Honor the space between no longer and not yet. — Nancy Levin
Loosely speaking, “Bardo” is the state of existence between two lives on earth, after death and before one’s next birth. It is a state between death and rebirth but not a purgatory as a Christian perspective might suggest.
This Tibetan word, with its provocative connotation, means a transition or a gap between the completion of one situation and the onset of another. Barmeans “in between,” and domeans “suspended” or “thrown.”
On listening to an interview by Richard Fidler with George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo, I realised I was in the Bardo. I feel like I’m in suspended animation, in a period of time between my usual or known way of life and what is to come. Don’t get me wrong, my life isn’t on hold. It’s not like I’m waiting for the perfect conditions to continue but a lot has happened recently, and I find myself in an in-between place — a place without solid roots, a place of itinerancy and it’s a curious place to be. At first, being adrift rocked me. There were moments of shock, panic and grief. After several weeks, I find I like this place of not belonging, of having no ties or roots. I belong in no place and yet every place. I have the chance to see life from a different perspective, with fresh eyes and a respect I have not exercised before.
If the Bardo describes a state between reincarnation on earth, after death, it’s a stunning analogy for my life. After 22 years of a certain way of life having spectacularly ended and being without a home, and working toward finding a new one, I find I have the opportunity for a reincarnation of sorts. There is much to learn about who I am. So much of who we are is a response to our circumstances, relationships and the situations we experience. Strip all that away and who are we? On a number of occasions in recent months I’ve been asked questions that begin — “How do you behave when faced with…”. I can only respond with — “I used to react like…. but now, given all the reasons I behaved that way no longer exist, I don’t know.”
Rather than face this obscurity and lack of certainty with stark terror, it’s a wonderful time of contemplation and inner reflection*, of spiritual and personal growth as well as transformation.
Being in the Bardo isn’t as dire as might be expected. It’s liberating, consolidating and a unique opportunity that I am, now that I can articulate it, grateful to be experiencing. There is part of me that longs to linger and I need to remind myself it’s a transitional time and place and that a rebirth must ultimately follow. With that vision in mind, I approach with excitement and anticipation.
*Interestingly my computer auto corrected reflection and it read perfection. We might never reach inner perfection but gee, it’s a gorgeous concept and a beautiful perspective to contemplate. Thanks autocorrect, for once I’m impressed.