Floral Notes and Bardo: Space Pervades

By Travis Newbill

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.

Milky-white bliss–staring at a wall with my head in my hands.  And then, outside, wandering, mostly pausing, gazing, goal-less, bothered only when goals came to mind.

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Last night was the final session of our community Maitri Space Awareness exploration.  We concluded with the center of the mandala — the buddha family.  My favorite.

Space allows all else to flourish.  And, as Greg said last night in his talk, there is nothing we can say about space.

All colors arise in space, music, love, and all else.

Ironically, I am feeling like I spend lots of time busy-hustling in order to create space.  Get this done, get that done, so that I can have some space to do other things.

Last week we had community events three nights in a row.  This is great, but man… it makes for a long day.  I also need time in my room — reading, hanging out with the guitar.  I wonder when that will come.  I wonder if I am missing something.  Maybe there is a way of life that is appropriate right now that I am trying to bypass based on my thoughts of what constitutes a fulfilling life.

I want to make music!  But, I can’t sing in my room, and I don’t have any time before or after work, class, whatever.

Where is the space?  Greg said: “Space pervades everything.”

Life is full.  Life is full of space.  Maybe I’m ignoring space most of the time.  Maybe I have a biased mind, in which some things count as art and others don’t.

A bigger question: How self-centered is all of this?  What am I grasping for and why?  How does this relate to the aspiration for all people to be free?

There’s some truth, I think, to the necessity of taking care of oneself so that one can be strong for others.  It does seem good for me to organize my life so that I can be fluid, inspired, productive, helpful.

But, it is instantly liberating to consider others, and wish that they may be joyful and at ease. Instant space.  All cluttered concern falls flat on the ground.  Fresh air.

The teachings say that you don’t need to have stuff first in order to give.  Give now.

Turn my mind around — face outwards.  It gets so stuffy in here.

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

Floral Notes and Bardo: Find the Others

By Travis Newbill

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.

Just now, on my way out the door of the lodge to walk up the hill to work, I realized that Seth Godin and Terrence McKenna both say this:

FIND THE OTHERS

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(Later I learned that Timothy Leary may be the source of that phrase.)

Anyway, walking up the path, as I was saying to myself over and over FIND THE OTHERS, I see Avajra John coming up another adjoining path.  As we approached each other, we put our palms together at our foreheads.  Then he said:

“You know, my take on it is that the transcendent Shambhala is just behind a very thin veil.”

He grinned widely.  I thanked him.

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Just before all of this happened, while sitting in the shrine room, I decided that I ought to meditate more in order to tune into what’s going on here more fully.

All signs have pointed towards YEP.

– December 18, 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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Stringing the Twinklers

By Travis Newbill

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 made a small box for all of my things:
colored sand and precious rings.
Meanwhile I watch this thought burn:
the wish for anything to remain or return.

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This past weekend was full, and well-rounded.  Friday night a bath and relaxed space in the nest with Heather.  Saturday morning — cartoons, cereal, and sleeping in.  Then a nice, long practice session — at first, alone in the shrine room, which is just downstairs from our room, and then at noon the community joined for mid-day group sit.  The lights came on — I’d been in the dim — and friends surrounded and we sat.

Saturday afternoon a community sweat lodge ceremony.  It had been a while… I’m so grateful, purified.  Saturday night cat-sitting for Director Gayner.  Nice house, funny little cat, a couch and nice sound system.  We watched the latest Wes Anderson film and enjoyed a night on the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever known.  The next morning — nice practice session, breakfast with music on, a while on the couch together, in the sunlight, reading Mental Floss, some more time just laying in the sun, and then a walk down the hill for lunch.

Sunday afternoon — community Christmas Tree Gathering Escapade!  It was lots of fun, walking out into the woods, finding our little tree-friend, saying little prayers for it, and then, myself holding one end of the saw, cutting it down.

After dinenr we had a little decorating party with spiked egg nog and Christmas music.

Also, Heather got to work decorating our nest, and it’s very cheerful and good.

Last year, the holidays were the worst part of the year for me.  Very sad to be here.  This year feels different so far.  It was a warm and joyful day yesterday, with much of the community involved.  And, Heather is big into holiday celebration.  So, I am not feeling deprived at all.

I probably listened to three hours of Christmas music yesterday. Good stuff!

– December 8, 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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Agenda Like Flies

By Travis Newbill

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.

Return to friendliness, and sing in spare minutes.  The wind is blowing like crazy, and this time is precious.

