Beyond The Milkweed by Rev. Eileen Patra

I recall the field behind my house when I was young. It was overgrown with a weed called milkweed. They were really quite beautiful when flowering and rather interesting to a child trying to determine where the milk was. But perhaps the most interesting thing about milkweed is that it is the only plant that the larvae of the Monarch butterfly can eat.

Few symbols in nature illustrate the circle of life and transformation as well as the butterfly. It is a traditional sign of spring and the cycle of the seasons. The cocoon process  provides a highly visual metaphor for life; it's stages, struggles, growth and inevitable Transformation.

In a culture that abhors weeds and rampantly utilizes chemicals to deter their growth we stand to lose the delicate and exquisite beauty of the Monarch butterfly and its inherent  symbol of transformation. To remedy this situation, Monarch lovers can plant way stations of noninvasive milkweed for the young larvae and various nectar flowers for the newly emerged butterfly who will soon seek richer sources of nectar.

Reflecting on these Monarch way stations left me asking what kind of plants does the newly formed butterfly seek? What lies beyond the milkweed upon which it is weened? Is the entire process of transformation guided by an innate desire to reach that nectar? Does the larvae ask itself what lies beyond the milkweed? Or does it just consume until it can consume no more?

This brings a new parallel or metaphor to light does it not? Isn't there a desire in our hearts to experience a greater sweetness, a greater nectar of life? If we look to the journey of the Monarch perhaps we can draw some conclusions about our own journey beyond the milkweed.

In our human experience we are born with an insatiable need to learn and to be fed...to taste the milk of human experience.  At some point along the way, milk and drawing nourishment from outside of us no longer serves our needs. We are full yet unable to feel fed. And something deep within tells us to retreat, to stop the outer activity and draw all attention within. We shut the door on outer stimuli and look within for a reconnection with our divine potential...for nourishment that goes beyond what the world can provide. 

In efforts to grow beyond the nourishment of the world; of sense consciousness we often experience some degree of struggle or conflict. We gain strength from the process of struggle just as a butterfly gains strength from pushing its way through the chrysalis or cocoon. But the emerging butterfly does more than simply push and struggle. It rests.  It pushes, moves forward, and then rests, allowing the fluid within its body to pour forth into its fragile wings.

Just as every struggle or conflict in our lives provides an opportunity for growth, the choice to rest, to become nonresistant to the experiences that come before us we allow our inner strength to emerge. This inner strength is not nourished from the outside. It is not released through conflict or pushing or even winning. It is released by practicing peace, practicing love, practicing the very presence of God in all things. It is released by becoming quiet and communing with the very breath of Spirit.

In this pupa state we begin to grow in a new way. What is within us begins to emerge and bring forth inner strength to an outer expression. In the butterfly, the struggle of emergence and the periods of rest strengthen the wings so it may finally reach the nectar perhaps sought from the very beginning.  In our human experience which often includes struggle, the ultimate emergence of our spiritual nature gives us wings as well. Through our most challenging experiences and the turning to quiet prayer that is thus induced, we gain a strengthened ability to rise above human limitation and reach the sweetness of Life itself. This strength lies within our true spiritual nature. It is written in our spiritual DNA. It is a strength that reflects the divine harmony imprinted upon each and every soul from the very beginning. 

Beyond the milkweed lie plants much richer in nectar. Beyond what nourishes our bodies and feeds our human experience lies the nectar of Spirit, the richness of life.  It is from deep within that we bring about a transformation of spirit, soul and body that lifts us onto the wings of Spirit where we reach the true nectar of Life, an awareness high above the confines of the human mind to the infinite wholeness and sweet harmony of Divine Mind.

Hebrews 5:13-14
For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.