Either way, it stirred something deep inside of me. I wondered if it was universally true. Immediately I thought of a butterfly, which is the quintessential symbol of transformation. It starts out as a land-crawling caterpillar, then disappears into a cocoon, later to emerge as a beautiful butterfly. Yes, its transformation means it loses who it once was, and gains its liberation as a completely different creature---a more beautiful and transcendent one, most would say, with wings to fly.
What about us? When we humans undergo a transformation, do we necessarily experience loss and liberation? I guess it depends on how loosely we interpret the word. My dictionary defines transformation as, "a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance," and, "a metamorphosis during the life cycle of an animal," both of which sound like losing what we were and becoming something different.
But what about liberation? Does transformation necessarily imply more freedom? Does it always lead to something higher or better, like in the word "transcend?" Doesn't time transform us from young and strong to old and frail? I suppose when we lose our youth, we gain certain liberties that (hopefully) come with advanced age. Perhaps there is less pressure to look good, or perform well, or exhibit mental clarity. Maybe we get to nap more, work less, or be taken care of by others.
Transformation is a double edged sword, isn't it? Kids want to grow up and have the freedom that they perceive adults to have, but they usually don't realize what they will lose in the process. Sure, they can drive a car and stay out as late as they want, but they will also have to work and pay taxes. It's not all fun and games.
And so we go through life, having many opportunities to undergo personal transformation, but often turning them down in favor of maintaining the status quo. (Some of us are naturally more cautious than others). And sometimes we don't have a choice---change just happens, and we have to adjust. It's all part of the impermanence we came into this life to experience.
This week, I invite you to notice the transformations you've experienced during your lifetime. Which have been your conscious choice, and which just seemed to happen to you? How did you adjust? What losses and liberties resulted? If you're going through a major change right now, where are you in the process? The caterpillar, the cocoon, the butterfly, or some later life phase?
Wherever you are, be gentle with yourself. Know that you're not alone, and eventually you'll get through it. If it's difficult, it doesn't mean that something has gone wrong. More likely it's just life doing what life does---providing us opportunities for growth and evolution.