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Last week we had our Fall Staff Retreat.  Janillee came up from Boulder and directed, leading us in three days of Maitri Space Awareness practice.  In the afternoons, we played — music with the peeps.  Other folks hiked, did art, or wrote creatively.

I was in a grumpy mood for much of the retreat, kind of thrown becuse I had to relate to office work.  For me, having to go into the office during retreat is like having to step out of a ballet to work on my taxes for 10 minutes.  There is nothing to complain about in the situation, I knew that.  But, I just couldn’t make myself big enough to not be grumpy about it.

People are starving and I’m throwing a little fit in my mind because I have to work for an hour during a completely luxurious day.

So silly.  But that’s the truth of the experience.  If I were enlightened, it wouldn’t matter what I’m doing at any given moment.  It’s all music, dharma, dance.  I have moments like that, but I also get grumpy and seek pleasure.

These days, pleasure is quite plentiful in my life.  Heather and I have moved into a suite on the third floor of Rigden Lodge, which includes a nice big bed, cozy heater, a love seat, another cushy chair, and… and… a bath tub.  Oh yeah.

We also have internet in there so I can listen to music again via Spotify.

I’ve been giving some care to create recreation time for myself recently.  I feel like that’s been missing.  It used to be just me up on this mountain in the holy land of Shambhala Mountain Center devoted only to meditation and the dharma.  And now, life is filling out quite a bit, and I’m appreciating the beauty and importance of taking in art, music, literature.  And, simply enjoying.

Last night I spent an hour reading the dharma.  Contemplating simplicity.

“We have a mind and we have a body, therefore we can comprehend this world.  Existence is wonderful and precious.” — Trungpa

Drop the agenda.  Live.

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

Floral notes and Bardo: Cinder Block or Skies

By Travis Newbill

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.

Exploring galaxies of psychological formations, residing and flirting with potent emotion, knowing each other more fully.  Learning the joy and liberation of knowing, wondering, knowing.  In the space of dialogue — the safe space which is dependent on mutual respect, care, and willingness — deep human poetry blossoms like music.  The only way to go further is through YES.  And YES is only YES when it’s genuine.  One way of exploring ourselves is through intimate partnership — YES is intimacy.

YES is peaceful, patient, and playful.

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Heather and I spent the weekend in a couple’s retreat in which we learned Imago theory and worked with communication exercises that allowed us to explore and learn lots about ourselves and each other.  The structured dialogues are designed to be tools for exploration and progression.  Meant to help us navigate the uncertain oceans of long-term committed relationship.  I’m glad to have the tools.  And I’m glad to be with a partner who is equally inspired to work with the tools, and more generally, to open, expand, go further.

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Having experienced, felt, the workability of differences, and what looking into obstacles can reveal, I feel confident about the potential for long-term intimate partnership to be a joyful experience, a genuine experience, liberating… Liberating!  The culture I was brought up in often frames marriage as some kind of prison.  I think that any situation can be confining if you choose to maintain walls — choosing the comfortable, familiar sight of cinder block — cinder block solitude, television, treadmill, thangka, hometown, saloon, drug-buddy, dog, blog, band, wife, or whatever.  I will never KNOW her, and she will never know me.  We will be new each moment for all eternity, and our curiosity and willingness to explore will determine our view: cinder block or skies.

It’s a blessing to be encountering these tools and ideas, taking these programs, while we’re young.  Seems like we’re set up well to go forward.  I feel that way about living here generally.  I’m learning all sorts of stuff that is going to be helpful for living the rest of my life.  The stuff that is not taught in K-12 or even college.  Real life stuff with great teachers.  People pay lots of money to come here for a few days and get a taste.  I am able to live here full time and immerse.  Moving here has probably been the best decision that I have made.

FURTHER

– November 9, 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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: No Rush — Trickles from an Aspiring Teacher

By Travis Newbill

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.

Late last night I had a look around, for a towel, I had spilled my water on the wooden nightstand.  I’m not used to drinking out of glasses.  I’m not used to wooden nightstands.  I’m not used to towels, carpeting, toilet in the next room. House/cat-sitting again for Director Gayner.  A joy — purring Dorje Phurba.  Soothing kitty.

Earlier in the night, I presented dharma to my fellows.  It was a learning experience.  I felt deflated afterwards, like my message was not clear, not precise.  I went through a few sommersaults of sorrow and frustration.  It was a potent process.  Charged practice experience.  It felt good, feels good.  Excited to refine my style and approach.  Glad for the opportunity to study with Greg Smith — a great mentor, friend.  A seasoned teacher.  I feel like I’m receiving a good, wholesome, training.  And, I’ll be here for another two years.

