Dance of the Butterfly: The Power of Story to Heal the Wounded Heart

Image by blmiers2 via Flickr

In a moment of recent personal crisis I scheduled a much needed massage.  The brochure offered the usual types — hot stone, Swedish, etc. But the “Dance of the Butterfly” attracted my attention. As I waited and pondered my breaking heart, the massage therapist named Crystal arrived. And true to her name she brought clarity. As we walked to the massage room, she said, “You chose the Dance of the Butterfly. This Native American story finds Butterfly with her tribe in a battle. During the battle she loses her husband and her wings. She loses her ability to fly.” The story caught my heart and spoke immediately to my struggles and feelings of grief related to a very personal and intimate loss. Tears streamed down my cheeks and Crystal seemed perplexed that her story struck me so deeply.

She continued. “Butterfly does not want to spread her grief to the tribe. So she heads to the forest, crosses streams and climbs mountains until she reaches a big rock. Here she sits and lets nature heal her heart. She undergoes a second metamorphosis and gets her wings back.” By this time I’m stretched out on the massage table weeping. Crystal gently took my hand and arm and stroked and massaged. When she finished she wrapped my limb in the warm cotton cloth. She did this with each limb until I was wrapped up all snug like a caterpillar. Then she pronounced the magical words: “It’s time for your metamorphosis,” and instructed me to turn over.

The tears had subsided by then, and she placed a hot towel on my upper back, exactly where I imagined my wings would be. In my mind’s eye, I saw a vision of many helpers around helping me to grow my wings back and repair the damage. At the same time I watched as the loss was buried like a seed in the earth so that something new might sprout from it — something right and beautiful. By the end of the 50 minutes, I felt renewed and refreshed.

The story had helped to heal my wounds and gave my spirit wings to fly even during this trying time. Story and ritual are powerful and wonderful expressions of the human heart that cut through the chatter of daily life and go to the quick, the core of life. Visual metaphors and symbols can help the emotions to surface and move. When they move out and up, then, like the butterfly, we become free to fly again.

Stories used to be a common way to help us grieve, teach us just and right ways, and help us to gain wisdom and understanding. Today, if you will, find the stories that speak to you. Do you remember any from childhood? Which ones have helped you to grow and heal your heart?

This is the spa link at Ballantyne Resort:

Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. A visionary and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and Europe. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the globe and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. She has spent over fifteen years practicing meditation, working with dreams and doing spiritual practices. Visit her online at and



  1. “Some say the modern day Pow Wow competition dance known as the Ladies Fancy Shawl Dance has its roots in a ceremonial dance called the Butterfly Dance” From Christian Melendez, Ballantyne Spa Front Desk Lead

  2. I think we all go through a process similar to Metamorphosis many times in our lives as we grow through life. I recently wrote a post on my own website about Metamorphosis in my life. Its a comfort to know that no matter how bad things can be, our best source of healing comes through nature when we turn inward. Thank you for your inspiring website. You can find mine at Hope you get to inspire us here in the Charleston area again next year at Sophia

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