comments 26
Christ / Course Ideas

I was in Washington, D.C. this past weekend with my wife and her eight year old grandson, and we went to an IMAX film to see the story of Fred and Norah Urquhart, who spent much of their lives in a quest to understand the migratory path of monarch butterflies.  After several weeks of an extremely busy schedule at work and an annoying skin infection that has been insistent on delivering its message– a time in which even meditation has felt like squinting at my heart through wax paper, or running up an incline against the jet stream– the beauty and audacity of these little creatures (and the people who tracked their movements over decades) brought me to tears.

Sometimes you hang on for the ride, and take deep draughts of meaning when you can.  You hunt and hunt, and then somehow synchronize with it in a quiet moment.   Then you’re back in the crowds, clinging to that scrap of grace, drowned in snippets of conversation and cell phone photography.  Battery-draining flashes peppering a stuffed bison.

Down the hall from the IMAX is an exhibit about early humans and our five million years of evolutionary history.  My tears came from recognizing that butterflies have no reason to question their validity, no conscious bandwidth in which doubt about the necessity of flying south might reside, and when I look at the artist’s renditions of our ancestors I cannot help but think there were stages in our collective unfolding in which we were not really “thinkers” like we are today.  There was once no room  in awareness for the types of questions that can fester today.  I pictured beings that felt and loved and responded to circumstance, but perhaps without the depth of reflective awareness that we Homo sapiens possess.  And there I was… thinking… moderately uneasy about who knows what, a two-legged seed pod of the modern conundrum.

We stand on the threshold of perhaps the greatest leap in evolution I am capable of fathoming: the movement into form of the type of awareness that can both embody meaning, and be aware of it at the same time.  I conclude we are caretakers of meaning.  We carry it inside of us, knowing it not at times.  At the moment of its arrival, this is a stunning consideration.  I think this even as I carry my wax paper heart around with me wherever I go, attempting various resuscitative practices, returning frequently to the patient knowing from experience that these phases pass, usually concluding in revelation.

Back home, I sit to meditate and talk to this little skin dilemma, thinking about Amanda’s recent post on the wisdom of the body, thinking about five million years of eyes looking out into this realm, of one vision cascading into the next.  In the Dialogues of A Course of Love Jesus speaks about the movement from maintenance of Christ consciousness to its sustenance, a movement described as traversing the tiny remaining gap from image to presence.  We get a taste of the depths available to us, and then we skate through these periods of service interruption as we cross the boundary into full awareness, navigating times when we still occupy old habits and images.  It’s nothing we “did”, nothing we are “doing” or “not doing”, just an encounter with boundaries we once erected that no longer need be.

I take a breath and a whisper arrives from beyond the thread of thought I’m observing, something about shedding skins.  At once, the wax paper is gone, and I’m whole.  The spell is broken, and it happens in a flash.  A skin annoyance… a shedding skin… a realization there is an image to relinquish, a trying I have wandered into, a wax paper coating on my vision I have approached and witnessed.  I have slid into the thinking-trying mindset, and been nudged into awareness of it.  These moments can turn weeks of uncertainty into the recognition that a gentle force was guiding us all along through image to presence.  Five million years and counting, one subtle shift in awareness cascading into the next, the shedding of skins and concepts until meaning is all we have left– this is the migratory path of the human being.


  1. Very cool perspective Michael. I love the idea of shedding old perspectives to return to presence with new meaning. And humans as carriers of meaning is a unique view too.. though we also seem to be creators of meaning by what we ascribe to events, ideas and thoughts.

    BTW, I hope you enjoyed DC. I grew up in Northern, VA and am overdue to go see family and hopefully some museums too. 🙂


    • Hi Brad,

      D.C. made for a pretty great weekend. My first time, so it was full of surprises. I tried to buy a Metro ticket and put three fares on it, but unlike other subway systems I’ve used, you have to have a separate ticket for each traveler and you kind of “badge in” and then “badge out” and your fare is calculated at the end. Oh well. Eight year olds are light, and the gates are low…

      You bring up an interesting point about meaning. While we’re ultimately caretakers in the cosmic sense, we’re indeed constantly trying to supply our own. I think while we have that “separation” mindset, meaning is something we are compelled to manufacture on our own, using the events, circumstances, and outcomes we experience as the base material. As we shift into union, I think meaning becomes more of a constant, and we see it peeking out from every face and circumstance. It unfolds, with us as the unfolding, but it’s nothing we are missing that needs to be supplied… 🙂


      Liked by 1 person

  2. F.G.M. says

    Very interesting, thought provoking post Brad! “Five million years and counting, one subtle shift in awareness cascading into the next, the shedding of skins and concepts until meaning is all we have left– this is the migratory path of the human being.”… thanks for sharing!


