Floral Notes and Bardo: I Drowned a Tick in Booze


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.

Recently, Heather and I have been helping to water the seedlings for the community garden.  What seedlings am I watering right now — in the cosmic garden?

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Compassion feels sore and self-righteousness is a rush.  I want to strengthen my tendency and love for the former, and decrease my lustful craving for the latter.  Buddhism.

Yesterday I kicked off my new schedule and was able to practice — meditation, writing — and study — buddhadharma, poetics — and do good work in the marketing office, community service, have some lesiure time and get a good night of sleep.  The leisure time was only partly leisurely.

What I really don’t want to write about — and so chose to describe my routine — is the way that I’m feeling about a cultural attitude that I think ought to be examined.

I’ll not be specific here because it seems charged, sensitive, and some actual discussion with human beings in the community may need to come before published contemplation.  Skillful?  Timid?

Shantideva: Be like a log.

In other news, Sasha and I in the shower this morning, and a small mouse in the tub.

This morning — after bragging a bit yesterday about how I told the ticks to leave me alone and they obeyed — a tick jumped onto my leg.  I put it in a Kahlua bottle with a bit of booze in the bottom — left it to die.

I was discussing parasites with a friend recently.  In his view, karmically, ticks and mosquitos cannot get much lower, and so it seems fine to “send them on their way” — my friend said that Trungpa Rinpoche said this about mosquitoes.

I decided to kill his tick to send a message.  To let them know that I’m not messing around here.  After I put it in the bottle, I went outside and, while urinating in the grass, told them again, very sternly, with a few cuss words thrown in, that they must leave Heather and I alone!  I explained that I really don’t want to kill them.  And I attempted to explain that their behavior brings great misery to us.

I don’t think they understand that.  They’re too caught up in their blood-thirsty ways.  They are addicts.  Insane.

Reading Pema/Shantideva this morning.  The teachings describe how we fall under the spell of kleshas — anger, lust, and so on.  The ticks are extremely taken.  Myself and my homies may become tick-ish, but we snap out of it and return to humanness.  We’re fortunate to have that capacity.  Precious human birth.

Strengthening the non-virtuous habits though, leads to greater and greater tickishness — and maybe the Kahlua botlle.

And so in considering my feelings about certain policies and attitudes that are in effect here at SMC, I need to be careful — like I’m walking along the edge of a cliff, as Pema/Shantideva says.  I need to be deeply considerate.  In my actions, and even thoughts, am I chasing the buzz of self-righteousness, or is it compassionate action?

It happens a million times each minute — probably a lot more.  Choosing.

— April 15, 2015

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a writer, musician, and aspirant on the path of meditation.  He currently resides at Shambhala Mountain Center, where he serves in the roles of Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Rather than to Get High

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.

I had to remove those droopy flowers from the shrine.  I don’t know who put them there.  Afterwards, while urinating, I noticed a couple of small rainbows projected onto the wall in front of me.  Thinking “there really are rainbows everywhere,” I glanced over my shoulder and noticed the wall beside me glowing purple — the sun and my sweater mixing, radiating.

Previously:

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Trungpa was in a dream last night, I don’t remember the details.  But, I woke up thinking of Heather, and my mother, and the words — “You’re my peeps.  My closest peeps” — was looping.

I’m feeling a bit more settled today, somehow.  The spiritual growth-spurt concept is simply transforming into more luminous regular old reality.  There will never be regular old reality.  And, I feel some caution about speaking openly about this sort of stuff, a bit concerned that I might freak people out.  And wondering about Right Speech.

There’s a sense that being genuine isn’t about spurting out thoughts, unfiltered, but rather, being in tune with my experience and the environment, and offering what may be helpful, delightful, and so on.

As I was writing above, and getting into the trip, my body was frazzled.  It was total brain splatter.  I noticed, and then spent a moment feeling my way into the body, into the room, and felt more calm.  Feeling more calm now.  Okay.  Is this less exciting?  Am I writing to excite?

