As we start to emerge from our cocoons of the past year, we are entering what Social Scientists call a “liminal moment” – the often uncomfortable in-between phase that happens when we are exiting one way of being and transitioning into another. This transition phase brings both uncertainty and opportunity.

Reflecting on these times, nature offers us a valuable lesson in how to navigate uncertainty, change and transformation as we individually and collectively create and transition into our ‘new normal’. Late Spring and early summer sets the stage for one of the greatest transformations in the natural world; the caterpillar – butterfly metamorphosis.

The humble caterpillar is born with remarkable biological characteristics. Caterpillars possess both the tools of its own destruction and its re-birth. Caterpillars are born with the DNA blueprint to become butterflies. Known as imaginal cells, the genetic blueprint of the butterfly is stored in the caterpillar’s cells waiting to be activated when the transformation process is initiated. Caterpillars are also born with the ability to produce enzymes which play an important role in the transformation process; enabling the caterpillar to morph into a butterfly.

The transformation process is initiated when the caterpillar enters the pupa stage. The caterpillar eats and eats, ingesting itself into a coma state before retreating into a little sack-like structure of its own making known as a chrysalis. During the first few days of living in the chrysalis, the caterpillar’s enzymes ‘eat’ the caterpillar’s body; unlocking the genetic information of the butterfly contained in the imaginal cells in the process. After several days, the butterfly’s newly formed body slowly emerges from the chrysalis sack and the butterfly takes its first flight into the world in its new form.

While scientists understand what goes on inside the chrysalis and how the process of transformation happens; why the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly remains a mystery of nature!

Butterfly Symbolism

The caterpillar – butterfly metamorphosis holds profound spiritual meaning in many cultures. The butterfly has long been a symbol of transformation, re-birth and hope through the ages

In early Christianity, the butterfly was a symbol of the soul. In China, the butterfly was a symbol of conjugal bliss and joy. The butterfly was particularly revered by the Native American Indian tribes of the American Southwest. Its dance is performed by both Navajo and Hopis. In the Hopi tradition, unmarried girls of the butterfly clan wore their hair in the shape of butterfly wings to signal their availability to potential mates. To Native Americans, the butterfly is a symbol of change, joy and colour. The butterfly was considered a miracle of transformation and resurrection.

Metamorphosis and The Human Experience

The caterpillar – butterfly transformation reminds us that change always precedes growth and confusion precedes clarity. It teaches us that we must shed the old in order to step into a new reality.

The caterpillar most likely felt fear and discomfort during the transformation process. At some point, the caterpillar will have made the decision to stop fighting to preserve the old and surrender to what was meant to be.

It’s a liminal moment for humanity too right now. We are on the precipice of a huge transformational shift in consciousness. We are being presented with an opportunity to reimagine the foundations upon which we’ve built our world.

It’s a liminal moment for us individually too. As we start to emerge from our cocoons, we may have a clearer sense of the direction we want to move in and what we want to bring closer in our lives – as well as what needs to be de-prioritised or shed altogether as it’s no longer aligned with who we are now or the direction we want to move in.

Perhaps you feel exhausted or overwhelmed by what we’ve lived through over this past year. You may not yet have clarity on how to move forward. And that’s ok. The past year has been a LOT to process. Give yourself time.

Here are three questions that might support you to gain clarity to move forward:

  1. What do you feel like you’ve outgrown? (Clue: What doesn’t feel aligned anymore)?
  2. What (and who) feels empowering, expansive, nourishing and supportive?
  3. How do you want to show up in the world as you emerge from your cocoon?

The past year has brought both challenges and gifts. It has been uncomfortable in many ways. Yet, as the butterfly’s transformation shows us, times of uncertainty, confusion and change are also ripe with potential for growth. These times are an invitation to birth a new reality – one that is anchored in a heart-based consciousness and fuelled by a determination to create a more equitable and sustainable world for all beings.

How can we do that you may ask? The time has come for us to re-orient ourselves to our HUMANness and the knowing deep within ourselves that we are all connected. Only then can we live from a place of peace, connection and wellbeing.