What happens when you find yourself in the Bardo?

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.

Shibori to soothe the soul

“Go wide, explore and learn new things. Something will surely have a kick for you”
― Mustafa Saifuddin

“Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for your life to begin and start making the most of the moment you are in.”
― Germany Kent

Shibori, a form of Japanese cloth dyeing, dates from the 8th century.  A variety of techniques produce some stunning designs on fabric.

I recently attended a short Shibori inspired workshop and walked away with two, once snow-white, beautifully patterned pillowcases in varying shades of blue.  Traditional Shibori dye is indigo but due to the cost of indigo and the smell (the workshop was in a shopping centre believe it or not), we used instead a commercial blue dye.  Having visited an indigo dye facility in China many years ago I can vouch for the smell being quite pungent and permeating.

Traditionally, particular Shibori techniques were used with different types of fabric and the pattern one wanted to achieve.  The fabric can be bound, stitched, folded, twisted or compressed before the dyeing process.

One of the techniques in the workshop was similar to tye-dyeing, where sections of cloth are gathered and bound using either rubber bands, twine or string.  The pattern differs dependent on where and how tightly the binding is tied.  The tighter the binding the whiter the fabric underneath.  This is most similar to Kanoko Shibori.

Pleating and folding the fabric before binding produces not the nice circular patterns of Kanoko Shibori but patterns more in line with Kumo Shibori. I concertina folded my pillowcases, one lengthwise, the other along the short edge. I used a combination of pegs and string to bind.

The preparation of the fabric was quite quick.  First it needed to be dampened.  Then bound in the desired manner before being submerged in dye.  After a twenty-minute wait, an unbinding and quick rinse the patterns were revealed. I’m quite pleased with the effect.  My final products are by no means works of art but the process was fun.  I got to spend an hour and a half with a group of men and women from diverse backgrounds, we chatted and laughed and sipped coffees, iced chocolates and tea and nibbled on fruit and cheese.

This simple act of creating something, time spent with strangers and stepping out of routine buoyed my spirit and gave my mind a break. The act of making patterns on fabric is a great analogy for the act of reimagining and recreating the patterns of my life. A process I have just recently begun.

A year of inspiration: Inspired by the need to give my brain a break and the necessity to recreate the pattern of my life.

Assayed by the Universe

Indeed, this life is a test. It is a test of many things – of our convictions and priorities, our faith and our faithfulness, our patience and our resilience, and in the end, our ultimate desires. Sheri L.

I have to admit, I’ve not used the word ‘assay’ and had to look it up. It’s used quite a bit in Pharmacology and Metallurgy but the definitions were intriguing and have a wider reach.

Assay (əˈseɪ,ˈaseɪ)

  • To analyse for one or more specific components to determine its ingredients and quality
  • To determine its purity; to judge the worth of
  • Examine (something) in order to assess its nature.

Every now and then life tests us in dramatic and unexpected ways and we are exposed to an analysis that reveals our inner essence. We face trials that bring to light our true nature and we get a deeper understanding of the ingredients that form us.

Why does the universe assay us? The universe doesn’t need to do this to inform itself. It is, I suspect, for our own growth and development. For us to truly see ourselves—to see the shiny parts, the precious parts, the components that make us unique; the ingredients worthy of celebration, of honing, of sharing.

If the universe is testing you it has a lesson it wants you to learn.  It may be a difficult to navigate through the obstacles of the test and it may be an emotional and challenging experience but there will be a lesson—one you’ve missed before. The part I find hard about learning lessons is to trust and have faith that the universe has my back.  I find it hard to surrender. I find it hard to relinquish control and allow the unfolding of what is.  I want answers, I want to see the outcome, I battle against the discomfort. I guess that’s normal.  Three cheers to you if you can surrender and have faith.  I want some of what you have.

In small moments, amidst the turmoil, there is clarity where I can see what I am meant to see.. Where I understand the lesson to be learnt.  These snippets are worth holding onto. These small awarenesses will help me to find my way again when the clouds have cleared. Look for them if you too are in the middle of a perfect storm.

 

A year of inspiration.  Inspired by the Wordress Daily prompt

Transforming the meaning of struggle

Image courtesy of Tribesport

Image courtesy of Tribesport

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.

