Becoming a Butterfly: the anatomy of change


I’ve been thinking about change. I know if you follow this blog, you’re thinking I write a lot about change, but what is life about if it’s not about growing and changing? Anyway, I was talking to my spiritual director and she told me that when a caterpillar enters a chrysalis, it actually dissolves into primordial soup before it reforms into a caterpillar!   

It doesn’t take much to see the analogies to our own growth here; something has to die before something new can be born. We have to let the old things actually dissolve, before the new can come.

Well, this was just too cool, so I had to google it. And I found out these cool facts on Scientific American. The analogy just gets better!

First the caterpillar dissolves itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve its own tissue. So, WE have to do the changing, or at least consent to it. We can’t wait for anyone to do it for us. We have to allow parts of us to die – those parts of us that don’t serve us anymore, those things we’ve grown beyond, or those we want to get rid of.

Second, not everything in the caterpillar dissolves. There are highly organized groups of cells called, “Imaginal Discs,” that contain the DNA to make the new butterfly. This DNA already exists within the caterpillar and is just waiting to be activated. The seeds of the changes you need to make are already within you, just waiting for a chance to grow! And I LOVE that they’re called Imaginal Discs. Just IMAGINE the changes you want to make!

Third, once the caterpillar has been dissolved, the Imaginal Discs use the protein rich caterpillar soup to fuel their growth! So, don’t despair, nothing is wasted. All the crap we have experienced: the failed relationships, the regrets, all the old dead things we need to let go of, are only fuel for the new growth!

Chrysalis final 2

I was quite encouraged by this analogy as I’ve felt that I’ve been in the primordial soup phase for a long time: dark, unformed, unsure that I’ll survive. But now I feel that the Imaginal Discs are starting to kick in and that I’m forming into something new. I don’t know what that will look like, but hopefully, it will be something beautiful!


Photo Credits: butterfly, mine.  Chrysalis Siah St. Clair



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