Cocooning: receding from life into a protective, nurturing shell for restoration, regeneration, re-seeding. The art of metamorphosing. Finding the dark nurturing stillness within allowing for clarity, transformation and wings to fly.
Our last week in Italy meant very long days. Early starts to avoid the blazing late Summer sun. At our end point at Ancona I was tired, exhausted, and seeking rest. We boarded the ship to Durres in Albania, a 20 hour overnight journey across the Adriatic Sea.
I hadn’t realised the cumulative effect of continual walking and my habit to push myself to the limits was having on me. I was exhausted both physically and mentally.
I dreaded the sea journey ahead knowing that I am prone to sea sickness. 20 hours on the open sea was not my idea of stillness. Denise, a fellow pilgrim also suffered from sea sickness and gave me two prescription pills that she said will assist me to have a good experience.
I took one pill before embarking and one a few hours later. I made my way to the tiny shared cabin, and for the next 20 hours hardly left the space.
In the darkness of the cabin, with lights out, as the ship left port I cocooned myself away, only emerging for sustenance during this time. I didn’t want to move. The sea was to provide enough movement over the passage.
Cocooned in this tiny cabin, with my room mate preferring to be out on the deck or amongst others, I felt enclosed, yet not stifling and claustrophobic, but safe and protected.
As the pills kicked in I felt a wave of drowsiness envelope me. I allowed myself to succumb to it. I laid still on my bunk bed, listening to an audio book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and getting lost in the story.
I remember getting to a point of stillness where my breathing was almost impercibtible. My whole being craved this deep stillness amongst the tooing and froing of the ship.
As the night wore on there were warnings of a coming storm. I fell asleep before the storm had hit and woke up in the early hours with the ship rollicking in the waves. I lay still and allowed my body to not get caught up in the drama and fell back to sleep.
Below listen to the sounds of the clanking in the cabin from the ship’s engine and rolling sea:
There were messages being relayed in Italian, Albanian and English at regular intervals on a PA system in the corridor, yet the muffled sounds were just out of earshot. The sea sickness pills had taken full effect and at the height of the storm I had felt totally at peace. This was a result of the medication and also my mindset. If the staff had said the ship was sinking I had resolved that I would stay in the cabin, cocooned as I were, resting in peace.
Today I am in a hotel on Lake Ohrid in Albania. For the past week we have walked solidly along the Shkumbin River, following the Via Egnatia, the ancient Roman road that continues all the way to Istanbul, through fields and over hills and mountains.
It has been a marathon journey with 30km plus days and some days walking for close to 12 hours. Early starts, late finishes and I realised I was totally exhausted. We weren’t scheduled to have a day off, but Chris from Amos realised that we all needed a restorative break if we are to continue.
Perfect Cocooning Conditions
The weather provided perfect cocooning conditions. The day was cold and overcast with dark clouds hanging over Lake Ohrid and light rain falling intermittently. Perfect weather for staying cocooned up in my room, closing the curtains, no conversations, no distractions, just dark stillness.
Below is an audio recording of the light rain falling outside of my hotel room window at Lake Ohrid:
In order to make it to Jerusalem regular breaks are highly important and necessary. Yet a break isn’t just a physical stopping from walking. It means putting a brake on all movement.
Break The Fast
A weekly break helps to break the body’s motion.
Walking is a slow way to journey. Yet in a way it is also a fast way. Walking, one doesn’t have endless time to sit and contemplate a beautiful place. We walk through the landscape. Our feet touch it, our senses are engaged with it, yet we cannot give the landscape the time to really contemplate it. This takes sitting still and quietly to do this.
Walking can also provide ‘sensual overload’ at times.
Walking through the landscape is incredibly stimulating! One’s senses are on overdrive talking all the new and varied stimuli – the Albanian donkeys braying, turkeys gobble gobbling, the rural smells along the path, crushed thyme underfoot, incredible mountain scenery, conversations with local people.
Walking is also an activity. It takes motion. Walking for up to twelve hours of day sees one’s body in perpetual motion. One gets into a rhythm as the body knows what to do. It becomes automatic yet after walking for so long a kind of ‘motion sickness’ can set in. A weariness beyond sore joints and muscles and aching feet can kick in. It is a deep craving to be still, to close one’s eyes, to shut down the stimulus, to still one’s mind.
Laying still can be incredibly restorative, revitalising, rejuvenating. Closing your eyes, slowing one’s breathing, quietening the mind provides ‘sleep’ for the soul.
Just like a caterpillar creates a chrysalis or cocoon to be able to make its incredible transformation, so too do we need our cocoon of stillness and darkness.
Ebbing and Flowing
Walking is a perpetual ebb and flow of movement. It is a cycle of movements that propels us forward. In our lives we have ebbs and flows of energy. Times when we move forward and other times when sit still. Both are necessary if we are to live balanced lives.
Stillness allows time and space for sediment to settle, to gain clarity.
Stillness can allow our thoughts to settle, our bodies to recover. Stillness speaks. Stillness provides time for reflection and for new perspectives to form, for new ideas to become crystal clear, to crystallise. For bodies to be restored back to health.
Metamorphosis is the process of transformation that takes place turning a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. In the enveloping space of the cocoon a caterpillar becomes a genetic soup as the plump caterpillar body is transformed into the slender winged beauty that is a butterfly.
Stillness and meditation, can similarly create the transformation that we need to sustain and inspire us.
Meditation allows the mind and body to sit still, to restore and regenerate itself so that we can become what we are meant to become.
Re-Seeding From Life
Cocoon has many origins. In French it comes from the word eggshell or shell. Couch in Latin is berry, and Greek kokkos means seed, grain, berry. 
Cocooning is restorative, regenerative, and generative. Rather than hiding yourself from life, rather than receding from life, cocooning allows your mind and body to be able to sustain themselves. In this creative protected dark shell you can find the stillness for healing and new life. Cocooning allows you to re-seed to create new life.
Cocooning is a highly creative activity (or should I say lack of activity). It is a fallow field, a dark cave. Caves have been seen by many cultures as places of feminine fecundity – a place of darkness where Mother Earth restores one’s soul. A place of retreat, a hermitage for stillness and quiet restorative growth.
Cocooning, regularly receding from life, from people, conversations, movement, communication can help transform you from a caterpillar to a butterfly, can help you develop your wings so you can fly.
* The caterpillar in the feature image was hanging by a gossamer thread to a whitewashed wall of a small building where we had lunch in a few days ago in Albania. The caterpillar was starting to weave it chrysalis for its transformation.