Floral Notes and Bardo: Magnanimity, Bhanu, and the Back Nine


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.

So sleepy this morning, both of us, and Heather said:

“It’s cute that we have temples, huh? Like, my body is a temple, and my temple is a temple… And my temple is my body!”

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At breakfast, Director Gayner — who is in the midst of high-level Shambhala leadership retreat — in which they practice for 20 hours a day — approached Heather and I with a big grin.

“Ahh! Just the two that I was hoping to see.  This is very auspicious.”

We nodded, and he went on:

“Magnanimity!  Do you know this word?”

He’d like for us to come up with a calligraphed presentation of this word along with its definition from the 1812 Oxford English Dictionary (or something like that) as a gift for Richard Reoch, who is leading the retreat.

We gladly agreed.

~~~

I woke up this morning early and a bit jumpy.  Jumbled dreams, especially in the morning.  I’ve been restless at work all week, wishing I were able to do something else.  In particular, spend time exploring poetry, experimental prose, theory, and things in the writing world that I don’t understand.  I have a wish to attend grad school for this sort of thing when I leave SMC.  The idea is inspired by a long inclination towards writing, a connection with Allen Ginsberg, who is connected to Trungpa, who founded the school I want to attend, and all of that.  And, a very magical meeting with Bhanu Kapil, who is a major teacher at the university.  I’ve probably written about that before and will write about it again…

This blog began on the way down from Marpa Point, after I had led Bhanu into the charnel ground and then up to Ginsberg’s memorial reliquary in the Milarepa Poetry Garden.  She encouraged me to write a blog, and sang joyfully about how our meeting signified the re-connection of Shambhala Mountain Center and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

Lately, that’s what I’m thinking about most — Bhanu, the word, and the school.

Meanwhile, I have a job to do here, which is feeling more like a job than it used to now that I have the taste of fine arts and academia in my mind.

Next week I will be going into solitary retreat.  I’m now half way through my stay at SMC, feeling my way into the back 9.

Just now, Heather spoke to me from the ground, up through our second story window.  She told me that I am being summoned to give a Stupa tour to a high school class on a field trip.  So, I will do that now.

— March 12, 2015

~~~

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: Burnt on Government

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.

Within a dense tangle — stop, drop, and sing.

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Recently, Harvest of Peace community celebration, welcoming the autumn. The marketing department buzzing at a high frequency, like an exploding galaxy, bringing our big project into being — Awake in the World.

My community work has been more demanding than ever, as a group of us has been meeting to create the Shambhala Mountain Center values statement.  Along with Care Council, Community Council, and the rest of Delek System work.

I’ve been maxed out.

And so, a shift…

Now… each week (beginning last week) I’ll be doing an Ikebana arrangement on Friday morning, and on Friday afternoon, I’ll be going up to work at the Stupa for three hours.

This week I’ll be stepping down as Head Dekyong and will be beginning Teacher Training with Greg Smith.

Last night I spent an hour and a half playing music.  Ahh…

I’ve been involved in all sorts of things and not so much in the basic things that bring me joy: Art, Stupa, Dharma.

I know, I know, it’s all art and it’s all dharma.  But, at this stage in my being alive, it feels so good to do Ikebana, play music, and directly work with… Buddhism.  That’s my stuff.

I’m burnt on government.  I’ve been not-so-joyful recently.

Acharya told me:

“All bodhisattvas must be joyful.”

Bhanu told me:

“Be your music self up here.”

Something is shifting and I feel like I’m discovering a new way of being a member of the community, which is actually the way I used to be, but wasn’t sure of its value.  I thought I had to take on esteemed positions, or more formal leadership roles, more formal service roles.  Now, I’m feeling my way into joyful service.  I’m feeling my way into being myself, very simply.

— September 29, 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.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Musical Self, Peachy

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.

Heavy clouds, a bit of rain — like sitting on a bench and reading dharma.  Then, cooler and calm.

~~~

I like to sit in this chair, in “my” “front yard” (yurt yard).

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I felt so dense yesterday, edgy.  Almost vicious.  Critical.  Arrogant.  Even with reminders all around me that gentleness is the way… how to shift?  Finally before dinner, I walked into the Japanese garden behind Sacred Studies Hall and read some teachings — reminder.  The result was that I felt less vicious.

The world became almost entertaining.  Non-threatening.  I’ve noticed myself comparing myself to others recently, and feeling less-together, less-clean, less-vibrant.

I sat down at the dinner table and Heather asked:

“How’s your head?”

“Stuffy.”

“How’s your heart?”

“…”

“How’s your heart?”

“…soft.”

“Like a marshmallow?”

“Like a peach.”

And Kate, across the table, had a peach on her fork.

“You’re about to eat Travis’ heart,” said Heather.

She paused.

“Bon appetite,” I said.

Kaleigh, Eric, Heather and I went up to Dhyana (K&E’s cabin) for the evening.  We sat in the living room and had tea and Japanese sweets that Kaleigh picked up in town.  A nice, civilized and hilarious scene.  I get a wild kick out of all of those characters and how they interact, how we interact.  I seemed to be the quickest to crack up, fall out of character.

Maybe feeling so dumb and exhausted after the day of mental rage that all I could do was observe and enjoy.

After tea and snacks Eric and I went out on the porch — damp, dark, moist mellow night, and played music.  Eric on the cello and myself on the guitar.  Improvisational, expressive… It was such a joy, and nourishing.  I’ve been missing artistic engagement.

Bhanu advised me (long ago now, when I had just arrived): “Be your musical self up here.”

— June 24, 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: Howdy/Vanishing

 

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.

Snowflakes
vanish from palms
in a soft flash.

Thus have I heard:

Once, Trungpa Rinpoche asked William S. Burroughs:

“Why do you write?”

Burroughs:

“You’ve got to do something.”

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Yesterday, as planned, I spent most of the day practicing meditation to give some room to the explosions occurring in my chest and brain–
Sparkle bombs.
Love bombs.
Confusion in confetti form and twinkles of smile-inspiration.

Lots happening these days.

Moments ago, at lunch, Z (my teacher) said:

“You look more excited than afraid. That’s a good sign.”

He also said:

“You’re a surfer.”

That’s true. I grew up surfing mediocre waves in Florida. Now I live at Shambhala Mountain Center. The waves here are not mediocre.

