The Marvels Of Butterfly Flight

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I have always been a big fan of butterflies. They seem to defy the idea that everything needs to be logical or efficient.

For many years I have enjoyed the wonderful color and exotic shapes of all kinds of butterflies and especially the whimsical way they fly.

Long ago someone called them ‘flutter-bys’ and this stuck with me as an alternative name that describes the spontaneous, almost random way they fly.

In terms of my own history, I have sometimes felt like a butterfly in a garden full of flowers, and birds, and bees, and squirrels, all of whom were busily doing what they were supposed to be doing.

Meanwhile, I was flitting about from flower to flower without much reference to the admirable, but sometimes a little frantic, industry of other inhabitants of the garden.

Mine was a spontaneous and unique path every time I took flight.

Without codifying it, I have always assumed that a butterfly’s flight was basically random and so uncontrolled that it seemed miraculous to me that they ever made it to the next flower.

In the same way, I have always regarded it as at least semi-miraculous that I managed to move from situation to situation in my life. I considered my actions and the directions I chose as basically random and spontaneous. Like a butterfly’s flight through the garden.


This all changed recently because, as part of my mindfulness training, paying more attention in the now, I have been observing butterflies.

Kris calls it ‘effortless mindfulness’ and has explained that it automatically restores our intimate, moment-to-moment connection to Source, Deep Self, and All That Is.

So, the other evening I was observing a couple of brown butterflies that were flying together in perfect unison all around the garden. My assumption was that this was some kind of mating ritual.

I have actually seen this behavior before but never stopped to consider the implications. If butterflies moved in random and unpredictably spontaneous ways, as I believe, how could two of them, however passionately inspired, fly together so nicely?

They start out flying separately in various parts of the garden and then join together and fly for several moments all around the garden, always staying within a few inches of each other. Then they separate and go their separate ways.

This cannot be random, unpredictable fight. It is precision flying. Precision flying made all the more astonishing because it looks random and uncontrolled even though the two performers are moving in lockstep around the garden.

I suspect it has to do with mating, but the behavior demonstrates that their flight is not at all random or out of their control.


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Intrigued by these observations, I researched butterfly flight on the internet and it turns out that my suspicions are correct. Butterflies are masterful flyers and their actions are anything but random. A few details from our scientist friends:

* Their seemingly random flight path makes it much harder for birds to catch them.
* They can turn 90 degrees in one stroke of their wings.
* They can still fly with half of their wings cut off. (how our science friends discovered this does not bear thinking about)
* Butterflies need a warm, calm day to be able to fly at all.


It makes me wonder about all the stuff I thought was random and basically meaningless in my own life. All the things that I thought were just me flitting and fluttering around and not attending to what mattered.

Maybe this was ‘precision flying’ and not random at all. Maybe being able to pivot on a dime was me flipping my wings and turning 90 degrees to evade some unwanted situation or engage some new flower.


I have been thrilled lately with this idea that simply being present in the moment opens up direct communications with our Deep Self.

So today in Dreamtime, I asked for some help in being present and opening myself to this kind of immediacy in my exchanges with Source Self.

It was less than an hour later, when I was doing my 7 Circles yoga on the back deck, that I noticed my friend the brown butterfly flitting around. His mate or paramour was not to be seen this morning, but I almost immediately connected his emergence in my awareness as a response to my request in Dreamtime.

Immediately an image appeared in my mind of a huge butterfly sitting on my head, ready to flap its wings and change directions in the now.

I realized that this piece I was writing about the flight of butterflies had laid the groundwork for this morning’s realization.

The butterfly had emerged as a new totem animal who was uniquely equipped to help me with being present.

To record this realization I made a picture and posted it on Facebook…

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And just for fun, I also posted the drawings I made during the day as the image was developing.

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Such a lot of fun to be an artist, and a writer, and well, just being really.

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