With spring comes the transformed growth of imagination
Diana's OC Register column published March 21, 2013 original article here
DIANA CHRISTINSON/GUEST COLUMNIST
Spring begins – the day was perfectly balanced with the night on March 20, the vernal equinox. For us living in Southern California, the changing of the seasons are subtle.
The chill has lifted and we get out sandals and put our Ugg boots away until next fall. The city streets and hiking trails are alive with the colors of spring flowers and the smell of fruit trees in bloom. The whales are migrating south, and the mocking birds begin their night song. I am waiting to see my first caterpillar of the season.
"The Tao turns the tides and changes caterpillars into butterflies.
Do you truly believe that it has less magic, mystery or meaning in store for you?
Pay attention to what within you is beginning to awaken.
The caterpillar can feel the essence of the butterfly even before it begins to emerge.
Remember, butterflies are never born on the ground.
This type of total transformation occurs only after an arduous climb up the trunk of the tree and a perilous trip out onto the barest branch.
Risk is the cost of attaining anything of real value.
Create your own chrysalis of consciousness; a protective cocoon in which you realize yourself more wholly.
Dawning as a radiant light, awakening others in the same way.
Source: Tao de Ching 78th Passage, Translated by Dorien Israel
Caterpillars represent more than the coming of spring; they symbolize transformation and the possibility of metamorphose.
The caterpillar, a creature closest to the earth and chunky, literally transforms into a beautiful flying creature. The transformation of the caterpillar is a biological miracle with a message.
With my limited knowledge of insects, I always imagined the caterpillar in the cocoon transforming bit by bit, growing wings and butterfly antennas. But the metamorphosis of this creature is much more miraculous. Unlike mammals, the insect world transformation is almost alien or other-worldly. The caterpillar once in the cocoon starts to disintegrate into a pile of mush and decay.
While still a caterpillar, unique cells called imaginal cells show up in the caterpillar. The caterpillars' immune system thinks they are enemies and fights them off. The imaginal cells continue to grow like crazy, multiply and eventually take over. Cells start to cluster together into groups that resonate at the same frequency, passing information from one to another. One cluster becomes the wings, another cluster becomes legs and another antennae. Research professor Lincoln Brower reports, "And so the transformation of metamorphosis goes. ... Nothing like this happens in vertebrates – ever. It's a phenomenon of insects and it truly is a miraculous biological process of transformation."
What makes the imaginal cells miraculous is that while within the caterpillar they were not caterpillar cells, nor were they butterfly cells. They "imagined" themselves. "The term imaginal cell is given to those formative, embryonic cells embedded within the caterpillar which imagine and create the butterfly," according to Deanne Bedar, author of "Imaginal Cells: A Metaphor of Transformation."
The imaginal cell inspires us to believe in transformation and to imagine.
The equinox brings vibrant colors and smells. Seeing the first caterpillar will remind me of the Einstein quote, "Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions."
What is coming? What is possible? The caterpillar's message, what can we imagine for ourselves?
– Diana Christinson is the director and instructor at Pacific Ashtanga Yoga Shala in Dana Point. She received her master's degree in psychology and has combined her deep appreciation for Eastern philosophies, mythology and meditation practices with the Ashtanga yoga system.