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

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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

In the Company of Women: Precious Knowing

By Katherine Kaufman

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Precious Knowing: A Meditation and Yoga Retreat for Women, February 11-15, 2015

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I have the good fortune to be at the Shambhala Mountain Center at this moment so I can tell you what it is like in the winter here — at least right now. Still & quiet. Today I walked up to the ridge — maybe to get nearer to the sun. There was some trudging through snow and also big patches with no snow. I rested on an outcropping of rocks. A group of deer were close to the Stupa. They looked up at me and leapt away as if gravity were no problem. Inside the Stupa I was struck by what feels like the thickness of many years of people practicing. The good humored gentleness and authentic way of the staff feels so warming. I am called back to this place. This is one of my homes.

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My idea for the women’s retreats began from my sense that it would be great to gather, and do practices on the coldest day of the winter and the hottest day of the summer and that the retreats would reflect the seasons they are in somehow. Women particularly need gaps in routine to pause, leave their responsibilities, and have a time to reconsider where they are in their lives, and be with other women. That this is a retreat for women with emphasis on formal practices, is a big part of the title, “precious knowing.”

The Experience

Even though I have had many years to refine these retreats it still amazes me that something happens — it feels magical. We are very simply practicing together: gentle yoga, meditation, and a little improvisational movement in the afternoons. We take our naps, bundle up and walk in the forest and up to the Stupa alone and together. The group is small enough so that we can sit around a table for meals. We discuss things that are important to us, and begin to know each other in a way that is different perhaps, from our usual knowing another. In certain ways I feel like this must be how women in small villages live. It feels so natural, for women to join and support each other this way.

This particular retreat is one where I facilitate rather than impart knowledge and I also don’t see it as a training program. Although there is instruction and we are practicing ancient forms this retreat is really about participating in practices all together, as well as sharing our combined wisdom. On some level we each know what we need already. The practices of sitting, yoga, movement, and sharing help facilitate our inner knowing. Sometimes our practice requires silence, sometimes questions, sharing, laughter or an evening by the fire. Most evenings we listen as each woman has her time to share. We acknowledge our differences and find a sense of acceptance and kindness. So we do this for a few days — simple and basic. Time slows — or we — by our practice — slow time.

And from this work, and play combined with being on the land we begin to feel more of our inner experiences — something shifts in us — a crack in the view. Something that has been propped up melts, and underneath a sense of relaxation occurs. Our desire for some rest, connection, realization is simply exchanged for actual practice. We experience something tender. When we return to our homes, our ways and days, the practice and the precious knowing continues.

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Katharine_Kaufman2Katharine Kaufman, MFA, is ordained as a priest in the Soto Zen lineage. She studied Yoga in India and practiced and taught for many years at Richard Freeman’s Yoga Workshop and Wendy Bramlett’s Studio Be. Katharine is an adjunct professor at Naropa University where she teaches Contemplative Movement Arts and is a student of poetry.

Layth Matthews on the Four Noble Truths of Wealth (Video/Audio)

 

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts The Four Noble Truths of Wealth: The Path to Genuine Prosperity with Layth Matthews February 20-22

The way we think about wealth affects our personal experience and our world dramatically. Yet we rarely contemplate the heart of prosperity, which may be why it feels like we are running in place personally, and accelerating toward crisis globally.

In this recent interview with Shambhala Mountain Center, Layth Matthews discusses the connection between contemplative practice and a wealthy outlook. Through this fresh perspective we can make more accurate financial decisions, magnetize genuine prosperity into our lives, and extend compassion to others in many ways, including through the economy.

Watch our interview with Layth below, or scroll down to stream/download the audio.

If you’d like to download the audio file, click here and find the “Download” button. Otherwise, you can stream the audio below.

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LaythMatthewsLayth Matthews is the author of The Four Noble Truths of Wealth: a Buddhist view of economic life. He is a Shambhala Buddhist teacher, economist, and a financial professional. He lives in Victoria, British Columbia with his wife and three children.

Qigong for the Seasons: Spring Relates to the Wood Phase

By Ron Davis

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The following has been adapted from “Qigong Through The Seasons – How to Stay Healthy all Year Long with Qigong, Meditation, Diet and Herbs” by Dr. Ronald Davis, published by Singing Dragon, 2015.