Maybe I wrote this yesterday: That the good motivation is to benefit others, the world, rather than to get high, to have heightened experience.  This is one of the main things I came out of retreat with, and so I immediately made lojong cards and have been working with the slogans again.  Meanwhile, the Shambhala magic is being revealed.  Meanwhile, the good ol’ Mahayana is fusing into my marrow.  I am dedicated to creating strong habits of consideration for others, putting others before myself.  I made this commitment almost a year ago now.  The greatest commitment of my life — the Bodhisattva Vow.  Anyway…

This idea of right motivation — benefitting the world, rather than getting high — seems to pervade everything that I may do: meditation, art, love-making, beer drinking… beer drinking?!

I was once in an interview with an Acharya, and he made a joke, imitating someone receiving oral sex and raising a fist dedicating the experience to all sentient beings.  His point was that we still like to get high.  And, vowing not to get high may be a bit much.  Maybe it’s fair to make the aspiration to keep that in check.  To be aware of when I’m getting high and being committed to not letting that get out of hand, to not allowing my pleasure seeking to actually create suffering for others — choosing pleasure over love.

So, that’s not the point.  Of course, I’m part of the world I have vowed to benefit… so a cookie here or there is good!

Okay.  What’s going on at SMC?  The aspens have grown fuzzy little caterpillar seed pods and when the wind blows — the wind blows! — the millions of little fuzz-puffs scatter into the air and fly across the land, across the picnic area — where more and more people are enjoying their meals.  A couple of new volunteer and staff have arrived — the first splashes of what will be a wave of newcomers in the next few weeks as the BIG summertime rolls around.  One new staff member is named Patrick.  He was here this past summer and, arriving yesterday, said nice things about this blog.  Thanked me for writing it.  I told him that now that he is here, he will probably show up in the blog.  Here he is now: Patrick!

— April 6, 2015

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious creature on the path of artistry and meditation, who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the lil’ society include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: I’d Rather Be Practicing


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.

“Maybe buns are just plumper nubs.”

That’s what Heather just said.

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Lately I’ve been picking up the bass and playing around.  Yesterday, Will, who lives in the next room over, who probably hears me playing, who is part of this third floor lodge musical awakening, requested that I give him some recordings so that he could work on them in post-production.  He wants to master my stuff…  Convenient!

So, lots of encouragement to play and produce.

Meanwhile, Jesse the awesome veggie cook offered Cinnimin Bun transmissio last night.  So, a group of people gathered in the kitchen and they all learned how to make the buns.  This morning, Heather and I reaped the rewards.

Yummy, warm buns.

So many activities like that — community fun variety.  I haven’t been participating in many, because it feels like too much.  My priority is to really deepen into dharma study and practice.

This Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness course that Steve is leading is awesome.  Last night at dinner, Nic and I were discussing it and sharing our appreciation.  He mentioned how his mind is blown, and we both agreed that it’s happening in quite a welcomed and delightful way.

On Tuesday nights, there is Essential Heart of Kasungship.  That’s where people who are serving as Kasung share their experience, teaching on the Eight Slogans of the Dorje Kasung.  Last year, I attended the class as a student.  And, this year, I haven’t gone to a single class.  There’s too much other stuff, and Kasungship isn’t what I’m into.

I’ve been meaning to have a conversation with Rusung Edwards about my lack of participation in, lack of interest in, flat out aversion to, Kasungship.

I’d rather be making music.

Earlier in the week, my Delek (I used to be the Dekyong), hosted a commuity event — playing a game of Mafia, which is a parlor game that everyone learned form Heather a couple of summers ago around a campfire.  I didn’t attend the event.  Instead I studied the PSOME material — a really great book by Andy Karr, in which he offers a friendly familiar tone, and shares deep understanding and familiarity with the teachings.  In the book, he offers his own understanding, and also throw in some really potent nuggets from the Sutras, the Rinpoches, the Saints.

Anyway… I’d rather be studying dharma.

Tomorrow morning I will watch cartoons with Heather and then meditate for the rest of the day while she works.

