Who are you becoming?


This may seem like a strange question. You’re an adult, you already have a life. But you are not a static being. You are always becoming. Look at nature. It shows us that all things continue to unfold. I agree with Dan Gilbert, an author and Harvard psychologist. He says: “Human beings are work in progress, who mistakenly think they are finished.”


Blame the butterfly for my question of becoming.

Flashes of blue catch our eyes. Fluttering wings come into focus. A butterfly lights atop a pink flower. Don, Rich and I are walking on a gorgeous path between wildflowers. Morton Arboretum hikes often delight our senses. Today is no exception.


Butterfly encounters always stop us in our tracks.  Silky wings flit from flower to flower. Her bright blue body against pink wildflowers is breathtaking. Our conversation shifts from family updates to moments of awe. The metamorphosis of these creatures now becomes our topic.

Butterflies are heavily laden with symbolism. With all this weight it is surprising that they can even fly. Aristotle named butterflies psyche, the Greek word for soul. Psyche the Greek and Roman goddess of soul is often depicted with butterfly wings. As Joan of Arc rode through the French countryside people witnessed a spectacular cloud of butterflies in her wake. This was believed to be a sign that she was surrounded by the Divine. In Christian art, butterflies symbolize the resurrection of Jesus.

Butterflies capture our collective imagination. Their journey from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to winged beauty echoes the mysteries of our own soul. We feel a kinship to this process of becoming. We too unfold moment to moment, cell by cell. Even though recognition of this often happens outside our awareness.

We forget the journey of this glory of nature. Before her beautiful blue wings formed, she looked like this.

This caterpillar phase is about eating and growing. Her body expands so much it repeatedly sheds and reforms its restrictive outer skin. In time, eating is complete. Then she finds a twig or leaf where she will hang upside down. Now she spins a silky cocoon for protection. Within this covering a radical transformation occurs. The caterpillar self dissolves into a soupy substance. It becomes unrecognizable. Eventually a butterfly forms and emerges.


What these mesmerizing messengers show us about stages of transformation:

There are times we need to…

  • gobble up resources.
  • cocoon and spend time alone.
  • let go of who we think we are.
  • become unrecognizable.
  • emerge in a new form.


It is easy to see why butterflies have become a powerful metaphor for transformation. Their journey is like our journey of discovery. Remember you are not finished. You continue to unfold, no matter your age! However, even with this sense of becoming it is difficult to recognize our emerging self. Glimpses and flashes are often all that we receive.


Here are places to look…

• Where do you feel most present, most alive?
Activities that resonate with our core are energizing. We can do them tirelessly. In fact, we often lose track of time in the process. This doesn’t mean they are easy. Often, they are challenging. We become deeply engaged and they receive our full attention.

• Do you listen to your longing?
Awareness of our longing enhances the process. We participate by listening and respecting our yearning. Staying attentive connects us to a self that waits to be known. What is trying to emerge in your life? Is there a talent or skill that you have put on the back burner? Is there something you long to experience?


• What are your reoccurring conflicts?
Many say they learned a great deal about themselves through conflicts. I have. Not that it is easy. Conflicts, both inner and outer, can reveal who we are. They make us consider our values and what gives meaning to our lives. They help us fine tune what really matters. The fact that they reoccur tells me that there is something to learn from them. Conflicts are where we can learn to ask for what we need.


Encounters on our arboretum walks will continue to happen. What we will discover is unknown. We do know that nature is an engaging teacher. Following her patterns teaches us about who we are and who we are becoming. Fragrant wildflowers, coyote sightings, red tailed hawk circling in the sky; each have lessons to teach about our emerging self.

If we pay attention.


A now a gentle reminder:  Tickets are on sale for Showing Up the documentary I wrote and produced.

Please click this link to join us: https://www.eventbrite.com/…/showing-up-dare-to-live…. Hope we will see you on Saturday, October 15th at the Tivoli Cinema in Downers Grove.  

Photo credit Caterpillar Hectonichus 
Photo credit Butterfly Nancy Hill