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Monthly Musings: Bardo — A Lesson From Buddhism

Dear Friend,
My journey has taught me many lessons along the way, one of them which is particularly useful in a time like the one we are collectively experiencing right now. Below I muse upon the Buddhist notion of a Bardo, which may offer you some insight into your own personal transformation through this time. Like the lotus gains strength and resilience on its ascent towards the light above the water’s surface, you too can become stronger and more truly aligned with your life’s purpose as you wade through the muddy waters of this moment. Thich Nhat Hahn put it more simply, “No Mud, No Lotus.”
Spring brings with it not only rain showers to wash away the past, but brilliant colors, flower buds, and blossoms, to anchor you into the present season of growth. Easter is a reminder of the resurrection of life, the rebirth of all goodness in us and others and the onset of spring.
Read on to access my online meditations and my personal approach to staying healthy and hopeful. I have an upcoming ONLINE event THIS THURSDAY about the Secrets to a Bullet Proof Spirit— Bouncing Back from Life’s Hardest Hits. With Covid-19 upon us, this content has never been so relevant to so many. Please tune in and share. RSVP Here.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein
Bardo — A Lesson From Buddhism
Bardo is a Tibetan Buddhist noun which translates:
A transition or gap between the completion of one situation and the onset of another. From bar – “in-between” – and do- “suspended or thrown.”
One experiences many Bardos in life – birth, adolescence, adulthood, graduation, first job, being fired from a job, marriage, sometimes divorce, children and of course the ultimate Bardo – death. The Tibetan Buddhists espouse Bardos in their lives because it is in a Bardo that we experience our quantum leaps in wisdom and soul evolution. Review your Bardos and you will see this rings true. Buddhists during their lifetimes, continue to build on their spiritual strength in readiness of the ultimate and the most supreme Bardo which is death.
They believe when you die your spirit is vibrating at a very high frequency and with proper preparation during one’s lifetime at this transition you are able to step out of “samsara” (the cycle of birth-death-rebirth) into “nirvana” (a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It represents the final goal of Buddhism.)
What is so challenging and difficult about Bardos is that there is the uncertainty of the future. Us mortals do not like to be in a transitional mode feeling thrown or suspended. We are used to the status quo and the stability of our lives with both of our feet grounded and supported. Needless to say, the entire planet comprising of 195 countries some 8 billion souls are caught in an unprecedented Bardo.
So how do we deal with the magnitude of this pandemic?
First, it is important to have unwavering faith that there is a divine order to our Universe, and we will come through this challenge stronger, more resilient, more compassionate, more generous and more caring. A poignant reminder that we are all connected and wholly dependent on each other for our lives. We have realized that the human race and all the planet’s creatures are vulnerable and that natural disasters can end our lives. In many ways, our actions have led to often recurring natural disasters such as record levels of heat, floods, climate change, hurricanes, earthquakes, and pandemics.
It is not about having a profiteering-Wall-Street-arrogant-mindset and the relentless pursuit of the almighty dollar that can advance our human condition. Rather, by living in humility and in the caring service of our sisters, brothers, progeny and mother earth we can advance as a human species. The Universe is speaking to us through these natural disasters. The world will be different when this over, and I am remaining hopeful that it will spawn a better world and a lot of good will manifest from this global paralysis. I pray we will be more humble, compassionate, kind, forgiving and caring for each other.
As we navigate through this lock-down, my own practice is to maintain my healthy lifestyle and enhance my immune system. That means a healthy diet (5 to 7 fruits and vegetables a day), regular daily exercise, supplements (recommended by a physician) and rest. I have added an extra hour of sleep as this is when the body rebuilds and enhances immunity. Many of us are sleep deprived.
Secondly, build on your spiritual resiliency. I continue to practice my two hours a day of meditation practice. I meditate 3 different times a day and you can listen to my methodology on my website where you will also find a guided meditation on Life’s Mission. Two hours may be a lot for many, but I recommend at least 20 minutes, twice a day. Meditating twice a day instead of once a day delivers tenfold benefits. Stay in prayerful and hopeful meditation. Remember the whole world is praying and meditating together. There is a lot of power in collective prayer and I believe that all prayers are answered. The key is to be hopeful – hope provides a forward-looking perspective.
