Patience is a Virtue: How the Caterpillar Becomes a Butterfly

About a year ago while driving, I listened to an NPR science program about the newest scientific understanding of how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. I was also reminded at a spiritual event last weekend about a well-known parable of ‘the Emperor Moth’ which focuses on how important it is to not force a butterfly or moth to emerge too early from its cocoon.

Scientists have found that when a caterpillar enters into its pupae stage inside a chrysalis, it appears to completely dissolve! If you open the cocoon at that point there is no structure there, no organs, just a gooey substance. Then out of this primordial ooze a butterfly takes form, an entirely distinct, new creature altogether! This staggers my understanding as a waking dream story, a metaphor for my own or others’ deepest life transformations.

What this metaphor of the chrysalis says to me is that I have to be patient with myself, and with others, to allow a complete transformation process to reshape the conditions allowing positive growth and birth or rebirth to transpire naturally. You cannot rush change without impinging upon the fullest realization of the change potentials.

I have had ample opportunities lately to find or practice patience. As a new homeowner, it seems like every time I turn around another emergency pops up! The nice new washing machine I was grateful to have stopped mid cycle during a power outage and now does not spin or drain. The marvelous sliding door to my pretty little deck has been letting the rain in onto the beautiful wood flooring in  the living room! I have slathered on sealer but still yesterday more water splattered in with the rain. And my dear Sophie had a bee sting during a walk that she was terribly allergic to, developing dangerous hive blisters all over her body during the 24-minute trip to the vet for a shot of antihistamines.

But, you know? The washing machine snafu has led me to purchase a good home warranty policy. Even though that takes a month to kick in so I am going to a laundromat for awhile, there is a laundromat not too far away and the dryer still works, and the warranty could save me a bundle and get me through plenty more glitches down the road. I have a professional handyman fixing the door as I write, and that should be a good job for not too much expense. And Sophie is okay after her emergency, so now I am more vigilant on her walks and keep her away from tall grasses.

images are from

There is a deeper lesson I am gaining from all of these events (and some others not mentioned here), about detachment and the importance of maintaining a higher perspective. I choose not to be stuck in my head or let daily annoyances or needs hold me down in a negative state of worry.

I have been watching alot of NOVA programs about Space this month, plus contemplating daily, and I find that focusing on Mars or Jupiter or the Cosmos helps to lift my attention out of the immediacy of practical concerns. My favorite film, Contact, has been showing this month too and I have watched it again twice. Talk about patience! In Contact, Eleanor Arroway (played brilliantly by Jodie Foster) is a SETI scientist who spends hours and days and months and years sorting through one distant region of the galaxy after another in a seemingly futile search for intelligent extraterrestrial life.  After Eleanor does actually make contact, this launches her on the journey of many lifetimes where she is shown a depth of reality no other earthling has physically encountered. Even so, like in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, very few believe her when she tries to communicate about what she has seen. So, she returns to her life of patient observations.

“Small steps” is the message of Carl Sagan’s Contact. I am finding that principle applies to my life, daily!

I welcome YOUR Story and Comments!




What’s a Heaven For?


Throughout this year at Life Paths for Better Endings, each month we are conjoining one of twelve universal archetype character types with one positive Life Metaphor, forging an ‘alchemical’ pairing of elements. These conjunctions are to help us manifest Better Endings with respect to our highest values and pursuits. The archetypal energies we are invoking can help us to actualize the Life Metaphor impetus; that is, calling upon the strengths of your intrinsic archetypal character modes can help you realize your highest life values and goals.

Mountain Climber Summit Retro

This month we are pairing February’s astrologically associated IDEALIST archetype with the metaphor Life is a Long and Winding Road.  This feels a very natural conjunction in that sometimes, when the Road feels too long or windy, we can derive needed inspiration from our deepest ‘sense of idealism’.

Corporate Ladder

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,” said Robert Browning, “Or what’s a heaven for?” (“Andrea del Sarto”, line 98).   Let’s call upon our Idealist traits of fortitude and perseverance this week. An ideal or your ultimate Life Dream is worth all the patience and love you can give to gradually realize its highest form of expression.

Like the Monarch butterfly, we cannot be pulled too quickly from our chrysalis of an ideal; only by its own natural struggle toward unfoldment can the strong and healthy, beautiful butterfly emerge from its cocoon.

Digital Painting of a Butterfly

I am reminded of the Buddhist practice of travel via prostration to reach the pilgrimage center of Bodh Gaya where the Buddha is said to have reached enlightenment under a peepul tree.  A monk, e.g. Sherab Gyalsten from Tibet recently (see story), “takes three and a half steps forward, then prostrates flat on the road while chanting mantras. Then he gets up, folds his hands in prayer and repeats the process.” The pilgrimage may take the monk many years to reach the destination. I have seen a documentary about such a monk who arrived after several years to attend a special ceremony at Bodh Gaya. When he arrived he learned the ceremony had been cancelled for that year due to weather conditions. He turned around, prostrated and chanted, and began his journey home.

young Buddhist monks

In what ways are you set upon a Long and Winding Road in your life? How can you draw upon your Idealist strengths to help you to realize your Dream?