Buddhists use the term bardo to represent a transition or shift from one realm to another, oftentimes from birth to death. It’s said that when in a bardo, one’s consciousness is not connected with a physical body and one experiences a variety of phenomena in which one has no control.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced so-called bardos in our ordinary lives, moments when life pulls the rug out from under us and when the earth shakes beneath us and we find ourselves on shaky ground. Shifting, or transitioning like this can happen in an instant when we learn about the death of a loved one or hear about a major tragedy in the world when, for a moment we lose our bearings or our foothold, where we have no control.
A bardo can come also upon us for no supposed reason. Just like that our world starts to rock and we experiences a variety of phenomena in which we have no control.
Last week I woke up with my head spinning. It felt as though my bed was being tumbled around on a rough ocean, (sort of like during my college days when I had one too many Alabama Slammers). Trying to maneuver through my morning, I had a sense that I was walking on uneven pavement. I felt unsure of myself, like I had no clue how to make myself breakfast. I’d never felt this uncertain or unsteady.
I somehow got myself out to the door and to my Thursday meditation class at Verge Yoga. I walked through the doors alongside my teacher Scott McBride, and blurted out, “It’s a really slippery day, Scott.” He smiled at me and his eyes glistened with a wise knowing.
During class I kept my feet firmly on the ground in an attempt to hold the world still. I cried silently as we meditated on touching the very tiny center of our heart. Something was stirring deep inside. I sensed a faint light flickering like the first sparkle of a sunrise. I cried some more knowing that the shakiness wasn’t happening in the outside world, it was coming from the trembling of the tectonic plates that reside deep, deep, deep inside my heart.
Thursday turned into Friday and the bardo continued. I scheduled time to meet with Scott privately. We talked about my spinning bed and the slippery ground.
I talked to him in a steady voice. Besides this shakiness, life is good. My relationships are strong and my work is rewarding. While promoting my book is really hard work, I feel confident in my new role as an author and teacher stepping onto the national stage.
And then I began to whisper. I know there is something deeper going on. Life feels unstable and there’s nothing for me to hold onto It’s like every thing is new. The world is brand new and I have no idea what to do or who I am.
In his quiet, confident demeanor, Scott suggested I spend some time looking at the shakiness and what may be underneath it. He again pointed me to the very center of my heart and suggested that perhaps I was ready to let go of some old pattern or way of being. We were silent together for some time. I went home and maneuvered my way into my bed that was still spinning.
Friday turned into Saturday, Day 3 in the bardo. I felt raw. I still had no idea what was shifting in me or when it would end. I went through my morning routine of journaling, reading, and meditating and after some time of simply sitting on my deck staring at the sky, I found myself on my laptop, typing non-stop. I was tapping into something, a sense of clarity arise from a new place, a wide-open field, a new territory. With very little editing I wrote the following passage:
I am tender. I feel everything. I am easily hurt. I am not invincible. I do not have my shit together. I sometimes feel alone in a crowd. I get tired of leading. I want to walk by your side. I don’t want to be in control. There is a veil separating me from you. I want to burn through that veil, once and for all. I want to share my heart’s longing with you and listen to yours. I want to hold you and be held by you. I want to dance together. I want to lay in the grass, by your side, and laugh at this insane human experience we share. I want to be free of the illusion that we’re separate. I want to unabashedly express my passion for being awake and fully alive without holding back one ounce. I just want to be the me I know is ready to fly, the me that is ready to know you, and the me that is ready to be known.
I knew I had to post this mini-manifesto to my FaceBook page. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to put this out for the world to see but I had to do it for myself. I couldn’t hold onto what I was feeling any longer. Still shaking I posted it and immediately felt cracked open and incredibly exposed. I recalled what vulnerability expert Brene Brown says about these sort of moments, “that you’ve spoken the raw truth when you find yourself shaking in your boots.”
Days later I still haven’t found my footing. I’m not sure I ever will. Something has shifted. Something has been uncovered. While I feel different than who I was a week ago, I feel more genuinely “me” than ever before. I feel more true and alive. I’m still in a slippery bardo but it’s not as scary anymore. Transition, even if it’s a super shaky one, can be fruitful and even sort of playful.
I’m grateful for my spinning bed, the slippery surface, and the shaky ground. I’m grateful I have a teacher with the expertise to guide me through the uncertainty. The walls around my heart crumbled last week and I’m still excavating the debris. I’m not sure what will happen next or who I will become in this new landscape. One thing I do know is going through the bardo, the transition from one way of being to another, is worth the trip.
I hope my journey through the bardo is helpful as you navigate your own shaky territory and slippery inner landscape. Please reach out with a comment or an email [email protected] I’d love to hear your story.