Becoming the butterfly
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old,
but on building the new.”
In mid 2015 I was living in Sofia, Bulgaria, participating in a 30-day personal development program. The program was all about letting go of the old ways of being and doing.
Each morning we would give short presentations in front of the group. One morning we were asked to act out the personal transformation we were in the process of experiencing using an animal metaphor. I chose the transformation of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Out of all my morning presentations, this particular one stayed with me. I felt somewhat captivated by the butterfly I portrayed in my presentation.
A few days after my butterfly presentation I went to an event; a local spiritual group was hosting their spiritual teacher from the US and I was intrigued. Sitting in the audience I felt a nervous energy pulsating through my body. It was a familiar feeling, the pervasive, insentient anxiety I had come to experience daily at that time in my life was once again making itself known to me. It was uncomfortable, unpleasant and unwavering.
Mid way through the Q&A session there was a pause. I saw this as an opening, so I raised my hand. As I stood, I panicked, I had no idea what to say. As a microphone was passed to me, my question came:
“Why do I feel so afraid all the time?”
The spiritual teacher began to answer my question. Initially, my state of panic made it difficult to be present, but after a little while of listening to him, I noticed myself softening into the present moment.
To assist with answering my question around feeling scared he had drawn a big egg on a piece of paper. Referring to the egg, he spoke about the process of a baby chicken cracking through its shell. The process of emerging, he explained, is a powerful, and terrifying process. Inside of the egg the chick is safe and all is familiar. Life outside of the shell however is unknown and breaking through can, understandably, evoke fear and panic. He went on to say that life will continue to present us with opportunities to ‘break through our shells’. This will require us to continue to let go of our old, familiar selves and remerge in the world. He suggested this was the process I was in, and maybe a reason I felt so afraid.
Above the egg drawing the teacher has written the word EMERGENCE. As he spoke in more detail about the process of transformation and the associated fears, he changed the letter e to a y and the word emergence became EMERGENCY. My panicked, anxious feelings started to make sense to me. I reflected on how I was in a state of emergency. I knew I couldn’t stay inside my shell, or in my case, my caterpillar cocoon but to fully live outside of my shell, of my comfort zone, seemed overwhelmingly terrifying. It was living in the in-between that was causing me chaos. I knew something had to shift.
We finished our conversation, and as I was taking my seat the spiritual teacher turned to me and said, “I don’t know why, but I feel like I need to tell you this:
You are not a caterpillar anymore, you are a butterfly.
You have wings Rosie, it’s time for you to fly.”
I sat down in my chair, completely amazed by what this man had just said to me. The synchronicity of my presentation days before and his spontaneous statement about being a butterfly was not lost on me. I started to wonder, if it really is time for me to fly, where would I find a pair of wings?
The next morning, I had my answer. Tracy, a dear friend I was doing the program with, asked if I wanted to go paragliding with her as she had arranged to go as a way to complete her time in Bulgaria. I said yes instantly.
The morning of our paragliding experience Tracy and I caught a taxi to a town square in a small village in the mountains. We were told to wait by the big tree where a man named Lizard would meet us. People came and went, there was no sign of Lizard. Then, a man drinking the biggest can of energy drink I have ever seen got out of a car. This must be Lizard we thought.
We introduced ourselves, and began to follow Lizard up the mountain. He continued to drink his energy drink the entire way up, the can was seemingly never ending. When we got to the top of the mountain Lizard handed me a jumpsuit and what I thought was a saucepan. I assumed it was to throw up in. Quickly I realised the saucepan was actually my helmet. I put on my jumpsuit and ‘helmet’ and watched as Lizard put his still unfinished can of energy drink into his backpack.
“Let’s go”, he said.
I was like, “Wait! Don’t I need to sign something? And maybe you run through some safety details with me?”
He laughed, “Maybe in your country you sign things, not here. It’s simple. When I say go, run as fast as you can and don’t stop until we are in the air or we crash. Ok?”
“Um, yeah ok.” I said.
He clipped me to a parachute and yelled ‘go’.
I started to run as fast as I could, which strapped to a parachute that was dragging along the ground, was actually pretty slow. This is definitely ‘crashing’ running speed I thought. I began to doubt the capability of the saucepan on my head to protect me from the rocks below. Maybe this whole flying thing wasn’t such a great idea I thought.
Seconds later the parachute caught the wind and my feet left the earth beneath me. I was flying! I looked up at my ‘wings’, the huge rainbow parachute above me. It was a magical moment. I had broken through the walls of my cocoon.
I started squealing, ‘Lizard! Look! I’m flying! I’m really flying!’ He was fairly unfazed, I guess he did this everyday. He gave me a look like ‘yeah I know.’
Sometimes you need a man named Lizard to run you off a mountain in Bulgaria for you to break through your walls and find your wings.
Here I am, as the world’s dorkiest butterfly:
After about 45 minutes or so we landed safely back on the ground. As I was finding my feet and considering spewing up in my helmet, Lizard retrieved his can of energy drink from his backpack and was once again happily sipping away. I looked down to the purple flowers in the fields and saw butterflies everywhere. I smiled.
Perhaps the lesson we can take from the butterfly is that to really emerge from a time of transformation we must endure some darkness. It is in the cocoon we build our wings. It is the place we learn to focus our energy on the new. For when the time comes to emerge from that place of darkness, we do so as a colourful, expansive, magnificent creature of the light.
As life invites us to continue to evolve, we will continue to re-emerge.
With every chapter of transformation we experience,
we are gifted an opportunity to rediscover our wings
and once again take flight,
always soaring to new heights.
Regardless of the way you find your wings, know that you will, because you too are not a caterpillar anymore, and the world needs you in full flight.
Love Rosie x
Ps. I would love to hear your stories of becoming the butterfly in the comments below.
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