On Being with Butterflies (Or Ways to Live a More Magical Life)

Painted lady butterfly magic!

Painted lady butterfly magic!

The painted ladies have taken over Southern California! I’ve seen them flitting about, showing off their gorgeous wings all over LA. I can’t tell you how many times a day I’ve stopped whatever I’m doing to simply gaze at them and take this special experience in.

I’m big into magic. I don’t mean card tricks and David Blayne, although that’s fun too. I mean the unexpected goodness of life kind of magic. And not just a million dollars falling out of the sky (Although I’m fully down for that too!), but the more quiet, ordinary magic. Such as a massive abundance of beautiful butterflies.

Most of life’s magic requires us to have the mindset of being open to seeing it in order to receive it. So I’ve been trying to practice that a lot lately. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the little (or bigger) annoyances of life that we often miss the beauty and abundance.

A magical pathway of graffiti and wildlife.

A magical pathway of graffiti and wildlife.

We have these ideas of how life should be. Of how people should be. Of where we should be. Sometimes we get trapped in our minds, wishing things had been different or worrying about this, that, and the other. Sometimes it seems like the powers that be are conspiring against us. Or at the very least we got an unlucky lot in life. So we only notice that stuff. The anti-magic. And we miss actual magic.

Luckily I did not miss the magic this week. In addition to my painted ladies, I also enjoyed an abundance of wildflowers, blue skies, and warming temperatures. If you didn’t read the article link at the beginning, a superbloom of wildflowers is the reason there are so many butterflies in our skies this year. Thanks to the mass quantities of rain southern California has had this winter, we have the highly unusual and uber spectacular superbloom again this year and these butterflies are loving it as much as the rest of us.

So how do we allow ourselves to see more magic no matter what’s going on?

Practice Mindfulness

The magic of  a superbloom of wildflowers and green plants right in Los Angeles.

The magic of a superbloom of wildflowers and green plants right in Los Angeles.

My answer to everything, but seriously, judgment always clouds our experience of the present moment. We can’t change the past. The future isn’t happening yet. We only have this moment (Those seem like song lyrics, but I don’t know what song so apologies to whoever I’ve ripped off.). So notice your thoughts and emotions and let them pass through you. Don’t cling or push them away. Observe what’s going on outside of you with all of your senses. Be a journalist or anthropologist of your own life, full of curiosity and acceptance. I can’t tell you how many people have told me their most hated phrase is: “It is what it is.” Probably because it’s truth. Things are what they are no matter how much we don’t want them to be or how much we try to control them. And we can only notice the magic when we’re present enough to witness it.

Cultivate Gratitude

Focus on what you do have. What you do like. What is good in your life. Even if it’s simple and silly. Especially if it’s simple and silly. The amount of gratitude I’ve felt for this one species of butterflies this week does make me laugh, but it’s also had a profound effect on my attitude. So there! Make gratitude a practice. Whether it’s by keeping a gratitude journal, meditating on it, sharing with others, whatever you gotta do. Many cultures and religions have rituals around gratitude because it’s helpful. Gratitude truly begets more goodness and magic. And if you have to fake it until you make it, do it.

Set Intentions

Sometimes you have to really pay attention to see the magic: painted lady butterfly blends into the dirt.

Sometimes you have to really pay attention to see the magic: painted lady butterfly blends into the dirt.

This is the closest thing we have to an actual magic wand. Between outdoor sessions and mindful hikes the other day, I decided I was going to photograph my newly beloved butterflies. So I set out camera in hand and found painted ladies everywhere I meandered. Turns out they’re quite quick and difficult to capture still, but after an hour or so of patience and persistence, I got my photo. I was so thrilled! It seemed magical to me not only to witness their lives, but also to document one of them at rest. I may not have experienced that moment if I hadn’t set the intention to do so. While we can’t control others (Believe me, I wanted those ladies to sit still enough for a photo as soon as I started my trek.), we more often see magic when we set the intention to see it. It can be as specific as I was with my photo hunt or more broad like being open to any and all magic.   

That’s all there is to it. Simple, but it can take practice to look at the world in a different way so keep on keeping on. There’s all kinds of magic to experience if you’re looking for it. So get on out there, wave your wand, and enjoy some butterflies, flowers, sunshine, green grass, smiles from strangers, your favorite song, a piece of chocolate, or whatever else you consider magical.