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

~~~

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: Blissful Who-Knows-What (HUM HUM HUM)

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.

Greeting my smile at the bottom of the ocean, therefore unconcerned with flotation or undertow.  Wakeful waves — only the chatter of the depths.

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Friday evening — Feast celebration for Trungpa Rinpoche‘s Parinirvana.  Sadhana of Mahamudra.  In the middle of the triple HUM recitation — the space of rainbow magic manifest — the Sakyong and the choir of Acharyas, appeared.  We created an isle, parted the sea.  Rinpoche came in and prostrated three times to the large Buddha, which contains his father‘s skull relic, and a picture of the Vidyadhara on the shrine along with many offerings.

He gazed at the picture, whispered blessings, and tossed a khata into the seated Buddha’s opened palm (perfect shot).

He offered amrita from a skull cup to each one of us.  Then, out front, he said some words about the preciousness of us all being gathered at the Great Stupa for this occasion.  Then, we sang the Anthem and circumambulated.

I circumambulated behind Pema.

Then, back into the Stupa and resumed the feast:

HUM HUM HUM

After the feast, chants, and a video of Trungpa Rinpoche giving a talk at Naropa in 1976. Then, old-timers shared stories.

~~~

Saturday, a day of catching up with Heather. Since the move it’s been so scattered. Lots of time together. Felt great, healthy.  Anyway…

~~~
Sunday morning, a talk from the Sakyong to the staff.  Beautiful.

In the evening, dinner in the shrine room, because we’re re-painting our dining hall.  Joshua and Greg (old dogs) telling us about consorts and yabyum deities (because we asked like curious children).  Mystical things in a fun tone.

~~~

Being around the Sakyong and Acharyas… Feels warm, big.  Glad to be a part of it.  Yesterday, before Rinpoche left the land, I was speaking with Acharya Lobel.  He expressed to me what a powerful retreat it was for all of them.  That they were grateful for the staff holding the space so well, and that, inside, they were blown away by the teachings.

It’s great to hear that.  I’m glad to be contributing.  And, hearing reports of what’s going on “inside” keeps me brimming with curiosity and longing.

It’s fun.  It’s an adventure.  How to get to the next point?  Clues and questions.  Magical encounters.  Synchronicity…

So much synchronicity while they were all here.  Like, whatever was going on in that shrine room was affecting everything else.  The waves extending and stirring things into blissful who-knows-what.  Music.

– April 7, 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: This Time…

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 walked along a dirt trail, beside Rinpoche, holding a white umbrella over his head to shield him from the sun.

A feeling of cosmic friendship, preciousness, gratitude.

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Earlier in the morning I held a tray for him while he made tea offerings, after returning from his morning run, still catching his breath and sweating.

The core teachers of the Shambhala Buddhist mandala are here: The Sakyong, Ani Pema, the Acharyas, the Kalapa Council.  It’s powerful, enchanting.

The teachings that are occurring here these days are new.  There is a sense of quiet explosiveness.  It’s tangible.  There is a glow.

After one teaching session yesterday, the Sakyong ran joyfully from the shrine hall back to his quarters, his escorts had to keep up.

It’s awesome to be here for this.

A couple of years ago, my first week at Shambhala Mountain Center, the annual Acharya retreat was happening.  I was mystified.  So beautiful.  The first time I saw Rinpoche, he was being escorted down the stairs by someone holding a white umbrella.

Now, the wheel has turned a couple of times, and I’m holding the umbrella.  Where will I end up, and up, as the wheel turns and turns?  How long will I be on the planet before I die?

I like the direction things are going.  I hope to live a long life to allow for more and more blossoming.

And of course… this is it.  Maybe I will live long enough to become a close student of Rinpoche, perhaps I will be an Acharya.  Or, maybe I will die sooner than that.  Today, I am in a very fortunate position.  My dedication to the dharma has brought me here.  I wish to honor that and not let my dedication wane.  I wish to offer more and more, to become more and more sane and helpful to others, and to generally delve deeper and wholeheartedly into the dharma.

