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.

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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

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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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Into Summertime

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.

Saturday, a mad tea party at my lil’ house followed by naked painting and singing (just the two of us) — solstice celebration, and in the evening, a bath and early to bed.

Sunday morning a pancake party at Erik and Kaleigh’s — barefoot ladies in the kitchen (ha), yummy pu-erh tea and conversation in the living room, and out on the porch, pancakes being served up.  Annabelle brought over a big pot of chai…

Eventually, Cody found his way to the hammock.

IMGP0008Photo by Ryan Stagg

Life is good — summertime in the mountains.

In the morning, one of those mornings, Heather and I stopped by the lake and watched river otters swim around.  They surfaced to check us out, bumped heads with each other.

Yesterday afternoon, Heather and I hiked up to Marpa Point for a picnic and our seasonal relationship-intention check-in.  After our structured (and playful) communication exercise (a dyad), we made friendship bracelets and painted each other’s nails to seal the deal.

While our nails dried, we laid in the sun and laughed about all sorts of things.

– June 23, 2014

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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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Give and Glimmer

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.

I woke up so early this morning, not as early as I used to.  Venus was in the sky above the ridge, to the east, the first warm colors of dawn arising.  Birds and critters singing and scurrying.

I laid back in bed and debated napping another hour.  It seemed unnatural, lazy, to put cloth over my eyes while the sun was rising.  Where’s the free-flowing motivation to not waste a minute, to soak it up and…give!  Give!  Give!

28359_388376978381_2324660_nPhoto taken from the Eden’s Rose Foundation Facebook page

Laying in bed, debating in my journal about whether to fly out into the morning or nap a bit, I thought of my friend Gregory Sheldon, who is so bright, selfless.  His path is helping other.  It’s beautiful.  (Check out Eden’s Rose Foundation)

I’ve crossed paths with him several times over the past decade, and it’s always a meaningful encounter.

At some point in his life he met a Tibetan lama, and shortly afterwards became the sole distributor in North America of this incense that the lama had taught his community to make by hand.  Greg sells the incense, and sends money to the community in India.

I love this incense.  It’s magical.  It’s the only incense I’ve burned for the last ten years or so.  Whenever I’d be running low,  I’d serendipitously encounter Greg, and he’d give me more.  A couple of years ago, I was running low, and gave him a call on the phone.  We had a great conversation.  Yada, yada, yada… a week later 80 pounds of this incense landed on my doorstep.

It is now sitting in my little yurt here on the mountain.  I don’t know how my journey with this magical incense will unfold.  I’m glad it’s part of my life.

Anyway… bringing Greg to mind is inspiring.  I long to feel that freshness, to have that glimmer in my eye.

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Last night Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown gave a talk to the staff.  Like the night before, with Acharya Hessey, we sat in a circle in our Staff Living Room.

A few key nuggets:

We tell stories, not for the facts, but for the meaning.

“Relationship is about the camaraderie of loneliness.” (How beautiful is that?!)

We may act, non-aggressively, not to fix, but to smooth out the bumps in the road.

– June 20, 2014

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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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: This Has Never Happened Before, Again

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.

The past couple of mornings, posted up at the torri gate — guarding the entrance!  Pretty much just sitting there, in my Kasung uniform — which doesn’t fit me so well.  Heather brought me breakfast.  Meditating.  Enjoying the bird songs, blue sky, trees in the breeze, chipmunks.  Sakyong comes running by with his crew.  I stand and salute.

We’re hosting Scorpion Seal VI, which means high practitioners are all over the place.  It’s very cool to be in the midst of them.  Their presence, practice, creates a heightened atmosphere.  The sounds of their rituals echo throughout the valley.  Smoke from ceremony, chanting, warrior cries.

Shenpen, Sensei is among them.  Yesterday she glided over to me and offered me a piece of chocolate, then with big bright whole-being smile, asked if I’d help uplift (clean) a small corner table in the staff mud room, so that it may properly host a flower arrangement.  She spreads flowers all over, generally, in all sorts of ways, on many levels.  She is in the bodhisattva business of beautifying.  I’m drawn to her style of contribution.

There’s all sorts of powerful teachers all over the place.

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Acharya Hessey is here.  He’s been an Acharya-homie of mine ever since we met last fall, when he and I sat together — I asked him questions about psychedelics, meditation, and what not.  He led me in meditation, incorporating Grateful Dead lyrics into the guidance.  It was beautiful.  Later that night, there was a gathering of folks around a fireplace and Acharya Hessey, Greg Smith and I played guitar, sang, jammed — played some Dead tunes, some jazz, I offered some originals.  A very fond night in my memory!

