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One of my several great coaches told a most amazing story last week about transformation. It’s about the butterfly, which, if you’ve seen me present “What’s In Your Tool Kit?”,  you know this insect in the original Techno-colored Dream Coat is my favorite symbol of that whole transforming, growing thing.

The story goes that the caterpillar eats it’s way into a green-leaf-chlorophyll fueled stuper, hooks itself to a nice looking branch and spins its cocoon. Tightly snuggled in this cozy little abode, it begins to change from a weird, multi-legged worm like thing, into an astonishing beautiful flying machine.

But we’ve all heard that part, huh? The new need-to-know stuff in this story was about these crazy cells that caterpillars have called Imaginal cells. These Imaginal cells are the secret sauce that forces the transformation from leaf muncher to the sublime. It seems that they start coming out as soon as the cocoon is complete and are attacked as intruders by the caterpillars immune system as quickly as they appear. This continues until the Imaginal cells are present in a large enough numbers that they overwhelm the caterpillar’s defenses and begin to become the butterfly.

I loved this metaphor. I mean, the idea of “cells” getting together, joining forces to make beautiful things happen, takes me back to the days when we were sure that, as a group united, we could impact the world, make change for the better. Pretty great to think about, I reckon. Sort of like cells rising up and making great things happen. Hey, even the amazing savant Deepak Chopra has asked us all to be Imaginal cells for humanity. And he’s not alone, just about everyone who has heard this caterpillar to butterfly story gets a little giddy on the metaphor and its possibilities.

What a fantastic, inspirational tale! I’m certainly in, aren’t you?

But then, as always, in my never ending compulsive quest to fortify my curiosity muscle, I had to know more about these amazing cells, these magical forces of nature for goodness. And that’s when I got the bad news.  And then the good news. (They are both always there, huh?)

First the bad news, always: The whole thing about strength is numbers and using that power for positive transformation? Not true. The wonderfully created concept of joining together and fighting the forces of evil, it just doesn’t happen. You see, the real story is that the caterpillar’s immune system actually never does go after these crazy Imaginal cells. And so, while I still love the story, this little scientific tidbit kind of puts a bit of a damper on the whole the “We Are One And Together We Change The World”  lesson from its telling. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value, it’s certainly a beautiful and powerful presentation of one of the most beautiful and powerful possibilities for Human Kind.

And what the heck, I love stories and I tell them all the time, story telling is a big part of being a person that separates us from the rest of the of our Earthmates. Let’s face it, many of our favorite stories have stretched or even broken, facts or truths within them that remain because they help to tell the tale or teach the lesson. So I’ll continue to love the “Caterpillar Kills the Butterfly Until The Butterfly Gets Too Powerful To Be Held Down” story.

Ah, but wait, there’s still the good news, remember? And, as delicious as the original story and metaphor remain, the reality is much more exciting and even more full of promise. You see, with out getting too deep in the science, the Imaginal cells play an even more profound part in the transformation from something green, awkward and wiggly into something celestial in its beauty and astonishing in it’s ability to realize its own beauty and power.

Here it is: The Imaginal cells, those magical bits that produce the transformative process, the thing we thought the caterpillar fought, were actually in the caterpillar all along. These cells are the very things that tell the the worm how to become the butterfly. And they’ve been there the whole time, waiting, patiently for the exact right moment to become a wing or a leg or one of those crazy antennae things! And once it starts, there’s no stopping the process of transformation!

For me this an even more exciting and powerful metaphor. The fact is, humans working together is an enticing and empowering concept. Yet, the idea that we all have a “Butterfly Within”, that all of us have the power of cells needed for our own transformation living within us is more exciting, still. I mean, we all have our own Imaginal cells, sitting there, waiting patiently, obediently, for the right moment to force our Butterfly-ness out of us. Could there be anything more inspiring? And, our own transformation notwithstanding, how amazing is it be witness to those kooky ol’ Imaginal cells activating in people around us? We can certainly all dwell in the wonder of our own transformation, whether fast or slow, immediately apparent or not, and then, even better than that, is the experience of watching someone else when their Imaginal cells kick in.

Then, the best news of all? True human, personal, transformation has little choice but to awaken others, individually, and in the collective consciousness as well, creating all the types of possibilities that those “Mythical” Imaginal cells did in the original tale.

Personal transformation that fosters, encourages and forces world transformation? That’s the most inspiring thing in all human experience!

Become your Butterfly!