Exploring 2020 through the lens of the Tibetan bardos, Ethan Nichtern illuminates the awareness and aspiration involved in integrating the personal, interpersonal, and collective levels of our being.
Returning from a short hiatus, Ethan Nichtern begins the show by sharing rawly about his struggle with seizures at the hands of his recently diagnosed epilepsy. Offering compassion for anyone effected by illness right now, he explains his personal healing journey, before zooming out to the pressing global issue of the surging coronavirus pandemic. Touching on both the gross and acute trauma created through this pandemic, Ethan invites us to step into the bardo, and ask, “What happens now?”
Entering the Bardo
‘Bardo’ is a Tibetan word that means ‘island’ or ‘space in-between,’ usually referring to the transition between the time of death and the time of rebirth; however, ‘bardo’ classically refers to any kind of ‘gap’ between the dissolution of one state, and the beginning of another, even times of transition in waking life. These bardos can often be scary, intense, and acute karmically, as well as incredibly powerful for practice – for working on one’s mind and aspirations for liberation and compassion for other beings.
“In general, you could say the entire beloved dumpster fire of the year 2020 is a bardo, is a gap experience, an experience of an intensification of systems, structures, and identities dissolving; and not really reforming yet.” – Ethan Nichtern
Explore the ‘dangerous opportunity’ and silver linings encased within the bardo experience of the pandemic, on Ep. 343 of Mindrolling
Collective Bardo: Awareness & Aspiration (9:10)
After sharing glimmers of hope from the light at the end of the tunnel, Ethan describes the surging coronavirus levels, and communal fear we are sharing in, as an intensification of karma – very much a collective bardo experience. One of the dominant features of bardos is that the projective elements of the mind become very intensified, bringing our ‘stuff’ to a head. To best flow through these periods of intensification, the two main elements to develop are awareness and aspiration, a presence and an intention.
“What aspiration is saying is, ‘I don’t know what the future looks like, but what are the qualities that I’m working on cultivating?’ Compassion towards oneself and towards others are at the core of these values.” – Ethan Nichtern
Take a deep dive into the mystery of the ‘collective bardo’ we currently find ourselves in, on Ep. 353 of Mindrolling
Personal, Interpersonal, & Collective (24:10)
How do we integrate being a practitioner of mindfulness, development, and awakening on the three levels of the personal, interpersonal, and collective? Pulling from his book, The Road Home: A Contemporary Exploration of the Buddhist Path, Ethan explores how we can bring these levels together in cohesion each day in order to become a well-rounded dharma practitioner for ourselves, others, and the world.
“In classic Buddhist teachings, if you’re doing a compassion meditation, that might generate a lot of positive energy, but it’s the application of that positive energy through action in post meditation that actually helps others.” – Ethan Nichtern
For more Ethan on finding a successful balance between self & collective, join him & fellow Buddhist teacher, Sharon Salzberg, on Ep. 38 of The Road Home
Images via @davealmighty and @meganmeza on Twenty20.com