Recently, I have developed a new contemplative practice I call Butterfly Meditating. I have a wildflower garden in my back yard, and when it is in full bloom, it attracts a lot of butterflies.
All of the photos in this post are taken by me at home or on a walk.
I get really excited about my butterflies every day, especially in the afternoon. The sun is shining brightly, it gets deliciously warm, and the butterflies start zipping around my garden, lighting on flowers and collecting pollen.
I have started thinking of this time as The Butterfly Hours.
Lately during The Butterfly Hours, I have been heading outside to spend some time with my garden, my camera, and these lovely creatures.
I stand at the edge of my garden, watching the winged beauties do their work, and I wait for the perfect moment to take the perfect butterfly picture.
Usually the butterflies are really skittish around me at first. They don’t want to fly too close.
So I wait. I am patient. I am still. I find my mind clearing, my breath deepening, and my heart rate slowing down.
If I am still long enough, eventually a butterfly will land close to me, and I get to take close-up pictures of their beautiful wings and feet and antennae.
I love looking at these pictures later. They help me see aspects of butterflies that I never would have been able to notice otherwise.
The Butterfly Hours have become a meditative practice for me.
We have been studying Descartes in one of my philosophy classes at the local college at which I teach. Descartes was deeply concerned about the problem of knowledge and reality. How do we know what is true? What is our source of certainty? These are the questions which inspired Descartes’ philosophical investigations and writing.
Eventually he decided that our mind and thinking capacities are the source of truth and certainty and that our senses too often deceive us. One unfortunate consequence of Descartes’ conclusions and their influence on western culture is that they engendered distrust towards our body and senses.
As a result, many of us spend most of our time up in our head trying to analyze, scrutinize, and think our way through life.
While there is nothing wrong with thought per se, living our life solely in our heads is an impoverished way of being. As one of my students commented, “Descartes forgot about beauty.”
Beauty, especially natural beauty, awakens our body and senses and calls us out of ourselves, towards something larger, loving, sacred, Divine.
And that is why the Butterfly Hours have become a meditative time for me, I think. Butterflies are a miracle. They are these marvelous, bejeweled creatures zipping through the air, collecting and spreading love in the form of pollen. I cannot help but feel deep amazement, delight, and gratitude to the Divine for them.
And whether you believe in God or not, you can practice something like the Butterfly Hours, too.
The cool thing about nature is that it is possible to have an experience like the Butterfly Hours whether you around butterflies or not. You can have “Tree Hours” or “Grass Hours” or “Rose Hours” or “Cloud Hours”.
And you can practice your hours with a camera, with drawing, with painting, or with just yourself and nature.
Just be still. Allow yourself to relax. Notice the beauty around you. Express gratitude. Practice wonder. Let it connect you with yourself and call you out of yourself to something bigger than you.
How have you practiced meditation in different an unusual ways? I would love to hear about it below.
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