Floral Notes and Bardo: Magnanimity, Bhanu, and the Back Nine


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

So sleepy this morning, both of us, and Heather said:

“It’s cute that we have temples, huh? Like, my body is a temple, and my temple is a temple… And my temple is my body!”

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At breakfast, Director Gayner — who is in the midst of high-level Shambhala leadership retreat — in which they practice for 20 hours a day — approached Heather and I with a big grin.

“Ahh! Just the two that I was hoping to see.  This is very auspicious.”

We nodded, and he went on:

“Magnanimity!  Do you know this word?”

He’d like for us to come up with a calligraphed presentation of this word along with its definition from the 1812 Oxford English Dictionary (or something like that) as a gift for Richard Reoch, who is leading the retreat.

We gladly agreed.

~~~

I woke up this morning early and a bit jumpy.  Jumbled dreams, especially in the morning.  I’ve been restless at work all week, wishing I were able to do something else.  In particular, spend time exploring poetry, experimental prose, theory, and things in the writing world that I don’t understand.  I have a wish to attend grad school for this sort of thing when I leave SMC.  The idea is inspired by a long inclination towards writing, a connection with Allen Ginsberg, who is connected to Trungpa, who founded the school I want to attend, and all of that.  And, a very magical meeting with Bhanu Kapil, who is a major teacher at the university.  I’ve probably written about that before and will write about it again…

This blog began on the way down from Marpa Point, after I had led Bhanu into the charnel ground and then up to Ginsberg’s memorial reliquary in the Milarepa Poetry Garden.  She encouraged me to write a blog, and sang joyfully about how our meeting signified the re-connection of Shambhala Mountain Center and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

Lately, that’s what I’m thinking about most — Bhanu, the word, and the school.

Meanwhile, I have a job to do here, which is feeling more like a job than it used to now that I have the taste of fine arts and academia in my mind.

Next week I will be going into solitary retreat.  I’m now half way through my stay at SMC, feeling my way into the back 9.

Just now, Heather spoke to me from the ground, up through our second story window.  She told me that I am being summoned to give a Stupa tour to a high school class on a field trip.  So, I will do that now.

– March 12, 2015

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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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Recently, and A Bit About Demons


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

In the woods, on the hill, among scatterred ashes
A restless demon, lustful for validation

In the chair, in the polite room, among polite people
A restless demon, lustful for stimulation

On the floor, in the quiet room, among sacred symbols
A devoured body, calm, gently thumping heart

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Recently:

A five day meditation retreat in which I received a powerful treasure text from the Vidyadhara, sat on the cushion for seven hours a day, and questioned relentlessly the adequacy of the teacher to bring such subtle truths to life.

A day on the land being cooked by the sun, filming Richard Reoch — who is a real bodhisattva — jolly-wise-pappy. He listens until the wisdom reveals itself, through whomever he is engaging with. He knows that the environment is alive with truth. He is delighted and deeply touched. He is devoted so fully that his joy is all pervasive.

A full day in bed with Heather, for the heck of it. We responded to requests for songs with a seven minute Spaghetti Medley, enjoyed snacks, played games with friends, and even had room service — dinner delivered. Our mantra: “Whatever the heck we want,” which we wrote on a poster. The next morning we got out of bed and took the poster down. We want to play more.

– March 11, 2015

~~~

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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Met My Chest Like a Wedge


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

Stark solidity, tender impermanence — an orange flower.  The perception met my chest like a wedge — heart so sore and radiant.

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Last night I dreamt of a hologram Ginsberg as a teacher in a classroom.  His words, display, energy, was so inspiring and brilliant — in ways that I often wish for in dharma teachers.

I said to someone near me that I’d do anything to get close to a teacher like that. I wish to attend  JKS when I leave SMC.  This is the second truly strong dream that has pointed in that direction so clearly.

Heather and I spent the weekend down in Boulder — with our friends Kitty, Matty, and baby Benny; and the Sheffield crew, who I used to travel to the Northeast to see, but now most of us live here in Colorado.

