What is the Bardo? -Or- Why did you name your practice THAT? “Bardo” is a Tibetan Buddhist term for a very potent in-between time/space. We’re most familiar with it referring to the “Bardo Thodal“, the time from when a dying person expires their last exhale to when their mind-stream is reborn into another body. It should not be construed as a negative time or synonymous with the Christian concept of “Limbo” (which refers to “the edge of Hell”, and is a doctrine concerning the afterlife condition of those who die in original sin without being assigned to the Hell of the Damned).
Even according to Tibetan Buddhism, the classical between-lives Bardo situation is not the only one. There are actually six bardos described: the bardo of this life (from birth until death); the bardo of dreaming; the bardo of meditation; and further defined Bardo spaces in the death-rebirth process. All bardo states have one thing in common: They are stages between one phase or identity and another, during which the person or consciousness experiencing that process is neither quite one thing or another. Tibetan Buddhist teacher Mingyur Rinpoche discusses the Bardo(s) at length in his recent book In Love with the World: A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying.
In the bardo of our present life, we can find ourselves in many in-between places, or mini bardos, if you will. I named my practice “Bardo” because during the time I was having to come up with a new name for my practice after leaving my old practice Rosewood Acupuncture & Ayurveda in Austin, Texas (still being run by co-founder Kathy Duffy) to relocate to Portland, Oregon, I was found myself in a pretty intense Bardo space: Between home bases, between stages of life and experiencing ongoing, recalcitrant perimenopausal issues. I found myself having no other term to describe the situation that I was in other than “a Bardo of some kind”. One day it hit me that this was a good name for my new practice -and it turned out that no one else in the world had that practice name (which I found quite surprising). So, Bardo it was!
While being in in between spaces in our lives can be unpleasant, disorienting or downright terrifying, I believe we can try to put a positive light on these times and experiences by seeing them as an opportunity for transformation, to pass from one version of our Selves to Another, hopefully with a little grace. That’s what I’ve tried to do and I hope that I can offer a little bit to help others who find themselves in similar situations. If nothing else, perhaps your treatment with me will be a tiny Bardo of relaxation and respite in your day -or maybe it will be a more potent process.