On a willow tree by the pond at the Stone House in North Carolina, years ago...someone spotted a cicada, right at eye level on the trunk. The insect's translucent brown casing was starting to open in the middle of its back. My young son and I were equally excited to walk several times a day across the field of clover and grass to check on the cicada's progress. The shell opened further--unzipping along the middle of the back. The cicada emerged, more brilliant than any gemstone. In slow motion stages, this creature rested to let its wings fill and spread before we cheered its disappearance into the world. The shell clung to the tree bark, all opened as if along a seam.
This transformation was weird and wonderful. Even weirder was the way that we human beings, on retreat near the pond, were having all kinds of experiences connected with a similar place in the middle of our backs...feelings of openness, experiences of emergence, widening into a deeper sense of ourselves and life.
Coming into ourselves in a way that had been a long time coming.
Cicada larvae apparently burrow 8 feet into the moist earth, and drink root sap as they go through five stages of molting, before they surface and birth their own wing-bodies. If you've felt a lot going on underground in recent years, and are feeling something cracking open this year, perhaps it's worth celebrating.
In Jin Shin Jyutsu, alchemy is a good name for that place in the middle of our backs--at the base of the ribcages, on each side of our backbone, near the kidneys. I've noticed from time to time on retreat, on the path, that sometimes we may feel openness in the middle of our backs. Or a sense that life or wisdom might be steering us just right there.
This month seems to be another moment of emergence, with all the openness of a newly hatched cicada...and often some accompanying feelings of being exposed, vulnerable, embarrassed, ashamed--or just awkward. Molting is a powerful, vulnerable time.
Maybe we can accept the new-skin feeling, give ourselves a good rest to let our wings fill and spread, and enjoy the freshness of being even closer to our true nature.
(Photo a bean leafling this morning! Maybe beans also sprout through their backs...)