Floral Notes and Bardo: Systems Made of Sand (delek rap #1)

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.

We’re working really hard to establish systems…

I’m always working so hard to establish systems.  And, they’re like castles made of sand.

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We’re working so hard to establish systems to…  We would like for people to be cared for.  We would like for people to be heard.  We would like for this to be an interactive experience.  We do not want top-down authoritative leadership.  We would like for information to flow, for there to be no blockages or gaps.  That is the power.

Who is “we”?

I

I would like for people to be familiar with the channels for communication.  I would like for them to know that they have the power to initiate change.

They?

I know that I do.  I want everyone else in the community to know that they do also, regardless of their position within the community, their various titles, and so forth.

The delek system is a means for communication to flow and for transformative action to be initiated… (to be continued)

– April 16, 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. 

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Held

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.

On Saturday, walking around, warm and sunny, dirt and grass beneath our boots, Heather and I saw four different types of wildflowers.  That night, about a foot of snow fell.  So, we woke up in a different world.  Huge fluffy puffs of snow on the pines.  Bare aspen branches, twisting and artistic against — sky backdrop, also carrying loads of fresh white snow.

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And, Heather had become sick with an infection.  Living up in the mountains without a car, we felt a bit worried and helpless.  At breakfast we saw John Ohm, who is Desung — harmony protector.  He’s been up here for twenty-something years and is a guardian.  Heather told him she needed to go to the doctor.  I’d never driven in the snow before, and there was lots of snow.  So, the situation wasn’t apparently easy.  Yet, within twenty minutes, our friend Mike volunteered (over the walkie-talkie) to drive us an hour into town so that Heather could get fixed-up.

It turned out to be a pretty fun field trip.  We stopped at a donut shop before the doctor’s office. Throughout the day, I really enjoyed spending time with Mike, who has been up here for a while but will be leaving soon.  In the waiting room, we discussed dharma, and later, how strange it is that Wombats poo cubes and stash their babies in disguising back-facing pouches just below their anuses.

We stopped for sandwiches and made it back up to the land late in the afternoon.  Heather and I enjoyed her warm bedroom and the heavy snow everywhere, listening to music in bed.  Her roommate Oakes came in and brought her gifts of small glass prisms to hang in her east-facing window so that rainbows may shoot into her room when the sun rises in the morning, then he offered a ride to dinner.

We didn’t walk in the deep snow at all, all day long. Annabelle, Heather’s other roommate, had given us a ride down to breakfast in the morning, and, after dinner, Joshua offered a ride back up.

The whole day was this touching display of community-family care and generosity.  We felt so held.  The only way that we can sustain living on this mountain together, in the middle of nowhere, is if we take care of each other.  And, we do.  I knew that already, but Sunday’s experience has brought another level of appreciation.  We walk the walk (or, give each other rides so that we don’t have to).

Before going to sleep, outside Heather’s room, which is in a forest, the moon was nearly full.  Thick snow everywhere, soft blue glow.  Quiet and still.  Inside the window, her room, candles flickering.  Warm.  The two environments, so complimentary.  So glad for both.  Baffled by my good fortune.  We listened to a bit of music and slept soundly.  Clear blue sky this morning, white snow.  White and blue.  Magic, magic.

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Today is Heather’s fake birthday.  We listened to an Aphex Twin song before getting out of bed — according to tradition — titled “Avril 14.”  She invented a fake birthday for herself some years ago.  I can’t remember why, but I like it.  Happy fake birthday, Heather-honey.

– April 14, 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. 

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Knowing (Not Knowing)

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.

Private appreciation for mystery — not exactly private, but not easily shared.  I can’t tell you.

