Look for the Space Between the Waves

One of the great things about having old friends is that they can remind you of things that you said once but have since forgotten. That happened to me last week when I spent time with my dear friend, Rae Ringel, at a training program for faculty members of the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program. In an early conversation last week, Rae told me that she still remembered what I had shared with her about “bardo” when she was a student in the program 9 or 10 years ago. The blank look on my face said it all. I had totally forgotten about bardo.

Since we live in an age where no question has to go unanswered, I got out my iPhone later in the morning and looked up the word. Bardo is a Tibetan word that translates into English as an intermediate state. In the Tibetan spiritual tradition, bardo is the state one is in between death and rebirth. Depending on one’s level of preparation, bardo can either be a great experience or a terrible one.

Once I refreshed my memory on the concept, I remembered that I first read about bardo in an article in which the author described it as the space between the waves. (I lost the article long ago and couldn’t find it online this morning. So, apparently some questions still do have to go unanswered!) Thinking back, it was the idea of being aware of the space between the waves in our lives that really appealed to me. It still does.

In an always-on world, it’s too easy to lose sight of the rhythm of the waves in our life. We’re often so busy applying the gas pedal to get more and more done that we don’t tap the brakes to slow down and appreciate what’s already been accomplished. We push through the next wave and then the next without pausing to process what we’ve learned, thank and recognize the people who are supporting our journey or just give ourselves enough of a break to simply rest and digest to be prepared for what’s next.

In his classic book, Managing Transitions, the late William Bridges made the point that before anything new can begin, something else has to end. There’s a space in between the ending and the beginning that he called the neutral zone. You could also call it bardo or the space between the waves.

Whatever you call it, why not look for it this week? Here’s a tip for you as you look: it’s not about finding balance, it’s about noticing the rhythm. There are moments in your day or hours in your week where, if you’re looking for them, offer space in the rhythm of the waves. When you find the space between the waves, take your foot off the gas for a little while and see what else you notice.

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