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.

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Change can be uncomfortable

“Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.” ~ Richard Branson

Several years ago I moved house after being in the same house for 17 years.
I chose to move but it was a hard move to make. The house I was leaving was the first house I had owned. My son grew up there. My beloved and I celebrated our marriage there and over time we renovated it and made it comfortable.

I cried for weeks as I was packing up, moving into the new place and cleaning the old ready for new owners.

At first it was difficult to adjust to my new surroundings. I had to stop and think how to get to the places I frequented after using the same routes for 17 years. I had to find a new supermarket. I kept reaching for the third draw in the kitchen, which was no longer there. In short, there was an adjustment period.

The change was uncomfortable because I didn’t think I could be as happy or as comfortable in a new house as I had been in the old. I had to change some habits and routines to suit my new environment. I underestimated how good the move could be. The new house was lighter and brighter, it had a yard and I could start a vegetable garden for the first time. While I had to shop at a different supermarket, I was familiar with the one in the suburb, not too far away, and it was a very good supermarket. So that was a big bonus.

The travel stumped me for a while and each time I jumped in the car I had to really think about how I would get to where I was going. I soon realised I had better access to many destinations from my new home.  So I stopped using the old ways to get around. But even through this I realised much stayed the same. I was still travelling in my own car, I was still using the road system, a GPS could help me navigate if I really needed it. I just had to build some new habits and tweak others.

The curious and intriguing thing about change is that it isn’t change itself that is so hard, it’s the thought that we have are expected to change that causes discomfort. When I reflect on all the difficult changes I have encountered in life I’ve made it through. It comes almost as a revelation with hindsight that it wasn’t really as hard as initially thought. I guess it is part of the human spirit to endure.

Change can feel uncomfortable for a while but it’s good to remember that often times much of what you do now will remain the same. Look for the familiar structures, the commonalities, the shared routines. You might use slightly different paths to get back to a sense of comfort though you may well draw on many familiar strategies too.

Like my move, I overestimated how good what I had was and underestimated how good living somewhere else could be. Similarly too, when going through changed work conditions, physical, emotional or social change it’s to be expected there will be a pinch. We become comfortable in our routines and the familiarity of our surroundings, so it’s to be expected that there will be some discomfort for a while.

It helps to reflect on our own habits, practices and routines to consider what we will stop doing, start doing and keep doing to negotiate ourselves through the discomfort of change, to emerge confident and operational on the other side.

A year of inspiration: Inspired by Queensland teachers preparing for a new curriculum and assessment system in the senior phase of learning.

Postscript

I wrote this post before receiving some wrenching news that will change my life in  inconceivable ways and I feel much of what I wrote above is trite in the face of the changes I am about to undertake. I am currently in a mire of pain, despair, confusion, anger, sadness, loss and desperation. At times, when the tears stop and the ache in my heart lifts, ever so slightly, I can see the promise of new opportunities but first I must walk through the hellish pit of despair dragging the weight of sorrow and suffering to reach acceptance to emerge. My intention with this post was not to trivialize anyones great pain due to major life changes. I hope this experience of mine helps to make me more aware and compassionate in the future. I have too many words and not enough to share with you where I am at right now. I hope to gather myself enough to find something worth expressing soon.

“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realise space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” ~ Eckhart Tolle