Floral Notes and Bardo: Always Interrupted, Ocean

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Thin waves of sweets, crisp in my fingers, crumble…  Breeze… The lightest sense of connection, an interrupted thread.  Always interrupted in spite of our wishes.  And beyond that, the ocean of all of us.

Our faces arising, moment by moment.  It’s absurd to promise or expect any of us to be any kind of way… Yet, we can vow: to be kind, to refrain from certain activities, to do things.  Good things.

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Saturday Heather and I ran errands in town and saw cows on the way home.  We’re both in good health.  Good.  It’s nice that we have a shared community car so that we can go on errand adventures and learn things like that, and discover good Afghan food, and buy good booze, apple cider vinegar, and such.

Last night after playing music on her porch — strumming and singing, wearing a paper sun-hat she made for me — we decided to skip dinner in favor of quiet activities while the thunder roared.

I was on the carpet, on my knees, getting deep into the Bodhicharyavatara, and she was beside me, at her desk, making crafts.

We paused for dinner and gazed at each other across the sewing-machine-box picnic table.. in very different moods.  Myself so introspective, affected by the dharma.  It was reminiscent of past experiences — being in an altered state around someone who is not.  A bit awkward and difficult to connect, communicate.

Afterwards, in pillow talk, I clumsily tried to discuss the experience.  That conversation was far more awkward than the conversation I wanted to discuss.  Absurd.

Maybe it would have been better to have been like a log.

We’re on our own paths, and we’ll never completely share the experience of the other.  One question is how well we can accommodate each other as we’re going through our processes, and are necessarily introspective, even distant, maybe bewildered.

~~~

53.
Impatience, indolence, faint heartedness,
And likewise haughty speech and insolence,
Attachment to your side–when these arise,
It’s then that like a log you should remain.

– July 14, 2014

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Having a Cow (Finally)

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Ever since I first arrived here two years ago, I’ve been seeing cow pies… but never a cow.

Where there is smoke there is fire.

Where there is cow poop, there are cows.

Not so!

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“I feel like my mind just did a somersault.  This turns everything around, on its head.”

That’s what Mimi said last night when I was reading a piece of Trungpa’s dharma on the eighth consciousness, basic ground, abhidharma…

Anyway, “having a cow” is a good description of my mental state recently.

There’s been a fair amount of resentment and aggression.  People have always reported here that summer is a beast…

So, a shift…

I declared I’d be taking the Bodhisattva vow next month — picked up the lojong cards, brought tonglen into my practice.  The other day Director Gayner gave a great presentation on the Feng Shui of the land, the magic…

There has been a recent leaning towards skepticism, cynicism, wanting to be really straight and clear about things.  It became too tough, too hard — the attitude.

Soften into magic! …without becoming indulgent and safe.  Be joyful!  Lighten up!

Don’t have a cow!

Yesterday, I saw a cow and cheered up a lot, instantly.

It happened on my way to the Stupa for a Sukhavati ceremony, for a friend’s father.  Much of the community was gathered, and it was beautiful. Soften…

– July 11, 2014

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Aliveness of Rocks (Plus Badminton)

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Last night, a conversation around the dinner-picnic table regarding the uncertainty about what distinguishes a ground squirrel from a chipmunk from a prairie dog.  In other news, the Delek Badminton Tournament begins next week — we’re choosing partners and awesome team names.  My partner, Avajra John, doesn’t want to be a team:

“I want to be something better than a team!”

(Team name: 2Bad Mittens)

Our approach, it seems, will be more psychological than athletic.  He and I share an affinity for weird, and costume, and weird.

I also have an affinity for this seat on the porch behind Manjushri (cabin).

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This morning, I had a good idea for a blog.  I forgot to put it in my thumb.  A teacher once shared a tip with me: She is a writer.  She said that when she has a good idea during meditation, she puts it in her thumb.  After her session, she looks at her thumb and it’s still there.

These days, my friend Michael is staying in my yurt, Avalokiteshvara.  He is one of my closest friends and a former yogi-resident of that same yurt.  He’s currently in Sacred World Assmebly, and is glad to be dwelling in what we both consider to be a very powerfully energetic abode.  I’m staying with Heather in Manjushri, the cabin she shares with Annabelle and Oakes.  It’s a little mini adventure of sharing a living space.  So far, good stuff…

The community gathered yesterday for a presentation on the Feng Shui of the land.  Director Michael Gayner knows quite a bit about it, as he’s been learning from Eva Wong — a master.  Eva Wong says that this particular spot is very unique and powerful, and it’s very auspicious and awe-some that there happens to be this dharma center built here.

There is a lot to it.  Here are some key nuggets:

The land is alive and comprised of energy channels, is in motion, like our bodies.

We are always interacting with the living land, whether we know it or not.

We may consciously engage with the energies of the land, and this may greatly benefit us in whatever we aspire to accomplish.

