Initiations & Rites of Passage

Our family was recently given two little Monarch caterpillars. These little beings have brought such incredible joy to our family as we have watched, fed and cleaned their cages and just taken true delight in the process of them eating voraciously.

One recently became a chrysalis, so we’re hoping we’re going to be around when they come out and become a beautiful butterfly. The second one recently transitioned into the J shape, which some of you may know is the precursor to becoming a chrysalis.

My wife very excitedly greeted me at the bottom of the stairs the other night after I put the kids down saying that the process was underway and unfolding. Sure enough, about half of the caterpillar was already wrapped in the chrysalis. I was transfixed – truly amazed to watch this process.

Even though I have had caterpillars and butterflies in the past, I was filled with so much awe, wonder and humility at this truly transformative process unfolding in front of me. It seemed like the chrysalis was simultaneously emerging, expanding and enveloping the caterpillar. And it seemed like the caterpillar was actively embracing this process of decay and disillusion.

It struck me that I was having the privilege of really taking in a rite of passage and initiation that was undergoing. Many of you probably are well aware of, and even use the symbolism of this metamorphosis to speak to the journey that we all as individuals can follow and lead to our own emergence and unfolding.

It also struck me as I watched this new beginning, expansion and emergence of the chrysalis – the seeming pain, disruption and hardship of the caterpillar losing itself in some regards speaks to some of what our society is going through. We see beautiful new beginnings if we look around. Possibilities and changes underway, and transformation that leads us more in the direction of the harmonious and sustainable way of being on the planet.

These are to be celebrated. At the same time, there’s major uprooting, disruption, tension and turbulence that’s happening everywhere that can seem so upsetting and hard. At times I really struggle with how to hold both of these two things simultaneously. Witnessing this caterpillar and chrysalis and understanding the process was really helpful for me.

I’ve always loved rituals and ceremonies and rites of passage. Both to be personally a part of them, to facilitate and offer for others, as well as to witness and support others. I always thought of rites of passage and rituals for people, but I guess I can include caterpillars as well as the natural world of no surprise. I take that experience not only to keep me humble and in awe of the world and the processes I’m a part of but also to remember these teachings and lessons of rites of passage and initiation that I go through in the natural world and our society.

It’s sometimes really easy to romanticize the wonderful changes that can come about through these processes of metamorphosis and change. These are to be celebrated. We can continually become bigger, better versions of ourselves, both individually and collectively.

But I think we often forget about just how much hardship and pain goes into this process and that can’t be lost. So looking around and seeing the pain and the hardship on the planet and with other people, I can come back to the caterpillar and remember:

Through these rites of passage that we all need to go through to emerge into something more beautiful and better… there is often pain.May I remember that and not run away from it and even lean into it. May I lean into my own dissolution, decay, transformation and pain, because that’s something that is necessary.

I hope you also can remember this as you move forward in your personal life and as you take in what’s happening in the world around you.

If rites of passage and initiations that we go through individually, and as a society and culture on the planet is a subject matter you’re interested in, I hope you’ll consider joining us for our Fireside Chat. We are excited to reconvene our community to be in the inquiry in questions of Ecopsychology.

May you embrace all of it and never lose your delight and awe. Be well. Remember, nature knows the way.

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