Beloveds, as you may have seen on our Facebook page, I have been deeply engaged in the nurturing of monarch butterfly caterpillars. I had read about the scarcity of milkweed plants causing a decline in the monarch butterfly population. But it wasn’t until one day when Darryl Ray and I were sitting outside that I got the idea to actually help the monarchs.
Darryl had brought his medicine bag to share with me his spiritual journey that is deeply connected to nature, especially the cultivation of healing herbs. I was engrossed in listening when a butterfly began dancing over Darryl’s shoulder and it was so magical! I took it as an invitation to take action and start collecting monarch eggs.
I had never done this before and being a true believer in letting the wisdom of nature take its course, I wasn’t so sure I should intervene. But this is exactly what Darryl and I were discussing: the many ways that spirit/the divine/the universe manifests itself to invite us to be co-creators, to recognize that we all have healing powers, and to say “Yes!” to the invitation to become co-conspirators in protecting nature and all beings.
Another facet of this story is that I was going through a difficult time and was feeling like my spirit had been crushed. I was deeply sad and praying for something to shift, for the heaviness in my heart to lift, for joy to return to my life. And my prayers were answered in the form of an almost invisible tiny little egg left by the monarch butterfly that was dancing over Darryl’s shoulder. The journey had begun and I had lots to learn!
Thank goodness for the guidance of my dear friend Alison Aguilar Lopez Gutierrez McLeod (Maestra Mariposa), Youtube, and science teachers making videos showing the stages of growth: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly. The best part was the enthusiasm of so many people who cheered me on and contributed milkweed to feed the very hungry caterpillars.
Fast forward: we have released 13 monarch butterflies as of October 25th and we have at least two dozen more getting ready to emerge. I cannot explain in words what this journey has done for my spirit. It has been so healing to dedicate time and practice mindfulness with the caterpillars. It requires patience and the ability to discern whether that little dark speck is a baby caterpillar emerging from the egg, or poop left over from yesterday.
That was the big lesson: being patient, moving slowly, turning the leaves over and over very gently to make sure the tiny caterpillar wasn’t hiding in the folds, and looking closely at everything in order to keep the space as clean as possible, getting rid of yesterday’s poop and welcoming new life. The process was nor perfect and there were some casualties. A couple of aggressive caterpillars knocked down the most vulnerable chrysalides and they ended up in the “Monarch E.R.” I’m doing my best to help them heal, but there is a chance that one or two won’t make it. Accepting this is also part of the process.
As the caterpillars were experiencing their metamorphosis, there was also a huge transformation happening in my heart. The time spent with the caterpillars was a chance for me to practice mindfulness: to stop worrying, to let go, to focus on the task at hand, to care for this little life right in front of my eyes, and to do my best to help it thrive. As I learned to turn the leaves over and over multiple times, I tried to look at the source of my sadness from different points of view. I learned to discern the difference between being stuck in yesterday’s poop and the life-giving attitudes that can help me move forward. I saw myself shedding old skins, changing my own attitude in order to change how I saw others, and transforming slowly, awkwardly, with the help of friends who cheered me on and held me in loving kindness.
This was such a gift! I no longer felt sad and I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. My heart rejoiced at every tiny sign of progress and that joy was shared with many in our community, especially our children. We will be releasing butterflies on sunny days for the next couple of weeks. You are welcome to join us! Who knows, one might just begin dancing on your shoulder!
With Love and Bendiciones,
Rev. Maria Cristina