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

~~~

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

~~~

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: Strangely Apparent


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.

Every imagined finger and face
appears to be life
on a sphere
in clear
space

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Last night we sat in a circle and acknowledged the ambiguity of our existence.  We looked at each other and objects in the room, and asked, out loud, about how it is that we are perceiving such things, and why it is that we seem to be individuals even though none of us can come up with a definite proof of separateness.

It’s strange.

It is said that we’re all here together, experiencing a similar world, because we all share a deep habit of imagining the world to be this certain way — much different than the way that fishes imagine the world.

So… here we are. And… here we are.

Finally, we acknowledged that there is a lot to explore and called it a night.

Then, up in our room, Heather and I on the love seat with the door open, Anna came skipping in and curled up on the arm chair.  Scott followed and kneeled on the floor.  I offered him some hot water from my Thermos for his tea.

We all sat around for a while and discussed our experience of the spiritual path, and so on.

At one point, a man we didn’t know walked into the room — he is a program participant, Scott is the coordinator of that program, and he had heard Scott’s voice.

“A program coordinator is never off duty,” Scott said.

After Anna and Scott left, which was after my bed time, Heather and I stayed up for a bit and spoke about relationship.  My mind was so groggy, but I spoke.

Earlier, in the Community Meeting, my mind was so spacey, but I spoke.  We were discussing transparency, communication, and so on.  It seemed like the conversation was moving towards an exploration of the “us/them” phenomena that exists between the “leadership” and those who are “not the leadership.”

I have now been on both “sides.”  So I offered my perspective.  Basically, I wish for the genuineness that flows throughout the whole structure of this community to be revealed and for paranoia to be dispelled.

This morning I’m a bit groggy and I’m thinking:

“The mind stirred by habitual tendencies,
Arises as outer appearances.”

(from the Lankavatara Sutra)

– January 22, 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: Be Befuddled or Change


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.

Guitar music is floating out from the room across the hall.  It enters through the vent in the bathroom, and also seeps through the door, and the wall.

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I’ve been hanging out with the acoustic bass that Dorian gave me, and singing all over the place.  My art is not quite a discipline these days, but it’s very much part of life.  It’s a joy, and it’s very easy.

Joshua encouraged me to be a minstrel.  He said if he ran this place he’d pay someone to just walk around all day and play music — maybe a clarinet or guitar.

I asked him about finding time for dharma study and music.  He said: “Study, and then play what you studied.”

Funny… I’ve been doing that — taking a phrase from the text and then singing it all day.  It’s been beautiful.

I wondered about “Travis” music — Will all of my music here be so… formally dharmic?

“The circumstances will determine what kind of music you make.  Be amenable.

And, about the general frustration of not being able to find the time…

“You have two choices: you can either be befuddled, or you can change.”

The art is going to come out.  If it is being suppressed, it will forcefully re-aggange the surroundings in order to make space for itself.

Funny… that’s been happening also.  I recently, quite simply, decided that I’d extend my morning meditation session by 30 minutes, and also add an hour of art-making to my morning right afterwards.  When I sat down and looked at the calendar, there’s no reason why I can’t do that and also get my work hours in.

And… be flexible.  Some days, he said, the thing to do will be to just go deep into the music.  Other days, maybe not.

I told him about my ongoing efforts to schedule out my whole life to ensure that everything I want to do happens.

“Schedule is good, and breaking the schedule is better,” he said with a huge grin.

– January 21, 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: Blobs of Impossible Tar and Joy

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.

The appearance of muddy terrain — my toes have been squishing around, and there seems to be broken glass and blobs of impossible tar and joy mixed in.

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It’s been a “glitchy” few days.  That’s Heather’s word.

Technology on the fritz, wave-like moods, trouble concentrating, odd dreams, surprise interruptions of all sorts.  Me thinks that Dön Season is upon us!

I’ve been doing alright, rolling with it.  Trying to keep my mouth shut when it may well spew forth subtle toxins.

On another note — such a nice note, series of notes — art has been arising all over the place.  Conversations with artist friends, spontaneous jams, piano music pouring out into the hallway in the lodge.  And, I’ve blocked off some time in the morning to get into some music.

Last night, while Heather was under the weight of an ugly Dön, I pulled out my guitar for the first time in a while and offered some spontaneous songs.

Earlier in the evening, a nice social mixer with the Elephant Journal staff and the SMC staff, in the Shambhala Lodge, by the fireplace, with wine, chocolates, and delicious desserts made by the kitchen folks.  Lots of loving toasts and conversations.

Good to connect with Waylon, a true sangha-homie and legendary Colorado character.

Meanwhile, continuing the contmmplations on emptiness.  According to the Cittamatra school (via Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche):

“…when one wakes up, one realizes that there were no outer perceived objects other than the mind itself.”

And it’s like that with “waking” reality as well.

There’s lots that could be said about the “mind only” school.

Anyway, I’m going to study a bit, send out a big email broadcast, meet with the umdzes for lunch, do some Ikebana for the staff shrine room, do some chores at the Stupa, and the exhale into the day of rest.  TBIF.

– January 16, 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: Blabbering Universe

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.

There’s a lot that could be said about the voice.

IMG_0353Pictured: Lake Shunyata

We’re studying the Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness.  At this first stage, the Shravaka stage, we’re investigating our experience in search of a separate, independent, lasting “self.”

In my meditation I indulged and played with the voice that was articulating — internally, somehow — the teachings on no-self that I had the intention to contemplate.

I wanted the voice to say these things about the five skandhas, form, feeling, and so on, and the voice obliged.  The voice says whatever I want it to say.  So I had the voice say all sorts of things to make sure this was the case.  The voice sounds like the voice that my body produces out of my mouth when I wish to speak.

