When people think about transformations they think of caterpillars or butterflies.  That’s the romantic ideal that people really like.  That they live one life and then become something all together different, better, free, etc.  There’s so much symbolism in it and yet it also betrays our assumptions.  I mean, caterpillars are fabulous all on their own.  I quite like them, even while they are eating the greenery.  Many of them are quite beautiful.  However, they crawl and don’t fly, they are slow where butterflies float and seem untethered to anything (which isn’t true, FYI. They need food so are tied to habitat, etc), and are seen as devastating eating machines that plow through everything in their path where as the butterfly is a pollinator among other things.  So there’s a bit of value judgement going on with this form of transformation and it’s very much something that is aspired to in an escape sort of way.  It’s about leaving an entire life behind and taking on something radically new.  To the naked eye there’s no real connection between the two lives other than the transformation bit.  They are completely separate experiences.

But there are other examples of transformation that are just as applicable and have great wisdom to share.  The dragonfly does something a bit similar to the butterfly only a bit more “gritty” as they say.  The nymph or early stage is a rather ugly water bug that looks a bit like a roach.  It lives in the muck at the bottom of bodies of water, then, when its ready to change it climbs up the stalk of some plant in the water or on its edge and allows it’s body to dry and harden.  Inside the body which is now a shell the dragonfly is transforming.  It then breaks out of its shell like a chick out of an egg and comes out with wings.  Like a butterfly it needs to go through the difficult process to build strength for flying and it will take a bit of time for the wings to dry out and fully extend.  But when they do it’s a jeweled marvel.  To me this seems a bit more like the actual experience of transformation that people go through, finding that the old life not only no longer fits, but has become a fossilized prison.  Once they can no longer survive in it, once they are no longer what they were and they decide to be free, they break the old life open, leaving behind a perfect shell of who they were, and open their wings to take in a brand new experience of who they are and who they will be.  Then they lift off into an entirely new element.

These are the transformations which move people from one type of existence to another.  But there is also the transformation of snake.  Never is the snake one thing and then another.  From the time it emerges from the egg it is a snake.  However, on a regular basis it outgrows what it has become.  As it accumulates experience it incorporates that into itself, growing and becoming until it no longer fits the life it has been living.  It literally outgrows its own skin and at some point it starts the shedding process.  It bangs its head against things. rubbing and grinding until the skin rips from its nose and starts pealing back and off.  It will shrug itself on the inside to loosen the outside and literally walk out of the old life, leaving it behind, sometimes all in one piece like a skin suit. It will not only walk out of its skin but peel a layer from its own eyes, bringing it new and clearer vision of itself and everything else in its world.  This will leave it somewhat blind for a few hours afterwards as well as very sensitive.  The new skin, having never been touched by anything, needs time to adjust to contact and so does the snake.  It is like rebirthing the self.  During this very vulnerable time the snake can seem grumpy and reactionary.  Which is understandable.  I would be, wouldn’t you?

One of the things all these processes have in common is the need for time.  The need to wait, process, and adjust after the transformation has completed.  Wings need to dry and stretch, eyes need to clear and focus, bodies need to get their bearings, thoughts need to take in the change in ourselves and our world.  So when you’re in transition, remember to add in a little grace time afterwards to get your bearings.  You don’t want to start your new life with a tragic misstep.