January 20, 2021

I continue to be surprised, touched and shaken by the interactions I am having in the Imaginal/Bardo. This morning was no exception.

As you know from my previous entries, I have been waffling back and forth, not sure what to make of these experiences. Is it all in my head or is there something else going on? I don’t have an answer because my experiences are subjective and therefore I can’t rule out that I’m making it all up. If this is the case, though, my unconscious is surprisingly inventive at presenting me with situations that stun and amaze me.

This morning when I sat down to meditate, I was mostly convinced that I’ve been hallucinating. This conviction didn’t prevent me from entering the Bardo, though. After a few minutes, I became aware of a giant plant with large, spiky leaves. It took me a moment to realize that this wasn’t a giant plant at all but a blade of grass seen up close. Rather than being on the usual human scale, I was viewing the grass from an insect’s perspective.

I sat there, looking down a big hill that was probably just a small incline. The scene before me was mundane. It was nighttime and I was in a park in the middle of a city. The park was rundown with a cracked concrete basketball court and broken and rusted playground equipment. The lawn was worn down to bare ground in most places and the grass that remained was unkempt. A lone street light shone down in a corner of the park. There were nondescript brick buildings adjacent to the park. It was a rough-looking place.

Reduced to the size of an insect, I gazed down the hill toward the basketball court. At first I thought I was seeing a bloody moon on the horizon but soon realized that it was the glowing end of a cigarette. (Given my tiny size and proximity to the cigarette, it only looked big enough to be the moon.)

A cricket stirred beside me and looked over at it, amazed both by its enormous size and beauty. It’s body shimmered with color in the wan light. Its eyes were faceted orbs and its wings were prisms of dark light. I felt fondness for this creature, knowing that it was here as my guide; it had summoned me here to help a lost soul find freedom and continue its journey through the Bardo. I bowed to it and then we moved forward together through the forest of grass stems.

Fortunately, the glowing end of the cigarette was nearby--even for someone smaller than a cricket--and we soon moved past it. Behind the cigarette, the body of the lost soul was pitch black. (As I’ve noted before, the lost souls always appear as negative space when I first encounter them. I’m not sure why this is, maybe the blackness is literal: It is so dark that they can’t see where they are. To me, though, the blackness is silky and shimmering and redolent with love. It is the blackness of the Absolute made manifest in this realm.)

As I watched, the blackness dissolved and my soul body began to increase to normal human size. I could see that this lost soul was a woman. Judging from her corpse, she had been bludgeoned to death. She may also have been sexually assaulted but I couldn’t tell. Her clothing was typical women’s clothing from the 1940’s or early 1950’s but it was cheap and worn. It was also bloody and in tatters due to the nature of her murder. Her caked-on makeup was smeared and bloody. She appeared to be in her late thirties. My heart twisted as I regarded the body but I forced myself to examine it closely so I could memorize the details.

As I always do, I bowed to the lost one and inquired about her story. From nowhere, a voice said, “I am nothing. I have been forgotten.” And then she stirred, seemingly surprised to find she was no longer dead. She gazed up at me fearfully, perhaps thinking I was one of her attackers. I knelt down and held out my hand, opening myself to her as I did so. I invited her to look inside me, to read the truth of my life and history, and above all to see that I was human just like her.

She smiled tentatively and reached out to take my hand. I pulled her to her feet and we walked over to the little hill from where I had originally spied her corpse. We sat down together and I put my arm over her shoulders, inviting her to open to me. I told her I was curious about her life and her experiences. When she hesitated, I told her to relax, I was just a friend and I didn’t want anything from her that she didn’t wish to share.

This gentle curiosity and admission that I wasn’t after anything had a profound effect on her. She started to shake and tears filled her eyes. She confided that no man had asked to tell him about herself before; the only time men expressed interest was when they wanted something.  The men in her life had been coarse and unfeeling at best and violent and abusive at worst.

I teared up when she told me this and began to sob when she opened up her memories to me, showing me the truth behind her words. It was heartbreaking to see how horribly she had been mistreated almost from the day she was born. 

