Sometimes it feels so intolerable, doesn’t it? The pain of feeling arising in the body and sometimes becoming utterly enveloping. It seems really hard to have faith that this too is good. We associate good with the brighter aspects of things but it is in the dark envelopment of the cocoon that the caterpillar transforms into the much delighting butterfly. We all want to skip to the butterfly stage, don’t we? Well, my experience in this work shows me that the path towards the butterfly is in loving the caterpillar. To love such a creature is to accept his current nature with his furry bristles, painful stings, and insatiable appetite.
In our context, loving the caterpillar involves allowing the shadow aspects of our slighted heart to take full stage whenever they arise and to witness them present their best performance. Children are really good at that, until that is, we are taught to suppress and tame emotion. Even though we are asked to be perfectly balanced, poised and good, there comes a moment when we have to allow the inner child to say what he never said before and show us in his childish ways what was hurtful. In praise of caterpillars is an ode to mindful non-attachment and non-resistance; essential technology in a Sufi way. We allow a sad feeling or depressed feeling to show its real quality. Perhaps what shows up is great inexplicable grief; a grief older than memory and deep like the wild cries of birthing. Allowing the best performance is asking our minds to release tendencies of avoidance and distraction. Instead we learn to expand and to contain the full expression of this energy. The following moment by moment account details what this process could entail.
So, where is it in the body? Oh, heart feels heavy. Oh throat feels so contracted and tears are forming. Why so sad- I don’t know and I don’t care; it just is. I am okay being so terribly sad even though I cannot think of a valid reason right now. Tears are dropping out of intensity. Love in that moment is the simple act of allowing and witnessing compassionately, like a good friend who does not need an answer to why so sad today. Just sad and incredibly contracted about it; it is like giving birth to a deeply buried energy. The throat is so tight from years of repression, guilt and shame. The throat feels tight and closed and the energy feels like it is rising exponentially from my heart and wants to be out. Tension accumulates in the back between my shoulder blades. I cry and sob but it is not there yet, there is more; it feels like it is still there in the throat expanding while the walls of the throat are holding back. Something inside refuses to yield and I just have to push push push in loud thundering wails. I allow loud howls to express that which my throat yearns for with the quality of embarrassing. That is a lot of grief my darling and it is all coming out explosively. Out with it... I recognize your grief. I recognize your sadness. I recognize you had to come out this way and strangely I feel relief. My throat feels open now, I can breathe deeply again, my heart feels tender from all that release, I feel a little lightheaded too and just open again. I feel raw from that level of intensity but free.
Witness vs. Narrative
The difference between this account and a heavy temper tantrum by a toddler is the presence of an inner compassionate witness. Witnessing that this episode was about a pent up energy, which in releasing I heal and release limiting habits and belief systems. Witnessing also means I can be the compassionate sister/friend/mother to me in these moments. My consciousness expands in this way as I contain my witnessing eye, my inner child and my physical body.
Perhaps there was a trigger to all this release but the key is to resist the temptation to create a narrative to the natural healing expression. The narrative, whatever it may be, is a construct that can overpower the compassionate witness and identify us directly with the feeling; in effect turning us into the grief or sadness itself. The thought is made responsible for the feeling and we loose the distance between our witnessing being and the thought-to-feeling sequence.
If we are still associating our current sense of self with the victim of our past circumstances then we are experiencing a distorted image of our selves and we are not able to see the reality outside of narratives. If we accept the past victim as a partner in the healing process but not as us, then that by itself is an immense breakthrough. A part of us can be strong for the other parts that need witnessing and release.
Sometimes it feels so intolerable. Sometimes we do not want to bother with it and we just want to ... (fill in your most enjoyable distracting activity or indulgence, i.e. Dark chocolate and coconut shavings). After many times, we grow wiser and develop more compassion towards the steps on this journey. After many a dark night of the soul trips, we witness how it works. We see the rainbow and the dark rainy cloud at once. We begin to dance more gracefully between the days of intense healing and the days where we absorb it all; gradually introducing a subtle quality of witnessing to all shades of our experience. We dance more gracefully because we bring understanding, acceptance, and kindness to the shift.
And so, in praise of caterpillars, I affirm that I:
surrender any attempts to assess and measure the magnitude of change happening in me; I know it is happening. I also release my self from high standards of perfection and consistent productivity. I embrace my dimensions and my true size that sometimes fills the whole room and ejects others. I am in the process of earning my love first. I accept God’s love in my heart more fully when I love, accept, expand and contain all that he put in me for my unique transformative human journey. All that is right now is perfectly designed to be this way and learning to surrender and accept is the highest teaching I can bring to the movement of my heart.
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