As we move towards the Spring Equinox, life’s inherent call to renew brings me an embodied hope, yet increasingly this hope sits uneasily within collective disorientation and quiet despair as natural and human systems falter.
It feels like a paradox, but with the old ways failing to thrive and the new ways yet to emerge I am reminded of evolutionary biologist Elisibet Sartouris offering the metamorphic process of caterpillar becoming butterfly as a compelling metaphor for our times. The critical stage in which the old unsustainable system fights to preserve itself as a new system is being born may be just where we find ourselves personally and collectively. She writes:
‘Caterpillars chew their way through ecosystems leaving a path of destruction as they get fatter and fatter. When they finally fall asleep and a chrysalis forms around them, tiny new imaginal cells, as biologists call them, begin to take form within their bodies. The caterpillar’s immune system fights these new cells as though they were foreign intruders, and only when they crop up in great enough numbers and link themselves together are they strong enough to survive. Then the caterpillar’s immune system fails and its body dissolves into a nutritive soup that the new cells recycle into the developing butterfly.
‘The caterpillar is a necessary stage, but becomes unsustainable once its job is done. There is no point in being angry with the caterpillar, the task is to focus on building the butterfly’.
When I find myself feeling small when measured against the enormity of the troubles in the world, and the systems around me fail to offer hope or creative solutions, I increasingly turn to the old stories, which throughout human history have sought to explain and help people navigate the great archetypal transitions of birth, death and rebirth. Mythologist Micheal Meade poetically reminds me ‘that the great Sprit of Life which is at once much greater than ourselves yet secretly connected to ourselves, has no choice but to enter the world through the hearts of those souls living a given time’. The word inspiration originally meant ‘filled with a holy breath’ and derives from same root as ‘spirit’. My sense is that each human heart, infused with the light of Spirit, holds the potential for our unique personal inspiration to ignite the potentiality of our imaginal cell.
Yet how could a caterpillar possibly conceive its butterfly potential? To blossom and birth ourselves anew may feel like a lonely, maverick and dangerous act and inevitably fears and self-doubt’s will surface. As part of the process it feels important to find who and what supports us to stand in our integrity, to walk the less travelled road and ultimately to find our wings. Recalling the ‘imaginal cells linking together’ we may feel called to be amongst others who also understand the deep call for growth and change and who can be the friends of our soul life.
To conclude with some encouragement, for all change requires some of that, I offer again the inspiration of Jungian analyst and cantadora Clarissa Pinkola-Estes ‘if you have yet to be called defiant and incorrigible, don’t worry, there is still time.”
Ali ROSE is a Registered Somatic Therapist, combining talking, clothed touch and movement to support you physically, emotionally and psychologically. Recognising body and mind as inseparable we give space to what the body knows and support the body-mind integration of life experiences. Click HERE to find out more about her individual therapy work.