May I relate to all the flickering conditions of my life as dharmas, and know the entirety of my life to be the path of awakenment.  May I not take my good fortune for granted.  May I not seek refuge from fear and discomfort in conditional situations, but rather, take genuine refuge in the three jewels, again and again.

~~~

“This time, practice the main points”

“‘This time’ refers to this lifetime. You have wasted many lives in the past, and in the future you may not have the opportunity to practice. But now, as a human being who has heard the dharma, you do. So without wasting any more time, you should practice the main points.” — Vidyadhara, the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

 – April 3, 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: My Lil’ Spot and the Ongoing Miracle

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 womb of Avalokitesvara, a vast secret silence, springtime in the Void…” –Jack Kerouac

Drawn like a sketch, watercolor, drawn by a star–across the meadow, into a spot in the valley –feels like home.  I’m in my spot.  I am that spot.  That spot is my spot.  There is no better spot for me.

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After four months in the cushy (oh so cushy!) lodge, we’ve moved back out into the woods, into our little cabins and trailers.  I’m so glad for it.  I’d been becoming a bit attached to lodge living–a bit lazy, a bit like vacation.

Now, getting back into my groovy little cabin last night, right near the Stupa, felt so good.  After being in there for a few minutes it started to overwhelm me.  It was like connecting with an old friend.  I’ve never felt more at home in any spot on this planet than I do in my little cabin on the hill, which Trungpa Rinpoche named Avalokiteshvara.

I glowed for a while.  Heather was up on the loft in the bed, enjoying my giddiness–deep giddiness.  I lit my incense and hugged the house with my energy. Ya, ya, ya… Ahh.

So glad.

And… Heather was now in my house, which was so surreal.  It’s been such a solitary, mystic, artist thing up there.  Now, she has manifested like a dream.  Before she arrived at SMC,  I sang about her in that house, her art was on the walls. Now she’s here.  Beautiful girl in my little house.  Little honey blessing.

Before we turned out the little solar-powered lantern to go to sleep, the little book on my milk-crate night-stand was calling me: The Scripture of the Golden Eternity.  My brother gave me his well-worn copy a few years back.  It’s a special book–beat-dharma from Brady.  So, the little book was calling me and I felt like there was something nice in there for the moment.  Here’s the passage that I opened up to, by chance/karma:

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The words “atoms of dust” and “the great universes” are only words. The idea that they imply is only an idea. The belief that we live here in this existence, divided into various beings, passing food in and out of ourselves, and casting off husks of bodies one after another with no cessation and no definite or particular discrimination, is only an idea. The seat of our Immortal Intelligence can be seen in that beating light between the eyes the Wisdom Eye of the ancients: we know what we’re doing: we’re not disturbed: because we’re like the golden eternity pretending at playing the magic cardgame and making believe it’s real, it’s a big dream, a joyous ecstasy of words and ideas and flesh, an ethereal flower unfolding a folding back, a movie, an exuberant bunch of lines bounding emptiness, the womb of Avalokitesvara, a vast secret silence, springtime in the Void, happy young gods talking and drinking on a cloud. Our 32,000 chillicosms bear all the marks of excellence. Blind milky light fills our night; and the morning is crystal.

This morning I woke up at 5, walked down to the outhouse singing, just like I used to (my body remembered just what to do).  I kissed Heather good-morning, made a lil’ pot of pu-erh, lit my incense and offered water on my little shrine, lit the candle, did my little lujong routine, sang a bit and then out the door to breakfast.  Feels like falling right back into the grooviest groove I’ve known in my life.  Said good-morning to my neighbor: The Great Stupa.

Mojo, mojo, mojo.  Wishing that beneficial songs, truths and beauties may come forth in this new/familiar arrangement.

May all beings know good mojo, good houses. May all beings recognize the ongoing miracle.

–March 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: So Many Ways to Be

 

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.

So many ways to be. More ways to be than I allow myself to imagine, let alone embody.

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My first time in Kasung uniform Friday night–like sticking my finger into a electric socket. I’ve worn some crazy things for the sake of art and exploration. The Kasung uniform shook my core–identity–as much as any outfit ever has.

Wearing a wedding dress is less of a big deal, because that’s just me being weird. Painting my fingernails (which I did (Heather did) earlier in the day) is also less… Well, it’s a similar sort of thing.

I like subverting norms and expectations–my own and those that others hold. I especially like playfully subverting gender norms

Wearing the Kasung uniform is extra edgy because it carries heavier connotations: I’m part of something, I have a role within a larger organization, which appears to be a very strange thing.

A sense of surrendering. I’m learning that it’s usually good to throw myself over the edge in order to expand– expand my comfort zone so that I may accommodate more feelings, be more relaxed in more situations: enjoy the whole ride more. And, being slightly less freaked out than other people is maybe the best way I know of to be helpful.

So, Kasungship is a practice of expanding my comfort zone and embodying a particular energy with the intention of helping others.

Kasung is protector. Protect what? Protect the teachings, the teachers, the community–the things that I actually care about most in this life. And, yet…uneasiness about the whole thing.

Trungpa Rinpoche created this form which is meant to provide protection, and in the process, provides an opportunity for those doing the practice to experience all sorts of hang-ups that they have about identity… and all sort of stuff.

Kasungship may be the most outrageous and multi-dimensional teaching that I have ever encountered, and I’ve only had a taste thus far.

It’s huge. I feel like a galaxy has exploded into existence in my body. I’m only beginning to process it. I wish to be able to articulate the brilliance and humor of this Kasung thing in the not too distant future.

It is a deadly serious joke. An amazing gift from Rinpoche.

–February 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: Renunciation/Blossom

 

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.

Wet behind the ear, mind-flower shedding petals and onto my shoulder, cool
petals, living still, still connected to earth. Petals from the flower-song, becoming smaller. And not separate from fresh blossoms.

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Valentine’s Day–We handed out flowers from the previous night’s Ikebana class and the haikus that Heather, Tara and I made for all the members of the community. We invaded lunch-time with glittery wishes and cheer. People seemed to enjoy it.

Just before lunch a group of staff gathered at the Stupa to film a Shambhala Day greeting from SMC. Nice weather, cheerfulness…

A super-love day between and Heather and I and… and this is really key for me… it seemed like that situation was connected to a larger one. Like… romantic love and communal love feeding one another. That’s how we both experienced it. I hope it’s true.

Yesterday, in the sweat lodge, I prayed that I not become too addicted to pleasure and comfort.

I am here to help others.

Got that? (speaking to myself)

Every morning I say to myself in the mirror:

It’s not about me. It’s not about me. It’s not about me.

I was given the Buddhist refuge name:

Ngejung Tachok

which means

Renunciation Steed

What is there to renounce? Trungpa Rinpoche says: “What the warrior renounces is anything in his experience that is a barrier between himself and others. In other words, renunciation is making yourself more available, more gentle and open to others.”

So, if I begin using a situation, a person, a drug, whatever, to hide out–that has to go. Maybe not the person or the situation, but that way of engaging…indulging.

Trungpa also says:

“You can make a distinction: you can discriminate between indulging and appreciating”

I’ve avoided intimate relationships for a while because I was scared of getting so sucked-in that I wouldn’t be able to feel or connect with the rest of the world.

That’s something I’m trying to be aware of this time around. It can’t turn into a mush-fest. Susan Piver says: “Love without mindfulness is goo.” Right.

With that said, Valentine’s Day was very sweet and romantic, and more creative and joyous than gooey. Good.

–February 17, 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: Playful Culture

 

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 was the first in a series of classes on Shambhala Culture and Decorum. Various experienced teachers will be leading these classes for us, the community. The question is: What is enlightened culture and how may we manifest that together here at Shambhala Mountain Center?

The first question posed last night was: What is culture?

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The class included an engaging discussion around these questions and a hilarious and educational group exercise in which we wrapped gifts for Greg Smith. The point of the exercise was to explore the difference between a speedy, accomplishment-oriented approach to living and a more organic, appreciative one. Many of us felt that our broader national culture is based on the former, which is very masculine, and that we are interested in creating a more feminine, playful, caring culture at SMC and throughout the wider world.

