There’s a gorgeous essay by Lin Jensen in the June/July Mandala, connecting the way birds molt to the process of awakening through spiritual practice. Here’s an excerpt:
The molting of birds can be either sudden or gradual. The sudden or synchronous molters change their feathers all at once in a period as short as two weeks. Waterfowl typically do this, and are unable to fly until the molt is complete, leaving them exposed and vulnerable for the duration. Other birds molt in stages, dropping their feathers in a pattern that allows them to sustain flight throughout the adaptation. These variants of the molt seem to me particularly analogous and expressive of what Zen calls “awakening”–the self settling into itself, awakening to what it truly is. It’s an awakening that might come with the startling suddenness of brilliant new feathers or arrive in increments, one feather at a time, in a transformation so subtle as to be nearly indiscernible until complete.
Jensen is a prison chaplain, and the author of “Bad Dog!: A Memoir of Love, Beauty, and Redemption in Dark Places.”And here’s blogger BigRedBuddha’s interview with him.