The Necessary Cocoon

     Before a butterfly experiences the first flap of its wings, it must go through a very sacred process, so sacred that it occurs in a little room hidden from the rest of the world. From the start to the end, no one can tell what’s going on inside that silky shell. But one thing’s for sure: within the privacy of the cocoon, the wriggling, leaf-eating caterpillar is being transformed into a beautiful, nectar-worthy butterfly. Soon enough he will leave behind his squirmy ways to take to the skies! Well, maybe not the skies, but he won’t have to crawl that much anymore – flitting from flower to sweet flower will be his new way of life.

In all stages of life, whenever we reach the natural end of any cycle, we will have to go through a very similar process of metamorphosis. Leaving behind the slow, wormy ways of our past may not be an easy task for us, especially because to everyone else, we don’t seem to be doing anything! We’re just, you know, hiding in there, in the cocoon, sloshing in our own mess. We even ask if will we come out of it any better. But the answer already resonates within the fluttering wings of every single butterfly in the world; they go through it, and they all, like you will soon, emerge triumphant.

Spinning a Sacred Place

In the very beginning, before the transformation, we may have been hit by a sudden realization. Perhaps, an epiphany dawns upon us while we are in the showers, or your parents/spouse/children, say something that really jolted you to your senses Whatever the case, we are displaced, we are dislodged. A ticking in our clocks tell us that we are no longer going to survive if we continue in our current state. The caterpillar must transform. So we start spinning the cocoon. The first few threads are pure deceit. We lie to ourselves, saying in warm, soothing tones, that everything will be alright, that perhaps we don’t need to change at all. What do you mean change? We were doing fine all this while! And then come the threads of worry. But what if what they said were true? How will I cope?  Slowly, these threads become threads of faith. Perhaps I should embrace change. Perhaps at the end of it, I will come out better, stronger, more resilient. And so our cocoon is spun with the threads of all our various hopes and fears, combining and interweaving to form our sacred place.

What on Earth is Going On In There?

Whether it is that we begin to shy away from people, or we start to throw ourselves headlong into work and endless activities, the result is the same. We are hiding a tender part of ourselves in the sacred place, in the cocoon. And putting up the mask will ensure that no one can truly see the transformation. No, they can’t pierce the veil to have a good, clear view of what’s going on inside, so they might become prone to guessing. Oh, he’s becoming lazier and lazier He’ll never amount to anything. Or, she’s completely succumbed to workaholism. Really pity her children. Or, Just ignore that person, it’ll be better of for you. None of their guesses are entirely right of course, as they don’t have an inkling of the transformation going on within. Well, neither do you. So many parts of you inside the cocoon are undergoing tremendous change simultaneously so that it gets really difficult to keep track of yourself. It’s a state of chaos, a state of mess. Outside, you look composed, but nobody knows about what is going on inside of you.

Within the cocoon, a caterpillar’s organs and tissue break down into a primal soup of information and raw material. Slowly, as if following a grand, but hidden design, it re-assembles itself to form adult cells and organs. The new takes the place of the old in an elegant, sacred process, protected away from the rest of the world. But while it is still raw, still soup, it can’t figure out the head or tail of anything at all. And neither can the rest of the world. In the cocoon, it is completely vulnerable, yet entirely safe. While you may overhear your colleagues badmouthing you, it all seems to slip off somehow. While your project might end up in the drain, it doesn’t really hurt you so much to the core. You just pick it up and start over again. Somehow, you are in a weak position, yet completely immune. You are transforming, you are changing, you may be in the pit, cold, shivering, and afraid, but you aren’t shattered. You are merely reforming. You are recycling everything inside you, you are turning it around and upside down. All the failures, all the insults, all the negativity is being used as raw material. It is being transformed, and nobody knows how it works, but it does.

Out of the cocoon

And then nature justifies itself. All the time spent tucked away in a corner of the universe where nothing can really get in, or out, was for one specific purpose. And the revelation of that purpose would only come about when time itself has reached its point of ripening – the cocoon breaks, and from its broken husks emerge a fully grown, flight-capable butterfly. From a fairly immobile, slowly squirming caterpillar to a fluttering butterfly – who for once in his life could afford to feed only on nectar, thanks to the fantastic wings – the secret was in the time spent away in the cocoon.

But during that time, there is always a little bit of doubt: what if I can’t break out? What if the cocoon is too strong, or… I am too weak? The consequences seem fatal. The newly morphed butterfly would be trapped in his own shell; his means of transformation becomes his own casket, and stuck in there, it would be a very, very slow death. But despite this fatal possibility, when the time comes for the butterfly to break lose, it will break lose. At times, it could take hours. It could feel as if you were trapped in limbo. You are half-aware of your transformation, half-aware of the cool air that you feel for the very first time, half-aware of the breeze that will carry you to the nearest flower, if only you could get your wings lose. It feels like forever. But just like all the butterflies in the world that came before, this one will break free.

And when you are finally free, you experience a form of liberation that would change your entire life. No longer do the people around you wonder why you behave the way you do. The time you spent locked up in your cabin up the hill did after all produce that best-seller that everyone’s nephew is reading. All the cans of tuna you ate, while everyone else was splurging on fantastic restaurant meals, did help you make it through your company’s successful start-up. Every rave party you turned down did after all give you the time to build up the network you needed to take your sales project to the next level.

Even if all that didn’t happen, even if all your best efforts turned a failure, don’t forget that at the end of it you did break out of the cocoon. And that can only mean one thing. You have come out of it better, stronger, and more resilient. Not by the standards of the world, but by your standards. And fellow butterfly to fellow butterfly, I’d say, that’s not too shabby eh? 😉

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