Floral Notes and Bardo: Down the Hill, Down the Road

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.

A group of us piled in the car on Friday, headed down to Boulder.  Rolling down the hill in the sunshine, it was reminiscent of heading to music festivals in the summertime with my old friends.

Ikebana Program_Apr2014-18Photo by Paul Bennett

We were headed down for a Shambhala program with the Sakyong, Acharya Asreal, and Shastri Ethan Nichtern (my main dharma-teacher-homie from New York City — so cool to connect with him, eat falafel with him, in Colorado!).  Great line-up!

A few of us stayed at Marpa House, which is a residential Shambhala-Buddhist co-op sort of place in Boulder.  It felt amazing in there.  I felt quickly that Marpa House will be the next place that I live.  After a couple more years at SMC, after I graduate from Sacred World Assembly, I’ll move to Marpa House to do my Ngöndro and study at Naropa.

In this moment, that path ahead is clear as day.  (who knows how it may shift?)  Clear as day!

We actually slept in the Ngöndro shrine room.  Oh!  They have a room for Ngöndro!  Ngöndro is the practice you begin doing once you formally enter the vajrayana stage of the path — which I am aiming to do before leaving SMC.  A sort of graduation… Marpa House seems like a mighty fine place to do Ngöndro.

And, for a decade or so, I’ve had a dream of studying at Naropa — at the Jack Kerouac School of (Dis)embodied Poetics.  How could I not go to study at that school in this lifetime?!

Boulder is lovely.  Such a nice time strolling through the neighborhoods and enjoying the activity on Pearl Street.

Inside the Shambhala Center, the retreat was awesome.  Powerful teachings all the way through, great community of people.  Provocative contemplations, conversations.

We considered how we may practice in three areas, or levels, of our world:

The personal, interpersonal, and collective.

SMC is a pretty amazing place to practice with all three in a vivid way.

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

Floral Notes and Bardo: A Big Joke

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.

Last night, the moon was blazing full, everything aglow and quiet, the only sound — the aspen leaves gently quaking in soft, cool summer breeze.  I was standing on my doorstep, just enjoying, awake for a few minutes in the middle of the night.

Ikebana Program_Apr2014-12Photo by Paul Bennett 

Earlier, a small group of us stood and watched the moon rise up from behind the ridge.  Huge moon.  Orange.  Clear sky.

Kate and I had been discussing dharma for about two hours.  Others came in and out of the conversation, which was inspired by some notions presented in the prologue of Shambhala Principle.

I believe we were on the topic of nonverbal communication, and that being so key:

We’re always communicating.  We’re creating culture with each interaction.  We’re altering reality.

Kate and I had been sitting in the staff Living Room…

Oh, the Staff Living Room is so sweet.  It’s a spot downtown, which in the wintertime is our dining room.  In the past it has been a shrine room.  In fact, it’s one of the oldest buildings on the land.  H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa performed the Black Crown Ceremony in the room.  It’s usually turned into the staff shrine room in the summer time.  This summer, though, a bunch of us lobbied for it to be turned into an uplifted, quiet, common area — for study, tea, quiet conversation.  We have Elkhorn House up the hill, where we can jam, watch movies, party, have fires, and generally hang out and have fun.  This space is serves another purpose.  So nice…

The previous night, a group of us sat together in the Living Room and watched video of a talk that Trungpa Rinpoche gave at Naropa, forty years ago.  The talk was on tantra–the first in a series of fourteen.  We’ll be watching one every week.

We had some discussion afterwards.  One point that kept coming up was about how much of what he was communicating was nonverbal.  Some of us expressed that, more than anything, we were bewildered by the words that he said, but, somehow, something was communicated very clearly.

Watching him, there was no hint of doubt.  And he said:

“There’s an enormous joke behind the whole thing.  A big joke.”

I was at once bewildered and reassured.  It’s not what I think it is, but that’s more than okay.

– June 13, 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: Ordinary and Aspiring

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.

To simply be kind to my fellows, not trying to win, not cheating anyone, doing my work…

10307363_647685145313729_8247107537804061121_n“Magpie strutting” by John Russell of SMC Colorado Front range Style

Another misty day outside.  Many elder practitioners are arriving to receive new teachings from the Sakyong.  This weekend I’m going down to Boulder to receive teachings from him.

Rinpoche: displaying confidence, relaxation, cheerfulness, wisdom.  It seems that he is aware of the suffering of the world, and yet, is optimistic.

A genuine display.

Joyful, not freaked out.

