The Bardo of Waking Life


An avant garde set of improvisational essays, Richard Grossinger’s The Bardo of Waking Life is a meditation on the Tibetan Buddhist bardo realm which, in popular culture, is viewed as the bridge between lives, the state people enter after death and before rebirth. This book examines waking life and its history and language as if it were a bardo state rather than ultimate reality, and thus seeks a context for life (and dreams), even as it addresses more "mundane issues" including genetic theory, the war in Iraq ...

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The Bardo of Waking Life

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An avant garde set of improvisational essays, Richard Grossinger’s The Bardo of Waking Life is a meditation on the Tibetan Buddhist bardo realm which, in popular culture, is viewed as the bridge between lives, the state people enter after death and before rebirth. This book examines waking life and its history and language as if it were a bardo state rather than ultimate reality, and thus seeks a context for life (and dreams), even as it addresses more "mundane issues" including genetic theory, the war in Iraq and George W. Bush's presidency, North Korea, advertising, global warming, Prison Industrial Culture, childhood trauma, even country western music. Written with playfulness and precision, Bardo takes a new, probing approach to all the important questions of creation, destruction, and existence. In these intellectual field notes, Grossinger proves thematically fearless as he crosses quantum mechanics with totemic hexes and draws transcendental insight from the ephemeral space-time we call daily life. If, as Tibetan cosmology holds true, all conditional realms are bardos, then the state we all share is nothing less than the bardo of waking life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Written with playfulness and precision, The Bardo of Waking Life takes a new, probing approach to all the important questions of creation, destruction, and existence.” —Horace Mann Magazine, Fall 2008“The Bardo of Waking Life is the eleven-dimensional consciousness of the Logos … like having a lucid dream with my eyes wide open, the sun at midnight filling up half the sky and the full moon at noon in the other half…. It’s a gift from the future, a magical artifact materialized out of a future dream.”—Rob Brezsny, author of Pronoia Is the Antidote to Paranoia“In this astonishing book, Richard Grossinger takes us on a layered journey of constant revelation, some measure of delight, and fleeting moments of despair, to a planet we dimly recognize for having dreamed it once. In fact, it’s not just a planet but a teeming esoteric realm of conscious existence, the mooring place of a ghostly boat which embarks and disembarks in the sea of our inner life.”—Mary Stark“I see this work as a swelling in the vast conspiracy of alertness that threads through the noise of the world, waking us to this leaf or that galaxy…. I want to praise it by saying it’s Not Even Right—it’s more important than what could ever readily slip into binary evaluations. It can’t be right, any more than a fox crossing the snow in the backyard can be right.”—Robert Kelly“From where I sit, The Bardo of Waking Life is full of the real grief of life’s predicament, all the way to the bone. And it is beautiful, and true, the whole cascade of painful, love-soaked delineations. I have glimpsed that coming unimaginable good, not as a vision or an idea, but as a shock of feeling upon waking from a dream like, ‘Oh my God, THIS is possible.’ And with that, an off-the-chart hope and a terrible fear rose together in me. THIS can happen, and it may not. So how am I to give myself effectively to IT happening? That is my main question.”—Robert Simmons, author of The Book of Stones
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556437007
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books
  • Publication date: 4/29/2008
  • Pages: 552
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 1.53 (d)

Meet the Author

Since the issuing of Solar Journal: Oecological Sections by Black Sparrow Press in 1970, Richard Grossinger has published some twenty-five books, most of them with his own press, North Atlantic Books/Frog, Ltd., but also titles with Harper, Doubleday, Sierra Club Books, J.P. Tarcher, among others. These have ranged from extremely long explorations of science, culture, and spirituality (The Night Sky, Planet Medicine, Embryogenesis) to memoirs and nonfiction novels (New Moon, Out of Babylon) to experimental prose (Book of the Earth and Sky, Spaces Wild and Tame) and science fiction (Mars: A Science Fiction Vision). Grossinger received a PhD in anthropology from the University of Michigan in 1975 and lives with his wife Lindy Hough in Berkeley, California.

