Coming Through The Bardo
I thought that, with the last post, I had completed the crossing from ‘letting go of my life’s story‘ to living with a ‘reprieve from Death’. After all, it had been a week, and I even labeled the dominant feeling of the week as “dis-oriented”. Balanced, but dis-oriented. As this feeling persisted, I became curious-er and curious-er. What was I feeling dis-oriented to? It slowly emerged that the dis-orientation was from being ‘detached’ from my life’s story, and it was quite jarring, in an ‘A-hah’ kind of way. This was when I realized that I was still in this particular bardo. I had just finished an intense year of living each day as if it were my last. I did the work of dying to the best of my ability, and now I have no goals. I also noticed how important it was to not start grasping for something to ‘give new meaning’ to my new life.
Death: the final letting go
When we ‘let go’ of something we become detached from it. When we ‘let go’ of our life’s story we become detached from it. So what’s the big deal? Well, in all the great religious / spiritual literature we call this ‘letting go’ – Spiritual Freedom, or Enlightenment, or The Middle Way, or Whatever. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius puts it this way: We attain this goal by gradually bringing an order of values into our lives so that we make no choice or decision because we have been influenced by some disordered attachment. We have lots of examples of disordered attachments: The Seven Deadly Sins, The Buddha’s The Poisons, Five Hindrances, etc. We notice that all of these center around our egos: greed, lust, sloth, anger, dishonesty, abuse of power. Letting go of this stuff before death forces the issue sounds like a good idea. And I finally noticed that the dis-orientation I was feeling was, actually, the most profound ‘letting go’ I’ve ever felt.
Realizing The Reprieve
It felt a bit like Death left me hanging, and now I had to go on living. I confess to some scoffing at those who return from Death’s Door with a new spring in their step and sparkle in their eyes, even before this One Year To Live Experiment, and more so now. Here I was with no goals all of a sudden. No projects. No baggage. But I did have a Practice of Mindfulness, and practice I did. For the first time in a long time I savored the freedom from disordered attachments, and then…I began to feel a new spring in my step, a new appreciation for each breath, for family and friends, and for flying my very first kite… “to apprehend the point of intersection of the timeless with time…” (A Listening Heart by Br Deavid Steindl-Rast). “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” (Madame Marie Curie 1867 – 1934)