We had caterpillars. And then after increasing to more than triple their original size, they all crawled to the top of our gauze butterfly house. A silent migration. A day or two of stillness follows. No more incessant eating. Internal alchemy was kicking in. Their skins hardened. And then in the dark stillness of these alien-looking forms, magic was happening. The caterpillars turning into a soup of imaginal cells. Every part of who and what they previously were dissolved and re-formed. Where once were dumpy crawling black, green and yellow striped ravenous larvae, now were white winged nectar-sipping beauties. They could fly!
A tired metaphor for transformation. But nature never tires of her parables of life, death and change… because we are always integrating these lessons. And the caterpillars are our Buddhas. We are slow learners.
I have realised that this cocoon space is where I’m at. My own inner Underworld. A metamorphosis of body and soul. The breakdown. Hopefully before the breakthrough.
Just when you long for it to be over – it’s OK, I get it, I’m changing, I need to change, enough already, mercy please… it carries on.
The beauty of social media is that this process, once hidden, private, is now more frequently shared, especially in those magical growth spaces of private groups. This liminal place of deep transformation is little discussed or understood in the outside world – and can be filled with shame, despondency, frustration… which become defining factors, so hard to shift through… creating a new victim or patient identity for the transformee…
It is, it seems, a key part of the process of transformation…. this dissolution within the cocoon…. You think you’re just changing your eating habits, or starting a new company… or even a new hobby… But suddenly everything’s in the soup – your relationships, your money, your self-esteem, your health…
Us dreamers want it all to be sweetness, light and rose-scented fairy farts… we want change to be EASY. But the truth is that it never is. In order for us to shed our identities, we have to be broken open, rolled-over by a steam-roller, pulverised, almost completely destroyed before we will relinquish control and let go of the ties which held us to the previous identity.
It is so easy to wax lyrical about – this is the purpose of art I think, to beautify, symbolise this unbearable process of metamorphosis. This agonisingly slow movement towards greater wholeness.
This is the time when we need every affirmation and creativity and spiritual practices should come into play and buoy us up, pull us through, give us faith… but it is often only in retrospect that we can see it. When we are in the trenches we believe the voices in our heads which tell us we’re useless, a waste of space, untalented, unloved, unlovable. Creativity and spirituality become laboured, forced, fake-feeling. Practices of light become an unenjoyable effort. We know ourselves to be completely alone. And the darkness is complete.
The lie of the self-help movement is that you are in control… That you can, you should be “happy” all the time. The alchemical forces of transformation are much bigger than we, their vision far deeper and grander. We can set our intention, our vision, point the vessel of ourselves in in the right direction – but the wind cannot be controlled. We must learn to sail, to surf, to float, to hang on for dear life when the storm winds howl, to know when to batten down the hatches, and when to unfurl the spinnaker. We will be shaped by the wind. There is nothing more certain than that. We must rise and fall.
It will blow away the tired patina of pretense, the carefully manicured appearance from us one day, one day, until all that is left is our soul shining free.
(In the wonderful synchronicity, a massive wink from the Universe, just moments after finishing writing this post, my four-year-old came in with a card she had made for me…)
And this also serendipitously crossed my path a couple of hours later – from Journey to the Dark Goddess by Jane Meredith. I love this way of framing the journey and thoroughly recommend this book.
“In a journey to the Dark Goddess we travel deeply into ourselves, seeking answers to difficulties, strength in a crisis, and healing or change when we have become stuck. Sometimes we make this journey consciously, but all too often we find ourselves on the path without knowing how we got there, what to do or how to get out. Some of us spend years down there, in a shadowy, inner realm known as the Underworld.
When we undertake a journey towards the Dark Goddess much that we have accumulated is stripped away. Sometimes we experience this as having parts of our lives we have relied on taken from us; such as health, relationships, emotional stability and status. We cannot visit the Dark Goddess while still keeping our place in the world; we cannot be in two places at once. This means we have to strip off – or more painfully, be stripped of – all our guises, props and patterns that are so much a part of our lives we have almost come to think of them as ourselves. In stripping down to the core we find our intrinsic self, or our soul and that is where we meet with the Dark Goddess.
Journeying to the Dark Goddess is filled with paradoxes. For an empowering and inspiring experience it is best to travel towards her willingly; yet we almost never do that. If we want to understand the Dark Goddess and the part she plays in our lives we have to invoke her, invite her in, sit with her. Instead we shun, avoid and cower from her. We experience her as utterly other – the scary witch, a faceless dark power, a nightmare – as removed from ourselves as possible; yet when we finally meet with her we discover she is a part of us. And not just any part. We find her in the deepest, truest remnant of our souls; always there to remind us – when we make the journey – of who we are on the inside. One of the paradoxes is that the worst times in our lives – times when we felt out of control, in grief, pain and distress – can be followed by the emergence of new inspiration and energy, accompanied by determination to live a life of beauty and meaning. This is a rebirth by the Dark Goddess. “