On my day off… I’d rather be practicing.

— January 23, 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: Strangely Apparent


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.

Every imagined finger and face
appears to be life
on a sphere
in clear
space

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Last night we sat in a circle and acknowledged the ambiguity of our existence.  We looked at each other and objects in the room, and asked, out loud, about how it is that we are perceiving such things, and why it is that we seem to be individuals even though none of us can come up with a definite proof of separateness.

It’s strange.

It is said that we’re all here together, experiencing a similar world, because we all share a deep habit of imagining the world to be this certain way — much different than the way that fishes imagine the world.

So… here we are. And… here we are.

Finally, we acknowledged that there is a lot to explore and called it a night.

Then, up in our room, Heather and I on the love seat with the door open, Anna came skipping in and curled up on the arm chair.  Scott followed and kneeled on the floor.  I offered him some hot water from my Thermos for his tea.

We all sat around for a while and discussed our experience of the spiritual path, and so on.

At one point, a man we didn’t know walked into the room — he is a program participant, Scott is the coordinator of that program, and he had heard Scott’s voice.

“A program coordinator is never off duty,” Scott said.

After Anna and Scott left, which was after my bed time, Heather and I stayed up for a bit and spoke about relationship.  My mind was so groggy, but I spoke.

Earlier, in the Community Meeting, my mind was so spacey, but I spoke.  We were discussing transparency, communication, and so on.  It seemed like the conversation was moving towards an exploration of the “us/them” phenomena that exists between the “leadership” and those who are “not the leadership.”

I have now been on both “sides.”  So I offered my perspective.  Basically, I wish for the genuineness that flows throughout the whole structure of this community to be revealed and for paranoia to be dispelled.

This morning I’m a bit groggy and I’m thinking:

“The mind stirred by habitual tendencies,
Arises as outer appearances.”

(from the Lankavatara Sutra)

— January 22, 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: Eight of Us, Fine Tea, Jazz (and Later Dub)

By Travis Newbill

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.

Reflective ribbons on a passing train, a small one, which runs on imagined tracks through my forest hometown — a bit of a town — a bit of an echo, over and over, and the humble drummer plays along.

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We had a lovely gathering at the Nubble Nest on Saturday afternoon — eight of us, fine tea, jazz (and later dub) through the small speakers, and small booklets full of big wishes.  Some frustration because it’s not always so easy to have big dreams.

We reflected on 2014 and looked ahead to 2015.  It was fun, though I didn’t go too deep.  I was enjoying pouring tea, and I made a quik ikebana (Greg Smith calls it “quikebana”) with some flowers that Anna brought over.  I ate plenty of chocolate and I made some aspirations for 2015.

I get confused about New Year these days because the lunar new year actually means more to me — it’s more significant in my world.

Anyway, I don’t quite remember what I wished for, and it may be bad luck to tell you even if I did.

I can say that I pretty much have lots of good things going, and I wish only to cultivate my life-garden further.

Meanwhile, I want to help a family member who is in a tough spot.

After the little party, Heather and I sat around the room, hugging and such.  Scott came over from across the hall and played a beautiful Cat Stevens song for us.  Heather knew it — Rebbi used to sing it for her when she was little.  Cool family.

Later, after tea and lemon bars, I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth and I heard some music coming through the air vent.  I grabbed my bass and walked across the hall to join in the jam for a bit.

— January 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: I Think I

By Travis Newbill

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.

The tunnel towards glory collapsed
and I realized I was light.
The distraction of embarrassment became a choir of angels.
All along, it was just me and my guitar.

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Steve Seely is teaching a class on the Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness, and I feel tremendous gratitude for the opportunity to study with him.  He has studied with Khenpo Tsultrim Gyaltso, who, literally, wrote the book on this subject.

Steve was glowing in our first class meeting, a couple of nights ago.  He seems glad to be able to offer the teachings.