Spring is the Wood Phase

This is a heady, invigorating, sometimes disturbing season with wild fluctuations of energy surging throughout nature as birth, arousal, and movement. The momentum created by spring Qi gives structure and impetus to the world: young trees thrusting skyward, icy rivers flooding valleys, babies everywhere screeching with the joy of life. In humans, Qi rises like a slow tide coming up from its winter storage in the lower abdomen and moving into the chest where it stimulates the Liver with fresh vitality. As an infusion of energy, the rising Qi carries benefits as well as the potential for problems. The practice of Spring Qigong centers on using qigong exercises, foods, herbs, and meditation to nourish the Liver. In this class, you will learn how the Liver Network influences anger, kindness, communication, muscle function, detoxification, blood circulation, and much more.

During spring, the Rising Yang Qi emerges from the Lower Dan Tian (lower abdomen) and begins a season-long ascent to the upper and outer regions of the body. As it passes into the Middle Dan Tian (chest), it encounters the Liver. If this blood-rich organ retains stagnant blood and metabolic waste, which typically happens after winter’s inactivity, it will obstruct the Qi flow and result in Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. According to Chinese medicine, the Liver controls the smooth and harmonious flow of Qi and blood. Any obstruction to this flow will cause a serious functional disruption in Qi and blood circulation. Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood, an all too common disorder, has physical symptoms of muscle pain, menstrual cramps, trembling movements, poor balance, headaches, neck pain, numbness in hands and feet, vision problems, digestive ailments, and more. The mental and emotional symptoms can run the spectrum from frustration and irritability to anger and rage.

Anger, stagnation, and kindness

When the normal emotion of anger becomes prolonged, repressed, or inappropriate, it often results in Stagnant Liver Qi. This disorder affects women and men, but because each gender exists as fundamentally either yin or yang, Qi stagnation usually results in different problems for each sex.

Men have innate yang energy; women have innate yin. Yang energy tends to expand outward; it’s active and dispersive. Yin energy embraces receptivity, containment, and concentration. The gender predisposition to problems of Stagnant Liver Qi hinges on men being more yang/fire, and women more yin/ blood. Stagnant Liver Qi, if not corrected, becomes virulent and flares up as Liver Fire in men and as Stagnant Liver Blood in women:

  • Anger > Stagnant Liver Qi + Men > “Liver Fire Rising” = muscle spasm, ulcers, hypertension, heart disease.
  • Anger > Stagnant Liver Qi + Women > “Stagnant Liver Blood” = menstrual disorders, varicose veins, insomnia, anxiety.

While disturbing and potentially dangerous, Stagnant Liver Qi can be effectively treated. Acupuncture and herbal remedies can release obstructions to the flow of Qi and prevent stagnation. Qigong can remedy the condition by gathering fresh Qi and properly circulating it through the body’s energy pathways and storage centers. Meditation will definitely enhance Qi flow, clear the mind of distractions, and nurture the virtue of kindness. Having a self-care practice of qigong and meditation is one of the best ways for you to nurture the great Yang Qi of Spring and benefit from this infusion of vital energy.

Most styles of qigong have three aspects to every exercise: body movement, mental intention, and rhythmic breathing. These three factors have shifting proportions depending on the season. Spring Qigong highlights expansive and robust external body movements. While doing these exercises, be attentive to how your muscles work, take notice of any soreness or restrictions and how that changes with practice, and combine breathing and moving to expel turbid energy from the muscles and boost blood circulation. Put some effort (gong) into Spring Qigong and reap the rewards of smoothly flowing Qi and blood.

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Ron-DavisRonald Davis, DC. LAc. Dipl Acu (NCCAOM) has dedicated thirty years to helping people discover their optimal state of well being based on physical integrity, mental clarity and nutritional support. As a chiropractor, he understands the critical interrelationship of physical form, physiological function and visceral health. As an acupuncturist, he knows that optimal well being depends on the essential flow of vital energy and blood throughout the body/mind. The integration of this knowledge with his extensive practice in medical qigong, meditation, and Chinese medicine has led to the development of a series of classes called “Qigong Through The Seasons” which is a comprehensive program of qigong, meditation and dietary guidelines that allows one to be healthy all year long.  Dr. Davis is the creator of the popular CD, Guided Meditations For Summer, and is the author of the forthcoming book, Qigong Through the Seasons. thehealthmovement.com

Irini Rockwell Discusses the Five Wisdoms (Audio/Video)

 

Some situations bring out the best of who we are; in others we can’t get out of our own way.  In this interview, Irini Rockwell discusses the Five Wisdoms, an ancient Buddhist system of personalities which yields enormous insight into our patterns of behavior, emotions, and relationships.  She has been studying and teaching the Five Wisdoms for over three decades.