Yesterday they came up to SMC for the day and we took a nice walk around the land.  I showed them that cabin that Heather and I hope to move into in the spring, we sung in the Stupa, hugged the Grandfather Tree, and made it down to the shrine room in time for Mamo chants.  We’re officially into Dön Season now, so we’re doing extended protection rituals.

Last night I woke in the middle of the night with a sore back — hit by a dön — recalling sore dreams.

– February 10, 2015

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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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Sand, Soda Ash, and Limestone


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular 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’m drinking
water from a glass–which is not
sand, soda ash, and limestone

I’m questioning its clarity
in hopes that my own bones and blemishes
may be revealed to be clear

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Up late studying the dharma, dialoging with Heather, and celebrating Goundhog Day.

Therefore, woke up late in the morning — did my things swiftly — write, shit, shower, vows, Qigong, kiss and sing to Heather.  Then shoveled granola, grapefruit and tea into my face and raced down the stairs so as not to miss opening gong.

Sitting on the cushion, my stomach dealing with all of the stuff I bombed it with, I felt sad and confused — how to conduct a life that is smooth, not self-centered, productive… productive?

Joy: How?

That’s the question.

Peace: How?

Bliss: How?

– February 3, 2015

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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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Family and Family — Circle


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular 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 take refuge in the sangha, as support for traveling the path.

This morning I met with the Care Council, to open and share a deep, murky, entangled, situation that I am doing my best to navigate well.

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It has to do with kin in dire straits.

We sat in a circle — I used to sit as a member of the Care Council and offer space and feedback to people who are in states of like I have been experiencing recently.

I opened up and spoke all about the situation, offering information and a bit of emotional tone.  It was a vulnerable feeling, especially before we began.  Sitting in the room waiting for the others to sit on their cushions.  I was contemplating the teachings on emptiness, and considering how solid things can feel.  But the solidity was only a flash, and dissolves into flavored space.

Arising.

So, my drama arose gently for us all to see.  And then, my friends offered feedback.  They offered their perspective.  Reported what they were seeing from their side of the circle.  And it was so helpful.

I went in with a bowl of spaghetti, and came out with some olives in a row.  Some understanding and some action items.

The main dharmic point seems to be exploring the distinction between compassion and idiot compassion.  That has been the dharmic theme recently, but I hadn’t put words to it.

Fearless beyond idiot compassion.

That’s one of the eight slogans of the Dorje Kasung.  Rusung Edwards offered it into the circle, and it reminded me of the dharma.

The Care Council assured me that they would be there to support me as I work through this.  I know, and I appreciate it.  We bowed, and Rachel said that the merit would be dedicated to helping myself and kin move swiftly through this challenging spot.

  — January 30, 2015

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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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Come with Me — Haiku and Katharine


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

Deep tissue, heavy with ocean — blink and it’s mist.

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I had accumulated some savings, stability, now all gone to help kin.

Yesterday at my desk, and Scott knocked on the door.  I opened and he took me by the arm: “Come with me.”

I went with him, wearing the slippers that I wear inside the office.

Katharine Kaufman — Zen teacher, poet, spontaneous movement angel, coolest person — had ordered him to do so, saying “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

So I spent the morning with her studying and practicing haiku.

I wrote:

Wind is cold
I am sitting in the shade
I’m going indoors

and then…

The door is ajar
The floor is cool
People made these things

Someone else wrote:

Wind outside
Fart inside
Such suffering

I said “That was the best haiku I have ever heard.”

After our session, at lunch, the guy who wrote that poem engaged with Danny, our resident magician, in a little card-trick showdown.  It was awesome.

Before lunch, after haiku session, I spoke with Katharine for a while in the shrine room — about poetry, buddhism, and the possibility of attending Jack Kerouac School at Naropa when I leave SMC.

She was enthusiastically supportive of the idea.  She was under the impression that I am already an accomplished poet.

