During our Anusara Yoga Teacher Training, we were asked to bring in a poem or inspirational story for an exercise in theme development. I have folders of poems and stories that I’ve collected throughout the years, so my only problem was choosing just ONE. This is the stuff I love! Ultimately, I settled on a piece that came to me in an email about 10 years ago ~ The Butterfly and the Cocoon.
The Butterfly and the Cocoon
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. The man sat and watched the cocoon for several hours as the butterfly struggled to force its body through the little hole.
Then it seemed to stop making progress. It appeared as if the butterfly had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further. The man decided to help the butterfly in its struggle. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.
The butterfly then emerged easily, but it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.
He continued to watch the butterfly. He expected that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to be able to support the body. He knew that in time the body would contract, and the butterfly would be able to fly.
But neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.
What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were Nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been.
We could never fly.
~ original author unknown (sometimes attributed to the American writer and painter Henry Miller)
There are important lessons in this parable for both the yoga practitioner and the yoga teacher. For the practitioner, this story beautifully illustrates the importance of cultivating our own strength to overcome our obstacles. When things are difficult we may want to give up. We think our efforting is fruitless, and it is easy to get discouraged. Whether on the mat or off, we have to stay the course.
“In our human lives, we sometimes find ourselves in the chrysalis state. During those times we don’t have much to offer the outside world because, whether we realize it or not, much of our energy is consumed with an inner transition.”
Sometimes, we think we are ready to emerge when we are not quite prepared; there is still work to be done. Then, we must have patience with ourselves and faith in the process. We get tired, we rest, we try again. Like the butterfly, when we persist we can experience greater joy and freedom than if we take the path of least resistance.
Holding the Space to Emerge
As yoga teachers, it is easy to slip into the same misguided assumption as the one in the story. Like the man with the scissors, we often give up on our students too soon. We see them struggle and worry that we are being “too hard.” We are quick to offer the easy way out ~ the less challenging form of a pose, the modified version, the prop to support.
Instead of giving them the opportunity to build and drawn on their own resources, we undermine this natural and necessary process. In our efforts to make it easier on them ~ to alleviate their discomfort (or is it, our own?) ~ we often deny our students the chance to experience the fullness (purnam) and richness that their efforts would yield. Our job is to hold the space, to create the environment for our students to work and flourish, and then wait. Their beauty will most certainly emerge.
“Sometimes the greatest supports we can offer others and ourselves are patience and quiet confidence in the process unfolding, along with faith that the result will be extraordinary.”
* * * * *
* * * * *
I asked for Strength,
And God gave me Difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for Wisdom,
And God gave me Problems to solve.
I asked for Prosperity,
And God gave me Brain & Brawn to work.
I asked for Courage,
And God gave me Danger to overcome.
I asked for Love,
And God gave me Troubled people to help.
I asked for Favors,
And God gave me Opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted
I received everything I needed!
* * * * *
* This poem is a variation of the Unknown Confederate Soldier’s Prayer.
** Quotations above are taken from the Mystery Of Transformation: The Butterfly Chrysalis** as featured in the DailyOM, an email subscription service of “inspirational thoughts for a happy, healthy and fulfilling day.” It is a great source for theme ideas and uplifting material.