Last night, myself the the other student-teachers taught on the concentric circles of peaceful abiding meditation, as presented by Sakyong Mipham in Turning the Mind into an Ally.  I taught on the outer two circles.  Below is some free-writing that I did on the topic just before class.

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The outer-most ring, labeled “Our life” has to do with the space in between whatever we were doing before we came to the cushion, and the moment when we actully begin to practice.  It’s a moment to simply pause and feel ourselves sitting down in the room.  We can reflect for a moment on what is going on: Do I have a cold?  Am I really pissed off or worried about something?  Is my body in good working order?  And… what am I about to do?

The answer to that last question, in this case, will always be: I am about to practice shamatha.  Why?  In order to develop clarity, stability, and strength of mind.  I am going to practice remaining fully present, in the moment, rather than thinking about the past or the future.

This feels like such a good, wholesome and important part of the practice experience that I don’t hear very much about.  It’s not a strong habit of mine.  I tend to get to the shrine room, light the candles, sit down and get to it.  No time to waste, right?

Recently, my mantra has been “No rush.”  I think this part of the practice is about that.

It’s really lovely and fortunate that we’re able to sit in this warm, safe room and just be with ourselves.  There are no emergencies to tend to.  We have the supreme luxury of just sitting in a nice space in order to experience being alive for a period of time.  This is precious.  Something beautiful is happening.

I think taking a moment to touch in on this is a good set-up for then entering the formal practice of being with the breathing and allowing the mind to settle.

The next ring in towards the center has to do with what may occur in the midst of our shamatha practice.  We may get swept up in big, full blown thoughts that could be referred to as “Fantasy.”  Fantasies are the big narratives — there are characters, emotional tones, maybe scenery.  There could be a strong visual component or not.  It could be like a movie, or just commentary on a certain topic.  Often, the fantasy has a quality of hope or fear: Like, it would be so great to be at a rock concert, or It would be awful if the person is hurt by the email that I sent to them when I was angry.

I suppose the fantasy could be more neutral too, just imaginings.  Like, a bunny hopping down the road and a space ship pulling it up with a laser beam, and then the bunny and the aliens playing cards for a couple of hours, and they have a sleep over.

That could happen too.

I think the main thing is that we are totally swept up in it.

For me, it seems important to point out that the imagination is a beautiful and miraculous feature of the human being.  I don’t think that daydreams are evil.

The thing is, it’s not what shamatha is about.  In shamatha, we’re sitting down on the cushion to tune into the world we are inhabiting with our bodies at this particular time.  I think it’s important to be able to do that when we want to, because experiencing this world may actually blow any fantasy out of the water — in terms of beauty, humor, and brilliance.

Developing the ability to be present is liberating.  We’re not a slave to fantasy.  There is space around it.  We can walk into the movie theater when we choose to, and we also walk out and enjoy just being in the world.

There is always something cinematic happening.  That’s our life.  I think it would be a shame to miss out on the profundity of life in this world.  So, I think it’s good to practice being present — one way or another.  Shamatha is a good way. People have been doing it for thousands of years because it’s a good way.

– November 6, 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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Thanksgiving before Thanksgiving

By Travis Newbill

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 am thankful for Shambhala Mountain Center because:

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It provides me with a home, and the means for exploring a good way to live in the world.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to live here, so closely with the natural world.  I know the deer and the way that the foliage, and all else, shifts with the seasons.  I’m grateful for the tremendous rock formations — they are characters, ever-present.  I’m grateful to live in this community.  The people are kind, beautiful, well-intentioned, tender, trying, transparent.  The people — we are doing this together.  We live 8,000 feet up in the mountains together.  We eat such good food here — three times a day.  My friends cook meals.  They put themselves into it.  They are delicious.

I am grateful to have arrived here, in this profound world of dharma.  This is a place of learning and exploration.  The energies here can erupt, turn me inside out, and hold me through death and birth, every day.  This is a special place.  It has been created by good people with hammers and nails, practices and prayers, photographs and flowers.  It is in a continuous state of creation.  We are creating it now.

We create Shambhala Mountain Center moment by moment, through our speech — our tone of voice, choice of words, and choice of no-words.  We create it through each action, in each space — the shrine room, the office, the dance party.  Every moment is consequential. We are never not-here.

I’m learning a lot about cause and effect, creation, surrender, forgiveness, and love.  I’m grateful.

