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

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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: 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

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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.

~~~

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: Complete in Process

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.

This all consuming glow, inviting me to go forth from self concern, to love perfectly.  A work in process that is never incomplete.

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Making plans and letting them drop; keeping the tires off the line; big wave picks me up–flourishing.  Then, I want that to always be the case.  Then I fall off a bit, resisting all the way.  Then, I let go.  Then, things are simpler.  Then, I have the space of mind to be organized again and flourish.

Meanwhile, chaos is terrifying, abundant, and the source of all great explosions of art.

Who am I to talk about the source?

Some artistic activity attempts to present a tidy package.  Maybe sometimes it’s appropriate.  Much of the time though, it seems that the name of the game is fluidity.  Ever shifting life.  The dharma influences the flow.  And then it’s letting go and lots of improvisation.

Am I becoming what I want to become?

Am I on the road to success?

Oh… I am on the road!

— December 17, 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: “What’s Going On in Your Mind?”

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 is less than before, there’s a spot in the sky, the sound of footsteps is becoming more defined, the idea of destination is folding in on itself.

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Last night at dinner, sitting across the table from Annebelle — we’d spoken a bit, and now I was gazing over her shoulder.  She asked me “What’s going on when you do that?”

“In my mind?”

“Yes.”

I did the best I could to describe it: space, clouds, jumbles of thought, relaxation.  I have nothing to communicate and there is a bit of a panic to find something to say, then that dissolves.  Eventually a sense of settledness, and at that point a new moment has begun.

Something like that.

That was a nice question for her to ask me.  A real dharma-sister thing to do.  A great SMC dinner conversation starter — let’s talk about mind, very personally.

Meanwhile, David and a few others were creating the Childrens Day shrine — which is sort of like the Shambhala version of a Christmas tree.  And, on the other side of the room, there was community cookie decorating.

Heather made a whole scene with a pirate, his ship, an island, and a palm tree.  It all began with the palm tree, which she made for me as a tribute to Florida — where I came from and where I’ll be spending Christmas, cosmos willing.

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I spent most of yesterday working for Joshua at the Stupa.  It feels really good to offer in that way.

I ended up eating too many cookies and had a little stomach ache.  I went to sleep as soon as I walked in the door.  Woke up at 5:30 for Qigong, dharma study, etc.

Looking forward to this weekend — writing retreat with Susan Piver!  Many Christmas gifts to prepare before then.

Lots of icing on my cookies these days.  Lots of cookies to chew. All most too much good fortune to bear — or, at least, to keep organized.

— December 16, 2014

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Never See That Buddha Again?

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.

Genius anyway…

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I woke up on Friday and enjoyed a lovely birthday — time with Heather in the morning, then beautiful Stupa session, lots of prayers for a good year ahead, lovely lunch outside, fun and games and art, surprises and hugs from the community, and finally a vegan ice cream Sunday, candles and gifts, tasty beer, at home with Heather to finish the evening.

Heather makes birthday cards for all community members when their days come around and generally promotes celebration of all possible holidays.  So, for my birthday, I was in very good hands.  Grateful.

Saturday, I was sitting on a bench downtown having some tea, gazing up at Red Feather peak to the west and decided that I could go up there if I wanted.  So I stood up and went.  I was wearing slip on shoes.

The climb was pretty steep at times, and I ended up on a big boulder that I will probably never touch again.  I had a conversation with the forest.  A wonderful view of the land, and behind me, a little cave.  I placed a Buddha statue that ended up in my pocket earlier in the day.  I’ll probably never see that Buddha again.

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On the way back down my knees felt week, and I felt older than I used to.  I’m thirty-two as of the day before the climb.  I sang and felt joyful anyway.  Maybe joyful because of the inevitable disintegration of my body… but not right now!

I went back to the nest, had some hot tea and did some reading — Born in Tibet.  I’m feeling inspired by reading about Trungpa’s life in Tibet — how strict his training was, how intense his training.

Acharya Lobel told me what to do while I’m here: “Train.”

It’s been feeling good leaning into that a bit more.

— December 15, 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: “Oops,” and Apply Gentleness

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.

We’re a big, beautiful, beast!

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(Those cookies were made decorated by Kate Raddock at our community holiday cookie decorating cookie holiday event.)

Yesterday an intense Community Meeting discussing safety, substance use, and recent incidents of people having been asked to leave for various reasons.

I didn’t say a word, yet it was a very fulfilling experience.  I witnessed and felt people being very open, expressing genuine concern, and also people becoming defensive and accusatory.  But the whole thing felt civilized.

For me, safety is relative.  And, I feel very safe here.  I feel good living as part of a community that can gather and communicate in such a peaceful and open way.  People may have felt rubbed or hurt in one way or another, but no one called anybody dirty names. Nobody shut down and said “Fuck you.”  Nobody pushed or shoved.

It’s distressing to know that that stuff happens regularly elsewhere — to horrific extents.

We communicate so well here, I feel.

After the meeting, at dinner, I was discussing my experience of the meeting with Director Gayner and Kate.  I was reflecting on my first experience of a Community Meeting — back in spring 2012, when I first arrived.

Being in the shrine room, with the whole community, everyone sitting on cushions in meditation posture, in a circle… It felt like being in another realm.  It was so dramatically different from the sorts of communities I’d associated with previously.  It seemed enlightened.

Over the course of the last few years, being a part of this community, I’ve had different sorts of experiences.  I’ve been swept up in various styles of mental projection.  At times thinking negatively of the situation — thinking that people are phony, that the system is flawed.

Last night I experienced that sort of projection arising, but there was enough space around it to see it for what it was.  And, I didn’t stay caught in it.  Rather, I was able to open more fully and witness the good-heartedness of the whole thing.

The whole thing.

It’s precious to have a group of people together aspiring to bring about peace.  We all stumble, but we do so on the path of realization.  We’re one organism here.  People become aggressive towards one another in the same way that people become aggressive with themselves.  The remedy is the same: “Oops.” And apply gentleness.

— December 11, 2014

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

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: 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