What is Bardo?

Bardo is a Tibetan word that means in-between. It’s sometimes translated as intermediate state. Chögyam Trungpa, author of The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation Through Hearing In The Bardo, says Bardo means gap. It’s not only the interval of suspension after we die but also the interval of suspension in the living situation. In other words, we can experience a ritualistic death while living.

After the loss of my husband, I’ve come to know Bardo. In many ways, I’m still in the in-between stage. After a year though, I’m more aware and observing, less agonizing. A greater consciousness is emerging. Something about it feels good suddenly. It’s like a rock that hits water and sinks but rings of consciousness emanate out from it. I’m observing what was and simultaneously observing what will be. In this present state, time appears to collapse entirely.

There is still tenderness about it and anticipation.

A person who loses a loved one transforms in mind, body and spirit. If you were unaware of this, know it’s a ritualistic death– a Bardo. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, know it will happen one day because everybody dies eventually. I think it’s good to understand this because maybe we might fear death less. We might suffer less. It doesn’t mean we won’t feel pain. It means we change our perception of the pain and that makes a difference.

In the Bardo, I discovered a bridge. I think now that where there is a gap, there’s always a bridge. The bridge of Bardo is our access to the infinite.

I know that when we lose a loved one, we can expand our consciousness. We can become aware of our capacity to move through life with more love and tenderness. We come to realize that the love of our beloved is infinite and can be an eternal source of energy for us, an energy that we can absorb and recycle as we move into the next stage of our lives.

Over the last few months, I began to visualize how I can help others navigate this time. It took me a while and I depended on others to be there for me and I’d like to do the same. I’d like to share some strategies that were essential for me, essential nutrients so to speak.

Starting this January, I’m facilitating a mindfulness meditation support and learning group. For more information about joining this group, please go to my Mindful Bardō page.

Love in The Dark Night of the Soul

“Real love always involves a transgression.” George Bataille

It’s always important to start and end with love even when we’re conditioned otherwise. Like, how we deal with this strange heaviness about us. This dark night of the soul.

Any experience of darkness needs to be looked at with love or else we might get lost, or worse yet, eaten up alive. Even in the worst of times, we must take care to look at our current life experience as a quest for love. Self-love and our capacity to love another.

Love is the driving force in every human being. It is the life force energy. Even those things we’d rather not see, like ugliness, stealth, pain or misery—we are talking about a love journey.

Everything is under construction. Everything is exploding. There is confusion and discord. Even language, our use of words is deafening.

My husband is dead and I’m aflame. A love sick puppy. Another Black man was murdered on the street. This virus is stifling. And there’s love.

Love makes life worth living. We want to be seen and loved for who we are.  It hurts when we don’t have these two fundamental things. When love is lacking, we are bored like the devil, restless and thirsty. Sometimes, we try to let go of this notion of love entirely. This happens at a very deep personal level or it can happen in large numbers poisoning society.

There are protests and riots on the streets. We’ve been poisoned by hate, fear and scarcity thinking. We uphold rules and social norms that stifle love with its freedom and creativity. We create institutions that are limiting and then we wonder why people want to break free. Where there is no love, there is no freedom, and our souls, our humanity wither away. We see all forms of escape from this dilemma. Some want to burn the house down.

This morning I went to the store for bread with five dollars in my pocket. I greet the cashier, a dark skinned African American lady. She rings me up and tells me, $5.50. I repeat, $5.50? The prices are inflated all over the city. I take out my roll and count as if somehow I’d have enough. How much do you need? She asks me. Fifty, I say, muttering. She reaches under the counter and pulls out a small plastic bag of coins from her purse. She counts out the change and rings me up and my eyes fill with tears and I’m grateful and ashamed. I’m thinking about her brother, son or husband who could have been killed by the police. How is it possible, dear God, that under the circumstances this woman is so kind and loving?

I’m living in my own suffering and she pops my bubble with her love and humanity.

She sees me emotional and tells me, Now is the time to do these things.

 

Coping with Grief and Fear

I lost my husband in November after 25 years of marriage. I’ve joined a bereavement group on line and realize that there are so many people suffering. Grief and fear have always been part of the human experience but now with the virus, we are facing these emotions globally. I’m learning that emotions like grief and fear can transform into compassion with the practice of mindfulness. It is slow and painful but necessary.

Grief and fear go hand in hand. When we lose somebody, we grieve the loss of love and we also face an unknown future. Death forces us to remember our immortality and the temporary nature of all things.

Screen Shot 2020-04-17 at 10.00.00 AM
Albert Gyorgy, ‘El vacío del alma’

When your whole identity breaks apart, you feel like you no longer fit in or even trust your skin. Conversations and events seem inconsequential and we find ourselves half in and half out of the real world we live in. What can we hold on to when everything is unstable and transitory?

We’re wired to believe that life is rational and love everlasting. Our perception of our life with a spouse, however imperfect, just makes sense. There’s a reasonable sequence of events, a social function, a shared commitment. When a person dies, or there’s a traumatic event, our perception of a fixed life shatters and we feel betrayed and empty. How can this be after having invested so much time and energy? We experience the truth of the temporal nature of all things and our immortality. We begin to see that underneath the routine of the material world, there’s a powerful energy that alters our reality, that forces us to evolve. It is infinitely organic, ineffable and seemingly indiscriminate.

My husband used to say, No somos nadie, which means, We are nobody. He was right.

There is no way around death, except to go through it. Each person copes with grief and fear differently but I think everyone should expect to feel sick and crazy. It is normal to lose our moral and physical strength and sensibility. There are feelings and behaviors that people don’t like to confess, but death encourages all sorts of things like excess, escapism, unpredictability, anxiety, saying bizarre things, breaking things including people’s feelings, listlessness and selfishness.

When we embrace these adverse experiences as normal, without judgment or labels, we realize that we are simply human and that somehow out of pain and suffering, out of confronting nothingness, we are part of the universe. When we accept that we are no longer our self, that we are in fact different, we begin to give ourselves time to become reacquainted. To become balanced and compassionate.

Meditation helps. Sitting and doing just that, being with oneself in acceptance. In this case, meditation can take on the role of forgiveness. It communicates to yourself that in spite of your anger, your sickness and your craziness—you deserve to be loved and to sit in dignity and have peace.  In spite of all the ugliness and darkness, there is light and goodness in your heart and in your being. There is unconditional love and you are deserving.

I also do light yoga and running. I think we underestimate the impact our body has on our mindset and emotions. It really helps to get blood flowing, to insert air into our spine and joints, to feed our heart oxygen. Our heart requires a lot of nourishment when it’s broken.

Recently, I’ve been thinking that death leads to reincarnation for the deceased and for us, the living,  the opportunity for rebirth after all the suffering. Part of the suffering is facing heavy memories, digging up old skeletons and getting angry.  Part of letting go is forgiving ourselves and our love ones for all transgressions and recalling the loving, sentimental moments. To say, It’s okay and I’m so sorry.

I’m thinking this is a form of redemption and a transition to new life.