~~~

Within me is the capacity to fly completely into imagination, recognizing the aliveness of rocks.  And also, a strong skepticism, which is a bit frustrating, but also seems to be ensuring that my understanding deepens and that I don’t get stuck for too long in a superficial state of belief.

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: In the Sun, Reading Shantideva

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Om my way to lunch yesterday, I came across Oakes on a bench in the sun, reading Shantideva.

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He was in a head-on car crach the other night, while doing his evening rounds as Kasung.

Oakes was quite inspired, helpful, and strong before the accident.  The way he was speaking yesterday was more-so — more-clear, more enlightened…

He said: we have such a precious opportunity in this life to help people.

He expressed gratitude for how much the retreat we’re hosting is blessing all of us, and the land.

“It’s such an honor to help that happen.  The least we can do is give them what they need.”

His spirit of generosity was immense and folksy.  It didn’t have the flavor of spiritual pride.  Oakes is earthy, real, even gritty.  His heart is huge.  He sweats while he works without complaining.  He is available.

Last fall, we took refuge in the three jewels together — formally committing to the Buddhist path.  Next month, we’ll take our Bodhisattva vows.

Lately my mind has not been like the mind he shared while we sat on the bench.  There’s been lots of aggression, resentment, a feeling of burnout.  I know I need to turn it around 180 and put others first.  It’s not easy.  It’s counter-instinctive, somehow.  The only way to do it is genuinely.  But, there may be a “fake it till you make it” process.

So, perhaps what I’m seeking, within myself, and within my experience, is trust.  Trust in what?  Trust in my own non-existence.

– July 9, 2014

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Paramitas and a Mess

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Yesterday morning, I suited up in my baggy Kasung uniform and headed into the Court.  The Court is wherever the Sakyong is residing.  When the Sakyong is on the land, the second floor of Shambhala Lodge is transformed into the Court.  It feels imaginary and real at the same time.  The curtains are white.  Once you walk through, you’re in.  Inside, everything is sparkling.  People float around, glowing.

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I took my post.   When Rinpoche came out of his quarters, I held a tray for him while he made the day’s tea offerings on his way to give a talk to the Sacred World Assembly folks.

They’re in deep.  My friends are in the program, which was formerly known as “Vajrayana Seminary.”  They’re receiving secret teachings and formally entering into a guru-disciple relationship with the Sakyong.  It’s heavy, powerful, joyous.  The Main Shrine Tent is rocking, beaming with energy, singing, late into the night and early in the morning.

My friends are raw, inspired, minds are blown.  It’s really amazing.  The Shambhala Mountain Center staff is working hard hosting the program.  I’m feeling maxed out trying to fit in all of my day-job hours as well as many hours of Kasung volunteer work.

Yesterday afternoon, I noticed a sign-up sheet on the bulletin board for those who would like to take vows this summer — Refuge and Bodhisattva.  I’ve been waiting for the Bodhisattva vow to come around.  Here it is.  I will vow to put others before myself until all beings in the whole universe are liberated from suffering.  It’s a binding commitment.  A good one, I feel.

Yesterday evening, I attended a Kasung “Mess” — which is the military version of a soiree.  We had sake and horderves and chatted.  Then the Sakyong (Makkyi Rabjam is his Kasung name) arrived and we entertained him with goofy marching (jokes) and such.  The march leaders directed us to bump into each other and the walls, then we did “haiku drill,” reciting lines in pairs of three as we marched past Rinpoche in his chair.  He then said a few words to us about Kasungship.

My favorite part was when he said that some of us are deep into Kasungship, and we ought to go deeper.  And others are just checking it out, and we won’t remain Kasung long term, but it’s good that we’re getting a taste.  That’s me.  I’m glad to be getting a taste.  It does offer a deeper look into Shambhala, and is allowing me to learn about myself and my tendencies.

