The Teaching of the Butterfly


[By Tan Hwee –Meng, published in Lapis News]

A short extract :

“ One day, a small opening appeared in a cocoon. A man sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.

Then, it seemed to stop making any progress.

It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could not go any further. So the man decided to help the butterfly: he took a pair of scissors and opened the cocoon.

The butterfly then emerged easily.

But it had a withered body. It was tiny and had shriveled wings. The man continued to watch because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would open, enlarge and expand, to be able to support the butterfly’s body, and become firm.

Neither happened!

In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a withered body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly. What the man, in his kindness and his goodwill, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening, were nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings, so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. “

I have read many variations of the famous story and this particular version is currently circulating around the Internet. The butterfly offers a wise and important teaching on the value of our human struggles.

Our struggles and problems are not accidental freaks of the Universal. Nor are they haphazard occurrences. Nor are they are sent by someone out there to punish us. Consider them as gifts of love. They are designed by a deeper part of us – a wiser and more loving part of us that wants us to fly like a butterfly.

Consider that everything that has ever happened to us is happening as it should happen. So, every problem, every difficulty and every issue we have in our life now is there because they are somehow necessary to our growth.

I would like to share this wonderful exercise adapted from Jack Kornfield to help you find the treasures that lie in your obstacles.

Struggles are an essential part of life. How you choose to relate to them is up to you. You can see yourself as a victim of the universal and spend your whole life blaming. Or you can embrace struggle as a necessary process of life that transforms you into a spiritually human being.

No one can make this choice for you. Your parents cannot do this for you. Your friends cannot do this for you. Only out of your commitment to your own inner growth will you make this choice to bow down to your difficulties as great teachers.

I asked for Strength and Life sent me difficulties to bear

 I asked for Wisdom and Life sent me problems to solve.

I asked for Love and Life sent me troublesome people to forgive.

Reflecting on difficulty

[By Jack Kornfield]

Sit quietly, feeling the rhythm of your breathing, allowing yourself to become calm and receptive. Then think of a difficulty that you face in your life. As you sense this difficulty, notice how it affects your body, heart, and mind. Feeling it carefully, begin to ask yourself a few questions, listening inwardly for their answers.

How have I treated this difficulty so far?

How have my own responses and reactions to the difficulty caused me suffering?

What does this problem ask me to let go of?

What suffering is unavoidable?

What great lesson might it be able to teach me?

What is the gold, the treasure, and the value, hidden in this situation?

In using this reflection to consider your difficulties, the understanding and openings may come slowly. Take your time. As with all meditations, it can be helpful to repeat this reflection a number of times, listening each time for deeper answers from your body, heart and spirit.

2 Responses to “The Teaching of the Butterfly”

  1. Needy Says:

    This reminds of the time when I was small.
    I help the duckling come out of the eggshell by breaking the shell.
    The duckling didn’t survive.

    But how not to help the children.

    In Singapore, nobody waits for the child
    to develop at his own pace. I am at a loss.

  2. 4u&me Says:

    I learnt something very important from my father a long time ago when as a young parent I used to compare my style of child-raising with others.

    My father in all his wisdom told me off in a very nice way and said “There is no parent who don’t love their children. Everyone will love them in their own special ways and who is to say which way is the right way?”

    I learnt from that moment on, never to criticize or compare with others. Each mother and/or father will raise their babies in their own way.

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