Floral Notes and Bardo: Here and There

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 was away for a week, and it’s a whole new world now.  I even have a new name (a good one!):

Good Highland Prankster

(pictured below with Good Equanimity Sword)

10390491_10202771105491221_3320319594040146212_nPhoto by Laurie Amodeo

No one is the same, the land is not the same.  It’s summer time.  So green.  Green: Karma energy — All accomplishing.  In the winter I felt cozy, and now when I try to be cozy I feel restless.  Time to move.  Time to shake it.  Time to sing!

My dear friends Laurie and Todd came here to visit. I say: I would not be here if it weren’t for Todd.  He’s had a lot to do with turning me onto the dharma, Shambhala, etc.  This blog that I write is really just a public version of letters that I’ve been sending to Todd for years now.  And he’s reading this one right now.  Hey dude!

After all these years, and our journey together, it was quite special to host Laurie and Todd here at Shambhala Mountain Center, to show them around, introduce them to the Stupa.  They enjoyed practicing with the community, we had a nice hike around, visited the Kami Shrine, and we hung out and sang around a campfire at my little house in the evening.

A few days later, I flew to New York City, and so did they.  They live there and I’ve been going there to visit them for years.  Usually I visit them.  Now, I live in a place cool enough for them to visit me too!  I always want to live in a place that is visit-worthy, from now on.  Okay…

NYC was amazing as always, and it’s summer time there too.  The parks are lively, music is playing.  Tons of activity everywhere and weather so nice I couldn’t even drag myself inside to check out a museum, not even for an hour.  Living on the mountain, as I do, it is very nourishing to be in the city — especially that one… the city.

Todd and I did Rigden Weekend at the NYC Shambhala Center.  I’ve done most of my Shambhala Training there, and soon the sangha will be moving on from that particular space.  So much has happened there for so many people, including me.

Rigden Weekend is somewhat of a graduation from the first cycle of Shambhala Training, so it was very meaningful to do it there, with Todd.  I saw and hugged teachers who have been so crucial to me on my path: Ethan, Susan, Rachel.  And Acharya Spiegel, who I’ve recently been forming a relationship with, lead the weekend.  It was so powerful.  At the end we took the Shambhala Vow and were given our names.

At the reception afterwards, I offered a toast to the New York City sangha.  They have always been so warm, friendly, welcoming.  They have always accommodated me, done whatever necessary to help me receive my training, progress on the path.  I’m so grateful.  I told them in my toast, that I now live in the most mystical, spiritually charged place that I’ve ever been, and that the dharma is just as alive, just as strong, right there in New York City.

Now I’m back here, and it’s a different world.  This opportunity is rich.  I’m re-engaging, fresh.  So much.  And the theme is: time to be active, time to sing, the sun is shining.

 

–June 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 Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Slippery Fish

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.

Sweeping through the forest, tumbling into the valley — flowers, given by my prior-self.  Remember?

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When I first arrived here in 2012: Sitting in Pushpa, seeing the knot of eternity, which was carved into a puja table in front of me — I knew.  Another moment, laying in bed, the week I arrived, watching clouds come up from behind Red Feather peak and dissolve in mid air, one after another.  I knew I’d live here.

I’ve always had this vision of three years:  Come here at age thirty, and leave at age 33, re-enter the world.  Go off to the mountain and attain some realization, and then come back down and teach.  So holy, right?

That was always the vision.  So I promised myself I’d live here for three years.  Now, I’m feeling less holy about the whole thing.  Less holy about reality.  More human and relaxed.  And, as I’ve been considering the less-holiness of my being here — less “cosmic significance,” as Bruce Tift would say — I’d become a bit too loose maybe…

“Live by vow, not by karma”

“Be flexible”

Two key messages that I received when I first arrived here.  Now I’m exploring how they work together.

I vowed to myself, my boss, and Shambhala Mountain Center, that I’d live here for three years.  I signed on the dotted line.  That is there.  It exists.  I did that for a reason: because I know how things shift.

Things have shifted — a couple of times.  Back in the fall, a leader, a mentor of mine, suggested that I consider what it would be like for me to live here long term — “four years, six years, ten years…” because I seem to be such a good fit.  That sort of re-shaped my ideas:  Maybe this isn’t going to be just a three year thing.  I may spend my entire thirties here.

