From Caterpillar to Butterfly: The Marvels of Metamorphosis

Feb 10, 2017 | Sufism

Transformation can be uncomfortable, be it personal or global transformation.  Yet if the caterpillar doesn’t shed its skin it cannot become a chrysalis.  If it does not spend the full required time in the chrysalis phase, it does not become a butterfly.

When I was at Red Wiggler Community Farm in Maryland, I tended what we called the Monarch Maternity Ward.  We collected the eggs from the wild milkweed plants before the county would come to mow the fields.  We maintained them as they hatched to caterpillars and grew through their stages until they morphed into the chrysalis stage.  Then we patiently waited for the miraculous emergence of the beautiful Monarch butterfly.

Once, when moving some of the plants, I accidentally dropped a chrysalis and it cracked open.  What emerged was a green soupy liquid.  It had no resemblance to a caterpillar or a butterfly.

Do you wonder what happens in this transformational stage?  The caterpillar actually digests itself!  It releases enzymes that dissolve its tissues into a soup.  The only things that survive the digestive process are called imaginal discs.  The soup becomes the fuel for the imaginal discs to grow into the adult body parts.  The discs can actually hold knowledge from the previous stages of life that is transferred to the adult.

The developmental process still holds many mysteries, but we know that what emerges is a beauty that fills us with joy and wonder.

For the seekers on the Sufi path, transformation is inevitable.  We can only see a small part of what really happens when Allah brings us healing and personal evolution for our souls.

We know that the memories and pictures from our past form protective barriers around the heart.  When encased in the water of love and compassion, these barriers are dissolved and can guide us through doorways that lead us to know more of Allah’s Reality.

Sidi said that Allah cooks us in the fire of His Love until we are tender and ready to be consumed.  This is a metamorphosis we can feel and witness from an outer perspective, but there are many secrets behind the mysteries of Allah’s Wisdom.

This is where we rely on faith and trust get us through.  We trust that if we protect and care for the chrysalis and wait patiently, a beautiful butterfly will emerge.  Likewise, if we protect and care for our entire beings – the body, mind, heart and soul – our spirits will emerge and soar to the heavens with our Beloved, insha’llah.


These are times of rapid change.  No doubt, Allah’s Wisdom is choreographing a mysterious dance in our universe.  If you are feeling effects of these changes on the inner or outer, take time for self-care, be patient with yourself and trust in Allah’s Perfection.

Take time to watch the moths and butterflies and marvel at God’s mysteries.

Have a blessed weekend!

With love and gratitude,

Mastura Graugnard on behalf of all your friends and family at UOS