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Read an Excerpt

From First Cycle: Museum of the Milky Way GalaxyA dragonfly is more advanced than a human being, in dragonfly terms. Its swift, surveillant flight, stopping and starting instantly, likewise turning on a dime, is well beyond what human motility can approach—it is the evolutionary equivalent of language and philosophy. Plus, dragonflies have no use for speech or dialect; they are the mere embodiment of predatory flight. That is, they have nothing to say which they don’t do.Any plane that tried to carry out dragonfly maneuvers would tear itself apart.Likewise, no Olympic muscleman, at scale of lifter to object, could out-press an ant. Not only would ants win the gold, the silver, and the bronze, but a crippled ant would finish well ahead of the most able Kazakhstani or Turk.It took millions of years of nonlinear flux via proteins and neural nets to render a beehive, a masterpiece of apian art as well as an archetypal object.It took millennia of stone tools, metallurgy, and cybernetics for humans to achieve its approximate simulacrum in a computer disk. For what it is and what it’s supposed to do, a beehive is perfect.An anthill is also perfect: tunnels of habitable symmetry from white noise, a billion vortices underlying stacks of organized chaos. It is the coevolutionary partner of the ant, its sine qua non.A fish, exerting flaps against rods, enacts elegant design principles—propulsion approaching, even as it arises from, inertia. In the Metropolitan Museum of the Milky Way Galaxy, a spider web plucked from Earth in the eighth millennium B.C. hangs adjacent to an iPod Nano. One critic from the Pleiades deemed it an even more exquisite representative of Sol carbon craft.In this same exhibit hall, mites from Enceladus and Europa are exemplified by fractally pleated micro-fabrics.Titan is not just an unrefined “Earth”; it is a tabernacle of methane philosophy...

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Table of Contents

Preface by Mary Stark xix
Foreword by Rob Brezsny xxiii
Grace Before Meals by Robert Kelly xxx

First Cycle
Museum of the Milky Way Galaxy 3
On Andy Goldsworthy 5
Hurricane Katrina 6
All Creatures Are Little Machines 6
Family 7
Webb Pond 7
Long Pond 8
Consciousness Is More Luminous Than the Night Sky 8
Elements and Archetypes 9
The Stems of Lily Pads 11
The Skatalites 11
On Not Killing Insects 12
Alphabet of Animals 13
Light 14
Eggshells 15
Spider Webs 15
Latency 15
On Huckleberries 16
Marriage 18
Cosmic Definitions: Universe, Creation, Existence, Mystery 19
Corollaries of Creation 1 19
Mortality 22
Getting out of Scranton 23
Fixing the Problems of Our World 26
Inheritance/Money 27
Water Pollution 32
Population 34
Cooperation 35
Recycling/Renewable Energy 35
Wheels 37
DNA 38
Global Warming 39
Prisons 39
Slaughterhouses 45
War and Peace 47
Shamanism 48
Paraphysical Energy 51
The Dead 54
Gangs 58
Farewell, Red Army 58
Theocracy 62
Language 62
The Real Game 63
Pre-Socratic Philosophy 64
An Essay on Fame: Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg,
Charles Olson 64
Hopi Punctual and Segmentative Aspects 71
Zen Moment 71
Superman of Krypton 72
The Cry of the Earth 72
Mendocino versus Maine 73
Reality 1 73
Down the Dungeon Stairs 73
Computers 80
Just as True Now as It Was Then 81

Second Cycle
Three Meditations on Grief and Bitterness 83
Three Meditations on Dreaming 84
Colors: Yellow, Blue, Green, Red 87
Three Riddles about Infinity 88
Loud Voice 91
Three Animals: Dog, Cat, Groundhog 92
Dialogue with a Neighborhood Raccoon 93
Three Cats 94
Romance 95
Reality 2 95
Eternal Life Would Be Eternal Death 96
Pluto and Charon 97
Embryos 98
Gurdjieff ’s Law: Molecules and Consciousness 100
Bardo Realms 1 101
God’s Camouflage 101
Secular and Sacred Worlds 102
Karma 1 103
Ground Luminosity 1 104
The Thoughts of Hugh Selby, Jr. 105
Stray Conversation on the Path to Inspiration Point 105
The Word “Fuck” 106
On Sexuality 107
Amos ’n Andy 117
Food Vandalism 118
Shock and Awe 119
Black Magic (Neocon Version) 120
Solar System Chi Gung 121
The Way You Look Tonight 122
Reality 3 122
Reality 4 122
Reality 5 123
Review of Grizzly Man, a Film by Werner Herzog 123
Corollaries of Creation 2 131
What Is a Gene? The Yi Factor 133
Donning the Body Suit 136
Karma 2 137
Atom and Cell 137
Caterpillars on Buddhas 137
The First Lesson in the Power of Advertising 138
UFO Dream 144
Meteorite Crater 146
The Archetypal Christ 146
Maybe Times Are A-Changin 148
The Silence of Turtles 148
Chalice of Lunar Chi 150
Hedgehog’s Landscape of Other Lifetimes 151
Reality 6 151
Why Can’t It Be Like This All the Time? 152
Synchronicity 152
Give It Up 152