Anyway, Acharya Hessey has devoted a lot of his life to Shambhala Mountain Center.  He’s been involved for nearly four decades.  He’s lived here, worked and taught here, served as executive director, has sat on board of directors for a long time.  He’s as local as they get.  I carry around a bag I found in the free room which has his name scribbled inside.  It was his a long time ago.

Last night, Acharya Hessey sat in the Staff Living Room with a group of us, sitting in a circle on chairs and couches, and gave a beautiful talk, led discussion: What is Shambhala?  What are these “Scorpion Seal” people up to?  How may we approach living here together at Shambhala Mountain Center?  What obstacles arise?

The thing is: We can work together to create a friendly, gentle environment.

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Some notes:

Always new.  This has never happened before.

Feel whatever I’m feeling, not always acting on it.

Not laying trips on others.

READ SHANTIDEVA

– June 19, 2014

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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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Down the Hill, Down the Road

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.

A group of us piled in the car on Friday, headed down to Boulder.  Rolling down the hill in the sunshine, it was reminiscent of heading to music festivals in the summertime with my old friends.

Ikebana Program_Apr2014-18Photo by Paul Bennett

We were headed down for a Shambhala program with the Sakyong, Acharya Asreal, and Shastri Ethan Nichtern (my main dharma-teacher-homie from New York City — so cool to connect with him, eat falafel with him, in Colorado!).  Great line-up!

A few of us stayed at Marpa House, which is a residential Shambhala-Buddhist co-op sort of place in Boulder.  It felt amazing in there.  I felt quickly that Marpa House will be the next place that I live.  After a couple more years at SMC, after I graduate from Sacred World Assembly, I’ll move to Marpa House to do my Ngöndro and study at Naropa.

In this moment, that path ahead is clear as day.  (who knows how it may shift?)  Clear as day!

We actually slept in the Ngöndro shrine room.  Oh!  They have a room for Ngöndro!  Ngöndro is the practice you begin doing once you formally enter the vajrayana stage of the path — which I am aiming to do before leaving SMC.  A sort of graduation… Marpa House seems like a mighty fine place to do Ngöndro.

And, for a decade or so, I’ve had a dream of studying at Naropa — at the Jack Kerouac School of (Dis)embodied Poetics.  How could I not go to study at that school in this lifetime?!

Boulder is lovely.  Such a nice time strolling through the neighborhoods and enjoying the activity on Pearl Street.

Inside the Shambhala Center, the retreat was awesome.  Powerful teachings all the way through, great community of people.  Provocative contemplations, conversations.

We considered how we may practice in three areas, or levels, of our world:

The personal, interpersonal, and collective.

SMC is a pretty amazing place to practice with all three in a vivid way.

– June 16, 2014

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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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: A Big Joke

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, the moon was blazing full, everything aglow and quiet, the only sound — the aspen leaves gently quaking in soft, cool summer breeze.  I was standing on my doorstep, just enjoying, awake for a few minutes in the middle of the night.

Ikebana Program_Apr2014-12Photo by Paul Bennett 

Earlier, a small group of us stood and watched the moon rise up from behind the ridge.  Huge moon.  Orange.  Clear sky.

Kate and I had been discussing dharma for about two hours.  Others came in and out of the conversation, which was inspired by some notions presented in the prologue of Shambhala Principle.

I believe we were on the topic of nonverbal communication, and that being so key:

We’re always communicating.  We’re creating culture with each interaction.  We’re altering reality.

Kate and I had been sitting in the staff Living Room…

Oh, the Staff Living Room is so sweet.  It’s a spot downtown, which in the wintertime is our dining room.  In the past it has been a shrine room.  In fact, it’s one of the oldest buildings on the land.  H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa performed the Black Crown Ceremony in the room.  It’s usually turned into the staff shrine room in the summer time.  This summer, though, a bunch of us lobbied for it to be turned into an uplifted, quiet, common area — for study, tea, quiet conversation.  We have Elkhorn House up the hill, where we can jam, watch movies, party, have fires, and generally hang out and have fun.  This space is serves another purpose.  So nice…

The previous night, a group of us sat together in the Living Room and watched video of a talk that Trungpa Rinpoche gave at Naropa, forty years ago.  The talk was on tantra–the first in a series of fourteen.  We’ll be watching one every week.

We had some discussion afterwards.  One point that kept coming up was about how much of what he was communicating was nonverbal.  Some of us expressed that, more than anything, we were bewildered by the words that he said, but, somehow, something was communicated very clearly.

Watching him, there was no hint of doubt.  And he said:

“There’s an enormous joke behind the whole thing.  A big joke.”

I was at once bewildered and reassured.  It’s not what I think it is, but that’s more than okay.

– June 13, 2014

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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. 

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Ordinary and Aspiring

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.