I was talking with a friend yesterday who feels similar resistance to Kasungship, but has signed up also.  We were discussing “Shambhala Boundaries.”  There are endless tasks.  There are endless positions which need filled.  How much can we take on as individuals without burning out?  How much can we take on and do joyfully, without resentment?

Joshua joked that setting boundaries is the seventh paramita.  My friend added that it must be the eighth, because the seventh ought to be humor.

– July 8, 2014

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

 

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Squirm, Squirm, Leap

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

There is no escaping the collective here.  The buzz in my skull is a shared reverberation.  There is internal and external chatter, and calm.

This is the shrine in my yurt:

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Through my comical aversion to Kasungship, I’m recognizing my inclination towards maintaining my bubble.  I have an agenda.  I’ve been so worked up about things.

I decided to plant myself for a day this past weekend.  A 24 hour retreat, to settle.  I went to the Stupa early in the morning, to be alone, in peace.  There were already people there.  I practiced for a while.

I ate breakfast by myself in an aspen grove.  I made a sign and clipped it on my shirt: “Noble Silence,” indicating that I would rather not engage in conversation with anyone.  The noble silence badge is common around here.  People wear them during retreats.

After breakfast I sat back down in my yurt for a long morning of solitary, sitting meditation.  Ahh…

About an hour into my session, I heard footsteps outside.  Kasung Kate came to my door.  I gestured for her to come in.  She had done the work of organizing a gathering for those of us who will be attending Enlightened Society Assembly later this month.  One of the teachers, Acharya Melissa Moore, was leading an online discussion.  Kate had hiked all the way up to my house to retrieve me.  Very kind.

I walked down after her and listened to the talk, asked questions.  It was a very auspicious interruption of my day’s agenda.

I ate lunch in the trees and afterwards went back up to my house for several hours of meditation, with a bit of study thrown in at the end.  I read Treatise on Enlightened Society.

There seems to be no escaping the reality that we’re all bound up in this together.  And I realize that I have an inclination toward self-protection, comfort-seeking.  There seems to be a real leap that has to occur.  I have to leap over my laziness in order to be helpful.

All the teachers say that helping others, that not being selfish, will bring true joy.  I know it’s true because I’ve experienced that before.  But I forget.

There’s a leap involved in opening up to people, to their beauty and fragility.  Lately, I’ve noticed a tendency to immediately judge negatively.  People are easier to ignore if their ugly.  It’s not helpful.  It seems that to shift things in a positive way for myself or others I have to leap, leap, leap.

I’ve been glancing at this truth with a skeptical eye recently.  And, I’m finding that resisting the truth that helping others is of utmost importance brings misery and struggle.  It’s becoming more real — because with my skepticism, I’m beating it into a pulp.  There is no squirming out of anything.  We’re all in this together.

– June 30, 2014

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Explore Bananas

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Cody is beaming, going to Rainbow gathering.

Last week sitting on a bench in the sun, with Heather, a few days after I’d decided not to attend Kasung Encampment, Cody approached and introduced the idea of me going along with him to the Gathering.

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“Hippe Encampment,” Heather remarked.

Exactly. The idea appealed to me because it was so funny, but what I really need to is settle.

“The seasons are not theoretical here.”