Third Cycle
The Latent Universe 153
Roadtrip 155
Vermont 155
Gloucester, Massachusetts 156
Two Lights State Park, Cape Elizabeth, Maine 158
Slaid Cleaves Concert, South Berwick, Maine 158
Broadway and 83rd, New York City 162
Mount Desert Island 163
The Cosmic Papyrus 165
The Benefits of Shitting in the Woods 168
9/11 Conspiracy Theories 172
On Healing 176
Terma 196
The Interior of an Atom 197
The Cities of Antares 199
The Origin of Language 199
Reality 7 201
The Cries of Wild Animals 202
Osama bin Laden’s Creed 202
My Brother’s Suicide 203
Twirling 231
“You’re The One That I Really Miss ...” 232
Homesickness 235
Pontecorvo’s Burn! 236
Hummingbird 236
Dusk at Seawall 236
Meteorite 237
Dwipada Viparita Dandasana 237
Karma 3 237
Reality 8 239
George W and Saddam: A Comparison 239
Suicide Bombers 243
Writing into the Akashic Record 246
The Fate of the West 260
What Is an Archetype? 263
Predation 264
The Science of Bardo Realms 268
Martial Arts and Video Games 271
The Marsh: You Should Not Be Here 272
Meditation to Change the Universe 275

Fourth Cycle
A Fight with a Pig 281
The Only Way the Dead Can Speak 281
Reality 9 283
Life Is Wasted on the Living 283
Bardo Realms 2 283
Emma’s Revolution 284
Bush and Barrabas 293
Dream of a Mission to Mars 295
Positively Fourth Street 296
The “Diplomacies” of George W. Bush 297
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons 310
Dave Insley and The Careless Smokers 311
The Memory of Past Lives 314
Thoughts on the Virginia Tech Shootings 321
Buddhafields 336
Don Edwards: Cowboy Balladeer 337
Beauty and Politics 341
“Nothing” 348
Mirages on the Trail 350
Ground Luminosity 2 350
New Mantra for Anxious Moments During
Turbulence on Planes 350
Reality 10 351
Even the Most Obscure Feelings 351
Grief and Transference: A Dialogue 352
Exile 355
Science and Zen 355
Best Website Disclaimer/Best Answering-Machine Message 359
Psyche: Kayaking on Great Long Pond 359
The Sun 362
The Last Humans 363
Wars 366
Freedom and Death 366
The Universe’s Final Judgment 369

Fifth Cycle
Suicide Bomber on the Brooklyn-Manhattan Subway 379
The Neutrality of Nature 381
Baseball Joke 384
Patricia Fox’s Yoga Class 384
Grandson Leo 387
Three Neglected Figures: Gurdjieff, Crowley, Reich 387
The Earth’s Major Religions 389
Some Thoughts on HBO’s Big Love 390
Polygamy and the Church 390
The “Principle” 390
Millenary Religion 391
Mormon Cosmology 393
Cargo Cults 394
Polygamous Families 395
The Happiest Girl 395
Ground Luminosity 3 396
Ground Luminosity 4 398
Loons 400
Ground Luminosity 5 400
The City on Pluto, the City on Ceres 401
Fishing 401
No Traction 411
Notes on Rescue Dawn, A Film by Werner Herzog 411
Blake’s Crow 412
Synopsis 414
Creation: The View from Mansell Mountain 416
Quebec Notes 420
Arriving 420
Quebec City 422
Politics 424
Montreal 425
Quebec to Vermont 428
Secondhand Smoke 429
Overwriting the Text 429
Sanity 429
Literature 439
Enthusiasms 441
Being Jewish 442
Being American 446
Spiritual Practice 447
Number 449
Marriage 457
Esoterica 460
Life 466
Future Shock 476
Dream of a Tangled Tree Stump 478
Medical Gaze 478
Islam 479
New Global Snacks and Lost Crops 479
Underworld and Pulp Fiction 480
Negative Capability 481
Conventions 481
The Universe Is a Machine of Love 481
Reality 11 483
Children of Light, Children of Darkness 484
Flash Between Abysses 488
Heresy 488
Enlightenment 489

Notes 491

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