The Bardo of Illness

Having recovered from a rather brutal experience with that rascal Covid, the world is somehow different. Everything seems more vibrant, alive. I realize this is just a symptom of moving through a bardo, an “in between” phase of existence. A bardo is a moment of juxtaposition, an auspicious contrast to our habitual way of living. This contrast breaks through the trance of “everything as usual.” When we come out on the other side, our perspective is changed.

Of course, my compassion is deeper for those who are experiencing Covid in its various shades and hues. On another level, it appears the illness has fostered a wind that is blowing away some unnecessary chaff in my mind. So far, I am not feeling the post Covid fatigue many report. I actually feel stronger, more energetic, and mentally clear. Nothing special. Bardos are always like this.

The six Bardos in traditional Buddhist description are: this life, death, intermediary state, birth, sleep and dream, and meditation. Nevertheless, any time we feel taken outside our usual patterns, we enter a kind of bardo state. On a more subtle level, every breath has an inhale, an “in between,” and an exhale. So we have an opportunity to cut through our habitual patterns every time we take a breath. This is why breath awareness can be helpful in meditation.

I suppose one could say we are always in the bardo of illness, the sickness of being asleep to our original clarity. We can intentionally engage the opportunity presented by waking up. If not now, when? Now is always a contrast to the previous now. Nothing remains the same until everything becomes of “one taste”. Then awakening is no longer a destination but way of living one’s life. This is what all the buddhas discover.

Bardo, anyone?

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