In the above image, the magic is taking place inside the closed chrysalis. But it's not a pretty process. It's gooey bug soup. A very messy transformation --as most significant changes are in life. But it's also noteworthy that the bug soup is made of what some creative scientist named "imaginal cells".
There's no guarantee that a butterfly will emerge. It might not make it out of the chrysalis. Especially if you try to help it, because then it won't develop strong enough wings to fly. This is a process it has to do alone.
The cycle of Life/ Death/ Life is not negotiable. Change is constant and death (both actual and metaphorical-- as in the endings we experience in our lives) comes to all. This much we know for sure. Whether there is a glorious rebirth/ afterlife following death is a matter of faith.
But even if you are one of those who has that faith; losses (whether they involve an actual death or other endings), are not easy for any of us.
I know I crave constancy. Everything in my survival conditioning strongly compels safety and security and sounds the amygdala alarm when there is chaos, confusion, pain or even the threat of loss.
I can only imagine what the Catapillar feels.
This particular caterpillar (found recently by one of my charges) was doubtless alarmed by suddenly finding itself on the hand of a giant human, and I'm sure had great stories to tell it's friends about miraculously escaping death!
Despite my understanding that attempts to control endings or prevent pain are feeble, futile and usually only exacerbate the situation causing me distress, I still scramble to protect myself.
Obviously sensible measures need to be taken to prevent harm, and sometimes pain requires alleviation.
But when I notice that I'm going through life with rigid armor, impenetrable walls and addictive behaviors that do not allow me to be present for the magic of life (especially during those times of "bug soup"), I am slowly starting to trust that the constant changes are almost always ultimately beneficial.
AND I understand that I can't do a spiritual bypass to get past the "bug soup" by cheerfully chirping "it's all good, I am love and light". I have discovered that when loss is dark and painful, I need to FEEL it all the way through in my body mind and soul.
I have heard from many others (I've actually been obsessed with hunting for real life stories and have found a huge abundance of them!) who have endured hardship, that this is true for them as well. It's fascinating to hear how the most devastating experiences become portals of transformation and evolution.
But we all have our own ways of coping with the pain and loss of life changes.
|I created this collage to put on my altar in honor of a 6 year old girl who died last weekend. I would never presume to tell her loved ones how to process their pain or talk to them of butterflies, portals or even the arms of the angels.
The quote from Heraclitus : “change is the only constant in life” has been on my mind due to another recent death. And a coincidence of names.
Someone I know, who is deeply loved by people I care about, died unexpectedly last week. He was the picture of health and vitality. And he even cofounded a healing center that is renowned for cutting edge technologies in assisting people with serious health issues.
Because of this paradox, I immediately thought of the first man I met when I moved to Marin County who also died before his time. My former housemate was the picture of health and vitality and associated with helping people with their health issues as well. He taught fitness classes and took people on adventures into the wilderness.
Although I did not have a long or deep friendship with either of these men, their deaths were disturbing to me. They seemed to do everything "right" in terms of taking care of their body mind and soul. So why did diseases take them out?
As I pondered that question, I suddenly realized that they shared a name. Constantine was the first name of one and the last name of the other. Hence my musings about the name Constantine which is derived from "constant". Meaning that which does not change.
But of course, despite our best efforts to do everything "right"; losses,--both expected and unexpected, minor and the ultimate (loss of life)-- are the only constants upon which we can depend.
I was deeply affected by the loss of my father (whose birthday was Monday 3/4 --Happy Birthday Dad, I miss you!), but certainly not surprised. He was the poster child for an unhealthy lifestyle, and actually took pride in that!* And yet he lived to be older than both of the Constantine's.
Monday was also the Hindu holiday of Maha Shivarati.
This little statue of Shiva is holding my wedding ring --with it's inscription : "surprise me"
This holy day celebrates the god Shiva and his dance of creation/ preservation/destruction of life. (For those who are interested, here is the story of how Shiva came into my life on the eve of my most devastating surprise life implosion). It was the death of a way of life -- among many other losses from that ending.
Maha Shivaratri is a floating Hindu holiday, that is celebrated during the dark of the Moon. It occurs in either February or March and is a very solemn introspective occasion involving fasting.
Today, is Ash Wednesday. It is also a floating holiday associated with the New Moon that occurs in either February or March and is a very solemn introspective occasion involving fasting.
The ashes from the burned palm leaves of the previous years Palm Sunday fronds are applied in the sign of the cross on the forehead, with the words "remember you are dust and to dust you shall return".
But of course, as with Shiva's dance, where creation follows destruction, Ash Wednesday is also part of a cycle of death and rebirth. This day marks the beginning of the Easter season which culminates in the story of a miraculous rebirth. Butterflies abound in Christian symbolism at this time of year.
We humans create so many stories and rituals to help us dance with the mysteries of life and cope with our fears about the pain and loss we all inevitably experience.
Although I love the many stories, holidays and rituals we humans have created and celebrate a ridiculous number of them, smearing palm ashes on your forehead may not do it for you.
So perhaps just consider the (scientifically verifiable!) story of the caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly, the next time you are feeling overwhelmed by difficult changes and painful endings.
I took the above photo of a palm tree recently while on in the company of two little friends of the girl who died. They had a blast finding creative uses for the dead Palm fronds they found on the ground.
As always on our adventures, a huge amount of my focus is on keeping my little charges safe.
We (me too!) climbed several trees that day and there was one minor fall.
It can be exhausting to monitor all of the potential hazards of two exuberant boys and scary when they fall, but even if I kept them safely on the couch all day, there's no guarantee they will be spared from harm. (Superstitiously knocking on wood right now!)
And so we playfully explore the wonders of the world with curiosity and courage and the willingness to muck around in the messy, muddiness of life! Way more fun than sitting on the couch!
This was not my plan for last Thursday, but my boys were running down a hill, skidded at the bottom and went down. Since they were already covered with mud, I decided to let them wallow. And to mud they joyfully returned --thank heavens with exuberant aliveness!
* My father's cancer diagnosis was not enough to make him quit his decades long habit of chain smoking. However when the Democratic governor of Minnesota put a tax on cigarettes, my staunch Republican dad was irate and adamant that he would not contribute to the agenda of this politician. He quit cold turkey and never smoked again for the months remaining to him!
On Monday afternoon, on the way back from the doctor to deal with a scary looking tick bite, my car spun out of control going around a curve on a wet road. As I was headed down the embankment toward the creek, I was sure that I was about to die. Miraculously, I hit some trees and although my sweet little car car was totaled (I am grieving the loss of this faithful friend) and I have some minor injuries and am in pain, I am alive! I did not have to go to the hospital, and I am deeply grateful to be typing these words! I am currently extremely dealing busy dealing with the aftermath (so much paperwork and so many communications..!). I welcome all love and healing that is sent my way, but please be patient if you write or call and I don't get back to you for a while.
And yes, for those of you who I know would be advising this, I am on antibiotics for the tick bite and am under the care of a chiropractor.