Even though I felt gutted by what I witnessed, I saw more than just bad things. I saw there had been moments when people had loved and treasured her. I asked her to bear witness to these truths about her past and to open herself to the love that was present and allow it to heal her. We cried a lot, both out of pain and wonder.  The blessings of her life had been scant but, while scarce, they had nonetheless been present. 

After a while, she pulled a cigarette out of her purse and, lighting it, offered it to me. I shrugged, saying, “Why not? It’s not like it’s going to hurt me!” and took a drag before handing it back to her. We sat quietly for a time, smoking and looking up at the night sky.

Only a few minutes had elapsed before she began to grow nervous. I asked her what was wrong. She said she was worried that I had other things to do and she was keeping me from my duties. I smiled and told her that we had all the time in the world. There was nothing more important to me than she was and I couldn’t think of anywhere I would rather be. This precipitated another bout of tears on both our parts. She confessed that she couldn’t remember anyone ever telling her this.

When her tears had abated, she took another drag on her cigarette and turned her attention on me, specifically my soul body. I sensed her curiosity and invited her to explore; for reasons I don’t understand, my body was naked and it appeared much the way it does in everyday life.

At first, she was embarrassed to examine my nudity but grew more confident after I reassured her it was Ok. There was nothing sexual about her scrutiny; she was merely curious. In turn, I was curious about her curiosity and asked her about it.

More tears. Between gasps, she explained that she had never seen a man’s body that wasn’t being used against her as a weapon. Men’s bodies had always been used to ensure her subservience and she couldn’t remember ever seeing a man’s penis when it wasn’t erect and ready to stab into her. She seemed almost amused by my flaccid penis, how soft, harmless and funny it looked. I laughed, admitting that a penis is a funny organ. I was glad that my body could be used to demonstrate this.

At this point, she surprised me by turning her curiosity on me. She wanted to know more about me, who I was and where I had come from. I opened to her as before, inviting her to see everything about me. I was startled, though, when she asked about Griffin. I explained who he was and how I had only recently learned about our relationship. I admitted I was worried about him and wished I could do something to help him.

She surprised me by pushing back against this. “It’s funny you’re so worried about someone you’ve never met, especially when you are closed to the people in your life who love you and would do anything for you. Didn’t you just tell me to open to the exact same truths about myself? Why don’t you practice what you preach?”

I was taken aback and didn’t reply right away. When I hesitated, she added, “I’m talking about people like me. I haven’t known you for long but I can already tell that I love you. Won’t you accept my love?”

Her words left me reeling. I realized she was right and that, for the most part, my heart is a one-way street; I allow myself to love others but am extremely hesitant to receive love back. I am reluctant because, deep down, I don’t believe I’m worthy of their love. 

I cried profusely as I realized how much I’ve been closing myself off to people. That there are in fact many people who love me very much and yet I almost never allow this love in. This is a deep wound that I’ve carried with me for years.

I saw that this is what the fearsome Tibetan deity had been trying to tell me on Sunday, January 17, 2021, when I ‘completed’ my journey through the Bardo. I could tell that healing this particular wound would take time but, now that I was more explicitly aware of it, I had a chance.

She asked me to practice receiving this love from her. Crying even harder, I agreed and could feel my heart open and receive her love as well as some of the love from others in my life. It was difficult and I couldn’t open all of the way but I was able to receive some of it and it left me both shaken and touched.

I realized how arrogant I had been during these journeys into the Bardo. I have acted like I was only giving to lost souls and not seeing this was reciprocal. Each of them has been incredibly grateful and has offered me so much love...and, yet, I have barely registered it. Additionally, only rarely have I considered that the souls I meet might have anything to teach me. Just because they are lost doesn’t mean they are stupid and each of them has valuable insights to offer. I promised myself that I would be better about receiving their love and wisdom in the future.

When I had recovered sufficiently, I looked over at her and saw a knowing smile on her face. No longer was her body beaten and bloody or her clothing stained and torn. She looked beautiful, radiant.

“Thank you,” she said, standing up and stamping out the cigarette. “You are a true friend. I promise we’ll meet again.”

I bowed and thanked her with all my heart and said I looked forward to meeting her again, too.

I watched her go, walking slowly down the sidewalk in her high heels, hips swaying and dress swishing back and forth. She kept her back straight and head held high as she passed under a wan streetlight and then disappeared from view.


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