~~~

I say: We’re always creating culture and culture is always creating us.

~~~

Melanie Klien was leading the course. She suggested that we look at culture in terms of body, speech, and mind (very Buddhist). If a rock is body, then a house made of rocks is speech. If a tree is body, than a toothpick is speech. Culture is speech. It’s an expression, communication. Something made out of pre-existing form which can be experienced. Maybe experienced by more than one of us people-bodies at the same time.

Melanie says: Meditation is culture, enlightenment is not.

Cultures have norms. So, we want… I want… a culture of friendliness, kindness, playfulness, creativity… Good stuff.

Anyway…

After the class, a bizarre conversation about My Little Pony–I didn’t have much to contribute besides my bewilderment. Jason and Heather are both crazy about this cartoon. It was high energy cheer-weirdness.

Afterwards, Heather and I standing in the hallway feeling weird. She grinned. I turned around and down the hallway Jason was sitting in a chair staring at us. We all immediately clicked into some group performance art mode and began taking strange postures, making strange gestures. The stranger the better. The stranger the stranger.

Upside down, tickling, stuffed pony entered the scene, in and out of doorways, rolling on the floor. Over the course of the performance/play various people came through and contributed. It felt so weird and great!

At the end, I was on my back. Jason jumped in and out of his room. He appeared above me dancing with some sort of chakra tuning device. It vibrates at the frequency of OM. he tuned me up real nice and we all hugged and ended the session.

One big point that came up in the discussion in class is Trungpa Rinpoche’s idea of “combining survival and celebration.” Some of us feel that there could be more celebration here. Surviving is a task–we live in a pretty rugged situation. But, what a joyous situation! And so we’d like to play more, cheer more, enjoy more together.

This hallway bizarreness was a nice bit of spontaneous celebration. We occupied the public space of the hallway in the name of play. Good.

This is the stuff of creating culture.

I brought my guitar into bed with Heather and sang a bit: a Bob Marley tune, in honor of his birthday, and a Phish tune, in honor of…I love Phish. Finally, in an act of combining survival and celebration, last night included cold-weather-cuddling and enough sleep (a notable achievement, somehow). Good!

–February 7, 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: Stew in Space, and…How to Rule?

 

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.

Clapping muscles. Fangs into popsicle–shock like a bell, breastbone. Dirt in mid air–my dirt, your dirt, our dirt. Tears, mud. How else would we know this stuff but to care enough to tumble together?