“I don’t know anything about poetry,” I said.

She told me that her “knowledge is spotty also.”

I told her that it’s always been like that with everything I do: I’ve made music for two decades now and I don’t know how to read music.  I’ve never memorized scales.  I don’t know what a circle of fifths is.

It’s that way with dharma too: I am not a scholar, but I practice a lot.

She said she’s the same: “I’m a practitioner.  I practice a lot, whatever I get into.  And Buddha said, teach from experience.”

She said she thinks there is a place for people like us, in the univeristies — as students and teachers.

Hearing that helped to resolve some hesitation that I’ve been feeling about the idea.

Okay.

I’ve written a lot and only read a very little.

“That’s good to acknowledge,” Katharine said.

So, I’m going to start engaging with JKS, poetics, texts, and see where it goes.

– January 29, 2015

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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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Poo Hat (Armchair Philosopher)


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

Years ago I dreamt of being an armchair philosopher.

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Last night, in my armchair, studying a scholoarly Buddhist text while a group of people in the next room over acted rambunctiously — I was intent on chewing on subtle language, and they were swigging booze. I was quiet, and they were not.

I was grumpy old man, imagining myself poking the ceiling with a broomstick (in this case it would have been pounding on the wall):

“Keep it down!”

Just a joke.

I’m not a jerk.

But, I’d rather be studying the dharma.

Heather was on the love seat working on her Pillow Leaf project.

Afterwards we spoke. I told her about my mood:

We call it “Poo”

We came up with the idea that when either of us were in such a mood, we could put on a Poo Hat.

A way of owning such an emotion, expressing, without making a stink.

Humor as saviour.

– January 28, 2015

~~~

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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Maybe My Farts Are Luminous Mind


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

This funky smell in the room this morning after tossing and turning all night — dreaming of my tortured kin and the futility of “helping.”

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Pema talks about letting things fall apart, and other teachers do too, and so do I, and I know I may as well because it’s inevitable.  And, I see my resistance to death manifesting as attempts to try to keep it together, or fix, or ignore reality.

So, my plans are like suggestions.

Here I am with all of my faculties, for now.  Maybe my gums are disintegrating and my teeth will shatter before I can come up with the $20,000 for surgery.  Maybe my Mom will drop dead before she discovers a good way of living.

Maybe I’ll leave Shambhala Mountain Center without having developed the skills necessary to make a good living as a marketer and I’ll go back to being a scrappy artist.  Maybe I’ll go into debt $90,000 in order to attend Naropa.

Maybe I’m in a loop of cynicism.  Maybe my cynicism is empty of nature.  Maybe my farts are luminous mind.

– January 27, 2015

~~~

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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Yesterday, Sitting Beside Sensei


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular 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, sitting beside Sensei…

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As she introduced Ikebana to the students from Chapman University, from LA, who are here for a week to immerse in Shambhala culture in a program called “Ancient Wisdom: Modern Madness,” which we’ve been hosting here for 25 years.

Sensei is musical in everything that she does; floral. Her speech, throughout the hour long talk — which touched on Japanese culture, Tao, Heaven, Earth, Humanity, flowers, flowers, branches, sticks and stones, meditation, avante garde, and more — was fluid.

She told me afterwards that she used to be too shy and nervous to even make an announcement that lunch was ready.

That quality of nervousness, she said, is gone.

“It’s gone.”

After the talk, my friend Noel remarked: “Sometimes I think that they shipped her in from another dimension.”

“She’s floral,” I said.

In the next session I helped her hand our flowers to the students, who sat in a large circle with their eyes closed.  She instructed them to explore the flowers through touch.  I’d done this exercise with her several times, but this was the first time that I got to watch other people explore — brushing the flower on their cheeks, smelling, tickling.

Just as I was becoming amused and delighted at watching the others she leaned over to me and said “Close your eyes.”

She handed me a flower and I enjoyed my time with it.

