Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tool for the Journey #28 - Wing-Prints

Lately I've been thinking a lot about impact; about what impacts me and about what impact I have on the world around me. These ponderings bring me back to when, as a child, my mother told me about something called, the Butterfly Effect.

Wikipedia defines the ‘Butterfly Effect’ in this way:

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane's formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.

This tool is meant to have us consider our own Butterfly Effect and our 'wing-prints'. It's about what we give back to Life, to the Earth and to our fellow travelers. It's also about what we must cut away (or Life must to cut away) to reveal what is hidden beneath the surface of us in order to lighten us up. I love the butterfly metaphor because it represents transformation in its truest form. Once you enter the chrysalis there is no going backward. 

If you examine the Chinese paper-cut image above you'll see a beautiful example of the alteration of a single sheet of plain red paper into a stunning butterfly. The person doing the cutting does not mourn the paper which was cut away, but rather enjoys what's revealed in its absence. Life does this with us - it cuts away what doesn't belong, what's weighing us down (if we let it) so we might be light enough to fly, and it doesn't mourn what was cut away but celebrates instead what is revealed, just as Michelangelo didn't mourn the marble dust at his feet.

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." -Michelangelo

Our  ecological "footprint" is a measure of our human demand on the Earth's ecosystems. Our footprint is the impact we leave physically on the planet - .it's what we are taking from the world as we travel.Our 'wing-print' is what we're giving back; the less visible impressions and generous-impact we have on our world, and more importantly on each other as we journey through this life.

What is my 'Butterfly Effect'? What hurricanes of goodness might be caused by the beating of my wings? What wing-prints do I leave behind as I travel and what sort of impact do they leave in my wake? Life knows things we don't - it sees the entire map, whereas we tend to focus on the bumps in the road. Yes, there are times when there is barely enough light to see by, yet whether in lightness or dark we still make positive or negative impacts with the beating of our wings by the choices we make. For better or worse we do leave wing-prints.

My soul-brother and friend, Randall Williams had this to say about it:
"We do little things all the time, and mostly never see how they affect the world around us. But they matter in ways we may never know. Please keep doing what you're doing - especially the stuff you put your heart and soul into. Our world needs this a whole bunch."

'Our world needs this' yet life is busy, bills need to get paid, our kids need to be fed and we have to go to work each day. So perhaps there isn't a lot of extra time to sit pondering our wing-prints on a day-to-day basis. However, even when we are not paying attention, even when we are being swallowed by the minutia of life, we're still making our mark and leaving our wing-prints; we get to choose whether to leave them consciously or unconsciously.

Personally my biggest fear is that I won't be brave, or I'll 'fall asleep and miss my life' and in so doing, will leave reckless or damaging wing-prints. Thus, I work to be courageous and stay awake at all costs. I work to keep my eyes open even through the scary bits because I want my journey to be an act of devotion which translates into leaving affirming, positive, powerful wing-prints in spite of the bumps in the road.

One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”  
– Maya Angelou

So how do we do this? How do we find the courage to leave positive wing-prints? The secret, I believe, is in the exhale. If you're going to jump off a high cliff into a deep pool of water what do you do first? You inhale - you hold your breath, you maybe even close your eyes really tight, and you jump! But after you make the leap you must (at some point) exhale into what you've chosen. Once you leap you must commit to where you're headed. Once you've reached the end of the runway you're supposed to fly and commit to your wings and the sky ahead of you. You can't crawl back into the chrysalis. 

One thing I know to be true after nearly 50 years on this earth - the human heart has a tremendous capacity to light up the world around it. Through us love flows out into the world, and our wing-prints, our Butterfly Effect does cause ripples in wider circles than we may ever see or know. Thus, for me at least, I strive to be mindful of my impact and my wing-prints; of what I am taking, what I am giving back and what I am paying forward. Because what good are feet and wings (and hearts) if we don't use them?

There are things our wings know which we do not. A butterfly emerges from her chrysalis never having flown before...yet once her wings are unfolded and dry, she flies! Trust your wings! Take flight and stay mindful of your wing-prints because the slightest flutter of your wings could change the world!

Here's to the view from the air!

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” 
 ~Rabindranath Tagore