Then, recently, discussing the future with Heather, I began to consider being “more flexible” and maybe not sticking to my “live here for three years” plan — maybe leave sooner, come back after a while…  I was thinking of it as a plan for some reason, rather than a vow, commitment.

In a talk about why a person takes vows, Trungpa Rinpoche said:

“You are a slippery fish!”

And the vow is the net.

I respect that.  And that’s why I took a vow to stay here for three years.

Lots if flexibility, moment to moment, and living within vows.

– May 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: Mango on a Mountain

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.

Arriving home last week… Home is here, Shambhala Mountain Center — where I’m greeted so warmly by my friends, where Dorian wanted to hear about how my Florida trip went, then said “you’re family” and we hugged.  The elders, hugs.  Lunch together, delicious, prepared by my friends.

And, here I am with a companion — Heather, who I met, really met, in the enchanted aspen grove, one of my favorite spots on the planet.

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Photo by John Russell

And nearby the Stupa and the clear presence of lineage everywhere.  Everywhere… here, and how about everywhere else?  How about Florida?  I don’t feel so good or at home there, but there is lots more world.  To be here is safe.  There is a background attitude of :

“Okay universe, I’ve come to live and serve at the place where the Stupa is.  I’m doing my part.”

Somehow, it seems a bit too simple.  To just stay here forever.

Joshua told me:

“Logic is safe.  Maybe you should go have kids. Trungpa Rinpoche said that every child you have is a nail in the coffin.  You really want to practice tonglen?  Try that.”

I get it.

It’s easy here.  My meals are prepared for me.  Spiritually, “I’m doing my part.”

Anyway… This is a precious opportunity, and it is fleeting.

Last weekend, Heather and I did a program with Bruce Tift, who is a longtime student of Trungpa Rinpoche, former Naropa professor, and a psychotherapist with decades of experience.  Some key nuggets:

Relationship is legitimately path.  Appreciation for the relationship I am in.  And the possibility that my path will lead me to live outside of Shambhala Mountain Center someday…

I knew that.  But, something about talking about the future with Heather made it real.

My heart broke open a lot this past weekend.

This morning, in Colorado, my love and I sat naked and ate a mango from Florida.  True story.

– May 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: Florida Notes #2

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.

Being in Florida is like post-meditation — rubber meeting the road.  Hot road.  Messy world.  Tenderness in everything, and a resistance to feeling it.  An impulse to fix it.  It’s painful to be in the midst of.  It’s painful to witness my habitual reactions.

…except for the consistently warm feelings I get whenever I see Fluff.

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As soon as I arrived, I called Rachel, my teacher in Florida.  She said:

“Our whole practice is about not reacting.  All that practice that you do, this is what it’s for.  This is a great opportunity.”

I want to fix it.  I want to be triumphant! It’s not working.

“Being present in nowness is the only success you will achieve in this situation, if you want to call that success.”

In a recent talk at the Being Brave retreat, Pema Chödrön talked about living in a privileged, comfortable, spiritual bubble.   And she’s grateful to meet with people who are in the trenches because it punctures the bubble and keeps her from believing that everything is smooth.

Somehow, SMC is the trenches and the bubble.  Ever since I arrived there a couple of years ago, I’ve regarded it as a “macro meditation cushion.”  All the elements of my world are represented there (except for Florida), but it all occurs within a meditative, contemplative container.  So, it’s all very tangibly practice.

Out here in Florida, I have set up a shrine in the room where I’m staying, as a reference point, reminder.  There are reminders all over the place at SMC.  You can hardly turn a corner without seeing prayer flags, buddhas, teachers.  It’s easier to forget here in Florida.  So, it’s easier for me to get worked up, stupid, aggressive.

Sakyong talks about how culture affects us and we affect culture.  It’s interesting to look at Florida through that lens.  It’s tough here for me.  It’s not a prime situation for doing what I want to do, which is study and practice the dharma.

I feel freaked out here.  I see lots of freaked out people here.  I see lots of crap, nature is oppressed.

And, how am I affecting it?

Trungpa Rinpoche says that a fallen leaf can affect a stream.  So, rather than trying to “manhandle” the state of Florida, my task seems to be to abide in my heart — apply what I spend my life practicing.  Every encounter I have changes the situation.  So, basically, relaxing and doing my thing.  Be kind.  Refrain from trying to fix.

