There once was a butterfly who thought she was a bee.

She lived with bees, worked with bees, and slept with bees.

Her whole life was spent with bees, and she’d never thought anything of it.

Yet, she was never a very good bee.

She couldn’t carry pollen well.

She was terrible at making honey.

And getting into the hive? Oh that was just a total nightmare.

All in all, her life was not a happy one.

She did her best to fit in, but it always seemed like she was bumping into someone or making mistakes.

The other bees would tell her, “Your wings are too big” and “Why can’t you make honey like the rest of us?”

At night, she would secretly wish that she wasn’t a bee.

She’d have dreams of floating on great big air currents without any concern for getting pollen.

The next morning, she’d always try to forget the dreams as nonsense and would struggle on with her life.

Then one day, she met a great big blue butterfly.

So stunned by his color and beautiful wings, she did not know what to say.

And she would not have said anything if he had not spoken.

“And where are you fluttering off to today?” he asked.

She was quite surprised by his voice, but feeling rather bee-ish, she did not like the term fluttering.

“I am not fluttering anywhere. I am busy working on getting pollen for the hive.”

The big blue butterfly looked strangely at her.

“Why in the world are you doing that?”

“So that we can make more honey,” she said primly.

“Honey? Why do you need to make honey?”

“Well, good sir, because I am a bee.”

The other butterfly stared at her for a long moment, and what he next said changed everything.

“My dear. You most certainly are not. You are a butterfly.”

But she was not ready to hear this.

Having gathered her courage with a little bit of indignation, she bade him farewell and a good day fluttering wherever he willed.

She had work to do.

But later that night, the dreams came back. Now she was fluttering with not just the other butterfly, but many other butterflies.

The other bees noticed her work got even worse in the next couple of weeks until finally the Queen called her in.

After a tearful discussion, the butterfly was let go.

She packed her things and got lots of other good wishes that she’d find a new hive with bigger hallways for her over-sized wings.

She wandered for some time, talking to other bees, who looked at her strangely for inquiring about working with them.

One day, she was sitting by a clear pond.

It was one of the clearest, she’d ever seen. The water was so pure. It reflected everything perfectly as it is.

She looked at the trees and the rocks and the clouds reflected in the waters.

The lines and contours were perfectly etched in the reflection. It was almost like the whole world was captured in its purest truth in that water.

As she looked at it, she finally paused when she saw this amazing butterfly.

She turned quickly around in case the stranger she met awhile ago had found her again.

But there was no one behind her.

She looked back at the water, and once again, there was the butterfly looking quizzically at her.

She turned around again. Was this a game? Was he hiding from her?

This went on for some minutes until she found her courage to reach out.

Slowly. Very painstakingly. She reached out to the water.

In return, the other butterfly slowly and very painstakingly reached out to her.

Her heart started to pound wildly. She began to sweat.

She could barely breathe.

Their hands met and broke the separation between the two worlds.

And she knew she was a butterfly.

But you see, her whole world was now completely upside down.

Or as it were, she was now completely right-side up.

Knowing the truth was one thing, but she had no idea what to do now.

What do butterflies do? How do they live? Even more importantly, how do they make honey?

She knew what she had to do. She had to find that other butterfly.

She set off immediately, recklessly, and hopefully.

She searched high and low, near and far.

She searched in caves, on mountain tops, and in other small communities of creatures said to be wise beyond their years.

Until she was quite distraught and ready to give up.

When a toad happened to hop up along beside her.

“You seem very troubled. What is the problem, my dear?”

“I am searching for someone, but I cannot find him.”

“And why are you searching for this individual?”

“Because I need him to tell me how to be a butterfly.”

The toad laughed at this. “But my dear, do you not already know this? Are you not already a butterfly?”

“All my life, I thought I was a bee. So that’s what I did. How do I be a butterfly when I have never done it before?”

The toad nodded knowingly and patted the butterfly on the back.

“Because what you do has nothing to do with what you are. Just be you, and it’ll all work out fine.”

Then the toad hopped away on its path to find food and water and other nourishment it saw fit to enjoy.

The butterfly thought about what the toad said, and she began to do all the things that she’d dreamed about.

She spread her wings wide, as wide as they could go, no longer hiding them.

At first, she still flew like she used to.

Her wings were atrophied and stunted from being collapsed and trying to fit into small spaces.

But soon, they expanded out into their natural form.

And the wind would come and pick her up and carry her around.

She fluttered about and drifted on different currents for days.

She found everything to suddenly be so easy, so effortless.

She did all of the things that felt most true in her heart, and she forgot about hives, honey, and pollen-gathering.

She fell into a deep ecstasy with each moment of just being who she was.

And she realized that all the stuff she’d been searching for was already inside her.

No one could tell her who she was.

Because she knew she was a butterfly through and through, and that was the truth.

(For those interested, you can read an interpretation of this tale on this link.)


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.


  1. This is the story I was searching for, for quite a while now. This story is my toad. thank you.

  2. Thanks Maria. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post if you'd like to get an in-depth interpretation of the allegory. If not, I'm glad you enjoyed this story. It was a lot of fun to write.

  3. Looking forward to the interpretation. Meanwhile, it reminded me of one of my favorite passages. In Another Roadside Attraction, one of the characters is determined to figure out how to prolong the life of butterflies. However, after deep meditation, she smiles and announces, "The lifespan of the butterfly is precisely the right length."

  4. Love it, love it love it.! It resonates soooo much with what I lived through this past few years, um, all my life, and be put in such beautiful simple story, just wows me.
    I feel I am now just realizing, accepting my big flappy wings and trying to find my new butterfly tribe…
    I actually wrote down, journaled my story with the hopes that I can somehow insipre and help others by going: "Hey, so if I'm not a bee, what am I?"
    Thank you so much Jim!!

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