Why the Dragonfly: Reflections on Transformation

Did you know that dragonflies start their lives as nymphs, living in the water up to five years before wriggling their way up a piece of grass and birthing themselves into adulthood?

Me neither – until I was meditating and sensed to include a dragonfly in the branding process in which I am engaged.  All I really knew about them was they ate mosquitoes – when I lived in northern NY, they would release hundreds of thousands of dragonflies to help humans survive summer.  So from that starting point, I did some research.  Now I get it…

Unlike caterpillars that go into a cocoon to transform into butterflies, nymphs transform into dragonflies in the midst of their daily life. They molt up to 15 times as a nymph before moving out of the water and shedding their exoskeleton to reveal the capacity to fly that was there all along. In fact, the very water that supported their existence as a nymph becomes the fuel for their metamorphosis.  It literally becomes the force that splits the skin down the nymph’s back and encourages the wings to unfold.

During this period of in-the-grass transformation, the nymph/dragonfly is soft and vulnerable. In the world, unprotected, moving from inner guidance, this tender nymph transforms itself.  Wings emerge, eyes enlarge, skin hardens, and the dragonfly takes off to experience its’ new life – free from the bounds of water – a life unfathomable to the nymph.

Dragonfly as a metaphor for trasnformation

When I hold the dragonflies’ metamorphosis in my heart, I resonate with it.  I, too, have used the experiences of my life to learn, awaken and move more fully into my humanity and Divinity (adulthood); to learn to fly as a whole, integrated being.  In my world, it’s called spiritual awakening or conscious evolution.  In the dragonfly’s world, it’s simply life.

Over  the last decade or so, this process – moving through transformation in broad daylight with lots of things going on around me – has become commonplace.  It’s vulnerable all right.  It requires strength and flexibility – the capacity to follow my knowing, face my fears, and do the next indicated thing – just like the nymph and the dragonfly. 

The fuel?  There’s all kinds of fuel…obvious ones like the ending of my first marriage, a rollover car accident, losing a job, filing for bankruptcy, and not so obvious ones like deciding how to spend our vacation, cooking dinner, and writing a blog.  Anything that triggers an emotional response (positive or negative) is fuel for transformation.  If we engage with the emotional experience, we transform. If we repress, ignore or project our emotional experience onto others, we stay in the water, often getting sick, depressed or worse.

So I move forward, transforming myself through meditation, yoga, therapy, being with my feelings, facing my fears, being vulnerable, learning to love myself and others, celebrating my successes – essentially by living and engaging with life.  By having faith and listening to and acting on that inner guidance system often called intuition – much like the nymph does when it follows it’s instincts to walk up a piece of grass.

There’s no way to know who/what we will become when we are a nymph (caught in beliefs that no longer serve, in pain, suffering, etc.).  We must take the next indicated step, in the dark, while trusting something larger than us of which we are a part.  It’s through conscious living that we become capable of flying. 

When I reflect on the work I do with and space I hold for clients and workshop participants, I see that I offer a form of dragonfly medicine – sacred space (presence, empathy), tools, and wisdom that increase our capacity to fly – to engage more fully with ourselves, our intuition, and those around us.  Like the dragonfly, we transform and take flight in the midst of our daily lives.  What a blessing.

Share this: Facebooklinkedinmail


  1. Linda Fischer says

    Thank you for this beautiful article, I now know I am a dragonfly. You precious blog touched my morning and opened my heart even more to this delicious journey of life. Miss you Emilah, you are forever in my heart. Blessings, Linda

  2. wonderful story, emilah. a great metaphor for our transformation right smack in the midst of our “stuff”…and a perfect symbol! thanks for your inspiration. love, rhea

  3. Joanne Mason says

    How beautiful Emilah, thank you! Just this week I encountered dragonflies several times while driving. Each time, it was more than one. They danced around my car as I drove, then took off. I watched them with wonder, wanted to understand more about them, then today I received your blog with this exquisite description of how they evolve. Although I want to believe they have been hovering around me for a special purpose, it seems that it is dragonfly season in the Northeast. Many others have spoken of their encounter with them lately. Maybe both ideas are true, it is dragonfly season and they are also hovering around me to remind me of my commitment to living conciously. I think it is true that you do offer a form of dragonfly medicine–a very fitting analogy. It is truly a blessing! Best, Joanne

  4. Tadesse Hussein says

    Hello Emilah,
    Thank you for the wonderful blog.In my Country,Uganda -Malaria kills more people than HIV-Aids,especially children and pregnant mothers.I did not know that Dragon flies feed on Mosquitoes.I sometimes see one in my house,they like flying around corners of the house and near the bulbs,and those are the places the mosquito’s like more.Dragon flies could be the solution for the eradication of malaria in our country.Pesticides have failed and are also not good for our health.
    I remember, when i was at the 2010 IIt in Albuquerque,all the guidance and the support you gave me will never be forgotten.
    Tadesse Hussein

  5. Mary-Beth says

    It is a privilege to receive your blog. Your words feed my spirit like food feeds my body. Thank you. Mary-Beth

  6. Mary-Beth says

    OOps! I spelled your name wrong. I know how to spell it but I did not check my reply before pressing the send button. Please forgive me. MB

  7. Hi Emilah, I realize this blog was written a month ago, yet I was drawn to reading it this morning. I love the analogy of transformation in the midst of and in tandem with everyday life. I used to think we transformed in medititaion, solitude, and silence and it’s clear that just like the dragonfly, we transform because of and in synch with life, people, events. Thank you for sharing your humaness and vulnerability with us. It gives us permission to do the same…to look at and breathe through our own fears to move towards more beauty and peace. Blessings always, Jeannine

  8. Morning Emilah, I appreciate your observations more than you know. As I practice my self talk I have noticed changes energetically. This for me is the signal of honesty with myself, the peace that comes following this work is welcomed. It too signals right-work. Thank you for your inspirations on continuous renewal.