Being in the Bardo
It’s hard to wait. It seems passive, inactive.
There are “in-between” periods in life and career, times when one chapter has closed but what’s next for you hasn’t yet emerged. For example, you’ve left one job and have yet to start another; or you’ve retired after a long career and are still considering switching to a new field altogether.
Tibetan Buddhism has a concept called the bardo, an intermediate or transitional state between death and rebirth. Metaphorically speaking, it also refers to these moments when gaps appear for us, interrupting the continuity that we’ve gotten so used to. The well-trodden path is suddenly suspended.
That can be a very difficult place for those of us who love routine, or who gain a sense of identity from a particular job title, or who just enjoy being busy. We know who we are when we hold this job, or belong to that community, or practice these tried and tested routines.
I think the bardo can be a time of great growth, release and creativity. Instead of rushing to fill a void that opens up, or feeling anxious and ungrounded, why not embrace what the bardo can bring? Without the reference points you’ve come to rely on, what else can emerge? Could there be a renewed appreciation of time? A chance to really, truly rest? A meaningful re-evaluation of what matters to you ? Discovering a new interest? Exploring a pivot in your career?
We’re often taught to fear the gaps in life. I think that’s why we rush to fill them. That way, things feel more certain and our established identities remain intact. The next time that gap appears, why not embrace the bardo and ask yourself what it’s meant to show you? Let’s value the bardo for what it truly is—the pause that clarifies and honors the end of one phase and the graceful, impending start of another.