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Waking Up in Free-Fall: Bringing the Buddhist Practices of a Bodhisattva to the Bardos of Everyday Life

Explore this recorded Shambhala Online course at your own pace.

About the Course

The word “bardo” is a Buddhist term often used for the after-death experience. But it also describes the gap triggered by any unexpected crisis. The shock of illness, death, or any kind of loss can be the most brutal of interruptions. Your life’s timeline no longer makes sense. You feel vulnerable and alone. But we’re not truly alone. We’ve just dropped out of everyday life into a new dimension, a bardo-world that appears as if out of nowhere.

-Susan Chapman

In this course, consisting of four recorded classes, Susan will explore how the Buddhist teachings on the bardo can be a guide to keeping our hearts open when life seems to fall apart. These teachings and sessions will be derived from her new book, Which Way is Up? (Shambhala Publications 2024).

Susan will talk about how working with the bardos of everyday life is understanding how to work with three very different kinds of fear:

  • Awake Fear: When you learn you have cancer, the shock can wake you up to the reality that you will die someday. The bad news is actually good news. We’re alive right now!
  • Frozen Fear: Waking up through fear shows us the edge of our denial, which is frozen fear. Denial of reality is denying the flow of goodness in our own body, our relationships and our ability to learn from our experiences.
  • Core Fear: At the root of denial is the hidden fear, the background anxiety that there is something wrong with who we are. This self-doubt keeps us turning away from the truth, which is our basic goodness.

Susan will further explore that to work with these three kinds of fear, we can look at three kinds of love:

  • Loving Presence: Being willing to be present with whatever experience we’re going through is the way to support Awake Fear.
  • Compassionate Insight: The way to work with denial, or frozen fear, is with compassion, feeling the pain of shutting down, and insight, being curious about where our ideas and opinions come from.
  • Mother-Child Reunion: Our core fears go back to the misunderstandings of early childhood when we formed ideas about who we are to stay in relationship with the caring adults in our life. Somewhere along the line we concluded that there was something wrong with who we are, “I’m unworthy, unloveable, unforgivable, unwelcome”. When we discover our basic goodness, it’s as though the loving mother of wisdom brings the lost child home, showing us our true nature.

Susan’s warmth, gentleness, and loving kindness pervade these powerful teachings. Her approach to presenting the bardo teachings is informed by her personal experiences with death which have turned her towards understanding that there is beauty and sacredness in every moment of life. The themes of love and fear, along with the Buddhist teachings on death and dying, have been her central focus over the past few years after being diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in 2020 and she has shared that,

“The experience of chemotherapy in particular gave me a taste of witnessing my familiar body and mind dissolve into someone new. The thread I was able to hold onto was trust in the heart-instructions, to bring loving presence to fear, to let go into a bigger space of tender vulnerability, and most importantly to have a deeper understanding of what suffering means to countless others.”

Join Susan for a tender, personal, and compassionate approach to ancient bardo teachings that will feel relevant for everyone who struggles with the groundless and transitory nature of life!

“A bardo is an emotional free-fall. We’ve moved into a strange new neighborhood, or we just lost our job. It’s the morning after a painful fight with our lover. It feels like a sinkhole has opened with our past on one side and our future on the other. We are refugees from the life we thought we had. Like refugees, we need to know where to find support, shelter, and nourishment. The path of awakening through fear is with love. Love is stronger than fear.”

-Susan Chapman

About the Teacher

Susan Chapman has been a student of Shambhala since 1974.

She has an MA in Buddhist and Western Psychology from Naropa University and is a retired family therapist. She spent nine years at Gampo Abbey before moving home to Vancouver, where she lives with her husband, Jerry.

In 2020 she retired from her role as an acharya and as faculty for Karuna Training after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Her first book, The Five Keys to Mindful Communication, was published in 2012. Her new book on bardo wisdom Which Way is Up? will be published in June 2024.

You can read more about Susan and her work on her website: Susan Gillis Chapman

2024-03-01 07:59:30