Somehow it always seems to come back to the butterflies.
I can not resist their outrageous colour, their delicate wings, their smile-inducing antics. Even the ones in my mind.
The first time I called on butterfly energy seemed magical. John and I were riding our skinny-tired road bikes along a stretch of highway that wasn’t friendly to non-motorized vehicles. The shoulder was narrow, the ground seemed to fall away forever beside me, and the traffic buffeted me as it roared past.
I watched John pedal ahead of me – he’s faster and more confident and was fully in his groove – and realized I was beginning to panic. Even though I loved being on my bike, everything about this moment was scary.
As if by divine inspiration, I thought of butterflies. In fact, I imagined I was swarmed with them – bright coloured butterflies, completely enveloping me, moving so fast with me you couldn’t even tell what colours they wore! They gave me safety, confidence, speed, and it showed in my ride.
The rest of the scary section went by quickly and I caught up with John, sooner than he’d thought I would. I was filled with wonder and relief. Were the butterflies real?
I began to think of them as a powerful gift. Rather than prayers or light energy, neither of which felt comfortable to me, I could send people butterflies. They might be to brighten a dark day, provide safety, or boost health. Like any other shared positive thought, they had power.
Butterflies always make you smile.
Indeed, that’s what kept me positive throughout my health crisis.
For months there was little I could do besides get through my work day. In a time before our lives were played out on Facebook and Twitter, I still needed community, so I would use my spare time to connect with women in online forums. We shared an interest in cycling, in fitness and the common thread of being women. And we shared our lives there.
The thing was, I wasn’t living very fully at the time, and really wasn’t interested in sharing my symptoms all the time. But when I moved the focus away from me and started to look for ways I could help others, my mood would improve. Even more so when that help involved sending butterflies.
On the days when I felt the worst I would seek out those in the group who were having a hard day – feeling under the weather, worry about a job situation, recovering from an accident. Whatever the issue, the butterflies would go their way and often lighten the moment for them.
The beauty in this was it was guaranteed to make me feel better, too.
In sending them out I would feel abundance overflowing. It’s as if these butterflies magically replenish themselves. For each batch I send out, 2 more batches are here with me – bringing me safety and relief and smiles, and ready to go help someone else.
It’s been my habit to send butterflies for years.
I only realized recently the role butterflies play in Gratitude.
As I read this fabulous post about shifting the focus of Gratitude, I began to visualize the standard gratitude model. And I realized that model is very me-focused, very ego-based. If I’m grateful for food and shelter, I’m thinking about my own survival and my own comforts. And while I’d never tell you to not be grateful for what you have, there’s so much more richness in Gratitude that goes beyond thankfulness.
In the past few years, the universe revealed gratitude to me as something with 4 elements: Thankfulness, Awareness, Community and Kindness. It is both appreciative and connected, mindful and awe-filled.
If I visualize gratitude in the fullness of these elements, there is no straight line to me, no inventory of blessings rained upon me. Rather it’s more like an ocean, calm yet always moving, touching your shore and mine, and all of the beautiful souls in our community, our soul-family. We float together here, connected by this intention, this awareness, this healing gratitude.
It’s one thing to picture this, one thing to see the elements, to categorize them and share them and talk about them, but how do I practice Gratitude?
This month I found I was stuck with a dropped Center of Gratitude, with writing deadlines and seemingly nothing new to say. Just as I watched others succeed, move forward with plans, and began to feel further and further outside of my own gratitude, a whip-smart voice asked me what made me feel like I was in gratitude.
I listened to myself list the usual practices: taking pictures, writing, sending butterflies….and she stopped me there. She needed to know the story of butterflies. What did that mean?
With a comparison to praying or sending healing light, she understood and had one suggestion to get me back on track. Send more butterflies. Up the ante. Quadruple the butterflies I send in a day for the next 30 days.
And while I’m not the person who will count and keep track of the butterflies and maintain a “challenge” for the next 30 days, it did open my eyes to the real truth about Gratitude.
Thankfulness alone, the practice of being grateful for all the wondrous blessings we may have, is not only ego-based, but it’s also passive. It’s about acknowledging, but it’s not adding anything to the energy of the world.
Sending butterflies moves beautiful energy into the world.
It carries my intention of kindness to those in my community who need it. It lifts the spirits for others and for me.
For me it’s butterflies, but I see beautiful examples of this sort of active Gratitude in play all over my social spheres. There’s Ellie Di encouraging us to all keep a TA DA list every day. There’s Jacque and her Sidewalk Revolution. There are groups practicing random acts of kindness and leaving love notes in public places. And those are just the ones on Facebook!
All of this is given freely, has no real cost, and is guaranteed to improve a moment for someone else as well as the giver. And you could be that giver.
What do you have to give? Your kind word, your invitation to share joy and beauty, could be exactly what someone needs right now.
Are you ready to take Gratitude to a whole other level? Are you ready to fly with the butterflies?
Not sure these butterflies actually do anything? This story might change your mind.
Ah the beauty of a fluttering butterfly always DOES bring a smile and that instant reminder to be present to be with what IS here right at this MOMENT. I love your idea of visualizing swarms of them when you’re feeling scared or worried. The perfect antidote to your unease on the bike!
So glad my post inspired you – and I’ll be sending out some butterflies across the ethers now. Thanks for Your inspiration!
I’m filled with peace just reading this. Knowing that a kindle soul is practicing gratitude for about the exact same reason as me makes me feel less alone and despaired. And luckily, all those butterflies you send have no trouble finding me and the flowers in my hair — because they encourage me to keep brightening others’ days with an unexpected smile and sweet disposition. I’m so glad those butterflies are enveloping you with their love and protection. You’re a wonderful person.
You’re awesome. xx