Our caterpillar-like transformation: Transitioning from busy consuming, consuming and undergoing dramatic change as imaginal cells take over

June Kaililani Tanoue

Kumu Hula Two weeks ago, David Loy spoke at our Sunday Morning Zen and talked about the lifecycle of a caterpillar. The most interesting stage is the chrysalis.

It has been 6 weeks now that we’ve been sheltering-in-place. What a huge change this has been for all of us around the world! A shake-up of our “normal” lives into something totally different. I wonder how this will change our ways of thinking and being?

We’d been living quite a “caterpillar” existence pre-coronavirus — consuming, consuming, consuming. We were defined and valued as consumers. Names are powerful – we tend to live up to them. But now everything has stopped. We’re not purchasing as much as we have been.

Two weeks ago, David Loy spoke at our Sunday Morning Zen and talked about the lifecycle of a caterpillar. The most interesting stage is the chrysalis.

The chrysalis stage is when consuming stops. This is a time when things change dramatically. The caterpillar dies and slowly changes into a soupy goo. Imaginal cells that were originally in the caterpillar continue to live and feed off of this goo.

Initially, these imaginal cells operate as single-cell organisms – entirely independent of one another. Then they start to multiply and connect with one another forming clusters. At some point they stop acting as individual, separate cells and, instead, transform into a multiple-celled organism – a butterfly!

Like those imaginal cells, we may initially think that we’re separate beings, but deep down I think that we know that we’re interconnected. The virus has made that clear. It’s also clear that we are all the same in that we all want to be happy, avoid illness and other negative impacts.

This chrysalis phase we find ourselves in, like the butterfly’s chrysalis, is wisdom and compassion. Imaginal cells come together like people coming together to help each other. What will emerge has got to be as magnificent as a butterfly.

I give my deep gratitude to all those working in the health care professions and food industry – farmworkers, farmers, grocery store workers, restauranteurs who make food and people who deliver helping many of us shelter-in-place relatively easily. Thank you to those in the teaching profession for helping our children to keep learning in a new way. And mahalo nui to all the people helping others by making masks, sheltering the ill, and being kind.


Malama pono (take care of body, mind and heart),


June Kaililani Tanoue

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