Often we learn best when we see ourselves reflected in the eyes of another. It might be through a family member, a best friend, or even through a miracle in nature. And so, a few summers ago I had the privilege of hosting a very special guest in our home to teach me a few things about life: a monarch chrysalis.
Previously, my dad watched this creation from the very beginning as a tiny pin-prick of an egg on a milkweed plant in his garden. From there, a tiny caterpillar hatched, grew into a big caterpillar, and then created a special cocoon for itself where the magic began to weave.
Upon my dad’s urging, Bill and I stopped over and picked up this beautiful chrysalis, hanging from a branch, and took it home to nurture until it was ready to leave. Our new houseguest was a brilliant green cocoon with perfectly arranged dots of gold decoration. This was our first experience with a chrysalis and we weren’t quite sure what to expect. So we watched. And we waited. We heard that, apparently, a large butterfly was supposed to come out of that small green chrysalis!
You probably know how the story goes—a week later, a monarch butterfly emerged and flew away. In the final days and hours before this monumentous event, though, my new learning about myself and about life took place.
This is what the butterfly’s journey taught me about following my joy:
Everything in life is a process that cannot be rushed.
First the cocoon hanging on the branch was an opaque emerald green. Within a few days it became more transparent and we could see the faint outline of a butterfly inside. And during the last hours, the cocoon skin was fully see-through and we could start to see the orange and black stripes folded up neatly inside!
What was taking it so long? We wanted it to come out now, especially before Bill left for the day so he that could see it emerge, too. Everything in life is a process that cannot be rushed. The butterfly knew this. It needed to take its own time to be ready…and not emerge one moment before. Many of us tend to like immediate gratification in our lives—we want things to happen when we want them to happen. Not so, teaches the butterfly. Slow down, be still, and be patient. When the time is right, magnificent things will happen.
Trust the process of life; we don’t need all the answers.
What’s the butterfly doing now? Why won’t it come out? How does it fit in there? Where do the gold dots come from? Why is it waiting so long? Were we ever filled with questions! And we wanted to know all the answers.
Did it really matter anyway?
What if we just trusted that everything was happening exactly as it was meant to unfold? Maybe that “trust” would have allowed us to back off and take a deep breath and focus our energy on simply letting the butterfly “be.” What if we reveled in the mystery and beauty of it all, instead of worrying about the details? Trust the process of life; we don’t have to have all the answers. As we know in nature, the sun will always rise and the sun will always set. When we let go of the details, we are free to experience the true beauty in life.
When you are ready: BE BOLD AND GO!
And so the long-awaited birth came one morning. The chrysalis on the branch wavered a bit and then the folded-up butterfly inside slowly and neatly broke through the bottom of its casing…and emerged! At that moment I recognized this creature as the familiar beautiful monarch I have known since childhood. I was afraid that it would take off before I could grab a picture! But this miraculous insect took its sweet time getting comfortable being out in the elements, learning to flap its wings, and essentially catching its bearings to this new lifestyle.
I watched in awe as the butterfly pumped fluid through its wings and proudly showed off its wing span—it seemed to grow right in front of my eyes! In life, it’s easy to shrink back and not shine in all our glory. The butterfly reminded me of the importance to show life what you’ve got! Illuminate your gifts and talents. Be bold and claim your place in the world.
This beautiful being seemed pretty comfortable just hanging around a while. As humans, we often try to rush life and check things off our “list” as quickly as we can. But what if we took a moment to breathe, get comfortable, and then plunge in? I bet we would be more effective. But you know what? After some time, when the butterfly was ready, it took off.
Through the trees and straight for the bright blue sky. It allowed itself to take the necessary time to prepare, and when it was ready…look out! When you are ready: BE BOLD AND GO! The butterfly certainly didn’t get too attached to its old way of doing things or to the branch that it called home for the past week. When we let go of our old “stuff,” we become ready to boldly stretch our wings and soar to new heights.
That day, I said a thank-you prayer to my new co-habitant on our planet earth for allowing me to see myself reflected in all its glory; to witness the natural process of being and letting joy in. I will not forget its lessons. And later that day as I sat down at my favorite local restaurant patio for lunch, a monarch butterfly soared majestically right over my head.
Note: For another great story about finding lessons in nature, read about our magical experience with dolphins.