Finding Our Wings
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty” ~Maya Angelou
On my morning walk today I was lucky enough to come across a fence lined with butterfly chrysalises hanging from vine branches. I’d never seen this before and was mesmerized. A young mother and her 6 year old child were there too and we watched together in awe as we observed this miraculous event. The sacs appeared to be completely still but the little girl noticed one quivering slightly in it’s translucent sheath. When the mother explained to the child that the butterfly was getting ready to emerge from the cocoon and fly for the first time, the girl said, “Mommy, I think the butterfly is scared to come out.”
I can’t help but notice the parallel of this metaphor as it relates to the human experience. From the moment we are conceived in our mothers’ womb, we are endlessly evolving—continuously growing and learning. In the same way the caterpillar has within it a genetic code to develop wings, humans have a longing to live an authentic, meaningful and fulfilling life. This longing is the heart's call to become the best person we can be and to live our true nature. If we are courageous enough to embrace this longing rather than smother it because we are “scared to come out,” it propels us on a journey of awakening where we can transform and grow into our fullness.
Our unique life experience is constantly shaping us into who we are becoming. Usually we have no control over the outside world— only how we respond to it. Most often it is a crisis that turns our lives upside down and forces us to view the world with new eyes—inviting us to access a deeper, truer part of ourselves and to let go of what no longer serves us. Most often It is our pain and unhappiness that propels us on the quest to find our wings. We reach a point where it becomes too painful to remain where we are. This is the moment our caterpillar self realizes it has no other choice but to change. As uncomfortable as this moment may be—it is the first step towards liberation and rebirth. It is the moment one discovers that there is no turning back. Remaining where we are is no longer an option. And so the transformation is initiated.
Many people start therapy at this critical juncture in life because transitions— whether we consciously invite them or not— can be a terribly frightening stage of development, fraught with a sense of isolation, grief and confusion. The terrain is unfamiliar. We might believe that we are not good enough, not talented enough or somehow unable to make it through the circumstances facing us. We might feel trapped and stuck— unable to see our way through our situation or to a better state of mind. It’s the moment where the pain might become too unbearable to endure. And simultaneously, we might have a hunch that says, “I am more than my pain and there must be a better way to live a more joyful, loving, more meaningful, productive life— though I may have no idea how that could happen from where I stand now.” There absolutely is. But most of us need help discovering it.
The metamorphosis takes time, dedication and persistence. It requires the willingness to honestly, and compassionately face and embrace ourselves exactly where we are rather than where we think we should be. It requires the willingness to inquire into the nature of our limiting beliefs and be accountable for how we relate to ourselves and the world. In order to transform caterpillar feet into butterfly wings, caterpillar hangs upside down for an extended period of time and goes deep inside itself. It surrenders to the process. It wraps itself in a safe, protected loving cocoon where it lets go of everything it no longer needs— keeping only what is essential and relevant to its becoming. In the silent stillness of it’s deep inward journey, caterpillar reconfigures into its highest form—the butterfly—no longer earthbound. It’s transformation occurring completely from the inside out.
Transforming our lives is not a simple process. The support of a knowledgeable, trustworthy guide like a skilled therapist can serve as an invaluable ally to help us explore and release what gets in the way of receiving the love and peace that we seek. Finding our wings makes the journey worth all the effort. It is then we learn to fly with both feet on the ground.