Bardo


Go with the flow.
“It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear . . . . It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to.” Marilyn Ferguson
I am very uncomfortable being in-between. I like to know what I am doing and feel like I have my hooks in that thing. I like to plan, take action and accomplish. In fact, this is not how life works. Life and creation unfold in their own time, at their own pace. In the years since I learned about Bardo, I remember it when I find myself in-between. I've learned to consider my in-between moments little bardos.

The Tibetan word Bardo describes the state between death and rebirth.  The "in-between state." The Bardo Thodol, known in English as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, defines six kinds of Bardo. Three are associated with life: The bardo of birth, the bardo of dreams and the bardo of meditation.

In simplest terms, birth signals the in-between state of life, dreams the state in-between waking and sleeping, and meditation the state in-between the incessant stream of thoughts.

The Bardo Thodol translates as "Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State."
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” Aldous Huxley
Fear blocks the doors of perception.  Fear of the unknown, of not knowing exactly where we are at any given moment.  Fear sets up all sorts of whacky behavior including addictions — anything to mask the discomfort of not knowing exactly what is going on.  Busyness, talking, watching TV, eating, drinking, smoking, anything that serves to help us go unconscious.  Better unconscious than uncomfortable!

We have to be conscious to listen so that we can hear in the intermediate state.  What is so scary after all?  What is there to be afraid of?  What is the worst that could happen?  For me, the essence of the fear is forever losing sight of shore. Impermanence is key. There is no forever for any experience.

In-between, the trick may not be to take action but to surrender to the not knowing.  This is the art of going with the flow. It is a trick (at least for a personality like mine) and it's worth practicing.

On the other hand, being in the in-between is the perfect state to create. Pick up a pencil and draw.  Cut up some paper and shape it up into something with tape. Start writing and see what comes to you.

Or meditate. What a concept. I am long wary of using the word should but meditation might best be at the top of my list. Fortunately, I'm the creative type and have an array of tools and experience to work with. Even if you're not currently aware of it, you do, too.  Drawing, painting, and messing around in the studio is a good way for me to engage in a form of meditation.
“What is an artist? A provincial who finds himself somewhere between a physical reality and a metaphysical one.... It’s this in-between that I’m calling a province, this frontier country between the tangible world and the intangible one—which is really the realm of the artist.” — Federico Fellini 
I've been thinking about this post for months and kept remembering a story about two Tibetan prisoners of war from book I read in the mid-80's —Cambodia: A Book For People Who Find Television Too Slowby Brian Fawcett.  I highly recommend this book of short stories that play out over a full-length essay.  All these years, I have carried the impression of Fawcett's stunning and complex little story of cultural interaction and perception called Lamps. When I checked the book out of the library recently, I was surprised but not too surprised to read that the Tibetan prisoners of war survived their litany of ordeals because they thought they were dead and in the state of bardo.
“Even God cannot make two mountains without a valley in between” —Gaelic Proverb
When I think of being the best that I can be, I imagine remaining completely conscious through all my in-betweens.  Now, to turn that imagining into intention...
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Visit the source at Suzanne McDermott

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5 comments:

Art with Liz said...

Wow Suzanne, much insight in this post! Thank you for sharing. I think you are way ahead of most of us!

Suzanne McDermott said...

Hey, Liz. I don't know about being way ahead but I'm glad you read and posted a comment. These Life is the First Art posts are sort of a blog within a blog. I'm posting them weekly on Wednesdays.

Hazel said...

This is deep. xDDD
I like it though, so much creativity. :D

Suzanne McDermott said...

I think you can swim in this, Hazel! Glad you like it.

Cathy Gatland said...

Hi Suzanne - just got back from overseas and am delighted to see you up and running here. Will be back to read it properly when I have time to concentrate... looks good!