Slipping from a rock, so, trusting air to not grip my skin and for earth to bruise me nice.

~~~

Heather doing chores:

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I was thanked just now by a teacher for what I do in the community.  He attributed it to my connection to practice, to the dharma, to the lineage.  I told him (he already knew):

“I appreciate that connection.  It’s there.  And, it’s very mysterious.  So, everything that I do here is very natural.”

It’s quite huge to be experimenting, playing with, forms such as social structures.  It’s not about being reckless and pushing people around, but with the sincere wish for harmony, I am jamming, making statements of all sorts, all the time.  In this closely interconnected situation, it’s easy to see karmic effects rippling outwards, and feedback coming around, back through.  Everything that everyone does influences the shapes, tones, colors.  Some statements are bigger, some more subtle.

The flavor of every “good-morning” affects the community.

It’s artistic on a big scale.

Friendliness cannot be contrived.

Genuine expressions of friendliness, care, humor, delight: ventilate stuffiness, allow for glow.  So, the thing is to cultivate good-mind.  I can groom my own little garden.  And, that affects everything else.  The rest comes naturally.

Teacher told me: “You’ve done a lot of work in the past.  It’s karma.  It’s no accident.  But, it is mysterious.”

We shared a knowing (not-knowing) grin.

– April 8, 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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Good-life Immersion

 

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.

A week of staff retreat–so, so good…

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Meditation in the mornings, talks from our teachers, a beautiful lahsang on day one, cooking meals for each other.  In the afternoons–activities: music group, art, nature, physical movement, study…

So, peeps chose a track, grouped up, and got deep into those activities.  Some of us peeps got into music.  I facilitated the group and encouraged deep listening, space exploration, improvisation…  edgy spots, sweet spots, unexpected things.   And after we bravely improvised together, becoming braver as the days went on, we’d spend some time just hanging out with some tunes–Irish tunes, Brazilian jazz tunes…  everyone in the group was coming from a different place, musically, and so the improv was interesting and also the hangout section was lots of fun and varied.

The first night of the retreat we held council practice for the whole community.  People sharing from the heart in a sacred space.  I felt such deep love for everyone.  It set the tone for the rest of the retreat.

Such immersion into what it is to live here.  Time spent together–practicing, playing, just being together.  Lots of spontaneous, long conversations.  People staying after meals just to hang…  Ahh, so good.  Time with the land.  Time enjoying living in this amazing situation together, free from the day-to-day complexities and stresses that go along with trying to keep the thing afloat, and progress towards greater operations.  Of course (of course!), the greatest operation is ever-happening.  This was a nice reminder of that.

In the evenings there were various activities–dancing, movies…  Nathaniel and I hosted a sound bath.  People laying on cushions in the center of the shrine room–heads together in the center, huge speakers all around, dimmed lights, and an hour and forty minutes of washy, lush, beautiful music curated by Nathaniel, who has exceptional taste.  I offered a bit of my music into the mix, which he blended nicely.

Milarepa Day on day 6.  Oh, wow!  A full day of reciting, singing, chanting “The Rain of Wisdom“–spontaneous songs of our Kagyu forefathers.  So, so, beautiful.  So deep.  We began at 9am and went until after 10pm.  A very rich, traditional Buddhist day.  We drank chai  and nettle tea on breaks.  Sho mo! What a joyful, good experience!

The next day we went to the Great Stupa for Sadhana of Mahamudra.  I was so glad for how everything lined up/unfolded.  We spent a lot of time planning and preparing for the retreat, and then it seemed the magical forces kicked in and carried it to better places than we could have imagined.

We ended with a feast at which we practiced the Shambhala Sadhana, dined, and had libations, toasts, and made offerings.  The music group performed, others sang and shared things about their experience throughout the retreat, the art group had everyone throw colorful paper airplanes…

Rejoicing the Container: Our friend Tara–who was here and then left–asked us to put this nice thing into place: a box which collects ‘thank yous’–to people, from people.  We did so and offered the thank yous at the feast.  Everyone read one from the box.  Touching.

So… Ahh!  Such a deeply beautiful immersion into the magic of living here together.  That’s the thesis.  That was the intention and it really hit nicely.  So grateful.  Now onwards into the springtime…

–March 24, 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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Building the Plane as We Fly/One Love!

 

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.

Ital food!!! Awwww, yea! (In celebration of Bob Marley’s birthday). What an amazing surprise at lunch today. Few substances on the planet lively up myself like Ital food. Irie!

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In other news:

Most of the SMC leadership people (upper tier of the hierarchy) are in an intense retreat this week: Monarch Retreat. It’s secret sort of stuff. I don’t know what’s going on in there, but I feel confident that it is good stuff. I’m glad they are all in there. It’ll be good for everyone for those folks to be even more tapped-into their wisdom-ruler-mojo.

Meanwhile, I lead the weekly community meeting yesterday. It didn’t go as planned. It turned into a group check-in–everyone had a turn to share from the heart. It was great, except that I didn’t set it up right. From time to time we do something called Council Practice. That’s kinda what this meeting turned into, almost accidentally, except it was missing some key components–mainly the set-up.

In Council Practice, a sacred space is created and everyone participating agrees to treat the space that way. No one responds to what other people say, everything that is shared is confidential, and nothing leaves the space. You can’t follow-up with someone afterwards. A talking-stick of some sort is passed around the circle and everyone has a turn to share. The emphasis is on deep listening. We go around three times.

Yesterday, we all shared intimately, but without the sacred set-up, though I did begin with a contemplation on deep listening. Anyway, in the meeting and afterwards, because I didn’t create a good container (I believe) there were some emotional flare-ups. Some people got hurt. It was kind of a karmic oops on my part. Mostly though, people seemed to benefit. So, it may have been close to neutral.

Many of us feel now that there needs to be more gatherings like that. Something I feel inspired to work on as Head Dekyong is cultivating more warmth and togetherness in the community. Some folks are reporting feeling isolated, and not much community-togetherness these days. Maybe it’s part of the winter-blue season.

We all see each other a lot. At least everyday at meals, and throughout the day all over the place. Yet, we can feel so distant from one another.

This is the stuff. This is the real experience/experiment. How to cultivate a culture of kindness? Of empathy and friendliness? I’m right here in the thick of an experiment. I’m so glad for that! We’re all here. How can we set things up so that it works? This is training ground. This is the petri dish. We have to be able to get it right here if we (humanity) are to have any hope of doing it on a larger scale.

We have to figure out how to exist together, and sustain ourselves in various ways. We’ve got to pay the bills and we’ve got to enjoy life also. We need to achieve financial and emotional well-being. We need to balance work, community, and personal lives. How to do it?

The Shambhala Teachings say a lot about this. So, we have some guidance. Still, it is so experimental. There is no recipe to follow. It is often said here: “We are building the plane as we fly.”

How great is that?!

–February 6

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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. 

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Contemplative Super Bowl Party/Groundhog Day

 

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.

Brighter still, the glow. In the hallway, we were strangers, now your freckles are almost unbearable.

