January 29, 2021

 I keep waffling on whether I’m inventing my journeys into the Bardo. Yesterday, I received an email from my Diamond Approach teacher, Bob, that was terse. He inquired if I was still doing my meditation practice, implying that I was shirking my practice by getting carried away with my “job” in the Bardo. (His quotes.) I didn’t reply and will sit with it for a while. I don’t think he realizes that it takes more work to resist entering the Bardo and to remain sitting, blocking it out, than it does to be present with the journey. It is very insistent and I’m not really doing anything beyond seeing what is presenting itself to me and feeling the response in my soul to what I am witnessing. I’m not going to get into that in an email, though.

The email had the additional effect of making me think I’m making it all up. I know that what I am experiencing is outside of the scope of the DA teaching. Hameed Ali, the main teacher in the school, generally skirts the Bardo and Imaginal. I am probably reading too much into Bob’s reply but I know he’s the main guardian of the DA teaching. It’s not a leap to perceive him also as a protector of the orthodoxy of the teaching. I wonder if he is reacting to my experiences because they don’t fit into the existing framework of the teaching?

The more important thing is how much his perceived rejection impacts my confidence in what I am experiencing. It definitely has an impact but it certainly didn’t prevent me from journeying into the Bardo again this morning during my meditation. (To appease Bob, I will start doing an afternoon meditation to make up for the ‘lack’ of a morning meditation.) When I’m feeling shaky and lacking in confidence, my trips into the Bardo are more muted and I don’t feel as fully engaged in what I am seeing because I’m doubting it but I still travel there. In fact, today I visited more lost souls than usual. Go figure.

This morning I first became aware of a forest guardian. I was standing in the bottom of a wooded ravine with large trees rising all around me. It was summer and the trees were covered in green leaves. It felt like morning and the sun was out. The guardian appeared as face in a column of rock carved to look like a tree. The rock was white and green and the face looked down upon me. I bowed to it and inquired why I had been called here.

After a while, I became aware that my perspective had changed. I was now standing upon a cliff overlooking the forest. The morning sun was rising over the trees. It was quite beautiful. I was standing at the mouth of a shallow cave looking eastward. The sun illuminated the limestone cliff face upon which I was standing. Beside me was a cloaked figure whose face was covered. It wasn’t human and I determined that it had been sent as the guide for the soul I’d been sent to retrieve.

I stood there, sensing into the shallow cave, gradually seeing a huge, black cauldron behind me. Inside, the cauldron was pitch black, the sure sign there was a lost soul nearby. I walked over and peered into the cauldron, realizing that a thin, middle-aged man was curled up inside. I have no idea what his story was because, being flustered as I was by Bob’s email, I had more trouble than usual getting a read on the dude.

The cauldron seemed to belong to him and I got the impression that he had taken refuge in it, perhaps to hide. Or maybe he’d been cooked in it? I didn’t perceive anything super disturbing but the guy clearly needed to be convinced that it was safe to crawl out of the cauldron. I reassured him that everything was alright and motioned to the guide waiting for him. “Nothing will harm you now,” I said. “Come on, climb out of there and continue on your journey.

He didn’t need a lot of convincing. Once he saw and recognized the guide, he climbed out and they were gone, leaving me to stand on the cliff and appreciate the sunrise.

After a while, I started seeing a new image in mind. There were tendrils of purple fog twining over blackened bodies scattered on the floor before me. I was inside a room in what I assume was a temple. The doors were closed and sealed. There was only a little light from a small slitted window. It felt like an altar room inside a temple of some sort, probably Christian. I got the strong sense that the dead people inside had committed suicide, perhaps because they were members of a cult. Perhaps they had locked and barred the doors and killed themselves rather than being captured and taken to trial? It’s hard to tell because my perception wasn’t as sharp as usual.

In any case, it was clear why I was there. These people needed to wake up and continue their journey. They may have been zealots or members of a cult but I could tell their commitment to the Divine was sincere and they deserved to be allowed to continue. I urged them to awaken and leave the room, heaving open the doors as I said so. Beyond, I could see a corridor that led into the streets of a medieval city. There was a tower and blue sky. It felt like morning.