To simply be kind to my fellows, not trying to win, not cheating anyone, doing my work…

10307363_647685145313729_8247107537804061121_n“Magpie strutting” by John Russell of SMC Colorado Front range Style

Another misty day outside.  Many elder practitioners are arriving to receive new teachings from the Sakyong.  This weekend I’m going down to Boulder to receive teachings from him.

Rinpoche: displaying confidence, relaxation, cheerfulness, wisdom.  It seems that he is aware of the suffering of the world, and yet, is optimistic.

A genuine display.

Joyful, not freaked out.

We’re always communicating something…

Ordinary and aspiring…

–June 12, 2014

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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. 

 

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Oh to Be Hose

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.

Aching and illuminated, all of us — aching or ignorant, delighted or ignorant… Some bruised moments, touched firmly enough to evoke panic.  All the while, something bigger than the breezes unfolding forever, forever unresolved.  The aspen tress are full of leaves these days.  The smallest ones have the biggest leaves and all of them are fluttering, quaking to be precise, in the shifting winds.

DSC_0104Photo by Barb Colombo

I was standing in an aspen grove the other day, just standing, and I let myself go into as full of an immersion as I could.  I wish I could be more interwoven, or not think so much about that, rather, delighting in the movement of light and shadow, the sounds of the leaves, the sturdiness and softness of the tree trunk, branches…

Last night marching with the Kasung…  I have ongoing aversion to Kasungship (which is something to work with, I know).  I’m so grateful for the existence of the Kasung, but I don’t feel inspired to be a big-time Kasung.  When I’m serving as Kasung, I feel like I’m doing my duty.  Those aren’t the teachings that really sing to me.

Also, it’s a matter of time.  So much I’m trying to do here, while also not trying to do so much that I can’t ever kick back.  Last night I was resentful of the kasung meeting — I’ve taken a one year oath, so I feel obligated to fulfill that commitment by attending meetings, signing up for shifts, etc.  Not that it isn’t a very cool and often fun thing…

Anyway, the Miami Heat were playing in the NBA Finals and I wanted to watch the game, but instead I had to go to Kasung meeting.  The previous night I went to a class, tonight I’ll be going to a screening of a talk that Trungpa gave in 1974, tomorrow night a study group, then on Friday going down to Boulder for a weekend retreat lead by the Sakyong.

Every night of the week there’s something to do.  Something very good to do!  Something virtuous!  I’m so fortunate!  And, I’m so lazy!  Feeling a bit burdened.  But, really, feeling like something’s got to crack open.  That’s the forward facing attitude.  That’s facing East, always.

I’m subtly searching for genuine motivation — to engage, create, help others, serve the world.

Why not flop?  When I begin flopping with any sort of regularity, I begin to feel very restless.  It’s a self-correcting situation.  It’s becoming more-so.

This afternoon we’re having a Community Meeting, which I will be leading.  The purpose will be to re-establish, re-strengthen the Delek System as we head into summer.

My attitude about the Delek System has shifted a bit, which is part of a broader relaxation. “You don’t need to work so hard.” is what Hope Martin told me when she put her hands on my body and felt how hard I work to be upright, wakeful.

My approach to path, to my roles at Shambhala Mountain Center, has relaxed.  I’m seeking the balance between slouching and striving.  I’m seeking the HOSE.  At times,  Phish gets into a state of creativity which is effortless – as if they are a hose watering a garden of flowers.  The audience the flowers, the music the water, the band the hose.

I want to be a hose.

A hose can be a hose all day without becoming tired of being a hose.

– June 11, 2014

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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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Iris and so On

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.

The weather has been shifting so dramatically — sunny summery days and then two days of chilly mist.  Hour to hour can be as different as October and July.  It’s June now.  It’s always shifting, right?  Sometimes quickly enough that we notice.  Otherwise it’s a slow change and we’re thrown when it blooms…

IMG_0296Photo by Greg Smith

Every day new wildflowers are popping up.  Yesterday someone watched a deer give birth, watched a deer being born.  One of our community-family-members is going to give birth in a few months.  We’ve been discussing how to hold that event.  Another member of the fam — who lives down in Boulder — is going to give birth any day now.

My changes are more subtle.  I’m dying and being born every second.  I know.

Another community member of ours left the other day to drive to South Carolina — his mother has been diagnosed with late-stage cancer.  He’s going to be with her.

Another one, my buddy, has been in and out of the hospital recently.  Today he’s going to get brain scans.

Back in Florida, my mother is on the edge of losing her house to foreclosure and not sure where she’ll go next.

New flowers are coming up every day.  Bunnies and deer are being born, and people are wondering about their lives all the time.

– June 10, 2014

 

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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.