A few weeks ago some friends of our ordered over 120 caterpillars for our children to take home and learn from. I thought in taking part that it would be a great experience for my children. Imagine having 8 caterpillars crawling around in a big glass vase in your home. We fed them thistles, I brought in sticks and leaves to make a really nice habitat for them. The caterpillars grew big and fat and then crystallized on the sticks and the material at the top of the vase. A week or so later we have butterflies. For now the butterflies are in my kitchen. We have fresh fruit out for them daily along with sugar water. They have the warmth of the sun and best of all no predators. When the butterflies are ready they are free to fly outside through our patio door that is open most of the time. For now the babies are learning to flap their wings and seem happy in my kitchen.
Through this process I of course think how does this relate to yoga. Obviously the overeating caterpillar who sleeps and eats all day is not a great comparison. However then I thought that this process is kind of like a mediation for them. Really the ultimate goal of the caterpillar is to become a butterfly. As with enlightenment, not necessarily a goal but certainly something that requires a lot of contemplation and mediation. Just like the caterpillar. We assume the caterpillar is sleeping when he is not eating but perhaps his bug size brain is thinking about becoming the butterfly. If you think you are the butterfly you will become one. After all who knows what happens when they crystallize and turn from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Perhaps this is the ultimate mediation.
Then of course the butterfly itself is reborn, its karma is recognized. It either becomes a butterfly or dies. The butterfly itself has a tremendous practice. It has to continue to flap it wings to remove the moisture so that it can fly. Now its job is to eat sugar and flap its wings. It does this until the flight is relaxed and easy. This task or practice reminds me of the physical or the asana practice of yoga. We do the same postures over and over. Not so that a posture looks perfect but so that you are able to achieve a relaxed and balanced posture, to fly like the butterfly.
When our butterflies chose to leave our family will try really hard to practice aparigraha or non-attachment. We have fed and loved these butterflies for many weeks. Observing their moments, their challenges. Using encouragement (yes I talked to them). They have become miniature members of our family.