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.

On Dog and Man

This morning I jogged past an interesting dog couple. They got me thinking about the relationship between dog and man. He was a medium sized, grey terrier and the owner was a blond in her thirties. They were both sitting on a bench together. The dog was looking one way and she the other. She was on her phone chatting and he was observing the scene. As I got closer, the dog leaned further out and looked toward me. He was tracking me from afar, his deep set black eyes hounded me. As I passed, he jumped up on all fours and pulled hard on his leash. He clearly wanted to run, like me. His owner engrossed in her conversation, barely looked up when she gave his leash a hard pull to the effect that the dog cowered and sat back down instantly. His eyes, however, did not stop watching me. The last I saw was his head turned the other way, while seated and waiting.

Dogs are domesticated creatures but they are kin to wolves and coyotes. Although teachings vary from tribe to tribe, according to Native American tradition, each animal carries a special medicine energy (Sams & Carson, 1988). The dog is loyalty, a protector and a servant. Wolves, in contrast, are the pathfinders, the teachers of new ideas. The coyotes, are the tricksters with a keen sense of humor and a hidden wisdom that reminds us not to take life so seriously.

What is the true nature of dog without training? What can we learn from the relationship between dog and man to understand notions of love, loyalty and security?

Dog owners spend an inordinate amount of time and money training their dogs to be obedient. In this teaching, there’s something we can learn by thinking about this practice and the outcomes we seek. For example, to train a dog, you make them obey orders by way of reward and punishment. Orders like: Come here! Go! Lay down! Stop playing! Sit! Stand! Calm down! When they follow the rules, they get a treat and when they don’t, they get beaten or neglected. Over time, this process conquers their nature and reduces their ability to do anything without fear. In this relationship, the master justifies the beatings, touting the benefits. Dogs are given food, shelter and stability! In exchange, a good, domesticated dog bestows upon man unconditional love, protection and loyalty.

As I watched the behavior of the grey terrier this morning, I wondered if it’s possible to completely destroy one’s natural instinct, like the yearning to run and be free? I wondered about safety and stability. I even thought about government and how human beings pay a price for a sense of security and loyalty. What is the right balance, if any, between honoring our true nature and taming?

Where I live in New York City, there is a preponderance of dogs. Truth be told, from the outside looking in, they look happy. They are so clean! Their owners take them out for walks along the river, allow them to get some fresh air, poop and pee amongst trees. Sometimes, the owners keep them on very long leashes to get the illusion of space. It’s as if they own the city. Every so often, a van arrives on my corner that caters to dogs. They call it a ‘dog spa’ and they go in there and take breaks. In fact, sometimes I’m jealous that dogs can get spa treatments in the time of COVID so easily. On other days, I think it’s just a van, the apartments are quite small in the city and leashes are leashes no matter how far they reach.

Tuning into the Climate of our Era

~Exploring Norms of Engagement

Yesterday, the man next to me on the bus snorted, “There is so much hate. It doesn’t matter what side you’re on, what country you’re talking about, there is so much anger and hate.” I had been watching him hover over his device for an hour reading the endless stream of news on social media. His face was visibly disturbed and fatigued; I recognized that strange and familiar digital age stupor.

When I got home, I changed out of my city clothes and sank deep into my sofa. I needed to watch that movie again. I loved that scene when Ruth Bader Ginsburg is standing on a street corner with her fifteen-year-old daughter trying to hail a cab while a group of construction workers are cat-calling. Her daughter yells at them defiantly before stopping a taxi and ordering her mother to jump in. Ruth stood there flabbergasted. Times had changed. The next generation had ushered in a new era; they were now ready to hear the call for gender equality.

 “A court ought not to be affected by the weather of the day but by the climate of the era.” 

In reality, the line from the law professor was, “The Court should never be influenced by the weather of the day but inevitably they will be influenced by the climate of the era.”

What is the climate of our era? Are we at a turning point in our history, to hear a new call for freedom and equality? I’m not sure. I don’t know if we know what we mean by freedom, democracy and equality anymore. Does freedom mean the same to you as it does to me?

In my book, I write we experience freedom when we are seen, acknowledged and appreciated for who we are; when we feel trust and belonging in social situations; when we feel worthy and useful in society. When a person can move into different spaces, adapt themselves without losing their sense of self and purpose and collaborate with others across differences towards a common goal, they experience the joy of freedom.

Does this mean freedom to you?

I argue that the two greatest barriers to the realization of freedom are considering another person’s freedom a threat to our own safety and security, and keeping us from the experience of freedom through abstraction. Both are a consequence of the mind, a lack of trust and fear.

I think it’s important for us to inquire into the climate of our era, to examine prevailing norms and beliefs, the nature of our relationships, the character of our society; to examine and listen to each other and learn what we mean when we say things. We can do this by looking inward, paying attention to our own shifting thoughts and beliefs and also by engaging with others with a new lens. When our mind is cluttered and concerned with threats (real or imaginary), it will hamper the natural flow of energy, blocking our ability to listen, to see things clearly, process information, and adapt ourselves to the existing situation. We don’t want to lose our sense of self, our sense of purpose and our dignity in discussions but we want to be responsive and open.

I suggest we set aside time to examine the norms of engagement that may impede open communication, trust and safety in discussions, the flow of information and the sharing of our ideas as it relates to freedom, equality and democracy. I also recommend that PLCs try on a new set of norms that may help change group dynamics and move learning into unexplored, generative territory.

Here are the Norms of Conscientious Engagement I introduce in my new book, Mindful Practice for Social Justice. I look forward to hearing about your experiences as you experiment with new ways of engaging.

Norms for CE.png

 

 

References:

On the Basis of Sex http://www.solzyatthemovies.com/2018/12/24/on-the-basis-of-sex/