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

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

Floral Notes and Bardo: Soft Carpet and Running Water

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.

This morning I woke up in a fancy bed, and over breakfast, considered my good fortune.

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Yesterday we gathered as a community and discussed… cats.

Heather and I have been asked to cat-sit for Director Gayner.  So we’re staying in his house for a few days.  Very fancy!  Soft carpet and running water.

When we awoke this morning, beneath a brocade blanket, Heather asked me to sing a song about “little paws.”  I sing a song for her every morning about whatever she would like to hear a song about.  We’re feeling lucky.

After the Community Meeting yesterday, there was lots of charged conversation.  The open forum meetings tend to inspire communal engagement, rippling outwards into the following days.  We’re thinking that we need more of those.

In other news, coffee has been spilt on my new white shoes.  It happened this morning, just after a group of us did the Shambhala Sadhana together.  I was not angry.

Getting together with my friends and doing this sadhana is a powerfully good experience.  It’s active, social, musical, and meditative.  It’s a collective rousing of good intention.  Very uplifting and inspiring.

In my work, I’m feeling like there are pins lined up before me and I have a bowling ball of love.  Our department is shifting around a bit, and I’m feeling really good about my role.

This weekend, I’m going down to Fort Collins to spend some time with my buddy Matt.  We’re planning on doing the sadhana together on Sunday morning and having gluten-free pancakes and avocados.  And, other than that, just spending time.  I’m looking forward to that.

Then… the following weekend… 11 days from now… I’ll be heading to Dick’s for three nights of Phish.

Ahh…

– August 21, 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.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

 

Establishing the Ground

By Ryan Stagg

Ryan Stagg is a Shambhala Mountain Center community-staff member.

Today I rose with the sun and trekked up to the Great Stupa to meditate within its silent sanctuary. As I moved along the path my nose and ears went numb in the cold air that had settled in the valley overnight. The creek was burbling and there was a hint of warmth in the freshening morning breeze. Then I listened to the crunching gravel as I circumambulated the stupa, letting my breath and heart slow from the hike and with any luck accruing a little merit for the day ahead. My eyes were teary from the cold and the pollen, and I had the sensation that the whole earth was made to spin about the stupa by my strolling feet. Then I bowed and sat before the enormous golden Buddha and after awhile sunlight began to flood forth through the eastern window, illuminating the chamber. I’ve never known a better way to begin the day.

I stayed long at work out of excitement for the things I was learning and the projects to come, and then in the late afternoon I set off to Marpa point at a torrid pace. The rocky summit stands high above the scattered lodges, tents, shrines and stupas that compose the mandala of Shambhala Mountain Center. It is a fitting acknowledgement to the great Tibetan yogi known for bringing teachings from India to Tibet. It is a wonder, and a testament, that his influence resounds so many centuries later in the mountains of North America.

As I ascended, the shadows of pine cast long upon the mountainside and I saw an elegant doe grazing peacefully between them. Robins probed for worms, nuthatches contorted on the limbs of fir trees, and a steady breeze blew scattered clouds along the ceiling of the sky. The drone of an airplane echoed, reminding me temporarily of all the bustle and commotion I had left behind for the summer. It was an unanticipated liberation to put my cellphone, car keys and wallet away in the tent. What were once my constant companions, plugging me into the networks of modern society, were suddenly superfluous objects—paperweights and an unwieldy timekeeper.

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Approaching the summit of Marpa point, the pine and fir gave way to lichen covered granite and low, barbed shrubbery. Prayer flags of blue, yellow, red, green and white flapped and fluttered. In each crisp note of the whipping flags there was a whisper of my lived experience; of the precision of mind in reflecting its environment.

I softened my step and relaxed my squinting brow. Reaching the crest line behind the rocky peak I browsed the little rock piles that stood precariously here and there. I was breathing deeply and feeling satisfied by the burning in my legs. I veered south, measuring my ambition and time as I eyed the trail that wends several miles along the perimeter of the land.
But no sooner than I set out, an odd scene stopped me in my tracks. I wasn’t expecting the memorial to Allen Ginsberg—a granite slab with lion’s feet. Upon the neighboring rock was old Charlie sitting with his legs crossed and conjuring a fleeting melody from a little wooden flute. A sense of absurdity set in, my head askew as Charlie greeted me and embarked on an extended explanation of the origins of his Native American instrument somewhere in South Dakota. As he spoke my attention wandered here and there. I noticed the gilded spire of the Great Stupa in the west, the colorful flags upon Marpa point to the north, the rolling expanse of landscape to the east, and here in the southern quadrant, the inexplicable yet appropriate pairing of Allen and Charlie.

In the midst of this curious symbolism I gleaned some vague truth…some assurance; a sense of my belonging in this swirling array that both soothed and concerned me. This life I was making in the mountains and forest, in work and in play, was mine to interpret, mine to enjoy, and mine to sacralize.

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Buddhist Jokes

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.

Motion and glow — nature, from my perch on the porch, the moon moving slowly across the morning sky.  Perfect arrhythmic chorus of creatures, and myself doing nothing.

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A couple of nights ago, community open mic.  Buddhist jokes from our host Kyle, kirtan from Cody, Danny wowed with magic tricks and contact juggling, Dorian — so soulful.  Heather, Kate and I offered some music and an interactive experience — folks holding candles and singing spontaneous verses in tribute to our friend Chris, who is moving on.

