Floral Notes and Bardo: Summertime Qqueeze

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 living as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

My room is full of flies, I’m surrounded by strangers, I’ve not showered in two days.  I missed breakfast.  We’ve been asked to not ask to go into the kitchen to fetch leftovers anymore.  I meditated for too long this morning and now I’m stressed out.  Gonna be late to work.  No shower again.  Gotta take the shit out to the shit bucket.  Later drive it down the hill.

Decided to hang out last night.

IMG_1225

Phish shows in headphones in the forest behind Manjushri house.  Surrendering to summer-time craziness on the land.  Not a time for introspection.  A time for scattered activity and “hanging in there” and/or maybe “hanging out.”  Not much pacing or rhythmic progress.

Been reading Ethan’s new book and listening to the Phish shows —  Good.

Haven’t been writing the blog because — no time in the morning before heading into the office.  I’ve been prioritizing showers — that’s no way to make art at SMC.  Sufficient sleep, enough time on the cushion to feel like I’m “doing it.”

Meahwhile, so many books on shelves that I can’t believe I’m neglecting to spend time with.  Magical secret books from Trungpa.

Expensive tea in my pot running low.  Got a big bag of cheap maté now.

I’ve been slapped around a bit by the forces which won’t allow me to impose my will on the flow of the seasons, of time.  My agenda is like a panicking turd in a rushing river of gold.  Die.

Michael G. said something like: It’s not about always keeping it together — clean house, practice time, and so on.  The important thing is the ability to come back.  That’s the strength.

That bit has been echoing in mind ever since he shared it with me, one day on the path, during a brief chat about these sorts of things: struggling to keep it together.  Struggling to make it to bed on time.  Struggling to wake up early and do ALL of my little things.

Meanwhile, summertime life at SMC rages on.  Hundreds of happy-faced volunteers and participants, having important bliss-life-magic experiences.  Or else, partying.  Meanwhile, disgruntled SMC artist who can’t find the time, can’t find the time, can’t find the time — struggling to make it to 30 hours each week — where does it go? — how? — How to live a good spacious, joyous life?  How?

Anyway, that’s been the chatter recently.  Last night I went to a BBQ.  Good.  Been giving up.  Good.

Mantra: Sheesh.

Mantra: Whatever.

Sometimes the best I can do.  Better than walking around fuming.  So it goes, and goes, and goes.

Summertime squeeze.

Bug.  It doesn’t matter.

Shall I end on a high, positive note?  Like: This is a fortunate situation.  I feel that I’m burning through lots of obscuration and becoming more real, more relaxed, more authentic.

It’s true!

Even though it sounds like Radiohead’s modern day human robot lament, it’s still true.  And the trick IS to surrender to the flow.

Listening to Phish play, in the forest, in my headphones, grooving — it’s like the most helpful yoga I could do.