This reminds me of a story from the holocaust – a father uses the last bit of butter to make a candle and the son is livid that he would use the last morsel of food in this manner and the father’s response: “the body can last without food for 40 days but it can only last a few minutes without hope.”
I believe it is important to set a strong intention in a collective prayerful meditation as intentions are powerful and do manifest. Many of you might have read the book “The Power of Intentions” by the late Wayne Dyer. We manifest what we strongly believe in. So let us collectively, in our daily meditation and prayer, set the intention for a miracle. As my friend Claudia reminded me “those who do not believe in miracles are not realistic.” I believe in miracles.
What compromises a healthy immune system is STRESS. It is also natural to feel anxiety in these times as the future remains uncertain. When you find yourself in stress focus on your breathing and come into the present moment. Stress does NOT reside in the present. Stress is being exasperated for events in the past or in the anxiety of future outcomes. In the present moment, there is breath, blue skies, blossoming spring gardens and the precious gift of life.
My exercise is to walk 6 days a week and I recently read this reminder in one of my magazines:
“Never have I felt so grateful for a walk. There is solace in knowing that as long as I put one foot in front of another, I will keep moving through this particular world. It might not be the same world tomorrow or next week, so I take a moment to feel lucky for every walk, every waft of jasmine, I have now. And I feel grateful for everything else I have, too – health and happiness, my job, loved ones to laugh with. I notice the buds on my favorite trees are bigger than yesterday. I give it another week, and the buds will be leaves, and then everything will be green. I know this to be true: Life renews.”
~Lena Felton in
Stay calm, collected, cautious and vigilant. Stay safe, healthy, prayerful and hopeful. Please know all of you and your loved ones are in my heart, thoughts and daily prayers and meditations.
Peace and many blessings.
Azim Khamisa
What Comes After Bardo?
If you want to dive deeper into the concept of the Bardo – I recommend the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. It is great to read and it has over 100 pages on Bardos. I was reading this book when Tariq passed in 1995 and remember reading these 100 pages 100 times, sometimes out loud to my family. Buddhists believe that we attract everything that happens to us often in the form of a Bardo for our own spiritual evolution.
This was hard for me initially to accept as I asked a close traveling monk companion of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who wrote the foreword to this book (when I met him in 2004), “Did I attract the tragic death of my son Tariq?” No parent would do that and his response was that “In each lifetime we have lessons to learn to achieve nirvana. This process can take many lifetimes and your lesson in this lifetime was to learn forgiveness. Tariq and you had an old contract before either of you were born that he would be born to you and tragically die. God gave us free will and it was up to you to choose – forgiveness or revenge. You made the right choice to forgive his killer so in your next life you do not have to lose another son.”
While I accept this may sound like an extremely evolved view – we do collect many karmas in our current lives and ones we have lived before.
But as HH the Dalai Lama guides us, through Bardos we also have the power to strengthen and activate virtuous karma and in doing so bring about a happy outcome. So what happens after a Bardo is based on the choice(s) we make in negotiating the Bardo.
My choice to forgive helped me find purpose in my life to create the Tariq Khamisa Foundation to save the lives of children. 25 years later this still wakes me up every morning with a strong passion to continue teaching that forgiveness is a portal to peace.
Similarly – I believe that the choices we will make post the COVID – 19 pandemic can manifest a lot of good. We are already seeing this in many ways. We are clearly seeing that we are vulnerable – this pandemic has hit the entire planet – 195 countries! It does not discriminate. Vulnerability creates an open heart – it makes us humble (as opposed to arrogant) – from Proverbs 15:33 – “Humility goes before honor.”
Humility allows us to surrender to the Divine Order in the Universe knowing that by living with an open heart we can be more loving, compassionate, forgiving and in service of others upon whom our lives depend. My own sense is a lot of good will manifests as a result of the Bardo of this pandemic. A miracle is being birthed!
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