In Sogyal Rinpoche's "Tibetan Book of the Living and Dying" he writes about the transitional states in life and death called "bardo."
The word "bardo" is commonly used to denote the intermediate state between death and rebirth, but in reality bardos are occurring continuously throughout both life and death, and are junctures when the possibility of liberation, or enlightenment, is heightened. The bardos are particularly powerful opportunities for liberation because they are, the teachings show us, certain moments that are much more powerful than others and much more charged with potential, when whatever you do has a crucial and far-reaching effect. I think of a bardo as being like a moment when you step toward the edge of a precipice.
Intermediate states are not a place for comfort, generally. We tend to avoid them. Afraid of what may be revealed about life, our loves, and ourselves. That are painful. In physics, for matter, we talk of phase transitions. The phase transition of matter from one state to another. From solid to liquid or liquid to gas.
If I am liquid water and I am 150 degrees Fahrenheit and add one more degree, I am still water. If I am 211 degrees Fahrenheit and add one more degree, I change to gaseous water - steam. I imagine being liquid water. I like being liquid water. The thought of converting to steam unnerves.
What Rinpoche teaches us is these transitions are opportunities. What illuminations await remain unseen until we sit in the bardo and open up to the inevitable revelations, uncomfortable though they are.
A major life event places us at the precipice of a phase change, like being 211 degree Fahrenheit liquid water. Do you experience boiling and expanding into steam, or dial down the heat and stay familiar water?