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May 24, 2019

A Butterfly That Never Flies Will Always Die…4 Ways to Grow ‘Your’ Wings

“This sky, this sky where we live is no place to lose your wings, so love, love, love.’

Hafiz

Several weeks ago I was browsing through the shelves at an educational bookstore when I spotted a sign that said, “Grow your own Monarch butterfly in 3 weeks.” I felt immediate excitement. I remembered doing this science experiment when I was young and couldn’t wait to watch a beautiful butterfly grow from a tiny larvae with my daughter. I grabbed the small packet that contained the larvae and brought it to the cashiers desk with my other items.

“You might want to buy the mesh butterfly net for that…it’s what works best.”  I noticed it was only $9.99 and so I quickly grabbed it and added it to my purchases. I felt like I was a young child again as I drove home. There’s something about watching a transformation that is so inspiring. I couldn’t wait to see the tiny larvae transform into a magnificent butterfly. When I got home I showed my daughter and explained what was going to happen. “It’s going to be like a real ‘Very Hungry Caterpillar'”, referring to a favorite book I had read her since she was small. I placed the little larvae cups in the mesh net, and then checked it every day. After about a week, the larvae grew into a caterpillar. The first sign of life! It wasn’t long before the caterpillar climbed up to the top of the mesh net and formed the chrysalis. The nesting place for the metamorphisis to take place. The weather was warming and I decided to move the future butterflies home outside, safely behind some bushes so that it could feel the warm sunlight during parts of the day.

And then something terrible happened.

I forgot about my butterfly. I got busy and sick for a few days and just..completely..forgot.

But yesterday I remembered. “I need to check our butterfly.” I said to my daughter as we walked out the door. I looked behind the bushes where I had safely placed the butterfly and pulled it out. When I looked inside my heart sank. I felt such guilt. I felt sadness. There was the fully formed butterfly, with gorgeous black and orange wings…but it was not alive.

It had died.

It had worked so hard to transform itself and yet, because it could not fly free…it perished. As I gently shook the supple butterfly out of the net and allowed his body to fall towards the ground, I couldn’t help but think how much we are just like that butterfly. When we are not allowed to fly, it can feel like our spirit is going to die.

But just like that precious monarch butterfly, we are meant to fly.

Four weeks before I found the butterfly kit in the store, I had gone through one of the scariest experiences of my life. I woke up one morning and my heart wouldn’t stop racing. My body was ringing and felt like I had just drank fifty cups of coffee and the right side of me started to go numb. I had no idea what was going on. Frightened, I called my friend at 5:30 in the morning and asked if I could drop off my daughter to her house while I drove myself to the emergency room. She kindly obliged. After I checked myself into the ER and visibly shook while I waited to see the doctor, I found out that I had experience an ‘Acute Stress Response’, otherwise known as a panic attack. It was followed by immediate burnout. The experience has made me even more certain that we are meant to fly.

After all, the reason I ended up in the hospital that morning was because I was not ‘flying’ in my life. There was nothing in my life that resembled ‘flying’. I was working hard as a single mom raising my daughter with autism, and the chronic stress just finally took a toll. It’s easy to follow the ebb and flow of the stress river. Sometimes it’s easier, ‘not to fly’. Sometimes it feels to hard to try to fly, but oh how it kills our spirit when we don’t.

Over the last six weeks I have had the chance to rebuild the foundation of my life. It has not been easy recovering from the panic attack. I have sought wisdom and implemented the recommendations of many professionals; including doctors, counselors, naturopaths, friends and spiritual teachers. My wings are growing back. I can feel them growing back, and boy does that ever feel good.

Here are 4 ways to cultivate your wings that I have discovered in the last several weeks.

1. Nutrition – I know this doesn’t sound like a very touchy feely answer in regards to finding your wings, but it is so important. In Dr. Drew Ramsey’s new book, “The Happiness Diet”, he discusses how our MAD diet ‘Modern American Diet’, is not fulfilling our nutrient needs for proper physical and mental health. Many of us are not receiving the required nutrients to support a healthy mind and body. A trip to your naturopath or nutritionist can definitely help with that. If that is not available, Dr. Drew gives a very easy to remember rhyme to encourage what types of foods we need to eat for a healthy brain, ‘Seafood, beans, nuts and greens (and dark chocolate). Discovering how foods can affect our brains, which also affects our spirit (and wings) is essential.

2. Breathing – We all know it’s good to breath don’t we? There are yoga studios on almost every street corner for a reason. It turns out when you take long deep breaths it activates your parasympathetic nervous system and tells your body it’s okay to relax. It’s very difficult to ‘fly’ when we are in a stressed state. Making breath exercises or yoga class part of your daily routine will calm your spirit as you ponder where you want your wings to take you.

3. Exercise – When we exercise we produce a protein called ‘Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor’. Dr. John J. Ratey, who wrote ‘Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain’ said the protein BDNF is ‘like Miracle Gro for the brain’. When we get moving our thoughts are more clear. We have time to manage our daily tasks and dream about the future.

4. Don’t let your dreams die – What is it that used to make you feel alive? What would bring a smile to your face. I was watching Super Soul Sunday with Oprah last week and she was interviewing David Brooks, the author of “The Second Mountain”. It’s a book about climbing your ‘second mountain’, when your first mountain doesn’t exactly go as planned. While interviewing David, Oprah asked him, “How do you know what your second mountain should be?” In other words, how do you find what makes you feel like your flying if you missed it on the first try at life? David responded gently and indicated that we should think back to the moments in life where we felt most alive, and then ponder what it was about those experiences that invigorated us, that made us feel like we could fly. Whatever those experiences were, make them a priority in your life again. Don’t give up on what made you feel alive, because it’s those things that make us feel like we can fly.

It makes me sorrowful to think of that sublime butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, with the hope of new beginnings pumping through it’s soul and after flapping for several minutes, realizing it had nowhere else to go. I’m not sure if it died of heartbreak. After all, there was still food in his cage when I found him. Perhaps he decided he didn’t want to live a life where he would never fly up towards the sky. But I will be forever grateful for the reminder that butterly gave me that day.

Never give up on finding your wings. We are meant to fly.

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