— August 5, 2015

~~~

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

Reclaiming Prajna

By Jamie Woodworth

It’s a widely agreed upon sentiment, among both newcomers and veteran Shambhalians, that this mountain valley has a quality of spaciousness beyond its physical boundaries. It opens up and unfolds more and more as you walk upon it. The feeling is palpable in the wind, and the life—always at play—gregariously engaging. The place has “juice.”

You can feel that presence when you first enter. It’s the drala. It converses with you in the moments you experience in-between yourself and the world. It’s awakened by the people who live here, over many cycles of leadership and life. And, if you follow your intuition, your felt sense of this place, you may be guided towards the place we call Prajna.

Early photograph of Prajna before remodels done by the Vajra Regent and Sakyong Mipham — provided by Greg Smith.

Prajna translates roughly as “transcendental wisdom.” The spirit of that word abides in the history of this site. Prajna was the home of the founder of Shambhala, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche until 1986, then home of the Vajra Regent, and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche thereafter, until a fire razed it in 2009. The causes of the fire remain somewhat nebulous. It has been described as a reminder of “the potent truth of impermanence.”

burned1_900Photo of Prajna after the fire — provided by Denise Weunsch

Prajna, in its youth, in wreckage, and in emptiness, has enduringly served as a container for authentic encounters. Community members have reflected on the love and guardianship that Trungpa Rinpoche instilled in the heart of Prajna, from its initial settlement up until today. It was a stage to many stories—our teacher’s presence magnetized a vast array of situations. The deck was where he wrote books and chants, held council with his cabinet, and sat down for drinks with his friends and visitors. Prajna’s deck was the window through which he viewed the world, and where the world came to greet him. During his stay, that house received and held the hearts of people who came to share moments of delicate vulnerability. That energy still irrigates relationships unfolding here at SMC. Acharya Noel McLellan reflects,

“Many things happened there that were of personal significance to individuals. Tiny as it was, it was a place where many people met the Sakyong. It always seemed to me to be a part of the tent culture—the walls weren’t solid barriers in a sense. The energy inside the house permeated the whole area.”

Michael Gayner, Executive Director of Shambhala Mountain Center recollects his experience in Prajna at the Seminary he attended in 1994, “that was really where I understood the role of service to the community, and from that, service to all sentient beings, and infinite commitment to being of benefit to the world” (M. Gayner, 2015).

Prajna had a way of defining a path for those who came to both visit and live on the land. The leadership here at SMC has a conviction to keep paths running to and from it, even though its former substance has moved on. We had been discussing a way to reinvent the empty space into something accessible, and ensuring it too can still benefit the world.

Thus began our pavilion project, an endeavor made possible by the generosity of the Shambhala Trust.

IMG_6138Construction site, 2015 — photo by Jamie Woodworth

The Shambhala Trust fundraises and grants money to causes that further the vision of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Their largesse helps to disseminate the ideal of an ‘enlightened society,’ by uplifting many projects inside and outside the Shambhala Buddhist community. Some projects include: The Prison Mindfulness Institute, and the Reciprocity Foundation. John Sennhauser, an original member of the Trust, evoked a special kind of enthusiasm for the Prajna reclamation project in particular, “the current Shambhala Trust was founded in 1995, you know—and, it happened at a meeting in Prajna. I was thinking about this to myself the other day. Things really came full circle—it’s great.” More than that, it’s a homecoming for many trust members, who themselves lived in tents at the Prajna site. There’s a certain air of poignancy coming back 20 years later to the memory of their old lives, and old times with the Sakyong. Funding this project, beyond spreading the Shambhala vision, is a way of dusting off that piece of their hearts, two decades later. Moreover, it’s a service to all the current volunteers, staff, and visitors fresh on the land, who can now enjoy Prajna in a whole new way.

There was a lot of intentionality behind the choice of the pavilion. When Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche visited the crumbling remains of his old house with John in 2009, he voiced how great it would be to let this land return to nature, and reclaim it as a place where people could sit, contemplate, and rest. He laid the groundwork for the grant proposal to the Trust, and the vision our leadership outlined in it. Michael Gayner described the pavilion as a potential “pilgrimage site” where people could reconnect with the Drala that flowed through Trungpa Rinpoche’s court. Placing a pavilion in this spot is a way of re-energizing Prajna, and making the Dralas available once again. Attracting people to this spot will accomplish the broader goal of reawakening the naturally present magic that Trungpa Rinpoche illuminated so many years ago. The Prajna project will be ultimately completed with the construction of a Stupa some years in the future, once the overall energetics of the land “are proper.”

With this in mind, a lot of consideration went into construction and design. Eva Wong, our Feng Shui consultant, provided guidelines on how to orient the pavilion, and how to stylize it. Danny Boyce, our project coordinator, described how she encouraged the use of certain design elements to make sure it seamlessly conducted the flow of energy. The materials were also all locally sourced from the land, and from an additional parcel of private property about 25 miles away from the SMC property line. The pavilion contains a total of 35 timbers, which were meticulously chosen by our leadership team, Peter Haney, Jared Leveille, Sophie DeMaio, and Josh Halper. Four rocks from the land were also collected to be “scribed” onto the bottom of the posts, to provide an organic transition from the wooden posts down into the earth.

The thoughtfulness of the construction is a manifestation of SMC’s commitment to not only accomplish a job, but do profoundly good work, Michael commented. Danny outlined how the whole structure was masterfully engineered—the pavilion is equipped to hold at least “three feet of snow and twenty people on it.” It will even have a handicap ramp. It’s definitely an edifice that will withstand the test of time, and be enjoyed by many people.

IMG_6284
SMC staff constructing the pavilion, 2015 — photo by Jamie Woodworth

The moment when the frames of the pavilion were raised was itself a demonstration of the love and energy that’s still present at Prajna. Lifting the sides together required the participation of many members of the community, and more people actually showed up than needed. For two hours, a sizable group of staff rallied and pieced together a collective vision. Everybody was pretty proud to have their hands in it.

Michael, reflecting upon that teamwork, said with a smile, “our workers brought in a tremendous amount of heart and skill to Prajna.”

Really, the whole endeavor speaks to not only the continuing spirit of the land there, but also the strength of the community that sustains the beauty of Shambhala Mountain Center, in both material and non-material ways.

Our teachers nurtured a powerful heritage for Prajna. That cadence of life present during their residence is a thread we’re weaving through this present moment, this community, and into the fabric of what Shambhala has yet to become. One Summer evening, about 16 years ago, the Sakyong was standing on the deck of his old house, writing this poem, reflecting on the perfection of being in this place:

A drink from mountain stream—
Lost water comes to haunt me.
Surrounding loneliness,
Mind peers into vast blue sky.
A distant yogin’s love song plays upon my ears.
The silence of this valley
Sings the cry of liberation

Mind paces like a caged tiger.
Heart drowns in inexpressible chasm.
Let us bring it all to the path of bodhi.
Let us climb this mountain of uncertainty.
Look!
Look again!
The sun is rising.
Its golden-orange hue commands us to exhale.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
26 July, 1999

As our lives collide and mesh, we’re looking forward to the poetry of our future—and some new memories housed in this sanctuary, built by the hands of our friends.

IMG_6417 copyThe Shambhala Trust at Prajna, 2015 — photo by Jamie Woodworth

 ~~~

headshotJamie Woodworth earned her Bachelors of Arts in Environmental Studies and Women and Gender Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Currently, she is a Masters student in Human Ecology at Lund University in Sweden. Her ethnographic research in Iceland couples ecological thinking with feminist theory. Understanding sustainability from a solutionary point of view is the pivoting point for her studies. In the past, Jamie has worked as an outreach coordinator for CU’s Environmental Center, a manager for Colorado Public Interest Research Group, and interned for the Chasing Ice film crew.

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?

IMG_0757

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

~~~

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:

IMG_0734

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

~~~

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.

IMG_0562

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

IMG_0337

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.

IMG_0360

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.

IMG_0339

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.

IMG_0100

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.

IMG_0102

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