Floral Notes and Bardo: Flowers and Sensei, Awake

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.

Speed like weeds.  Flowers like music.  Pulsating perfection, and busy bodies missing beats.  A million words, a million actions — exhausted bodies wanting to flop…  but far too busy.  A million deaths and missed opportunities, a smile, and one perfect ringing note — the bliss bell.  Soon-enough, tumbleweeds of thinking.  Busy bodies.  But, perhaps more and more often — bell.

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Breathe.  A weekend with Shenpen, Sensei — arranging flowers, slowing down, opening up.  Her being is her teaching.  It’s always that way.  More the wholeness than the spoken instructions.

My emotional state — worked-with through arranging.  And then the arrangement as a mirror.

Heaviness purified through art-form.  The energy, once challenging, now reflected, purified, no more grief about it, rather…  there it is.

Flowers.  Resistance to knowing flowers, revealing ever-floral me — the fragility is too much to bear.  Always so tender and never-lasting.  Afraid to say goodbye…  and, thus, afraid to say hello.

So…  dropping all of that and being simple.  I wish to be more relaxed — not in a floppy way, but in an open way.  I wish to do my work, but without all the tension and goal-orientedness.  I believe it works better that way.

What good is scatter-brained accomplishment?  What power is there in that?  Instead, one simple, perfectly timed bell.

One after another.

After the weekend program concluded, Sunday with lunch, I went to my house and napped.  Then, awoke and cleaned, and arranged, my space.  Sensei said that Ikebana is a dangerous contemplative art, because it will change your life.

I see the way environment affects mental and emotional states — and vice versa.  It felt amazing, uplifting, to be in my space after it had been cleaned and arranged.

The world is always communicating.  We are always communicating…  What is the message?  Heart, care, awake, play, not-so-serious.  We’re expressing always.  Artwork — changes the world, changes minds.

The whole way through.  Friday afternoon, I felt like I wanted to nap for three days.  I was so burnt from the work week — so much activity.  So much obligation.  So much hope and fear.  Instead of curling into a ball, I engaged in artwork.  It purified my state.  And the result was more beauty in the world.  The whole process was helpful and beautiful on many levels.

Grateful.  Grateful for the reminder.  For the immersion.  Grateful to have been in space with Sensei.  Her floral radiance.  Her heavenly wisdom and strong hands, delicate touch.  Glad to know my world to be a living arrangement.  Sensei, smile.  Oh, virtue of whimsy.  May I not become too busy.  Sensei, awake.  Pause.  Awake.

– April 21, 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. 

Ikebana: The Contemplative Art of Flowers

By Alexandra Shenpen, Sensei and Travis Newbill

Shenpen, Sensei will be guiding Ikebana/Kado: The Contemplative Art and Way of Flowers, April 18-20, 2014

Alexandra Shenpen

Alexandra Shenpen

Ikebana is more than just flower arranging. Rather, it is a practice through which we explore nature & life,  the relationship between heaven, earth, humanity and personal artistic process — whether we feel we are artistic or not!  We begin by learning traditional, harmonic forms. Engaging with Ikebana as a contemplative practice awakens the unconditional beauty of  our world,  inspiring a way of living.

Below are some words from our wonderful teacher, Alexandra Shenpen, Sensei and some images of arrangements created by introductory students.

On structure and improvisation:
“Forms tame us, helping us to wear-out our artistic ego, so that what comes through is fresh and awake, an expression of  what’s already there — both in ourselves and in nature.  This is a wonderful ground for later improvisation.   In other words, structure provides a language of flowers — and from that language, not only can the poetry of botanical materials communicate more vividly, but one can begin to play.  Ultimately, the plants speak for themselves, if we understand their presence in space.”

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“Ikebana, as a non-verbal art form, allows us to let go of  thoughts and judgments that can cloud the way we see the world.  By  really looking at a branch, a twig, a flower, we can discover how to look , that we  might truly see, and fully appreciate what’s there.  The flowers and branches find their own place harmoniously.  When we begin to taste that  experience, isness–things as they are–renews our real heart.  Ultimately, when we are experiencing the vivid inseparability of form and emptiness, we feel very alive,  in touch with ourselves and phenomena.  It quite goes beyond words.  Art  embodying that is very helpful to have in the world.”

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Flower as guest:
“Human beings have a universal soft spot for plant life, for the beauty of nature. Just holding or looking at a flower touches that soft spot. Once flower or branch has been cut, it is no longer being sustained by its own way of growing. It is in our care. Being considerate of the flower’s needs comes naturally when our soft spot is open.”

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“Every Choice is an Artistic Choice” — Ernie Porps/Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
“Ikebana can be a positively dangerous contemplative art ——     it can change your life! It becomes harder to not notice. Our natural instinct is to be awake and care for our world  –  noticing,  appreciating, and engaging aesthetically. How we get dressed, or how the dishes go in the dish rack — becomes more of an ongoing creative  process, rather than just something to put up with.”

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“Ikebana/Kado honours the sense of above, below, and in between- – -  below is not lesser than above and above is not greater than below, and in between is not “not as good as” or “better than” something else. Those are human neuroses which are rampant in the world and in ourselves. Some liberation from that takes place when we create a living piece.   We come to recognize that each element has its own place, creating a harmonious whole.    This really interrupts our conventional way of thinking about things.”

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Finally, a testimonial from David, a student of Shenpen, Sensei:

“Whether to choose this blossom, or that branch has been an absolutely safe place to be daring. The most dreadful consequence has been total collapse (of my flower arrangement) – something I have found I can live with! After a year I am beginning to bring this development of felt-sense into my larger world. I find it easier to move with confidence and trust myself. Who would have ever thought that arranging flowers could have such potential for informing my life? The fresh perky blooms are rubbing off!”

Alexandra Shenpen, Sensei will be leading Ikebana/Kado: The Contemplative Art & Way of Flowers, April 18-20, 2014. To learn more, CLICK HERE

Floral Notes and Bardo: Go Slow and Be Gentle

 

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.

Spotlight dimmed and revealing that the dancer is just one of us, one of us everyday dancers
hit with a spotlight–soft spotlight, which makes any motion, voice or gesture art
A R T
The toweling off of my body in the morning after shower, after having walked from my bed to the
shower without thoughts.
Holding the cup of tea, gently, until it cools a bit, so my tongue does not get burned.
art.
Not yapping like a dog.

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This morning–tea with Sensei. Precious Alexendra Shenpen, who is so gentle and luminous. A master in the Way of Flowers–Kado. My breastplate vanishing, my eyes full and heavy–aglow, while she spoke. Last night she taught us, the community–the second in a series of classes that she is generously offering. We learned about harmonic forms–the interplay between heaven, earth, and humanity as expressed in flower arrangements.

A small bud is as important as a large, sweeping-line branch. The bud activates the power of the branch. Small may be grand. Grand may be small.

Some of the best advice I have ever gotten was from my friend Todd, who is a master in the Way of Todd-o:

“Go slow and be gentle, you’re exactly where you need to be.”

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AS IT IS
FLORAL; ELEGANT; SEE

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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.