Watch our interview with Irini below, or scroll down to stream/download the audio.

If you’d like to download the audio file, click here and find the “Download” button. Otherwise, you can stream the audio below.

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Irini RockwellIrini Rockwell is the Director, Founder and Principal Trainer of the Five Wisdoms Institute and Wisdoms@Work. She is a professional development trainer for organizational leaders, health caregivers, educators, artists, and individuals and author of Natural Brilliance: A Buddhist System for Uncovering Your Strengths and Letting Them Shine and The Five Wisdom Energies: A Buddhist Way of Understanding Personalities, Emotions and Relationships. Irini has served as a faculty member at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado for ten years where she earned her Master’s in Contemplative Psychotherapy and a Certificate in Authentic Leadership. She is also a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist community.

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

Facing Death, Finding Joy: A Conversation with Elysabeth Williamson

By Travis Newbill

Elysabeth Williamson will be leading Savasana: Exploring our Death to Liberate our Lives, along with Margery McSweeney, March 13-15, 2015

Elysabeth Williamson says: “To live in moment to moment, day to day relationship with our death is maybe the most powerful practice we can do. Most people don’t want to think or talk about death and dying. And yet, just the willingness to do so, to openly face into it…the result is joy. Isn’t that kind of wild?”

Hear more of what Elysabesth has to say by checking out our recent conversation with her below. Watch the video or scroll down to stream/download the audio.

If you’d like to download the audio file, CLICK HERE and find the “Download” button. Otherwise, you can stream the audio below.

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ElysabethWilliamsonElysabeth Williamson, ERYT-500, is the foremost authority on Principle-Based Partner Yoga, a style she founded and has developed since 1991. She is known for articulating and transmitting esoteric teachings in ways that are accessible and practical for everyone. She is the author of ‘The Pleasures and Principles of Partner Yoga’ and ‘Partner Yoga Touch’ digital video application.

 

Freak Out! Or Not: An Interview with MBSR Teacher Janet Solyntjes

 

Janet Solyntjes will be leading Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, March 6-8, 2015

What does it feel like to FREAK OUT?! Becoming familiar with the early signs is the first step toward avoiding catastrophic fits of stress. Sound good? Learn more by checking out our recent interview with MBSR teacher Janet Solyntjes.

Watch the video or scroll down to stream/download the audio.

If you’d like to download the audio file, CLICK HERE and find the “Download” button. Otherwise, you can stream the audio below.

Also, please see these posts from Janet on our blog:

Janet will also be leading Living the Full Catastrophe: A Day of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Denver, April 4

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JanetSolyntjesJanet Solyntjes, MA, is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition and Adjunct Professor at Naropa University. A practitioner of mind-body disciplines since 1977, she completed a professional training in MBSR with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli and an MBSR Teacher Development Intensive at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Janet leads mindfulness retreats in the U.S. and internationally and is co-founder of the Boulder-based Center for Courageous Living.

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

Do we have too much on our plates? How to taste every bite…

 

Good morning,

To those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving last week, I hope that it was warm and nourishing. And to everyone, regardless of what you did last week, I hope that your plates are full today — but not too full — and that you’re enjoying every bite.

Does that seem like a tall order?

In an age when we often have too much on our plates, and yet are hungry for real nourishment, the aspiration expressed above may be much easier to say than to accomplish. It is for me.

In the video I’d like to share today, I ask Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teacher Janet Solyntjes about this conundrum, as well as about a particular, personal style of becoming stressed out. I find her responses to be very helpful, and I think that you may also.

Watch the three minute below: MBSR: Too Much on Your Plate?

If you’d like to watch the full interview, or stream/download the audio, click here:
Freak Out! Or Not: An Interview with MBSR Teacher Janet Solyntjes

And, if you feel inspired to deepen into the profound practices of MBSR, please join us for the upcoming retreat that Janet will be leading: Introduction to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, March 6-8, 2015.

I hope that these teachings add a flavor of awakenment to your day, and that you’ll forgive me if I’ve piled on the food metaphors too high in this email.

Best wishes from the mountain,
Travis Newbill

P.S. Here’s a nice photo of a family of deer spotted on the land recently, taken by community member Lauretta Prevost.

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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