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


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. 


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