In my office I have a special guest. When it first arrived, it was yellow with black spikes. It is a caterpillar my daughter found in the yard and put into an indoor butterfly habitat filled with fresh leaves and a long stick. Our cats were quite fascinated with the little creature – staring at it and smelling it, with an occasional tap on the cage. It needed a quiet place without prying claws so into my office it came. After researching what kind of glorious butterfly it would turn into, we found out it is a moth caterpillar. Slightly disappointed, but still enthusiastic, we watched it and waited. In just a few days it had spun its cocoon and attached to the side of its habitat. And there it waits for transformation. The cats are no longer interested in it as there is no movement or new smells to stir their interest.
I admire the caterpillar’s ability to cocoon. When I think of all the writing I want to do, and all the shifts and changes I would like to create, I dream of being in a cocoon able to block out the rest of the world and just focus on my inner world. Every year I attempt just that and go away by myself for a few days on a retreat. I pack up a big pile of papers, books, my laptop and have a long To-Do list of the work I will get done. What often happens is NOT the accomplishment of the To-Do list. It is usually a lot of exhaling and time just to be and connect with my soul. It would help if I chose not to connect with the WI-FI, which even at my favorite north woods retreat center run by Franciscan Sisters is blessed with a strong signal. But like a big bag of Doritos – it is hard to ignore.
I work out of my home so it is not like I don’t have quiet alone time. The challenge is the allowing of being quiet and going within. My day starts around 6:30 with a mad rush to get my daughter up and ready to get to the school bus on time which she conveniently picks up at the YMCA. Every weekday I am faced with – do I work out now….or go home and get work done and maybe… maybe go later. Once home, I feel the urgency to jump on email and Facebook to respond to the needs of clients, friends, and volunteer commitments. And well, to just get enmeshed in everything that is going on in the world that serves as a HUGE distraction from being truly present for my life. It seems like it would be the opposite because I am connecting with people and being active in the world from my computer screen. But it all comes down to filling my head and my heart with noise, so much noise that I can’t hear my own heart. We’re all guilty—so much noise that we can’t hear our soul speaking the truth without fear or shoulds.
One of my favorite books is Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus. It contains many nuggets including one that has held deep meaning for me for years.
“How does one become a butterfly?” she asked.
“You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”
A caterpillar instinctively makes that decision. It picks its spot, spins its cocoon, and deliberately creates that transformation. We need to be deliberate, too, in the decision to create change in our lives. Unfortunately for most of us, we can’t cocoon ourselves in our homes, or in a cabin in the woods (another fantasy!), or in a house by a beach. Steven King wrote his first novel in the evening in his laundry room after working his day job and JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter in a coffee shop. Maybe the transformation you seek begins at your local gym, or in a corner of your living room, or gets a jump start from an inspiring workshop or retreat. For most of us, the transformation takes place out in the world supported by steps that nurture our curiosity and peak our desires enough to move through the discomfort of change. The question becomes – are we willing to get uncomfortable? Can we be deliberate in our quest for transformation and build our own unique cocoon that begins the journey? I believe we can.