It’s sad.  I feel like Florida is f’d.  Really though, I think it’s not so bad.  F’d is my projection.  I ought to go jump in the ocean and enjoy my time here, letting it be what it is.  I can be glad that I don’t live here anymore.  I have a good home in Colorado.  A really good home.  I’m lucky.

– May 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 Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community. 

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Not Vacationing — in Florida

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 told Joshua that leaving felt like a small death.  He said that arriving would be a Big Death: “The myth of freedom,” he said.  “I hope you have good waves.”

After getting off the plane, the anxiety of seeing people in Florida for the first time since I left was very pronounced.  It had been in the background — hopes and fears about how I may be perceived by them; whether there would be approval, or not, etc.

I’ve not worried for one second about how I would be perceived by Fluff.

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I spent the whole plane ride studying dharma.

I’ve not wanted to come back to Florida, and also, I was kind of excited to, because I knew it would be eventful — at least mentally and emotionally.  So far, that has proven to be true.

It’s really been amazing to notice my reaction to the environment and people, and my tendencies to spin stories about how it’s going, how it ought to go — wishing for things to go a certain way because I think that will bring pleasure.

It’s kind of ugly down here.  I’m witnessing my mother in a tough situation and I don’t feel able to fix it.  It’s awful.  And, I’m well aware that there a millions of people on the planet right now who are worse off than she is.  And I don’t feel able to fix that either.

By comparison, I am in a very cushie situation.

Here, the connection to my mother’s pain is unavoidable — but I find myself trying to shut it out.

I think this is happening a lot, all over the place, in my engagement with the world.

Yesterday on the plane, I found myself judging people negatively.  And, the dharma was saying: No.  You really have to understand that you are those people.  You are not better than anyone.  You are here to help alleviate their suffering — that very suffering which is making you so uncomfortable that you want to attack it.  That’s not the way to go about it.  You have to help people relax.

So, I’m down here in Florida practicing.  It’s like the opposite of a vacation.

– May 7, 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: Back/Forward to Florida

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.

At breakfast, I overheard a couple of friends talking about the Milky Way.  One had an experience last night, which was a clear night.  The other forgot to look up, and hasn’t seen it for a couple of months.

I used to live in Florida.  Here is a mural by Kelcie McQuaid of the ol’ crew:

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I’m going to Florida on Tuesday.  I have some worries and hopes about how it will go.  Returning for the first time since I left.  Some expectations: How will I be perceived?  How do I want to be perceived?  And, that’s not the point.  Will there be expectations?  I live at a retreat center so I should be _______. Peaceful?  Wise?

Part of me wants to prove that it’s working, that I’ve made a good life decision in coming to live here, that I am living a good life.  I would like peoples’ approval — if not admiration.  It’s a game, it’s a trap.  There is nothing to prove.  There is nothing but how truly we’re connecting in the moment.  It’s not about me.  It’s about not causing harm, being gentle, maybe being helpful and rousing authentic joy.

But I’m stuck (I’m not stuck) in the loop, the old loop of hope and expectation.  It’s a poverty-stricken mentality.  It’s ignorance.  Maybe today, tomorrow, “these days,” “this time,” I’ll buy into it less than before.  Maybe I will be able to just relax and be normal — a bit more than before.  Maybe I can try less, and be more authentic.

– May 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 Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community. 

 

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Like a Donair, Like an Illusion

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.

It’s this way everywhere:
You can’t hide from yourself, and if you try, you will only dig yourself deeper into the muck.

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Above is a picture of me eating a “heretical tofu ‘donair.’”  Food and photo by Adam Mitchell of Halifax.

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SMC is commonly referred to as a “pressure cooker,” meaning that everything seems to happen in an intensified way — up and down, pleasure and pain.  Mental and emotional displays are especially vivid, punchy, heart-opening.

It’s quite an opportunity for purification, because, not only is the experience quite potent, but there is lots of support that helps one move through it, process it, in a positive way.  Another term commonly used to describe SMC is “karmic accelerator” — meaning pretty much the same thing.  The stuff of ourselves has to be experienced.  The consequences of our past actions will come to some sort of fruition.  That happens here, rapidly and in a big way.

