, our growth is stalled. However, if we are courageous and decide to face our pain, it starts to dissolve and we can continue our transformational and healing process.
The pupa starts to form the wings and the new body. When ready, the butterfly will break the chrysalis and make its way out. It is important that the butterfly does this on its own, so the wings can be expanded and strengthened. In the same way, we need to come out of the crisis on our own. No one can do it for us. We may have a support network that will be around us, cheering us on, giving us advice and guidance, but it is only us that can take the necessary steps to heal. We need to get up and expand our new wings and use our new body, our new tools, our expanded mind and consciousness. We need to be courageous and determined to move through and face the next stage that may be bring many changes to our life: maybe new friends, career, a new place. We won’t be the same that came into the chrysalis. We will be forever changed, transformed as the butterfly.