Cocooning

“We have to be  patient.  We have to let go and tap our creative stillness.  Most of all we have to trust that our scarred hearts really do have wings.”  Sue Monk Kidd

Patience…creativity…stillness…trust… These words, though written back in the early 2000s, seem to be every bit as relevant to us today as they must have been to the writer back then.

Sue Monk Kidd writes a lot about spiritual growth, change and transformation. For “seekers” such as herself, she recommends a time of “cocooning” – going deep inside oneself to “disturb the universe” residing there. And often she uses the imagery of caterpillar to butterfly to illustrate this spiritual, solitary experience.

I think about the butterfly and how, in many early religions, this was a symbol of the “soul”, of  the “psyche”, often serving as a metaphor representing spiritual rebirth, transformation, change, hope and life. Among native Americans, it is a symbol of renewal.

And now I see now that the emergence of the butterfly from its chrysalis may also serve as a metaphor for our lives today. Like the caterpillar, we have entered a “cocoon”. We have withdrawn, voluntarily, from most of our normal social environments. We sit and we wait, patiently trusting that soon we can break through the shell that enfolds us. All the while, like the incipient butterfly, we are transforming.

The change is unavoidable…our universe has been disturbed. Every aspect of our lives have been affected…our routines, how we relate, how we work, shop, worship. We have more “down time” that we fill with reading, binge watching on Netflix, maybe zooming with family and friends.

Still… time remains. And it is then that some of us have turned inward, spending time reflecting – on what once was, what we are most missing, re-living the past, planning for the future. Perhaps we have even re-set some priorities. It is during this time of inner disruption that the critical transformation takes place,  – here is when the caterpillar gets its wings.

Yes, many of us will emerge from our chrysalis changed from when we entered. Maybe we will be more aware, more appreciative of what we have, maybe less certain, or more engaged. Whatever the effect, we will be more…we will be less – our universe has, unwittingly, been disturbed.

All this while, outside the stillness of my cocoon, there is much going on. Our world is busy working through many difficulties brought into the light by exactly what forced us into darkness. As we prepare to leave our chrysalis, our country, too, will be breaking away from much that has enveloped it. We hope to emerge from one of the darkest periods of our history…one that has revealed to all of us some hard realities that had long been hidden beneath the surface. Realities that, likely, have significantly impacted our time spent cocooning.

So, still in my chrysalis, I wait patiently for that time when I can begin to peel away the protective, yet restrictive shell that protects me, when I can move around freely, though differently, in a very different world – darkness to light, caterpillar to butterfly.

I said to my soul, be still, and wait…

Faith and love are all in the waiting…

So the darkness shall be the light,

And the stillness the dancing.

                                                                                                     T. S. Elliot

Postscript:  As we are just now beginning to envision life beyond the cocoon, I think about the holy seasons that are upon us. Christians and Jews alike celebrate periods of moving from darkness to light – symbolized by the menorah candles of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, and by the four candles of the Advent wreath reminding us that this is a time of waiting.