    • Thank you for the reblog, William! I hadn’t thought of the obvious connection to Teilhard’s writing until I saw the reblog. It seems such a natural conclusion. One interesting observation I had was that although the physical characteristics of evolution have long been studied and documented, I haven’t seen much about how the awareness embodied in material forms has transformed or evolved over the eons of time that have passed. I think that would be a really interesting corollary to the physical processes that have been described, though it would be perhaps more difficult to reconstruct from bones and skeletons… 🙂



  3. Extracted from a Wikipedia article:

    A chrysalis (Latin chrysallis, from Greek χρυσαλλίς = chrysallís, pl: chrysalides, also known as an aurelia) or nympha is the pupal stage of butterflies. The term is derived from the metallic gold-coloration found in the pupae of many butterflies, referred to by the Greek term χρυσός (chrysós) for gold.

    When the caterpillar is fully grown, it makes a button of silk which it uses to fasten its body to a leaf or a twig. Then the caterpillar’s skin comes off for the final time. Under this old skin is a hard skin called a chrysalis.

    Because chrysalides are often showy and are formed in the open, they are the most familiar examples of pupae. Most chrysalides are attached to a surface by a Velcro-like arrangement of a silken pad spun by the caterpillar, usually cemented to the underside of a perch, and the cremastral hook or hooks protruding from the rear of the chrysalis or cremaster at the tip of the pupal abdomen by which the caterpillar fixes itself to the pad of silk. (Gr. ‘kremastos’=suspend)

    Like other types of pupae, the chrysalis stage in most butterflies is one in which there is little movement. However, some butterfly pupae are capable of moving the abdominal segments to produce sounds or to scare away potential predators. Within the chrysalis, growth and differentiation occur. The adult butterfly emerges (ecloses) from this and expands its wings by pumping haemolymph into the wing veins. Although this sudden and rapid change from pupa to imago is often called metamorphosis, metamorphosis is really the whole series of changes that an insect undergoes from egg to adult.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I came across this passage last night reading in A Course of Love:

      “You are the caterpillar, the cocoon, and the butterfly. This is the way that you are many Selves as well as one Self. You are a Self with many forms. The form you occupy contains all of your potential manifestations as the form of the caterpillar contains all of its potential manifestations.

      “You are the virgin, the pregnant, the birth, and the new life. This is the way of the world as well as the way of creation. What is unaltered remains unaltered despite its many manifestations. Wholeness exists in every cell, in each of every smallest particle of existence. Wholeness exists in you. Nothing can take wholeness from you. It is as natural to you as it is to all of creation. It does not exist only once potential is realized or made manifest, but always in all things.

      “Potential is that which exists. It exists as the power and energy, the spirit within you. It does not await. It simply is. It can remain as the untapped power of transformation, or it can be released.”


  4. ~meredith says

    “We stand on the threshold of perhaps the greatest leap in evolution I am capable of fathoming: the movement into form of the type of awareness that can both embody meaning, and be aware of it at the same time.”

    a rush, isn’t it? love this post Michael. hope you’re feeling better.
    (a righteous, five-heart fist bump. missed you!)


    • Thank you, Meredith. It is a rush, particularly when the heart and mind are collaborating in a field of presence strong enough to see the big picture. Five-heart fist bump right back at you! I have missed you, too.



  5. HI Michael,

    Beautiful post. Reading it slowly and attentively felt like such a rich exercise in prayer. I am so grateful and appreciative of your honesty. It is so wonderful to have you back!

    One thing that sticks out to me about your post is that when we move through life with an eye and ear for personal meaning, every experience is so much richer than we could have ever imagined. Your heart/vision (wax paper covered or not) always, always shines in your writing.

    This particular piece of yours hit me quite deep within, as it reminded me of a physical experience I had with my skin when I first began working with my dreams and finding some shadow material. I wrote briefly about the experience (see link below) and referenced a song about, well, Shedding Skin, Picking Scabs, Metamorphosis and…..Evolution.

    “A skin annoyance… a shedding skin… a realization there is an image to relinquish, a trying I have wandered into, a wax paper coating on my vision I have approached and witnessed. I have slid into the thinking-trying mindset, and been nudged into awareness of it. These moments can turn weeks of uncertainty into the recognition that a gentle force was guiding us all along through image to presence. Five million years and counting, one subtle shift in awareness cascading into the next, the shedding of skins and concepts until meaning is all we have left– this is the migratory path of the human being.”

    Incredible powerful paragraph, Michael, honoring the growing pains inherent to the process of moving towards that beautiful Presence you so often seem to embody. Moved (and goosebumped.)

    Warm Hugs,



    • I am reading a post at your place slowly, at this very time, Amanda! 🙂 This song is so so so perfect with Michael’s Migrations – one of my favorite tool tunes but this version – oh, delight!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Amanda. Tool is a band I love listening to, and that is one of my favorites, but somehow failed to discover in time to see them live in their heyday. I would have loved that… I had no idea when I listened to the music of the depth in their messages and compositions.

      I’d heard about the transforming DNA and the extra pair of chromosomes we may sprout one day, and while it’s fascinating to think about, it’s of little consolation when trying to peel the wax paper off the heart, isn’t it? Clearly evolution isn’t done yet… And I daresay the caterpillar doesn’t has it’s hands full simply being the caterpillar. We need a sense of hope and possibility to stitch us into the immediacy of our lives, which is where the chrysalis forms. But we want to avoid being caterpillars who are butterfly experts, and never submit to the death-traversing experience of metamorphosis…

      I’m glad you decided the message you received was to proceed with courage. We have this thinking mind that wants a roadmap for every step in the process, and it does take courage to submit to the unknown… but that is the manner in which authenticity emerges!



  6. I often feel like we are a community who meet each other in all of these stages, crawling, cocooning, emerging, fluttering by with beautiful wings. We are in and out of all the stages at once, crawling out on far limbs, checking on each other for signs of emergence, learning from each other’s shedding skin, delighting in the beauty of each flyby! I’m with ms. ~m; maybe we can even do a righteous antennae bump, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • A beautiful description, M. I think we are indeed, witnessing and becoming all at once. It is miraculous to be in the midst of it all, so many gifts being perpetually exchanged… You have me thinking of some kind of rolling high five, like a wave passing around the stadium, all those little caterpillar feet choreographed in tandems…



  7. Beautiful post, Michael. I like your analogy with wax paper. Sometimes it feels like that for me. Thank you for the reminder that those periods do pass. I love your statement that we are “the caretakers of meaning.”


    • Thank you, Sarah. Yes, they do pass… 🙂 Part of the beauty of it all is, in my experience, the passing leaves behind a strengthening, or deepening, that in its discovery makes the whole experience seem to have been perfect, when in the midst of it all the wax paper so often seems like an unnecessary and undesirable impediment.



  8. Hi Michael,
    I, too, have been savoring, and rereading your post. It’s honest to recognize and admit these waxed-papered heart moments.

    I think the confidence gained from what we know is not about the ebb and flow of thoughts and feelings, but having visited those amazing places we never knew were there before we experienced them first hand. The touch received, whether perceived as coming from God, god or some beloved angel or ancestor, leaves a mark, both wounding and healing, and never lets us forgets. At least, that has been my experience.



    • Hi Debra,

      I love your description here of the touch that leaves a mark, and the wound that heals. I would tend to agree with you that it’s not the transient feelings and thoughts coming and going that matter as much as the realization that what we’ve known has somehow been transformed, and there’s no going back…



    • It is hard to believe we’re two years out from the much anticipated 2012 isn’t it? I remember when Y2K came and went. So many of us looking at each other through spy glasses from atop our towers of dried bean canisters. It is amazing how the biggest transformation can be so well-hidden in the every day. We’re alive inside of it right now, and we think things are mostly normal… A synchronicity here and there… A five minute string of thank you’s… The pure sensation of being alive… But, yes, it’s all just normal stuff…!



  9. Hey Michael, thanks for sharing your personal experiences. I am so glad you enjoyed the weekend with your family, back in the crowds and flashing iPones 🙂 I actually find such ‘escapades’ necessary and quiet lovely in a way, taking us out of our inner little worlds into the immediate world of other humans hahaha
    I wonder if us humans evolved, devolved or revolved. I feel differently at different times but can’t escape the overall feeling that if the whole world would be merged into one person, it would not make for a highly evolved or conscious being… Yet a part of me wants to believe that yes we are on the verge of making a quantum leap into … I don’t know, I am open to experience 😉 xox


    • You’ve got me on the evolved, devolved, or revolved. I’m hesitant to put a bet on any one of them. I’m thinking it doesn’t matter because the next step is not dependent upon our interpretation of the past: just greet the next moment with as much acceptance as we can muster, and never forget we are nodes in a standing wave of Possibility.

      And I agree, navigating the sea of micro-electronics and entitled tourists is a good way to be brought out of any shells we may have slipped into. When you step back and observe humanity, at least at the Smithsonian, you see we’re not spending our days seeking for food, but spending our days seeking for meaning and knowledge. I am inclined to believe that something good is bound to come of that.



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