Albert Einstein

I am excited. My skin is tingling. I feel like all the neurons and synapses in my brain are firing all at once. I feel like there are hundreds of tiny catherine wheels exploding all over my body. I have that ‘just stepped off a roller coaster rush’ (not that I do that too often).

I had the opportunity to hear Dr Carol Dweck speak this morning. Dr Dweck is a leading researcher in the field of personality, social and developmental psychologies. She is a professor at Stanford University and is well-known for her work on mindset.

In a nutshell, a very small nutshell, Dr Dweck’s work looks at two types of mindset, growth and fixed mindset. When we utilise a growth mindset we believe skill and intelligence can be developed through effort and practice. With a fixed mindset we believe intelligence or skill can’t be changed.

Today Dweck said something that really got me thinking. She challenged us to transform our meaning of effort and struggle. Our current value system associates making mistakes and errors as something negative, something to hide and shrink from. Whereas obtaining new skills and knowledge with ease is praised and respected. There is a widespread belief that if you are smart things should come naturally.

How often have you heard comments like “You did that quickly and easily. That’s impressive.” or ” Well done, you got them all right. You must be really smart”?

What if we changed our value system and easy meant boring? What if we thought that anything we could do with ease was really a waste of our time? What would that sound like?  We’d hear things like “You did that quickly and easily. You must not have been challenged. Would you like to work on something that helps you learn and grow?”

What if we changed our value system and struggling with something, making and then processing our mistakes meant we were working on something worthwhile? What would that look like?

What if we changed our value system to reflect that struggle means we are working hard on something we value?  How would that feel?

I believe this would change everything. We wouldn’t bemoan our areas of growth. We’d share them with enthusiasm, in a collegial way, to gain understanding, insight and momentum for change and improvement. Instead of deficit thinking we’d approach our life lessons with innovation. We’d start to love ourselves a little more. We’d become more confident that we could face any new challenge with effort and the right strategy.

This concept has so many implications, for all of us. It’s got me wanting to race outside and turn cartwheels. It’s also got me wanting to process it more and work out ways to enact it in my life.

What messages have you heard recently that resonated with you?

Shannyn

 

8 weeks, 6 countries, 40 000 kilometres…. I’m home

 

I love to travel

I love to travel

After 8 weeks in 6 countries with 5 languages, sleeping in 22 beds, having travelled 1221.5 kilometres by rail, 34164.82 kilometres by plane, approximately 3952 kilometres by road  and untold miles of  footsteps; I have returned home!

I love to travel. Exploring new countries, interacting with the locals in each area and learning about the history and culture of each place fascinates me, heightens  my senses, satisfies my curiosity, intellect and sense of adventure.
Travel lingers in the heart and mind for years to come. Memories and recollections take me back to the time and place when the routine of life sets in again. Travel broadens perspectives, clarifies misunderstandings, deepens an appreciation for all people, cultures and religions. Travel is uplifting and it helps me to see the world through new eyes.
After two wonderful months in Europe I have now arrived home, held my son in my arms, stood bare foot on my little patch of Australia, slept in my own bed and emptied my backpack. I am looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends; the people who make this place home to me.
Friends and family make this place home.

Friends and family make this place home.

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” –

Seneca

 

8 weeks, 6 countries, 40 000 kilometres…. I’m home

 

I love to travel

I love to travel

After 8 weeks in 6 countries with 5 languages, sleeping in 22 beds, having travelled 1221.5 kilometres by rail, 34164.82 kilometres by plane, approximately 3952 kilometres by road  and untold miles of  footsteps; I have returned home!

I love to travel. Exploring new countries, interacting with the locals in each area and learning about the history and culture of each place fascinates me, heightens  my senses, satisfies my curiosity, intellect and sense of adventure.
Travel lingers in the heart and mind for years to come. Memories and recollections take me back to the time and place when the routine of life sets in again. Travel broadens perspectives, clarifies misunderstandings, deepens an appreciation for all people, cultures and religions. Travel is uplifting and it helps me to see the world through new eyes.
After two wonderful months in Europe I have now arrived home, held my son in my arms, stood bare foot on my little patch of Australia, slept in my own bed and emptied my backpack. I am looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends; the people who make this place home to me.
Friends and family make this place home.

Friends and family make this place home.

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” –

Seneca