Stuff from my past has been coming up for me recently.  Stuff that comes up every so often.  I don’t know what to do with it.  Something triggers a series of events in my memory, and then they are just there.  I don’t want to hide anything about myself from anyone, but the stuff also seems irrelevant.  I beat myself up a bit, feel ashamed about the whole thing.

So, I’m wondering about authenticity, fundamental worthiness, self-absorption…  How and when to just “drop it.”  I feel myself turning an inquisitive eye towards the experience, rather than shutting it out.  It’s really not easy, but it doesn’t feel quite as stuck as it has previously.

I’m feeling extra motivated to practice.  I’m spending time with the Stupa.  I’m making supplications to the energies that I’m in the midst of that I may connect with intuitive guidance, and that confusion may dawn as wisdom.

It’s rich, messy, and beautiful — Like a donair.

– April 29, 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: Time and Flowers, People

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.

Fun with Rebbi — Heather’s mom — the last few days. Wondrous artist-human.  Delightful, and glad to be connecting.  Last night, the three of us in my house singing Beatles’ songs:

“Lil’ darlin’, it’s beena long, cold, lonely, winter…”

And now, the sun is bathing us all, the land.  Spring arriving.

Ikebana Program_Apr2014-8

And, in knowing Rebbi, somehow feeling closer to Heather.  Some sense of greater reality.  Greater humanness.  The truth of the texture of her black hair, and her shoulders.

Real people.

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This morning, an hour spent arranging flowers after meditation.  Just an hour, because, I have to be on the clock for a certain amount of time each week in the marketing chair, and my schedule is rather tight.

But, I’m reading this dharma about work and time and so on.  This book form Tarthang Tulku.  There’s a bit in there about having deadlines and allowing that to energize the work — like the pressure needed to produce diamonds — without it freaking you (me) out.

I was feeling that as I was arranging.  Last weekend, a bunch of us did the Ikebana workshop with Shenpen, Sensei, and, all week long, my world has been more spacious and creative.  I’ve been approaching my whole life more like a flower arrangement…

And I’ve got Tarthang Tulku in the other ear nudging me to be more productive.

So…  more productive and more spacious.  How does that work?  It seems to.  It’s what I’m working on.

– April 25, 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: What’s Shakin’ (delek rap #2)

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.

Slowly opening channels.  No ambition, please.  Or, good ambition..  Cows digging under trees for shade and shakes.  Blubber-utter, what’s shakin’?

Delek System

This morning, first morning meeting with the new group of Dekyongs.  Feels good.  Feels relaxed.  Feels like we’re engaged, taking it seriously-enough, but not being overly ambitious.  Just putting little regular things in place is enough.

The Delek System:

Deleks are groups of people within the community, organized according to neighborhood.  The Delek System, as I currently understand it, has one main function:

To cultivate harmony within the community.

Part of that is ensuring that everyone is cared for.  Part of that is ensuring that everyone is heard.

So, the Delek System serves as a means for communication to flow through the community — inwards to the governing bodies, and back out.

Each Delek has a head, or leader, called a Dekyong.  Once a week the Dekyongs meet to discuss what has been coming up in their Deleks, community stuff, and so on.

I am the Head Dekyong, and so I have a seat on the Community Council — a decision-making, action-taking, body within the community whose precise mission and role is still being worked out.  It’s still pretty new.

Anyway, my piece, as I currently understand it, is to bring in information that I have harvested from my meetings with the Dekyongs so that the Community Council can respond to it — one way or another.  One way of responding is to suggest that a particular issue be brought into the next Community Meeting as a topic for discussion.

To be continued…

– April 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: As the World Becomes More Intense…

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.

What are we doing?  Sunrise in slow-motion.

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Last night a small group of us re-watched the Sakyong’s recent address to the community. It was full of beauty-wisdom.  And, seeing him from the angle of the camera, and zoomed in close on his face, I appreciate his brutal depth and tenderness even more.  So raw.  Waves of intensity, his eyes gazing upwards, his jaw moving slightly — in a vast pause in-between statements.  And then gentle, ordinary words.  Mystical and ordinary.

He said lots of things.  One thing: As the world becomes more intense, places like this are going to be more important.  And people like you who dedicate your lives to this.  Your work will become more meaningful. (paraphrase)

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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.