I’ve long been fascinated by the process of metamorphosis. It happens a lot in the insect world, most beautifully and visibly for us humans as the transformation of a caterpillar into a stunning butterfly.
Imagine! You fall asleep one day, forming a protective sheath around your body. Your own cells start to liquefy, digesting themselves. But then they start re-organizing, creating entirely new structures, until eventually you re-emerge. You’re an entirely new being. Something with scales instead of skin; wings instead of legs to move around the world. Everything about you is different, even though you’re still the same. That’s pretty mind blowing.
If you’ve got an extra 2 minutes and 42 seconds, watch this time lapse video of the process.
“The caterpillar is a necessary stage but becomes unsustainable once its job is done. There is no point in being angry at it, and there is no need to worry about defeating it. The task is to focus on building the butterfly…” ~Elizabet Sahtouris
I liken the transformative process of metamorphosis, to that of my cancer experience. I felt a major shift in the way I viewed and lived my life.
Our society always talks about the FIGHT against cancer. Everyone reassured me of how strong I was, that I would surely fight this and win. We had to be aggressive to beat this thing. There’s an all out WAR on cancer.
I was frustrated with the assurance of my strength and bad-assery, and the assumption of the great fight that lay ahead. It just didn’t sit right with me.
I was with my friend and healer Tia, receiving some counsel and much needed massage and other healing treatments. I mentioned this concept of a fight to her. She looked at me deeply like she does, really connecting. While I can’t remember her exact words, it was something like this:
“Well, you’re not a fighter. It’s not your nature. You are gentle, and you nurture. Perhaps you don’t fight this thing, but you work with it in your own way.”
I was reminded of a quote from a card a friend gave me long ago when I was a teenage animal activist that said, “The greatest strength is gentleness.”
That was it! I wasn’t going to fight the cancer. The cancer was after all, me. My own cells inside my own body had gone haywire. Was I going to fight myself?
When the caterpillar starts the process of becoming a butterfly, the Imaginal cells that lay dormant in the active caterpillar start to become active. Initially, the caterpillar enzymes attack the Imgainal cells. But eventually these cells organize and mobilize, creating the necessary bits and pieces for a butterfly.
“There is no point in being angry at it, and there is no need to worry about defeating it. The task is to focus on building the butterfly…”
And so it was with my cancer. I couldn’t be angry at it, or the unknown conditions that caused it. I couldn’t be angry at myself (even though I blamed myself in many ways for the diagnosis).
So I went within, and really had a conversation with myself. Not how I normally do, chatting away out loud as I fumble through my day. No, I went really inward, visualizing those growing cells, that were my own. They were a part of me, so I could connect with them. I talked to them, or myself, or whatever and said….
“Hey. Thanks for the visit. No really! You’ve woken me up and I’m definitely paying attention. I’ve made some changes and I’ve been thinking a lot. I’m really not in any position to leave this world right now. Maybe in 20, 30 or 40 years you can re-visit and take me then if you must, but certainly not now. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, and lot of people that need me. So I’d ask that you kindly dissolve and leave. Thank you for showing me what’s on the other side. So long and farewell…please.”
Furthermore, I envisioned all kinds of things that gently asked cancer to leave. Chemo silently dissolved the cells when infused. Healing warm rays of light dappled through trees, gently melted the cells. I asked Mother Earth and the endless universe, to absorb into her vastness some of my pain and illness. Water washed them away. I saw my mother (passed away 3 years prior) at a totally fabricated and perfect place in my mind, sitting with me and helping me heal, like she always did.
And so, all the myriad things I allowed to happen to me, and those that I chose, showed my cancer the door. Through a massive metamorphosis of my own, eyes and heart wide open, I transitioned into a different person. Perhaps not as dramatically as a caterpillar accomplishes, but damn near felt like I had wings and a new lease on life.
(Pro- tip: these tools of visualization were cultivated by reading the book, Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain. I would recommend this for anyone, not just those experiencing a difficult time.)