Cultural Butterfly

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Inside the Corona Chrysalis: the “in-between” time

How are you doing and being with this corona chrysalis? Along with a natural urge and desire for it to be over in order to get back to “normal”, (which I appreciate!) some people are getting the sense that there is no going back to what used to be “normal”. They are realizing that what they thought was “real” life is different than what they are discovering is real.


And it’s not just on the outer, external level. Even more importantly, it is on the inner level as well.


This is uncharted territory! Although, not entirely . . .


It is only uncharted in the sense that we are used to charting, planning, organizing, and managing our outer lives, activities, events, and changes of all kinds. At its core, though, the corona chrysalis is not that kind of external event, although it certainly has all those aspects to deal with. Staying at home, working from home, dealing with kids and homeschooling, and not having our usual in-person social connections are not small matters.


However, there is another, larger picture about what’s going on here, with a different purpose and meaning. I see this as cultural soul work on both the individual and collective levels. That kind of soul work has been known and practiced for millenia by Indigenous cultures as well as other wisdom teachers. So we do have some guideposts, some touch points, on this journey into unfamiliar territory.


This is liminal space, the time between the “what was” and the “next.” It occupies a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and of not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.


William Bridges, author of Transitions, describes this as the “Neutral Zone” during the inner psychological transition process by which people reorient themselves from “what-has-been” to “what-is-going-to-be”.


The neutral zone is the hiatus, a “time in between trapezes”, crossing the “wilderness” in between the old and the new, between the ending and the new beginning.


The hiatus can be creative -- a time to take stock, try new things, create new ways.


This is the source of renewal because the leap from one developmental stage to another releases energy if the transition is navigated successfully.


Another view of this liminal space comes from Chris Corrigan’s writing “Into the Chrysalis”:


“Chrysalises both inspire and baffle me. The thought that a caterpillar can crawl into a sac made of its own body and dissolve its form and come out as a butterfly is a clichéd image of transformation, but holy crap. Stop for a moment and really think about that. Does the caterpillar know this is going to happen? If it does that shows some tremendous trust. If it doesn't, then that shows some incredible courage. It just hangs out there, isolating itself from the rest of the world and changing in ways it can never understand. “Does a caterpillar see a butterfly and go "that will be me one day?" “So yes, we are all heading into our chrysalises. We have all climbed into our cocoons and are waiting for the imaginal discs to come into play and elongate and grow into our new ways of being. We might be here for a long time, and learn some things. We are entering an interregnum that will be as big a challenge as any that humanity has faced. “Have some empathy for the caterpillar who creates its chrysalis and becomes a pupa. It may believe that this is now how things are, and meanwhile, at an unconscious level, the imaginal discs are swirling about in its corporeal soup, with a different idea about what it is to become. “Inside the chrysalis, your ideas about yourself dissolve and life itself takes over. Watch for the small signals, watch for what happens at the edges. Amplify the acts of kindness and possibility that you see in your community and your personal life. Document and grow the new practices you discover be they helpfulness, attention, curiosity, or competence. Stifle the urge to seek cortisol hits from triggering events and social media that make you angry, or the outrage merchants that still crave a hold on your consciousness. Instead, cocoon yourself and study your imagination. “Into the goo, friends.”


On a similar note, in “Societal Transformation: What Did You Think It Would Look Like?”

Shariff Abdullah gives these perspectives in his COVID Special Newsletter 02, 4/7/2020:


“Here's a thought: What do you think is going through the mind of the caterpillar, as it stops eating and attaches its butt to a twig, in preparation to pupate?  

“I'm pretty sure it is NOT "I'm making this sacrifice to create a beautiful butterfly", or even "I'm full now, I think I'll rest for awhile". I'll bet that it’s something like "This will make me a better caterpillar". Or, more likely, "What the .....?? Why's my butt doing that?"

“I'm seeing our current "lockdown" consciousness as the caterpillar attaching its butt to the twig. The process of "butterflying" (a new verb!) is inevitable.

“Cosmic timing is not human timing. The head of East Germany said that the Berlin Wall would last another 100 years. (Our CIA agreed.) From the time of his statement, it didn’t last another 100 HOURS.  That's how fast it comes.

“This is what it looks like, from the inside, when the caterpillar starts to form its chrysalis, right before metamorphosis. It is operating against its own best interests. Neither the caterpillar nor the butterfly-to-be are in control of . . . anything. . . Pretty sloppy, messy, contradictory, inconsistent, chaotic, even disgusting . . . We are looking at the inside of a process whereby one complete being turns into a completely different one, with completely different characteristics.”


In Emergence Magazine, Martin Shaw writes:

“. . . as a culture we are entering deeply mythic ground . . . What needs to change? Deepen? What kindness in me have I so abandoned that I could seek relationship with again? It is useful to inspect my ruin. Could I strike up an old relationship with my soul again?”


And Tara Mohr in her blog “Chrysalis Time” says,

“What should we do in the in-between time, when one chapter of our lives or work has ended and the next one hasn’t come into being yet?


“This is chrysalis time . . . in between being a caterpillar and becoming a butterfly. This is the stage of old things giving way, the stage of goopy mess, of being neither caterpillar nor butterfly. It is the time of being something in an undefined, transitional, un-presentable state. (Cocktail parties are very difficult to attend during this time.)


“. . . It is a time of retreating into shelter so that transformation can happen in a protected place. It is a time when privacy and boundaries are needed.


“Chrysalis time comes to all of us. So what can we do during chrysalis time?


Know it for what it is. Name it as chrysalis time.

Know it is normal.

Know it is universal.

Know it is temporary.

Allow the cocooning but be mindful it doesn’t turn to isolation.

Have compassion for all the ways it is hard -- the disintegration, the waiting, the discomfort.

Remember you can’t rush the process.

But remember you can help the process.


“Let’s talk about that last part -- helping the process.

We can’t control the timeline of a process of becoming.

But we can accelerate the process by surfacing, facing, and bringing into the light what is happening in us.


“In conversation or by writing, we can articulate what no longer fits, letting the words make it clearer to us. In the same way, we can start to articulate what we want and what seems to be arising in us now.


“And this is so important . . . We can articulate the little we do know about what is next.


“Visions for what is next -- your next creation, your next job, your next way of moving through the world -- don’t arrive fully formed or with a how-to plan. They come through fragments, whiffs, energies in the body.


“In chrysalis time, there are big blanks in our picture of the future, but there are also always words and pictures and ideas we can access about what wants to emerge.


“If your vision for what is coming next in your life or your work is 95% blank, articulate the 5% you can see --the little fragments, the faint intuitions, the general direction.


“As you surface that 5%, you accelerate its coming into being and prepare the ground for the next layer of clarity to emerge.


“If you are in chrysalis time, this is your work. All of it -- the acceptance, the compassion, and the proactive inquiry into what is emerging.


“And if you’ve been judging someone in your life (or yourself) as being lost or lazy or unclear or flighty or slow, take a second look: maybe that person is just in chrysalis. Love them, even if it’s a little harder to do that now with their cocoon shell there. They will be bolstered by it.”


So here is my call and invitation to you:


As we each individually make this journey of letting go of some of our habits, beliefs, judgments, conditioned fear responses, expectations, and assumptions, and flounder around in this “in-between” place, we begin to co-create a new culture. And that’s the good news!


I’ve read and seen innumerable examples of more kindness, caring, heart-based connection, compassion, cooperation, and generosity emerging during this corona chrysalis than was evident or “normal” before. Perhaps you have, too?


The opportunity and the urgency here is for us to develop this as a new way of being, a new culture, the “new normal”, instead of just a temporary response to an emergency until we can get back to the old “normal”.


It’s time to do the kinds of things that Chris Corrigan and Tara Mohr suggest above.


If you’d like some support in this process, contact me. Let’s connect and have a conversation!

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