Just now, I walked out of the shrine room, leaving Steve all alone in there.  He’d walked in a half hour earlier, and seeing that no one was serving as umdze, he took the seat.  There were only a couple of us in there practicing.  Then, the other person left and it was just me finishing my sadhana.

It can be rather sad to be the only one in the shrine room for the scheduled community practice period.  I hope that it wasn’t disrespectful for me to walk out like that.

The thing is, I am short on work hours for the week.  I want to rearrange my schedule a bit to allow for even more time meditating.  I live at a dharma center, so this seems totally appropriate.

Previously, I have taken on the informal role of Head Umdze. Basically, I took the lead on making sure that the umdze role is being covered on a regular basis.  These days, the umdze coverage is spotty and it makes the whole container feel weak — to me, at least.

It is not my job to lead the umdze core.  Actually, I believe it is someone else’s job.  But, I think I can help.

So, here’s the thing of finding the balance between “letting be” and “trying to fix.”  “Letting be” is often used in a positive way in the teachings, and “trying to fix” is used negatively.  But, of course, we’re encouraged to try to help the world.

Susan Piver wrote a beautiful piece in response to the Charlie Hebrdo tragedy, and her great advice is to feel before acting.  Perhaps, that way, it isn’t an act of aggression — trying to rid myself of the pain of witnessing discord.  Rather, it would be an act of generosity, out of good intention, without attachment to outcome.

— January 9, 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: “What’s Going On in Your Mind?”

By Travis Newbill

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.

There is less than before, there’s a spot in the sky, the sound of footsteps is becoming more defined, the idea of destination is folding in on itself.

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Last night at dinner, sitting across the table from Annebelle — we’d spoken a bit, and now I was gazing over her shoulder.  She asked me “What’s going on when you do that?”

“In my mind?”

“Yes.”

I did the best I could to describe it: space, clouds, jumbles of thought, relaxation.  I have nothing to communicate and there is a bit of a panic to find something to say, then that dissolves.  Eventually a sense of settledness, and at that point a new moment has begun.

Something like that.

That was a nice question for her to ask me.  A real dharma-sister thing to do.  A great SMC dinner conversation starter — let’s talk about mind, very personally.

Meanwhile, David and a few others were creating the Childrens Day shrine — which is sort of like the Shambhala version of a Christmas tree.  And, on the other side of the room, there was community cookie decorating.

Heather made a whole scene with a pirate, his ship, an island, and a palm tree.  It all began with the palm tree, which she made for me as a tribute to Florida — where I came from and where I’ll be spending Christmas, cosmos willing.

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I spent most of yesterday working for Joshua at the Stupa.  It feels really good to offer in that way.

I ended up eating too many cookies and had a little stomach ache.  I went to sleep as soon as I walked in the door.  Woke up at 5:30 for Qigong, dharma study, etc.

Looking forward to this weekend — writing retreat with Susan Piver!  Many Christmas gifts to prepare before then.

Lots of icing on my cookies these days.  Lots of cookies to chew. All most too much good fortune to bear — or, at least, to keep organized.

— December 16, 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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: “Oops,” and Apply Gentleness

By Travis Newbill

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.

We’re a big, beautiful, beast!

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(Those cookies were made decorated by Kate Raddock at our community holiday cookie decorating cookie holiday event.)

Yesterday an intense Community Meeting discussing safety, substance use, and recent incidents of people having been asked to leave for various reasons.

I didn’t say a word, yet it was a very fulfilling experience.  I witnessed and felt people being very open, expressing genuine concern, and also people becoming defensive and accusatory.  But the whole thing felt civilized.

For me, safety is relative.  And, I feel very safe here.  I feel good living as part of a community that can gather and communicate in such a peaceful and open way.  People may have felt rubbed or hurt in one way or another, but no one called anybody dirty names. Nobody shut down and said “Fuck you.”  Nobody pushed or shoved.

It’s distressing to know that that stuff happens regularly elsewhere — to horrific extents.

We communicate so well here, I feel.

After the meeting, at dinner, I was discussing my experience of the meeting with Director Gayner and Kate.  I was reflecting on my first experience of a Community Meeting — back in spring 2012, when I first arrived.

