Metamorphosis is derived from three Greek words meaning 'transformation', 'change' and 'form'. One of my favourite definitions that I've happened upon is: 'changing form in keeping with inner reality.'
When I think about metamorphosis, I immediately think of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly or a tadpole a frog. I particularly like the caterpillar to butterfly process as it seems to be a perfect parallel story for my own spiritual journey and transformation process. I like the incomplete metamorphosis of the dragonfly as well, partly because I love that the young are called 'Nymphs' but also because the young look very similar to the adults only they are missing their huge pair of glimmering wings and their beautiful colours- how many of us can relate to that?
I was reading up on metamorphosis this morning and there were a few things that really spoke to me. In the caterpillar stage, there is really only one purpose- eat. The caterpillar eats, eats and eats until it is so huge it needs a new skin. It then splits its old skin and lo and behold there is a new one underneath so the caterpillar has lots more space to eat and eat again. Does this not feel like the childish state of humanity. We live in a caterpillar word where it is all about eating, eating and more eating. However, there are lessons to be learnt in the eating, for one, if you're just eating to get bigger you will always feel like there is something missing because there is that 'inner reality' of the butterfly that is not yet a true reality for you. Secondly, if you are on a Spiritual path, you will know that feeling when you just don't fit your currently life reality anymore, you have eaten everything within reach and nothing seems right any more. Everything feels tight and painful and it feels like you are probably dying. Just when you feel like you cant take it anymore, your skin splits open and you have a whole new reality that fits you so much better. These death-life cycles are incredibly important on the Spiritual path. Something dies- something is born.
Once the caterpillar has eaten and burst 4 or 5 times, there comes the next stage, the Pupa or Chrysalis stage. At this point the caterpillar has had several practice runs of what it feels like to be too big for its skin and gone through several small transitions (which feel a bit like death), and they are ready to undergo their final transformation to become their true selves once and for all. This is probably the part of the process that we don't like very much and don't want to go through. It looks like death and it feels very unproductive, however it is the only way. In my life this looks like, the acceptance that I feel uncomfortable and that i need to focus my energy inward. It looks like choosing what lives and what dies in my life- what still serves me (relationships, hobbies, how I spend my time) and what doesn't serve any more. It is a state of trust to let go of those comfortable things that feel familiar and safe, waiting for the new things that are just around the corner of this ending. The green shoots will come up out of the warming ground in Spring, but Winters job must be completed first. There is a surrender to the small, still voice of truth here, and you must truly listen, even though it may be very painful, it will lead you home to yourself. So, even though when the caterpillar is inside the pupa it looks like nothing is happening, VERY big changes are happening inside.
And one day, it is time for the butterfly to emerge. This feels a bit like a birthing to me. The butterfly must go through the process in order to split open its chrysalis and come out. Once the butterfly is out, it pumps blood into its wings to 'inflate' them'. I like the 'pumping' metaphor. Once you are emerging there will still be the peaks and troughs, and the more you pump goodness into your spiritual life/ work, the more your wings will inflate, but this too is a process, and there will be times when you feel tired and wonder if you will ever get there- ever find your 'thing'. But one day you will! Your beautiful wings will have unfolded and dried and you will be ready to learn to fly.
So what is the adult butterfly's purpose- reproduction baby! As fully fledged spiritual butterflies, it is our job to create more love, more life and more goodness wherever we go. If we refuse to go deep down into the 'death' cycles then we will probably still be stuck in the 'feed me' stages of our development, but, but, that is where the adult butterflies come in too, because those of us who are still stuck on the caterpillar stage on the leaves, will look up and see these beautiful creatures soaring above them, and something inside them will yearn, and be inspired, because all of us were born to fly. Just like the ugly duckling calls out to the Swans soaring above his head, so truly we all know that we were born to drink from flowers and bring beauty and colour to the world.