~~~

Before celebrating friendship via Super Bowl party I celebrated Groundhog Day with Heather. It’s an important holiday for her. We had a nice morning walk around the land, to the Stupa. Maple the prairie dog saw her shadow.

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Delicious Colorado beer and all sorts of lovely conversation–dharmic, about being an artist, relationship stuff, society stuff. Friendly talk on all sorts of topics, the game was on in the background. Focusing on the television felt unnatural. It was difficult to do–I’m way out of practice. There were warm bodies in the room, there was no center of attention–especially not the TV. The beer was delicious. The conversation was heartfelt, so enjoyable. Great laughs, and I tried to explain the connection between Phish (my favorite artistic entity) and the Seattle Seahawks, while the Seahawks beat the poo out of our hometown team. I was rooting both for Payton Manning, who was the clear candidate for storybook hero event, but also rooting for Phish. Not so much the Seahawks, but I’m always rooting for Phish.

The Super Bowl party was held at a big house just off the land called Hayagreeva.

Here’s a line that came up in conversation:

“We shit in clean drinking water.”

–February 2

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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. 

Rainy Days, Buoyant Hearts: “Overall Okayness”

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By Travis Newbill

It was Monday around noon when the rains began, and for the next several days there was barely a gap between chilly downpours long enough to close and reopen an umbrella. By the fourth day, it was no longer just rainy weather, or even an unusual streak. By the fourth day, and throughout the rest of the week, it was an adventure.

The deer were out of sight, as were the sun, moon, and stars. Beneath the heavy blanket of grey clouds, the people of SMC remained relatively cheerful in spite of the rather oppressive weight of the wetness.

While sludging through muddy terrain or huddled together in the shelter of the dining tent, folks exchanged comforting smiles and expressions of shared bewilderment. Meanwhile, as the rain was unrelenting, so has been the human exertion on the saturated ground–SMC staffers and volunteers have been working tirelessly to ensure the well-being of the community and the preservation of our land and facilities.

DSC_8893When asked about their experience of the rainy days and to describe the general atmosphere, peoples’ sentiments have ranged from “very down” to “fun,” with most falling into the median category of “overall okayness.”

“We are safe, and for the most part happy and somewhat dry. We have been taking care of each other on the land and making sure that everyone can find a dry place to sleep,” said one staffer.

Another appreciated the teaching quality inherent in the situation:

“I’m sure it was very different for different people. I myself had a lovely time, but I am very odd. I think it’s good to cope with a little adversity from time to time–you know, get your feet wet. I actually had a wonderful, dharmic experience.”

For yet another, the fragrance of the flooded bottom level of Rigden Lodge came to mind:

“A distinctive broccoli-esque aroma pervades the area, but we’ll have it cleared out soon.”

Despite the damage that SMC has sustained–both to our facilities and our finances, as we had to cancel last weekend’s programs–many people are primarily concerned for those in other nearby areas of Colorado, where the impact of the rain and resulting flooding has been calamitous to a tragic extent.

As one staffer put it:

“I actually feel somewhat disconnected from the real damage, which I’m hearing about from people in places like Boulder. My boots are wet, but we’ve been pretty much fine.”

Rainbow2As work to mend damaged roads, buildings, and belongings continues at SMC, our hearts remain with our friends nearby as they cope with severely challenging circumstances. And we remain grateful that we have made it through as intact as we have. Additionally, we are so very touched to have received the messages of concern from many of you regarding our well-being here.

If next summer brings a period of rain more lasting than this one has been, you are all invited to join us in the Stupa, two by two, to ride it out until rainbows grace the sky.