Being in the shrine room, with the whole community, everyone sitting on cushions in meditation posture, in a circle… It felt like being in another realm.  It was so dramatically different from the sorts of communities I’d associated with previously.  It seemed enlightened.

Over the course of the last few years, being a part of this community, I’ve had different sorts of experiences.  I’ve been swept up in various styles of mental projection.  At times thinking negatively of the situation — thinking that people are phony, that the system is flawed.

Last night I experienced that sort of projection arising, but there was enough space around it to see it for what it was.  And, I didn’t stay caught in it.  Rather, I was able to open more fully and witness the good-heartedness of the whole thing.

The whole thing.

It’s precious to have a group of people together aspiring to bring about peace.  We all stumble, but we do so on the path of realization.  We’re one organism here.  People become aggressive towards one another in the same way that people become aggressive with themselves.  The remedy is the same: “Oops.” And apply gentleness.

— December 11, 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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Stringing the Twinklers

By Travis Newbill

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.

I made a small box for all of my things:
colored sand and precious rings.
Meanwhile I watch this thought burn:
the wish for anything to remain or return.

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This past weekend was full, and well-rounded.  Friday night a bath and relaxed space in the nest with Heather.  Saturday morning — cartoons, cereal, and sleeping in.  Then a nice, long practice session — at first, alone in the shrine room, which is just downstairs from our room, and then at noon the community joined for mid-day group sit.  The lights came on — I’d been in the dim — and friends surrounded and we sat.

Saturday afternoon a community sweat lodge ceremony.  It had been a while… I’m so grateful, purified.  Saturday night cat-sitting for Director Gayner.  Nice house, funny little cat, a couch and nice sound system.  We watched the latest Wes Anderson film and enjoyed a night on the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever known.  The next morning — nice practice session, breakfast with music on, a while on the couch together, in the sunlight, reading Mental Floss, some more time just laying in the sun, and then a walk down the hill for lunch.

Sunday afternoon — community Christmas Tree Gathering Escapade!  It was lots of fun, walking out into the woods, finding our little tree-friend, saying little prayers for it, and then, myself holding one end of the saw, cutting it down.

After dinenr we had a little decorating party with spiked egg nog and Christmas music.

Also, Heather got to work decorating our nest, and it’s very cheerful and good.

Last year, the holidays were the worst part of the year for me.  Very sad to be here.  This year feels different so far.  It was a warm and joyful day yesterday, with much of the community involved.  And, Heather is big into holiday celebration.  So, I am not feeling deprived at all.

I probably listened to three hours of Christmas music yesterday. Good stuff!

— December 8, 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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Thanksgiving before Thanksgiving

By Travis Newbill

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.

I am thankful for Shambhala Mountain Center because:

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It provides me with a home, and the means for exploring a good way to live in the world.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to live here, so closely with the natural world.  I know the deer and the way that the foliage, and all else, shifts with the seasons.  I’m grateful for the tremendous rock formations — they are characters, ever-present.  I’m grateful to live in this community.  The people are kind, beautiful, well-intentioned, tender, trying, transparent.  The people — we are doing this together.  We live 8,000 feet up in the mountains together.  We eat such good food here — three times a day.  My friends cook meals.  They put themselves into it.  They are delicious.

I am grateful to have arrived here, in this profound world of dharma.  This is a place of learning and exploration.  The energies here can erupt, turn me inside out, and hold me through death and birth, every day.  This is a special place.  It has been created by good people with hammers and nails, practices and prayers, photographs and flowers.  It is in a continuous state of creation.  We are creating it now.

We create Shambhala Mountain Center moment by moment, through our speech — our tone of voice, choice of words, and choice of no-words.  We create it through each action, in each space — the shrine room, the office, the dance party.  Every moment is consequential. We are never not-here.

I’m learning a lot about cause and effect, creation, surrender, forgiveness, and love.  I’m grateful.

— November 5, 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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill