Those experiencing intense personal and spiritual transformation often find themselves wrought with fear, doubt, and resistance. Why? Because life is filled with uncertainty and that’s how we humans respond to uncertainty. It’s that simple. Relying on intuition and faith can help one navigate uncertainty and engage more fully with the transformational journey.
When humans undergo periods of intense personal and spiritual growth, their instinct is to withdraw from society, like caterpillars that go into a cocoon. While withdrawing can be helpful, dragonflies offer another model of transformation.
Dragonfly nymphs undergo transformation in the midst of their daily life, molting up to 15 times before moving out of the water onto a blade of grass to shed their exoskeleton. The water remaining in a nymph’s body becomes the fuel for its metamorphosis. It literally becomes the force that slits the skin down its back and encourages its wings to unfold.
During periods of human transformation, the structures that have supported life begin falling away, just as the nymph’s body falls away to make room for the emerging dragonfly. Beliefs, relationships and livelihood undergo change – sometimes rapid change, sometimes change that slowly reveals itself.
Using the experiences of daily life as fuel, much like the nymph uses water in its body, allows the old to fall away and creates space for the new to emerge. Feeling the feelings that arise in daily life is a simple and effective way to use the experiences as fuel. This practice serves as a way of molting; shedding what no longer serves and allowing strategies to emerge to support the new.
During the period of on-the-grass transformation, the nymph is vulnerable and unprotected. Wings emerge, eyes enlarge, skin hardens, and a dragonfly takes flight into its new life. This new life is unfathomable to the nymph. It steps into its new life by simply following instinct, the animal kingdom’s version of intuition.
Vulnerability and Intuition
Vulnerability is a hallmark of the human transformational process as well. Learning to manage the naturally arising fear, anxiety and doubt by listening to, acting on and trusting intuition is essential.
Intuition comes most often through sensation in the body; a sense of constriction as a warning or a sense of expansion as encouragement. But it can also be received through language (words or tones that simply drop into the mind) and through flashes of vision (like seeing pictures or movies in the mind’s eye). Most people experience a mix of all three.
Practicing hearing, seeing, feeling and experiencing intuitive guidance in daily life strengthens intuition. Practicing using one’s intuition can be as simple as asking for guidance about which direction to take while driving, who to call for help, or which task on the “to do” list is the next indicated thing. The more one listens to and acts on the guidance for mundane decisions, the more one comes to trust it for big, life-changing decisions.
Most people try to make sense of the guidance they receive by relating it to structures, behaviors and beliefs that that are falling away. This doesn’t work. The nymph doesn’t question what’s happening during its metamorphosis; it simply does it. While surrendering to the process of transformation is more challenging for humans, it’s still essential. Turning off the mind is hard, but putting it in service to the heart is easier. In other words, don’t’ stop considering, thinking, or taking action, but do explore if that action is in service to the new that is emerging.
Trusting the transformational process and cultivating faith is the final piece of this work. Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, defines faith as “a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” This definition of faith is exactly what helps us remember there is something larger at work in our lives. We may not know exactly where we are going, but we we can trust the flow of life.
Like a nymph that has no awareness of its capacity to become a dragonfly, humans can’t know their transformed state until it arrives. Yet the potential to fly is always there. Following intuition and leaning into the mystery of faith is how humans take flight.