We’re always communicating something…

Ordinary and aspiring…

–June 12, 2014

~~~

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: Oh to Be Hose

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.

Aching and illuminated, all of us — aching or ignorant, delighted or ignorant… Some bruised moments, touched firmly enough to evoke panic.  All the while, something bigger than the breezes unfolding forever, forever unresolved.  The aspen tress are full of leaves these days.  The smallest ones have the biggest leaves and all of them are fluttering, quaking to be precise, in the shifting winds.

DSC_0104Photo by Barb Colombo

I was standing in an aspen grove the other day, just standing, and I let myself go into as full of an immersion as I could.  I wish I could be more interwoven, or not think so much about that, rather, delighting in the movement of light and shadow, the sounds of the leaves, the sturdiness and softness of the tree trunk, branches…

Last night marching with the Kasung…  I have ongoing aversion to Kasungship (which is something to work with, I know).  I’m so grateful for the existence of the Kasung, but I don’t feel inspired to be a big-time Kasung.  When I’m serving as Kasung, I feel like I’m doing my duty.  Those aren’t the teachings that really sing to me.

Also, it’s a matter of time.  So much I’m trying to do here, while also not trying to do so much that I can’t ever kick back.  Last night I was resentful of the kasung meeting — I’ve taken a one year oath, so I feel obligated to fulfill that commitment by attending meetings, signing up for shifts, etc.  Not that it isn’t a very cool and often fun thing…

Anyway, the Miami Heat were playing in the NBA Finals and I wanted to watch the game, but instead I had to go to Kasung meeting.  The previous night I went to a class, tonight I’ll be going to a screening of a talk that Trungpa gave in 1974, tomorrow night a study group, then on Friday going down to Boulder for a weekend retreat lead by the Sakyong.

Every night of the week there’s something to do.  Something very good to do!  Something virtuous!  I’m so fortunate!  And, I’m so lazy!  Feeling a bit burdened.  But, really, feeling like something’s got to crack open.  That’s the forward facing attitude.  That’s facing East, always.

I’m subtly searching for genuine motivation — to engage, create, help others, serve the world.

Why not flop?  When I begin flopping with any sort of regularity, I begin to feel very restless.  It’s a self-correcting situation.  It’s becoming more-so.

This afternoon we’re having a Community Meeting, which I will be leading.  The purpose will be to re-establish, re-strengthen the Delek System as we head into summer.

My attitude about the Delek System has shifted a bit, which is part of a broader relaxation. “You don’t need to work so hard.” is what Hope Martin told me when she put her hands on my body and felt how hard I work to be upright, wakeful.

My approach to path, to my roles at Shambhala Mountain Center, has relaxed.  I’m seeking the balance between slouching and striving.  I’m seeking the HOSE.  At times,  Phish gets into a state of creativity which is effortless – as if they are a hose watering a garden of flowers.  The audience the flowers, the music the water, the band the hose.

I want to be a hose.

A hose can be a hose all day without becoming tired of being a hose.

– June 11, 2014

~~~

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: Iris and so On

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 weather has been shifting so dramatically — sunny summery days and then two days of chilly mist.  Hour to hour can be as different as October and July.  It’s June now.  It’s always shifting, right?  Sometimes quickly enough that we notice.  Otherwise it’s a slow change and we’re thrown when it blooms…

IMG_0296Photo by Greg Smith

Every day new wildflowers are popping up.  Yesterday someone watched a deer give birth, watched a deer being born.  One of our community-family-members is going to give birth in a few months.  We’ve been discussing how to hold that event.  Another member of the fam — who lives down in Boulder — is going to give birth any day now.

My changes are more subtle.  I’m dying and being born every second.  I know.

Another community member of ours left the other day to drive to South Carolina — his mother has been diagnosed with late-stage cancer.  He’s going to be with her.

Another one, my buddy, has been in and out of the hospital recently.  Today he’s going to get brain scans.

Back in Florida, my mother is on the edge of losing her house to foreclosure and not sure where she’ll go next.

New flowers are coming up every day.  Bunnies and deer are being born, and people are wondering about their lives all the time.

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

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Doing It, Nicely

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 back here after my recent trip to New York, I felt at once inspired, refreshed, and overwhelmed.  This whole thing is a huge project: creating enlightened society.  And, there are no guarantees.  Yet, somehow, here at Shambhala Mountain Center, it has sustained for over forty years.  An ever-changing bunch of people, with their confusions and brilliance, have been doing it together for over four decades.

Here we are.

10294346_649886888426888_1245725218225911571_nPhoto by John Russel of SMC Colorado Front Range Style

Expectations for myself.  Good inspiration versus overly-ambitious.

Yesterday at lunch time, the three Dekyongs (two dropped out recently) had a meeting.  Molly laying on a picnic bench, sunbathing.  Oakes and I pulled up chairs beside her and we talked causally for twenty minutes or so.  Good vibes.

The previous Dekyong meeting was an hour long, in a shrine room, in the morning.  Two Dekyongs dropped out after that.

It was too tight, too ambitious.  What is realistic here?  What feels good?  I’m re-approaching my duties here with a bit more gentleness.  Too tight and there is freak out.  To loose – crappy and sluggish.

At dinner time a group of us who are doing Enlightened Society Assembly in July met to discuss how we may approach studying together.  Again, it was casual.  It was not an institutional event — just living and directing our attention towards something productive.

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Earlier I sat at a table while some folks talked very negatively about Shambhala Mountain Center.  It seemed like they were getting some sort of kick out of it.  Is that helpful at all?  What are the consequences of doing that?  It seems like complainers gather like puddles of mud.  Meanwhile, the sky.

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

 

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?

545281_10151943312835154_646519923_nPhoto by Zane Edwards, Summer 2012

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.

10338254_649885611760349_1326863729002602634_n

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.

DSCN0566

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

~~~

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.