During the whirlwind celebrations of the holidays, I like to take time to reflect on the deeper meaning of these holy days. Naturally, my thoughts turn to the life of Jesus and his teachings. I think of how the baby Jesus is referred to as the “Light of the World” and the “Prince of Peace.” It’s true that Jesus showed us the way to find peace, but it is up to us to do the work. My favorite saint, St. Francis of Assisi, also speaks of peace, writing that we must have peace in our hearts before we announce it to the world.
It’s not always easy to feel peaceful, especially when we are confronted with times of transformation that may be painful. In the spirit of nourishing peace, I’d like to share this parable with you.
‘Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly’
Imagine a happy little caterpillar, with no concerns except eating the leaf that is in front of her. But one day, without warning, she finds herself wrapped up tightly in a cocoon. She’s trapped in a dark, inescapable place, and experiencing painful changes. She’s frightened, alone, and disconnected from the outside world. No one recognizes her within her shell. She longs for the sunshine, and misses her life. To the caterpillar, her time wrapped in the cocoon seems an eternity. But just when she loses hope of ever escaping, she notices that the pain is slowly lessening. She realizes that she has been transformed into something new. Although she still feels frightened, she gnaws her way out of the cocoon. When she finally emerges into the light, she sees that she has become a beautiful butterfly. She’s no longer limited to crawling through life. She understands that the pain she endured gave her the knowledge, life experience and energy to transform herself into something new. And she opens her wings to soar.
Just like the caterpillar, haven’t we all experienced times in life when it seems as if we are thrown off course, and even forced to a halt by unexpected obstacles? These challenges can last a few days, weeks, or months—or even a few years or decades. Days pass, the lessons seem unending, and we endure frustrations and shed many tears, but we keep going. During times like these, we must remember that all growth requires some measure of pain.
The metaphor of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly represents new beginnings, including paradigm shifts in our collective consciousness. Times of transformation call for patience, which nourishes inner peace while we work toward change. In challenging times, it helps to recall the butterfly parable. In the same way, the story of Jesus and Christmas gives us faith in rebirth and renewal, teaching us that opportunities unfold when we are ready to receive what life has in store for us. When we “let go, and let God,” He does! Then, we can begin to live in the innocence of the child God created us to be in the first place. As Jesus said, in order to enter the kingdom, we must first become like little children again. The Christ child, the Prince of Peace in the manger, symbolizes the beauty and purity of our original nature, and allows us to undergo transformation. Once God has touched us deep within our hearts, then we can begin to make a real difference in our families, our communities, among our coworkers and friends, and even with those that wish harm to us. Above all, we need to have love and peace in our hearts, and to live with boundless compassion for all. This opens our eyes to the new possibilities within and around us.
As I shared in my last blog post, during the week of Hanukkah I was in Israel, teaching at the Davidoff Medical Center within the Rabin Medical Center, which is part of Beilinson Hospital. It was the most difficult week of my life, teaching five days in a row for eight or more hours each day and counseling seven advanced cancer patients, all of whom I shared a deep connection with. Despite the difficulty, the experience offered yet another gift of transformation for me on my life path.
No matter what your faith, or whether or not you celebrate Christmas, may you strive to live with your feet on the earth but your heart in heaven. I wish for you faith, patience, and peace as you journey in your personal transformation.
Blessings to all this Winter Solstice and Merry Christmas,