What the heck is this voice?

And what hears the voice?  Who is the voice speaking to?

It seems like this voice, and the knowledge of this voice, the hearing of this voice, is what I think of as the self.

The teachings say there is no lasting, continuous anything.  That a flame is not the same flame from moment to moment.  Okay…

This voice, somehow, is familiar.  It’s like a companion.  Companion to whom?

It keeps me company?  Keeps who company?

I assume that the rest of the people in the room also have a voice that I can’t hear.

What’s the deal with all of this?

If the voice isn’t real, why is it so distinct?  What is my relationship with it?  What do I mean by “my”?  What do I mean by “I”?

Will the voice continue when I die?  Seems like, probably not.

Blabbering universe.

Will the voice exhaust itself?

What’s the word?

– January 13, 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: Eight of Us, Fine Tea, Jazz (and Later Dub)

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.

Reflective ribbons on a passing train, a small one, which runs on imagined tracks through my forest hometown — a bit of a town — a bit of an echo, over and over, and the humble drummer plays along.

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We had a lovely gathering at the Nubble Nest on Saturday afternoon — eight of us, fine tea, jazz (and later dub) through the small speakers, and small booklets full of big wishes.  Some frustration because it’s not always so easy to have big dreams.

We reflected on 2014 and looked ahead to 2015.  It was fun, though I didn’t go too deep.  I was enjoying pouring tea, and I made a quik ikebana (Greg Smith calls it “quikebana”) with some flowers that Anna brought over.  I ate plenty of chocolate and I made some aspirations for 2015.

I get confused about New Year these days because the lunar new year actually means more to me — it’s more significant in my world.

Anyway, I don’t quite remember what I wished for, and it may be bad luck to tell you even if I did.

I can say that I pretty much have lots of good things going, and I wish only to cultivate my life-garden further.

Meanwhile, I want to help a family member who is in a tough spot.

After the little party, Heather and I sat around the room, hugging and such.  Scott came over from across the hall and played a beautiful Cat Stevens song for us.  Heather knew it — Rebbi used to sing it for her when she was little.  Cool family.

Later, after tea and lemon bars, I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth and I heard some music coming through the air vent.  I grabbed my bass and walked across the hall to join in the jam for a bit.

– January 12, 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: I Think I

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.

The tunnel towards glory collapsed
and I realized I was light.
The distraction of embarrassment became a choir of angels.
All along, it was just me and my guitar.

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Steve Seely is teaching a class on the Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness, and I feel tremendous gratitude for the opportunity to study with him.  He has studied with Khenpo Tsultrim Gyaltso, who, literally, wrote the book on this subject.

Steve was glowing in our first class meeting, a couple of nights ago.  He seems glad to be able to offer the teachings.

Just now, I walked out of the shrine room, leaving Steve all alone in there.  He’d walked in a half hour earlier, and seeing that no one was serving as umdze, he took the seat.  There were only a couple of us in there practicing.  Then, the other person left and it was just me finishing my sadhana.

It can be rather sad to be the only one in the shrine room for the scheduled community practice period.  I hope that it wasn’t disrespectful for me to walk out like that.

The thing is, I am short on work hours for the week.  I want to rearrange my schedule a bit to allow for even more time meditating.  I live at a dharma center, so this seems totally appropriate.

Previously, I have taken on the informal role of Head Umdze. Basically, I took the lead on making sure that the umdze role is being covered on a regular basis.  These days, the umdze coverage is spotty and it makes the whole container feel weak — to me, at least.

It is not my job to lead the umdze core.  Actually, I believe it is someone else’s job.  But, I think I can help.

So, here’s the thing of finding the balance between “letting be” and “trying to fix.”  “Letting be” is often used in a positive way in the teachings, and “trying to fix” is used negatively.  But, of course, we’re encouraged to try to help the world.

Susan Piver wrote a beautiful piece in response to the Charlie Hebrdo tragedy, and her great advice is to feel before acting.  Perhaps, that way, it isn’t an act of aggression — trying to rid myself of the pain of witnessing discord.  Rather, it would be an act of generosity, out of good intention, without attachment to outcome.

– January 9, 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: Sacred Training Ground

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.

Illuminated, frosty song — anchored by the mournful howls…

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Riding up the mountain road yesterday, on my way back to Shambhala Mountain, after having spent a couple of weeks in Florida, I had this baffling, beautiful feeling that I was entering another world.

I feel at home in this world. The energy here is tangibly different, heightened.  Meditation practice is more powerful, and people are operating in a different way.

We had a community meeting yesterday, and I was struck by the way we exist together up here.  The ordinariness of heartfelt, vulnerable communication is remarkable.

This is a different world.

And I feel connected to the suffering of my loved ones elsewhere.  Florida was intense.  Being there for so long (two weeks is a pretty long time to be in Florida, and a pretty long time to be away from here),  I became unified, just enough, with what’s happening there.  It’s my problem too.

Living here is not a way of escaping from those troubles, but a way of strengthening so that I can really help.

The way that I related with the situation down there was different than before.  I felt much more able to be patient, compassionate, accommodating, and to refrain from reacting aggressively when I encountered something that I didn’t like.

I encountered a lot of things that I didn’t like.  And I found that I could actually love those things.

In short, I feel reassured.  The practices are working.  The path is real.  I’m inspired to go further.  I believe that I can help this world, and deepening my commitment to the path is the best way.

Shambhala Mountain is a sacred training ground.  My life here is good — I am so well taken care of, and I’m growing a lot.

My heart was erupting with gratitude and joy as I reconnected with Heather, and felt myself landing — here at home, on the mountain, in my nest.  It felt great to receive food from my friends, to open the dharma books, and everything.

– January 8, 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