Dreaming of the Butterfly

Posted on April 2, 2017

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.

Chuang Chou

My dreaming of the beautiful butterfly represents going through a deep transition, just as the butterfly has gone through a metamorphosis in its lifetime. The caterpillar that once was is now just a dream to the winged beauty that is.

The three ordinary states of consciousness are waking, dreaming and deep sleep. We take it for granted that in the waking state we are in touch with reality and in the dream state we are not. In waking we have access to the world as it is, in dreaming we create our own worlds, in deep sleep we are switched off from reality.

But what if it is not quite like this? What if we start to sense that even in what we experience as the waking state we are creating our own worlds? That your world is subtly different from mine? Then suddenly there is a lot to explore when being together with you. I have always taken you for granted. I have kept you prisoner in my stories about you. But these were just stories, and I can drop them and get in touch with the real you instead. I can invite you to my dream. You can invite me to yours.

Together, we can start opening up to the possibility that we can dream a new world. We can marvel in the awareness that we share a dream space together. Together with everyone who is willing to share our experience we can explore that vast beautiful space where there is room for you and for me, a place for everyone.

Looking at you, I smile. Looking at you again I sense that you are touched. And then the miracle happens. I welcome you to my world. You make me feel welcome in your world. This is not about knowledge but about common experience. Together we celebrate. And butterflies all around us remind us that it is time to wake up, time to let ourselves be touched, here and now, and again and again, by the joy of being alive.

And then, what? Why not just let this go on forever? Play, dance, sing. Write poems, create art, immerse in philosophical speculation. Do whatever you like most, and share, share, share.