Acharya Lyon said that a while ago, and it haunts me, in a funny way.  Summer is bananas.  There are so many people here and so much going on.  It’s really impossible to keep track, challenging to keep in touch.  It’s a buzzing hive.

~~~

I slept a bit last night, after spending beautiful time with Heather.  This morning, rainbows on our faces, sunlight refracted by crystals hanging in her east-facing window.  Heather’s birthday is this weekend and she’s off to Seattle.  She’s famous in the community for making these extremely beautiful birthday cards for everyone.  I tell her she could go into business with them.

Last night, before heading up to her house, I ran into Mimi, who always has art supplies.  I made a lil’ card for Heather.

This weekend, I’m going to work on a piece of music for her.

I feel the need to sit and meditate for a few days, and also the need to get into artwork.  It’s summer, karma energy, active time.  It’s a wild wave to ride.

– June 27, 2014

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community. 

 

I Love You!

By Sue Frederick

Sue Frederick is the author of Bridges to Heaven: True Stories of Loved Ones on the Other Side and I See Your Dream Job.  She will be leading Bridges to Heaven: Grief Healing Workshop, July 18-20.

SueFrederickThank you, fear, for being such a powerful teacher, for waking me at night with heart tremors, for unplugging me from my source, for taking on the illusion of bills to pay, children to provide for, a husband dying of cancer, and terrifying self doubt. Such magnificent lessons!

God bless you, fear, for getting my attention more than everything, more than anyone, more than love, more than joy. You found me when no one else could. You sought me out, pushed me into corners, made me weep, made me angry, and broke me in half. Finally, fear, you broke me wide open…

And for that moment of total surrender to the divine, I am deeply grateful. Only then did I embrace my soul again and step fully into the light – refusing to ever go back into your dungeon, refusing to ever be your prisoner again.

Fear, my old friend, I recognize you now when you come to me in the night, disguised as bills, illness, heartbreak, grief or disappointment. – I recognize you, master of disguises. I recognize you by the stirring in my gut as you approach, the quickening of my heart rate, the frantic pacing of my thoughts. Ah ha! It is only you!

And you, fear, are not real…

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You are the boogeyman I planted in my closet. The one I told to awaken me in the night so I would learn to dance with you instead of scream and cry. So I would learn to use you as fuel to help me reach my next level. So I would see ultimately that you are my friend, my fertilizer, my divine companion on this journey to rediscover my soul.

I embrace you, fear, because without you I would be nowhere. I would never have jumped off my first cliff into the unknown. I would never have stepped into my first terrifying adventure that changed everything. I would never have found my voice. Because without you, fear, I would still be sleeping…

You can stay in the closet or you can dance with me. It makes no difference. My light cannot be diminished. It never could. But it took you showing up for me to discover that.

Now, fear, my love has destroyed you, flooded your darkness, washed away your disguises, illuminated every crevice where you once hid. When I turn to face you, I only see divine order. I only feel my burning heart pulsing with gratitude, my arms stretching up to grasp the hand that lifts me into the light.

Jason Siff Discusses Recollective Awareness Meditation

Jason Siff leads Thoughts are not the Enemy: An Introduction to Recollective Awareness Meditation, August 29–September 1. To learn more, please click here

Jason-Siff-with-waterfall-headshotJason Siff was a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka in the 1980s when he started developing Recollective Awareness Meditation. In 1996, he co-founded the Skillful Meditation Project and has been a full-time meditation teacher since then. He also trains teachers in Recollective Awareness Meditation in retreats throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia. His first book on meditation, Unlearning Meditation: What to do when the instructions get in the way, was published by Shambhala Publications in 2010.

Recently, he took some time to discuss Recollective Awareness Meditation and his upcoming retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center.

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Musical Self, Peachy

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Heavy clouds, a bit of rain — like sitting on a bench and reading dharma.  Then, cooler and calm.

~~~

I like to sit in this chair, in “my” “front yard” (yurt yard).

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I felt so dense yesterday, edgy.  Almost vicious.  Critical.  Arrogant.  Even with reminders all around me that gentleness is the way… how to shift?  Finally before dinner, I walked into the Japanese garden behind Sacred Studies Hall and read some teachings — reminder.  The result was that I felt less vicious.

The world became almost entertaining.  Non-threatening.  I’ve noticed myself comparing myself to others recently, and feeling less-together, less-clean, less-vibrant.

I sat down at the dinner table and Heather asked:

“How’s your head?”

“Stuffy.”

“How’s your heart?”

“…”

“How’s your heart?”

“…soft.”

“Like a marshmallow?”

“Like a peach.”

And Kate, across the table, had a peach on her fork.

“You’re about to eat Travis’ heart,” said Heather.

She paused.

“Bon appetite,” I said.

Kaleigh, Eric, Heather and I went up to Dhyana (K&E’s cabin) for the evening.  We sat in the living room and had tea and Japanese sweets that Kaleigh picked up in town.  A nice, civilized and hilarious scene.  I get a wild kick out of all of those characters and how they interact, how we interact.  I seemed to be the quickest to crack up, fall out of character.

Maybe feeling so dumb and exhausted after the day of mental rage that all I could do was observe and enjoy.

After tea and snacks Eric and I went out on the porch — damp, dark, moist mellow night, and played music.  Eric on the cello and myself on the guitar.  Improvisational, expressive… It was such a joy, and nourishing.  I’ve been missing artistic engagement.

Bhanu advised me (long ago now, when I had just arrived): “Be your musical self up here.”

– June 24, 2014

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community.