The most beautiful butterfly I’ve ever seen landed at my feet today. I’d seen it yesterday and it flew off before I got the chance to really admire it. It had orange wings with purple and blue spots and I now know it’s called the peacock butterfly. Every day I’ve been lucky enough to sit on my grass in the sun and it has paid me a visit saying hello, nudging me to hear this message and share it with you.
As I sat admiring the butterfly, I was reminded of one of nature’s well known lessons. Right now we are in a very strange place of global transition and change, with many of us unwell and uncertain. But the real pandemic we face is one of fear. Fear of getting sick, fear for our loved ones, fear for our livelihoods, fear of death, fear because we have no control. And just beyond it is the necessity to surrender, something so many of us do not understand or know how to do. Surrender does not mean give up; it means to stop resisting what is. Surrender is an act of acceptance, an act of Faith.
On the surface it appears as if everything is crumbling and falling apart and in many ways it is. The old way of being and doing, our priorities as individuals and society - everything is being churned up and none of us know what the other side is going to look like, (For some of us if there is one). So as I looked at this gorgeous winged creature, glorious and free, I remembered it was not always this way. To become the butterfly, the caterpillar had to undergo a death, a metamorphosis, the complete dismemberment and disintegration of its form into a soup of potential. The caterpillar has no idea it can become or will become an exquisitely beautiful flying butterfly, some might say a new and better version of itself (flying has got to be a perk right?!). And just like us, the caterpillar has no choice in its transformation, it weaves its cocoon of isolation and from within that space the death of the old structure it once had takes place. Nature reminds us always to trust in the process of life, death and rebirth, to surrender to the wisdom and divine order of things.
As human beings our powerful minds love to be able to predict, understand and prepare for the next moment, to try to foresee and control our external world so it fits with our own personal programme. But in truth can any of us really control the future, so many variables, so many factors, it’s exhausting trying to juggle them all. If our happiness and well-being depends on making everything fit with our preconceived idea of how they should be and must be, then we give away all our power to the external world and we will never truly be content or happy. What I do know for sure is that there is one thing we do have control over and that is our inner state of being. And that can support us, or keep us trapped in fear, anxiety and ever repeating circles of drama, worry and control. Fear is of course a natural symptom of our humanness and we all experience fear to some degree, but it is not who we are in our essence and it does not have to control us or keep up trapped prisoner.
When we learn to access our incredibly powerful inner world, we find the grace and resources to navigate the ever-changing cycle of life, to cope with change, uncertainty and even death. In reality, in every moment of our life death and change is present, in fact essential to survival. Without it, we would not be able to function. At any one time in our body, countless cells are dying and new ones are born, the breath gives life sustains us but we cannot only breathe in forever, we must release the old to make space for the new.
Change, death and rebirth is the nature of our very existence. We don’t control all that goes on in the human body with sheer will power - we couldn’t possible micromanage all those processes like we try to manage our lives. We trust the system and processes innately present within our phenomenal biological ‘machines’ and whether we realise or not, our amazing body knows exactly how to function healthily and is always working to restore harmony even when we are fighting against it or polluting it in the many ways we all do.
And so right now, amongst the fear and uncertainty and chaos, we have an opportunity to make different choices and to restart. To pause and take stock. Instead of fighting the process, we can take the time to enjoy being with our loved ones, free time, space to slow down, find gratitude for the things we took for granted before this began, and begin to plant new seeds for the next crop - lets feed the caterpillar and trust we are going to become butterflies.
It might sound like I'm asking a lot . . . ‘how is this possible with all this stuff going on in my head‘ you might ask. And that’s exactly the answer - it isn’t possible unless you find a way to manage your mind and slow it down a little - to become more aware of the deeper part of you that is watching your mind rather than just being consumed by it. Until you find that place, you are at the mercy of the crazy people that live in your head - you know the ones that I’m talking about - we all have them! The ones that never shut up and always have loads to say about everything every second and every moment. Those inner voices that are mostly worrying, judging, criticising and voicing opinions about this and that constantly. The ones who tell you how to behave, what to do, what’s going to happen, what might happen, what did happen! I mean think about it, how many different voices in your head think they know exactly what the future is, and even worse are the ones that tell you what to do just in case that’s what the future is! Living entirely up in our head amongst this host of noisy opinionated characters is exhausting and unhelpful.
The good news is you’re not alone and this isn’t unusual, ALL of us have a small tribe of voices talking to us all day long - it’s part of the human condition and is endemic. What makes the difference between clarity and confusion, fear and faith, hope and doubt, health and dis-ease is how we manage those voices and those thoughts. This current situation we are all in is a perfect opportunity to take the first steps in becoming aware of ourselves - it’s a really simply practice called mindfulness and it IS the most important thing you will ever do for yourself. It’s not just for those labelled hippies and spiritual people, it’s for everyone who wants to stop living in fear, to be happier, healthy and connected. Self-awareness is the foundation for well-being. Awareness gives us choice when we have no control and that is the ultimate freedom. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be recording some short mindfulness meditations and uploading them to my website. These will be free resources, you won’t have to subscribe to anything, just give it a try. We have an immense wealth of personal power just below the surface, in the gap between the in and out-breath, and it’s within everyone’s capacity to access it. We build a new world from the inside out and we all have a part to play in creating a better world.