~~~

President Reoch leading a fireside chat.

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Everything that happens here, happens in a big way. Little things happen in big ways. It can be like throwing a dart at a barn, or being bit by a pterodactyl (rather than a mosquito).

Last weekend, President Reoch lead The Six Ways of Ruling. Amazing teacher, amazing teachings on leadership from the Shambhala tradition. To begin with–leading one’s life. My life is like a stew and I don’t feel like I’m holding the bowl or spoon. I may be the steam rising off the top, or a slice of potato. It’s a rich stew–dharma practice, romance, work, and a legitimate position of leadership within our little society.

I am trying to organize all of this stew-stuff so that it can all reside in the bowl nicely. I want folks to be able to dunk a spoon in and delight in it. What am I talking about?

I’m talking about a super rich and full life and feeling a bit off balance and not in control. It’s all good stuff. But it’s a LOT of good stuff. And I’m afraid that my neighbor’s knee is going to bump the table and hot stew is going to scold my crotch.

Be grateful to everyone.

Dharma–saving grace.

If my neighbor does so, I will (try to) blame myself and be thankful for the way the lava-like-stuff of my life becomes impossible to ignore, thus rousing me from my comfortable slumber.

My uncle, The Captain, says “If you ever get your shit together, you’ll then have a big pile
of shit.”

Steamy.

Trungpa Rinpoche says:

“Groundlessness is your protection.”

It’s difficult to keep track of all that is splashing around. Maybe trying to do so is the root of insanity. Stew is chaotic. Stew is good. Stew is nutritious.

I’m feeling bewildered and I trust what is happening. Versions of myself are being gobbled up by gentle breezes which I am referring to as gale force winds.

–February 4, 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: Thank You, Catfish

 

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.

They’ll gallop beyond their bodies…
Bones in a meadow, scattered,
vultures have eaten well.

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The above picture was drawn by Catfish, who was visiting for the weekend. He also gave me a 200 year old Japanese tea pot. It spent about 100 years in the mud by a river, I’m told. Wow…

~~~

A refreshingly warm morning, walk to the Stupa, pausing, gazing at a big sky, all was so quiet.

“Open your territory completely, let go of everything.” –CTR

Contemplating the suffering in the world and giving away all delight–the glow deepened. Everything so rich, cool, fresh. A long, beautiful practice session in the Stupa.

Afternoon spent in conversation. Too much talking. Another hour on the cushion before dinner, then Joni Mitchell in the headphones for a while, and then some time with Heather. She was at a restaurant earlier and brought me a picture that she colored. She asked me to add some words.

We were talking a bit about Shambhala, and about being a lil’ pair of adventurous art-flowers, spreading seeds. I say: May wild-art blossom all over the place.

I’ve borrowed this phrase from one of my key teachers:

“Occupy Shambhala”

~~~

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: Magic of Many Varieties

 

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.

Fire-hose full of Kool-Aid
blasting tranquility and simplicity into a bouquet of happy madness–
landing on a bed with
plush animals–hearing a bedtime story
Wake up to blood-orange sky, late in the morning
crushed ideas becoming sunsets, watching, surrendered to larger-than-my-thoughts
ART

On a flesh canvass, a wink at my foolishness. A wink of understanding between fools–friendship.

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Heather and I seeing each other through binoculars in the Stupa after community practice of the Sadhana of Mahamudra, which Trungpa Rinpoche received in a cave in Bhutan and offered to contemporary world even though/because it’s crazy and blows brains and delusion into indestructible magic-music.

Gathered in the Stupa–friends become vapor-dharma-heat. Full moon above.

Later, sake with Mr. Cushman and a few fellows–discussion of SMC adventure (that’s my attitude).

I jumped out of the conversation in order to make my 9:30 lullaby date. Afterwards, I laid awake for a bit, sake in belly, rumbling.

This morning I woke up and saw a note which had been slid beneath my door:

“Thank you for being open and available for magic of many varieties.”

~~~

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.