The dead stirred and, bowing to me, filtered out of the room.

I next became aware of something that could have been the whistle on a ship or the smokestack on a ship. It was cold and the ship was in the midst of a violent storm, probably somewhere in the arctic. A giant wave was frozen, poised to come crashing down on the ship. I realized that I was in a scene where time was standing still. The people cowering in the hold of the ship--possibly fishermen--were frozen in fear at the moment of their deaths when their boat was capsized and sank during a storm. It was horrific and terrifying to behold; I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be trapped like that.

Again, even though I was fuzzier than usual, the mission was clear: Help these souls out by freeing them from the nightmare of their demise. I entered the hold of the ship and convinced them relatively easily that this was just a figment and they weren’t really trapped. It was time for them to free themselves from this horror and go on. It didn’t take long before the storm vanished and the sun rose over placid seas. The boat righted itself and the crew emerged from their nightmare to stand on the railing and look out on a new beginning.

Next, I felt pulled down underwater and spotted a small cave deep down. Swimming down to it, I entered and realized I wasn’t underwater anymore but in a narrow opening among some giant rocks. It was a crude shelter lit by a guttering lamp or torch. Curled up on the stone before me was a young boy. Again, I don’t know exactly what happened to him but I got the sense that he had become lost and took refuge during a snowstorm. I don’t know what race or nationality he was, just that he was young and afraid. My guess is that he died before being rescued.

Gradually, I started seeing the stylized face of a bear and realized that it was a mask being worn by a man. At first, I thought of Griffin but realized that his man was searching for the boy. Perhaps he had died, too, as a result of the storm or perhaps he didn’t die during the storm but never found him and was haunted by this failure the rest of his life. I think the man was the boy’s father but he could have been another relative.

The man with bear fur mask was standing outside the narrow opening between the rocks. He had his back to us but was clearly wearing a heavy, fur parka and fur mittens. I urged the boy to awaken, telling him that his guide was here and it was time to continue his journey. Soon, he propped himself up on his elbows and looked around, surprised that he was no longer dead. Seeing the man waiting for him outside, he jumped up and scrambled out of the cave, taking the man by the hand. The love between them was palpable as was the relief.

After they had left, I thought my journey in the Bardo was gone and I tried to be a good Diamond Approach student and simply meditate. It wasn’t long before I was drawn back into the Bardo, though, this time finding myself in a sumptuously appointed bed chamber where an old, decrepit white dude lay dying. I could tell by the luxury and iconography of the furnishing surrounding us that this was probably a pope or cardinal or archbishop. The trappings of his bedchamber were jaw-dropping. Almost everything was deep, rich red. There was a lot of gold, too.

Given my aversion to organized religion and disdain for the Catholic church, you might wonder why I would have been called to this man’s beside. For some reason, I wasn’t critical of him, though, and sensed that there was a sincere desire in him for the truth, whatever that might be and wherever that might lead him. He might have led a life ensconced in the rich trappings of the church, its arcane rituals and smothering traditions that all but ensured that accessing the truth was impossible. Nonetheless, there was a kernel of sincerity here and it wasn’t my job to judge the man’s merits.

With a sweep of my arm, I cleaved through the thick stone walls of that bedroom. The walls opened up, revealing a mountainside vista on the other side. A bright sun was rising, flooding the mountainside with light. The sky was brilliant bands of color. 

“Get up!” I urged the man in the bed. 

He didn’t need to be asked twice and all but sprang out of bed in his eagerness to be gone from that room. No longer dressed in a nightgown, he was wearing canvas pants and a snug jacket, a knapsack on his back and a walking stick in his hand. There was no guide waiting for him because he didn’t need one. He wanted to explore this broad, new world on his own without anyone there to tell him where to go.

After he left, I went back to meditating for the last couple minutes remaining on my timer. I’m sure Bob would not have approved but fuck him. ;-)


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