We all placed our flowers in small containers and then, slowly, while Sensei rung the various singing bowls, we stood and placed the flowers in the center of the room, making a large, collective installation.

Then we circled the room together, slowly.  “Moving the energy around,” she said.

We all bowed to each other, recited protector chants, and everyone went to dinner.  I stayed back with Sensei and prepared for the evening session.

I ate dinner with her and we spoke all about art, dharma, living at SMC.  I shared my ongoing frustration with her, which is that I think I should be making more art.  And I told her about the recent shift towards surrendering that, and allowing myself to focus more fully on deepening into dharma.

“That’s the best thing that you could do for your art,” she said.

Oh yeah.

Years ago, while reading True Perception (which awakened my mind and approach to life and art forever), I realized that meditation is first.  Before making art, allow mind to settle, awaken, and then simply express, go forth without trying to manufacture anything.

The big idea about coming to live at the dharma center was to deepen into dharma, and then go forth into the world, into my art, whatever.  I decided to live here as I was turning thirty.  So, in the large arc of my life, the idea was (is), as a good way to enter this next phase of creativity, I’ll first meditate for a good while.

I told her about my recent meeting with Joshua, and how he encouraged me to deepen into dharma.  And I asked, “What about music?” And he said “Sing dharma!”

And it’s funny because that’s what has been happening, even before that meeting with Joshua.  I study dharma all the time, and while I’m walking around the land, I sing verses, and I improvise, and I simply sing.

While I’m hanging around my room with Heather, I pick up the bass and groove for a while.

I make Ikebana arrangements every week. I write a blog.

Art is happening all over the place here… just not in the way that it used to.

It’s not the main focus.

Sensei said: “It’s the tea sweet.”

–  January 26, 2015

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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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: I’d Rather Be Practicing


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

“Maybe buns are just plumper nubs.”

That’s what Heather just said.

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Lately I’ve been picking up the bass and playing around.  Yesterday, Will, who lives in the next room over, who probably hears me playing, who is part of this third floor lodge musical awakening, requested that I give him some recordings so that he could work on them in post-production.  He wants to master my stuff…  Convenient!

So, lots of encouragement to play and produce.

Meanwhile, Jesse the awesome veggie cook offered Cinnimin Bun transmissio last night.  So, a group of people gathered in the kitchen and they all learned how to make the buns.  This morning, Heather and I reaped the rewards.

Yummy, warm buns.

So many activities like that — community fun variety.  I haven’t been participating in many, because it feels like too much.  My priority is to really deepen into dharma study and practice.

This Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness course that Steve is leading is awesome.  Last night at dinner, Nic and I were discussing it and sharing our appreciation.  He mentioned how his mind is blown, and we both agreed that it’s happening in quite a welcomed and delightful way.

On Tuesday nights, there is Essential Heart of Kasungship.  That’s where people who are serving as Kasung share their experience, teaching on the Eight Slogans of the Dorje Kasung.  Last year, I attended the class as a student.  And, this year, I haven’t gone to a single class.  There’s too much other stuff, and Kasungship isn’t what I’m into.

I’ve been meaning to have a conversation with Rusung Edwards about my lack of participation in, lack of interest in, flat out aversion to, Kasungship.

I’d rather be making music.

Earlier in the week, my Delek (I used to be the Dekyong), hosted a commuity event — playing a game of Mafia, which is a parlor game that everyone learned form Heather a couple of summers ago around a campfire.  I didn’t attend the event.  Instead I studied the PSOME material — a really great book by Andy Karr, in which he offers a friendly familiar tone, and shares deep understanding and familiarity with the teachings.  In the book, he offers his own understanding, and also throw in some really potent nuggets from the Sutras, the Rinpoches, the Saints.

Anyway… I’d rather be studying dharma.

Tomorrow morning I will watch cartoons with Heather and then meditate for the rest of the day while she works.

On my day off… I’d rather be practicing.

– January 23, 2015

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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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill