July 20, 2021

Why the Dragonfly is my Totem Animal.

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“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” ~ Rachel Carlson


I vividly remember my fascination with the mystical winged creatures of transformation dipping in and out of my garden pond.

I would gaze at them in awe from the balcony of my childhood home, and I’d feel a surge of unexplainable joy and luck that they had chosen our abode for a visit on those breezy, summer afternoons.

Dragonflies always stood out from the other insects and animals that inhabited my garden; something about them was so free, so magical, and so mysterious! Their iridescent colors, big flashy eyes, and ability to glide in both water and air with such effortless flight always intrigued the free spirit within me. They seemed to carry the wisdom and abundance of Mother Gaia herself.

But as life happens, I grew up and forgot about them, just as I lost touch with my inner child and curiosity for life. But, when the current pandemic took over our lives and wreaked havoc, I found a rekindling, a desire to get in touch with my deeper, innate self.

I bet all of us have been contemplating life like never before since last year. I know that I have been in a frantic search for deeper meaning and insight more than ever. I’ve always enjoyed developing my own philosophies of life along the way as I’ve grown up, and have found great solace in Buddhist philosophy.

Even though it’s natural for people to apply different beliefs and wisdom into their lives through their own understanding of things, I have always been struck by the Buddhist principle of being a light unto ourselves. In my search for comfort during all this time, reading book after book for answers, listening to talks on self-improvement, and understanding other peoples’ faith in varied things, I found myself returning to this basic notion of having “no permanent self,” or no self at all, to save. And let me tell you, it was a comforting thought in all of this madness!

In my attempt to navigate through this slump I’d found myself in, I was reminded of the wise dragonfly and how much I longed to embody its gnostic wisdom and ability to trust and flow with life. I wanted to stop trying so hard and be more natural—living life the way I was meant to! So I sat down and searched the spiritual significance of dragonflies and found tons of information online, to my surprise.

Just as I’d imagined, dragonflies signified overcoming the illusions in our mind that hold us back from connecting with our true nature, owing to their ability to embrace change and transform so gracefully. This really resonated with my Zen concept of leaning inward to acknowledge my own “Buddha nature” and not seeking it outwardly. This awakening was deep for me.

The metamorphosis of the dragonfly reminded me of living life with renewed perspective, not obsolete beliefs—frustratingly, the more I had tried to make sense of things, the more detached I felt from the present moment. Now, instead, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and appreciation for nature and its beauty, especially its little agents of sagacity like the dragonfly, who I now believe to be my totem.

Fortunately for us, the one thing that is not a construction of our thoughts is nature, and its ability to remind us of this shared energy of oneness was perhaps my greatest lesson and reminder this year. We don’t need books or spiritual texts to understand this simple truth—just observe with an open heart and mind, and you’ll discover a sense of peace that is beyond words and knowledge.

The dragonfly is a species that has survived over the millennia, and for good reason. Having the power to inhabit both air and water, fly in all directions with a speed that is unmatched, and yet maintain a profound balance throughout—these little creatures have much insight to offer on the emotional maturity and adaptability required to navigate life with a deep understanding of the self. They’re a symbol of love, change, trust, and most importantly, hope—the one thing that we’re all surviving on.

Just like the Buddha’s complacent face always made me wonder about the secrets he kept that are unknown to us yet, the enigmatic dragonfly’s free-spirited nature was always a huge source of inspiration for me, enviable almost. But the more I let loose my need to have a sense of control over life and its events, the more I understood its message. The fact that a dragonfly lives most of its life as a nymph and not as an adult was my reminder to live in the current moment with a childlike wonder and appreciation for all that comes our way—both joy and suffering.

This is a fundamental belief in Buddhism as well. Suffering is inevitable, but embracing this reality instead of trying to control or negate it, is why it gains momentum. Instead, surrender to it and let it wash over you like a passing wave.

It’s been years since I last saw a dragonfly anywhere around me, but even the thought of them makes me smile almost immediately. I will forever hold a deep affection for these little creatures as they teach me to see through my self-imposed illusions and conditioning, to dance effortlessly through life, stripping away all the negativity that holds me back.

I believe we all are self-teachers and self-healers; there is nothing that we seek that is not already within us.

Even though I’d love to come across these winged friends of mine someday—as I thought about them one afternoon whilst my family drove down from our summer house in the hills—I had an even more profound experience.

I closed my eyes and spoke to my inner Buddha, asking it to help me detach from everything that doesn’t serve me and let me be awakened to all of me that I’m yet to discover. Upon opening my eyes, I was met with a huge billboard along the side of the road with the word “Nirvana” written all over it. Call it coincidence or a sign, but it was enough to rekindle that lost hope in my heart and reaffirm my belief that happier, carefree days were not too far ahead of me.

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