“In times of suffering, when you feel abandoned, perhaps even annihilated, there is occurring –at levels deeper than your pain– the entry of the sacred, the possibility of redemption. Wounding opens the doors of our sensibility to a larger reality, which is blocked to our habituated and conditioned point of view.” ~ Jean Houston
There are moments in life when we are wounded so deeply that it changes us forever, where we die and are reborn. We abandon our old home to set out for a new one. We cross a bridge into the unknown and there’s no going back. It’s a time of transformation, a threshold that links our past self with our future self.
In whatever way we go about it, going through this threshold is a metamorphosis, a soul initiation. At every threshold we lose aspects of our self, but we also gain new aspects. Like a caterpillar loses its caterpillar-nature but gains its butterfly-nature.
Just as the forming butterfly cannot return to being a caterpillar, an awakening human cannot return to being asleep, for we have lost our way in the vastness of the cocoon and our wounds have been opened.
Caught in the throes of an existential threshold, a death-rebirth metamorphosis, what Rollo May called “a Time of Destiny,” our pupal phase has come to an end.
The cocoon is a place where mistakes can become lessons and missteps can become stepping stones. It’s a place where we learn how to recycle fear into courage and discover hope in the depths of despair.
Like Rumi said, “When there’s no sign of hope in the desert, so much hope still lives inside despair. Heart, don’t kill that hope.” But are we ready to emerge as adults, as wiser versions of ourselves? Are we ready to shed our old clumsy armor for new vulnerable skin?
Beneath the mask of who-we-thought-we-were, is a being who understands that each question is an act of astonishment and an overcoming of fear.
Bridging the gap, walking the path, crossing into the mystery of the cocoon, is not an act of “being” with an answer, but of “becoming” within a question. It’s about the open-ended creative expression of a person, whose truth-as-value has trumped their truth-as-certitude.
But what a profound and terrifying duty has falls upon us, the transforming human. It’s in the cocoon where the Ego meets the Soul. It’s in the cocoon where the Hero meets the Shadow. Here, time is no longer linear, but vast and infinite.
Our soul is stretched gossamer-like across eternity. Our previous form is dissolving even as our future form is beginning to gel. All the paths of our former life have merged into a single point: the end of our old way of being in the world.
We come to realize, and to accept, that this transformation will destroy us. And as we loosen our grip on our former identity, as we let go of the heaviness of the past, we are dropped into the snarling, unforgiving abyss; a place where we are shattered against truth, and lie broken and defeated in a dark womb of meaninglessness. The void has consumed us, and we have subsumed it.
But there is gold in this chaos. There is a spark somewhere in this unquenchable black. There is the distant flutter of a new heartbeat, like a newborn butterfly stretching its wings. “It is by going down into the abyss,” writes Joseph Campbell, “that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” Where we stumble, where we die a little death, there lies our spiritual boon, there lies providence.
All that we were has died, becoming the compost that our new self emerges from. We are ready to accept our transformation. We are no longer slaves to fate. We are now agents of destiny. We project less, and see more clearly. Our new eyes see the big picture, using big mind instead of small mind to perceive reality. We have discovered an immense gratitude for the richness of life.
Everything has changed. The future is wide open. The cocoon lies cracked open and empty behind us. And as we shake away the “caterpillar residue” of our past self, the sky opens up to shine its new light onto the dark city of our past, transforming it into a playground where we are now free to be the most authentic and creative version of ourselves. Amazingly, our frontal lobes open up wide, stretching out like wings. We are ready to fly.