Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Spiritual Meaning of Butterfly

     "We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve such beauty." ~ Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Women : Four Poems Celebrating Women

      Several years ago I watched a documentary about the endangered Monarch butterflies and the 1976 discovery of the Mexico to U.S. migration route. Monarchs will only lay their eggs on milkweed because it is the ONLY food that monarch larvae will eat. So we can help the Monarch by planting native milkweed along their migration route. Although no one knows for sure if planting milkweed actually helps the species, I felt inspired to try.

     I ordered a package of milkweed seeds online to start a milkweed patch in my backyard. But I had no idea how difficult it is to grow milkweed from seeds! Or how much patience this process would require. (You can avoid this issue by purchasing milkweed plants in the spring from a local nursery!)

     After keeping the seed packet in the fridge all winter,  I started 100 seeds indoors in the spring. But only a dozen sprouted.  I transplanted the sprouts near a butterfly bush. The flowers on the bush would provide food for any butterflies who came to lay eggs, or who were born in my garden.

     Although Monarch butterflies have chemical receptors in their antenna that can detect milkweed from miles away, none found my plants. When cold weather set in that fall, the milkweed died back and I assumed that was the end of my Monarch Butterfly Project.

Patience Pays Off

     The next spring I was surprised to see milkweed springing up where I had planted them the year prior.

  I began checking the milkweed leaves for eggs.  I never saw any. But one day in late summer, there was a caterpillar!

     He must have been chomping away on those leaves for weeks, undetected. Because the very next day I saw him hanging from one end, motionless. Was he dead? I went back to the garden a few hours later and was awed to see the transformation.

  The larva, or caterpillar was now a pupa, or chrysalis. About two weeks after the caterpillar became a pupa, a butterfly emerged from the pupa. Nearly two years after watching that documentary, a Monarch began a new life among the milkweed I had started.

The Meaning of Butterfly

     Everything unfolds in divine timing, even when it doesn't feel like it is. That's not just a euphemism. It's a belief that's been validated over and over in my life. And it's a belief that creates a free flow of energy, because it is aligned with universal truth.

     Even though it seemed like it took forever for a butterfly to lay an egg in my backyard, it was perfect timing. It was a message that an internal process every bit as awe-inspiring as the metamorphosis of the butterfly was taking place...a message I really needed at that time.

     When we go through these deep transformations, they can feel like anything but. It can feel like nothing is changing, or you're exhausted and up against a wall, or overwhelmed and over-run with high emotions.  It can feel like pretty much anything, much of which may be unexpected. And what it feels like can keep changing.

     I imagine what it must be like for that caterpillar, to be voraciously eating those milkweed leaves and find herself slowing down to a standstill...her body taken over by the metamorphosis process. And all she can do is surrender to that process. I imagine her going into the darkness of the chrysalis, and surrendering even more. Maybe she thinks she has died. Indeed, transformation does require a death. It is the death of the old and the outgrown that must take place for us to become who we are meant to be.

     I can imagine what a shock it would be to be for a caterpillar to wake up one day and discover itself completely transformed with the ability to fly. If you are going through a difficult transformational experience, I'm sure waking up one day to find yourself utterly changed and your soul soaring would be shocking as well. That change may be entirely internal, or it could be change that extends to your outer life as well.

                                                    (butterfly from my garden on my shoulder)

Symbol of Transformation

     The amazing lifecycle of a butterfly is what makes it such a powerful symbol of transformation. But the butterfly doesn't initiate the transformation, or control it. When the time is right, it just happens. She could fight it and suffer. Or she can surrender to what is happening and let her old form of being die.

    Like the monarch caterpillar, you may have been methodically living your life. And then things slow down. And you may feel confused, frightened, and wonder...what is happening to me? What is this process that is turning my life upside down?

     If a butterfly flutters into your life, into your daytime visions or nighttime dreams, a rebirth is at hand. It's a signal that you are transitioning from an old life to a new life. It's a sign that you are ascending to a higher level of awakening. It's a symbol of transformation to higher levels of consciousness and higher energy states.  And although that transition may be unpleasant at times, be assured that it's all in your highest good.

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