– November 5, 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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Estranged into Love

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.

In the wee hours, I stepped outside the yurt to wee.  It was frosty and blue.  The moon nearly full in the western sky, so the east-facing ridge was kissed, aglow.  Everything so still, frosty.  The Stupa illuminated, and the bare aspens, unconcerned.

My mantra: no rush.

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I’m realizing — again and again — how bent I am on doing so many, many, things.  Today at breakfast, I skipped the grapefruit, rather than inhaling it so that I could make it to meditation on time.

Less and more fully.

No rush.

I spent some time last night in the shrine room, by myself, studying the dharma.  So cold outside, and cozy in Pushpa with my tea and the heater, and lots of space to read, reflect.  I felt connected to my journey.  When the session felt complete, I walked up to the yurt, lit candles and played music without even glancing at the clock.

Nearly full moon rising, and playing whatever music I felt like playing.  My voice out of shape, but not.  What is “out”?

Music as a yoga.  Through playing: knowing genuineness, tenderness, timidity, fear, playfulness and all the rest.  It’s so poignant for me.

Two and a half years ago, when I first envisioned living here, making music was part of the vision.  Living in this amazing environment and letting it sing through me.  A year ago, after moving here, that was still the vision.  Somewhere along the line, it fell off.  I’ve touched the desperation of being estranged from it, and now I’m falling in love.  Music, music, music…

Last night, playing, such a deep joy out of the beautiful mystery of the music arising.  The music saying more about life than words on the page.  Period.  Ellipses.

– November 4, 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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral notes and Bardo: Changes Visible in Moonlight

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.

Changes visible in moonlight — the aspens and my ongoing evolution.

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Myself and the newly elected Dekyongs gathered in the fancy upstairs lounge of Shambhala Lodge — it always feels like a VIP room to me, compared to the rustic spaces I typically inhabit.  I shared my thoughts and experience related to Head Dekyongship and the Delek System at SMC.  I’m committed to ensuring a good, wholesome, transfer of power.

We sat in a circle and through a rousing round of spontaneous insight, elected my buddy Danny to be the next Head Dekyong.

I’m looking forward to being out of the position.  There’s a lot going on these days.  I’m working extra hours in the Marketng job — we all are — to bring this event to fruition.  We’re giving birth.  Meanwhile, I’m giving Stupa Tours, doing Ikebana, and beginning teacher training.  I’m seeking space within the packed days — trying to enjoy walks to the bathroom.

My life is full.  But, I’m sure that’s not true.  If more things popped up that I need to do, it would probably be possible to do more things — to rest less, have even less free time.  But, eeesh… My personal life, my relationship with Heather, my art (which has been severely neglected lately), is also important!

What is right exertion?  Running hotter than is healthy doesn’t feel right.

I want a healthy, balanced, life.

Speaking of health… after many years of not being able to go to the dentist — because I was living a good life as a starving artist, and choosing trips to NYC, Phish concerts, and bags of weed over dental hygiene — I finally went!  For a while now, I’ve been wondering which would come first: tooth-ache, tragedy, or getting a check-up and cleaning. The latter won, by a hair.

My mouth is not in good shape, but it could be worse. My teeth are good, but my gums are not.  I was told that I need about $20,000 in periodontal surgery.  That number is not even real to me.  I don’t know what to do.

Aside from that huge WTF, my life is feeling really good, and I feel like I’m learning a lot about how to conduct a good, healthy, life.  My finances are balanced, my health is good… But, WHAM.

It feels heartbreaking — knowing that my body needs care that I cannot afford to give it.

I’m going to look around at my options, maybe there’s another way…

DON’T WALLOW IN SELF PITTY

– October 6, 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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Deep Yoga, Goofing Around

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 office is full of incense smoke and we drink fine tea in here, jump on the trampoline, and dance to celebrate small victories.

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The Awake in the World event has a life of its own.  We are its lovers, parents, servants, and biggest fans.  Good things are happening.

Meanwhile, today we elect new Dekyongs, and establish the new Deleks.

Carolyn Gimian presented a slide show to the staff the other night about the life of Chögyam Trungpa. It was cool to meet her and hear her talk personally about him. She’s done lots of work to bring his teachings to the public, and I’ve been grateful for a long time.

The music is beginning to play in my bones. I picked up my guitar the other night and it felt so good — to play old tunes, newer tunes, and just to play. It’s a deep yoga — even goofing around with folk songs.

– October 2, 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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill