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Why the Dragonfly: Reflections on Transformation
Did you know that dragonflies start their lives as nymphs, living in the water up to five years before wriggling their way up a piece of grass and birthing themselves into adulthood?
Me neither – until I was meditating and sensed to include a dragonfly in the branding process in which I am engaged. All I really knew about them was they ate mosquitoes – when I lived in northern NY, they would release hundreds of thousands of dragonflies to help humans survive summer. So from that starting point, I did some research. Now I get it…
Unlike caterpillars that go into a cocoon to transform into butterflies, nymphs transform into dragonflies in the midst of their daily life. They molt up to 15 times as a nymph before moving out of the water and shedding their exoskeleton to reveal the capacity to fly that was there all along. In fact, the very water that supported their existence as a nymph becomes the fuel for their metamorphosis. It literally becomes the force that splits the skin down the nymph’s back and encourages the wings to unfold.
During this period of in-the-grass transformation, the nymph/dragonfly is soft and vulnerable. In the world, unprotected, moving from inner guidance, this tender nymph transforms itself. Wings emerge, eyes enlarge, skin hardens, and the dragonfly takes off to experience its’ new life – free from the bounds of water – a life unfathomable to the nymph.
When I hold the dragonflies’ metamorphosis in my heart, I resonate with it. I, too, have used the experiences of my life to learn, awaken and move more fully into my humanity and Divinity (adulthood); to learn to fly as a whole, integrated being. In my world, it’s called spiritual awakening or conscious evolution. In the dragonfly’s world, it’s simply life.
Over the last decade or so, this process – moving through transformation in broad daylight with lots of things going on around me – has become commonplace. It’s vulnerable all right. It requires strength and flexibility – the capacity to follow my knowing, face my fears, and do the next indicated thing – just like the nymph and the dragonfly.
The fuel? There’s all kinds of fuel…obvious ones like the ending of my first marriage, a rollover car accident, losing a job, filing for bankruptcy, and not so obvious ones like deciding how to spend our vacation, cooking dinner, and writing a blog. Anything that triggers an emotional response (positive or negative) is fuel for transformation. If we engage with the emotional experience, we transform. If we repress, ignore or project our emotional experience onto others, we stay in the water, often getting sick, depressed or worse.
So I move forward, transforming myself through meditation, yoga, therapy, being with my feelings, facing my fears, being vulnerable, learning to love myself and others, celebrating my successes – essentially by living and engaging with life. By having faith and listening to and acting on that inner guidance system often called intuition – much like the nymph does when it follows it’s instincts to walk up a piece of grass.
There's no way to know who/what we will become when we are a nymph (caught in beliefs that no longer serve, in pain, suffering, etc.). We must take the next indicated step, in the dark, while trusting something larger than us of which we are a part. It’s through conscious living that we become capable of flying.
When I reflect on the work I do with and space I hold for clients and workshop participants, I see that I offer a form of dragonfly medicine – sacred space (presence, empathy), tools, and wisdom that increase our capacity to fly – to engage more fully with ourselves, our intuition, and those around us. Like the dragonfly, we transform and take flight in the midst of our daily lives. What a blessing.