Saturday, August 31, 2013

Each Place is a Bardo, A Fluid In-Between Space

My friend, Linda Hollier, responded to my poem, Morning Light, by saying it was about a bardo. Tibetan Buddhists use the term "bardo" to describe the space between death and rebirth on. They say it is a time when our consciousness is not connected to a physical body and we experiences phenomena ranging from clear, peaceful spaciousness to a wild phantasmagoria of terrifying halluci-nations. Those prepared for this stormy voyage and are conscious they are taking it have a great opportunity for liberation from suffering. Those ignorant of the bardos they pass through are tossed about by the waves in a nightmarish odyssey that drives them toward an unfortunate birth. "Bardo" can also describe times when our routine lives are interrupted, such as during an illness or a meditation retreat. 

Considering this, I realized that each place we experience in life is a bardo—an experience of the space between the formations of consciousness that came before it and those that follow. Viewing my experience through the frame of the bardo loosens my attachment to the mistaken perception that present circumstances are fixed and solid. Instead, I remember that each place and time is merely another episode in the ongoing journey from one bardo through another. My attachment loosens. I breathe more easily. The forms I inhabit become a fluid interplay of colors, textures and sounds. The people I encounter appear to be richly developed characters parading through an unending story. I am both playing one of the roles in this story and am witnessing the story unfold. Looking back in time, the plot line of the bardos spilling one through the other seems wisely orchestrated. Attempting to see forward, I peer into a cloud of unknowing.

Dwelling within the fluid land of the bardos, I have less fear of taking creative leaps. It all becomes like drawing on water. Forms appear and disappear. The beauty and honesty of the gesture is more important than the passing marks they make. Since my persona is a temporary character in a watery play, the flow of love and appreciation becomes more important than worrying about gaining approval for my self-image.

Certainly, I prefer some bardos over others. There are icky bardos, as my friend Tricia calls them. There are confusing, terrifying, heartbreaking and obstacle-filled bardos that can show up between harmonious, inspiring and wisdom-filled bardos. Life relentlessly carries me from one bardo through the next, not letting me cling to or push away any of them for long. Seeing them as bardos, I remember that all of them are temporary and passing through the open sky of the consciousness I am. When I remember this, each place is more like living poetry and for a time I'm liberated. 


  1. This is a beautiful bardo meditation you offer, Tony. Quite moving. Layered, fluid, rich.

    May we greet each other with kindness along the way. May we flow well and awaken to life in every bardo place & state. AHO.

  2. A truly inspiring piece! I agree with Marjory in seeing it as a meditation. Its fluidity, honesty and clarity apply the concept of the bardo so aptly to life, and encourage a loosening of attachments.
    "My attachment loosens. I breathe more easily".
    Thank you for this wonderful post :)