~~~

A couple of introductory notes (written in pencil on confetti):

I started a blog back in November after taking a writing program here at Shambhala Mountain Center with Bhanu Kapil–a Naropa professor who is clairvoyant and lovely in all sorts of ways. She encouraged me to do it as a way to express myself, practice writing, and share with people what must be a rather interesting experience–living here.

Here: If I may say so–as many others have throughout the decades–Shambhala Mountain is a powerful-sacred-organism. I find the experience of residing here–as a lil’ part of it–to be incredible, and I love telling stories about it.

Recently, Director Gayner (who is also lovely as well as regal, and so on) offered an idea:

He felt it would be cool for someone from our staff/community to write a daily bit about
what it’s like to live/work/exist here.

!!! !!! !!!

I gladly volunteered!

The opportunity to do this as a daily part of my adventure/life on the mountain has me giddy and grateful. I’m amazed and un-surprised. This is the latest in a series of doors to swing open–revealing perks, lessons, gifts; prickly, sparkly, blunt…

Anyway, this is not the first installment. This is the part of the concert where, a few songs in, the dude steps to the mic and says:

“Hi. It’s great to be here.”

Thanks for listening. More to come.

May this activity offer a glimpse into this magical living-situation (living situation).

~~~

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. 

HOW TO BEGIN: Some notes upon arrival

By Bhanu Kapil

Bhanu Kapil leads Describe a Morning You Woke Without Fear: A Writing Retreat, November 8–10

Bhanu Kapil

Some years ago, in India, I was walking down an ordinary residential street behind my mother’s house – hard-baked pink dust, wilted jasmine flowers underfoot, shimmering blue oblongs (the Himalayas) in the distance. I was very far from home, from Colorado (now my home) and from everything that might function as a kind of psychic or practical ground. Perhaps you have walked down a street like this. Perhaps you have experienced the distance as a quality in your own body. On that day, there was too much space, too many contrasts between the different kinds of colors that the world is composed of in any instant: the pale silver of the sky punctuated by the emerald and scarlet flare of a child’s kite above me dipping and tucking on a roof. Perhaps I am simply describing a kind of homesickness in reverse; the way an immigrant might experience the strangeness of not being “at home” at the instant that they find themselves in the place that they are “from.” Perhaps this happens when you return to Texas or wherever it was your particular geography and history made a bright tangle: before you were born or afterwards. In other words, perhaps you don’t have to go all the way to India to experience a sense of being “unhomed” in an eternal and foreign landscape! I am not sure why I am bringing Texas into this. My dog (Porky) is from Texas; my neighbours are from Texas. I think I am trying to say that the U.S. is composed of vast spaces and that it happens, in a way that resembles India, that a person might find themselves thousands of miles from the place where they began – by nightfall; by twenty, thirty, forty years old.

I have been thinking about writing practice as a way to link myself to the earth, to the vibration of a landscape, the notebook, the time that the writing is happening in.

schizophrene

Schizophrene

Whenever a pen lifts off the page, or a fingertip from the keyboard, there is a way in which – abruptly – one finds oneself in the element of unbounded space again. Is writing, in the simplest set of gestures that it is composed of – space to page to space to text again – a way of generating contact with the ground of one’s life itself? I recall my time in India and how it was writing that returned me to a sense of my own body’s place in all the space that surrounded it – what, in other ways of thinking about the body, is called proprioception. I used to walk to the Shiva temple at the end of the street and tuck myself into a corner, next to the banyan tree tied with so many red threads, hemp lamps flickering as dusk fell in the winter-time, and write: sentence after sentence, in my notebook, until the feeling of not belonging –in a version of India both shattered and shattering – diminished. These fragments became, in part, the source text of my fourth book, a work founded on a history of migration and its trans-generational effects, Schizophrene.

Perhaps here, because – after all – the Shivalik foothills are at the end of the street I am describing — I could say something about pilgrimage, the idea, in India, that a ritual journey reconstitutes the body of the goddess – of all the places where the parts of the goddess’s body, Parvati’s body, fell, after her ritual dismemberment by her father, who was upset – to cut a long story short – that she had fallen in love with as unkempt and wild person as Lord Shiva, with whom she lived on a remote mountain top. The idea here – we are now a very long way from Texas – is that if you visit all the places where Parvati’s fragments lie, you make her whole again. The wholeness resides in you, something evoked by the mantra or song you might recite upon arrival. A way to release the vibration of the fragment – and allow it to circulate once more: in time.

Next week, I am coming to Shambhala Mountain Center to teach a two day writing retreat. I want to practice an attention to cyclical sites and to what unfolds when, at each site – each of the twelve questions we will write into and through – we sing back. We answer. We write.

There is more to say. There is more to desire. To long for. To remember. To attempt. But perhaps I will pause there until it time to begin. To embark upon a journey to the space of the gold Buddha. To the north. Or south. Depending on whether you are coming from Denver or Laramie.

A pilgrimage of another sort.

Will you join me?

Bhanu Kapil leads Describe a Morning You Woke Without Fear: A Writing Retreat, November 8–10. To learn more, click here.