“let it shine, let it shine, let it shine…”

Very sweet and a reminder of what art and music are all about — uplifting people, situations.  Accessing harmonious, deeper than the day-to-day, experience.  We offer vulnerability — a nod to sacredness.

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Last night, Acharya Lobel gave a talk on Shambhala. The whole thing:

Entering the Cosmic Mirror: From Level I to Scorpion Seal

A two and a half hour talk.  He spoke freely, deeply.  I served as his Kasung guard — sitting beside him, holding space.

He spoke about Shambhala as a path to being a good husband and father and also a way to know the origins of the universe. Mmm…

Something like: “What we want, in this society, is secular mindfulness.  A practice that will easily fit into our existing worldview.  Shambhala is not that.”

He spoke of the terma tradition as being radical — a different way of experiencing reality — and one of the most profound mystcial traditions occuring on the planet at this time.

Afterwards I thanked him:

“That was huge.”

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A couple of other nice notes from teachers in the last few days:

Acharya Lyon: “You’re relaxing a lot.  Not taking things so seriously.  You’re ready for the mahayana.”

Joshua: “There is a path.  You don’t have to walk in the middle.” And then, with a big grin: “You can walk on the edge.”

– July 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.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Into Summertime

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.

Saturday, a mad tea party at my lil’ house followed by naked painting and singing (just the two of us) — solstice celebration, and in the evening, a bath and early to bed.

Sunday morning a pancake party at Erik and Kaleigh’s — barefoot ladies in the kitchen (ha), yummy pu-erh tea and conversation in the living room, and out on the porch, pancakes being served up.  Annabelle brought over a big pot of chai…

Eventually, Cody found his way to the hammock.

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Life is good — summertime in the mountains.

In the morning, one of those mornings, Heather and I stopped by the lake and watched river otters swim around.  They surfaced to check us out, bumped heads with each other.

Yesterday afternoon, Heather and I hiked up to Marpa Point for a picnic and our seasonal relationship-intention check-in.  After our structured (and playful) communication exercise (a dyad), we made friendship bracelets and painted each other’s nails to seal the deal.

While our nails dried, we laid in the sun and laughed about all sorts of things.

– June 23, 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: Iris and so On

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 weather has been shifting so dramatically — sunny summery days and then two days of chilly mist.  Hour to hour can be as different as October and July.  It’s June now.  It’s always shifting, right?  Sometimes quickly enough that we notice.  Otherwise it’s a slow change and we’re thrown when it blooms…

IMG_0296Photo by Greg Smith

Every day new wildflowers are popping up.  Yesterday someone watched a deer give birth, watched a deer being born.  One of our community-family-members is going to give birth in a few months.  We’ve been discussing how to hold that event.  Another member of the fam — who lives down in Boulder — is going to give birth any day now.

My changes are more subtle.  I’m dying and being born every second.  I know.

Another community member of ours left the other day to drive to South Carolina — his mother has been diagnosed with late-stage cancer.  He’s going to be with her.

Another one, my buddy, has been in and out of the hospital recently.  Today he’s going to get brain scans.

Back in Florida, my mother is on the edge of losing her house to foreclosure and not sure where she’ll go next.

New flowers are coming up every day.  Bunnies and deer are being born, and people are wondering about their lives all the time.

– June 10, 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: Mango on a Mountain

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.

Arriving home last week… Home is here, Shambhala Mountain Center — where I’m greeted so warmly by my friends, where Dorian wanted to hear about how my Florida trip went, then said “you’re family” and we hugged.  The elders, hugs.  Lunch together, delicious, prepared by my friends.

And, here I am with a companion — Heather, who I met, really met, in the enchanted aspen grove, one of my favorite spots on the planet.

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Photo by John Russell

And nearby the Stupa and the clear presence of lineage everywhere.  Everywhere… here, and how about everywhere else?  How about Florida?  I don’t feel so good or at home there, but there is lots more world.  To be here is safe.  There is a background attitude of :

“Okay universe, I’ve come to live and serve at the place where the Stupa is.  I’m doing my part.”

Somehow, it seems a bit too simple.  To just stay here forever.

Joshua told me:

“Logic is safe.  Maybe you should go have kids. Trungpa Rinpoche said that every child you have is a nail in the coffin.  You really want to practice tonglen?  Try that.”

I get it.

It’s easy here.  My meals are prepared for me.  Spiritually, “I’m doing my part.”

Anyway… This is a precious opportunity, and it is fleeting.

Last weekend, Heather and I did a program with Bruce Tift, who is a longtime student of Trungpa Rinpoche, former Naropa professor, and a psychotherapist with decades of experience.  Some key nuggets:

Relationship is legitimately path.  Appreciation for the relationship I am in.  And the possibility that my path will lead me to live outside of Shambhala Mountain Center someday…

I knew that.  But, something about talking about the future with Heather made it real.

My heart broke open a lot this past weekend.

This morning, in Colorado, my love and I sat naked and ate a mango from Florida.  True story.

– May 19, 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: Some Hallucinations

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.

What am I afraid of?

Feeling overwhelmed forever, failing in my endeavors, losing people’s approval, not achieving what I wish to, not receiving the recognition that I crave, not being special at all, being a grain of sand, being fundamentally mistaken, being nothing but a brief-luminous-flare.

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I really feel the need to go on retreat.  I’m all wound up.  I’m feeling clouded.

But…

It’s difficult to find the time.  Some people seem to think that living here is like being on one big retreat.  In a sense, that’s true.  But…  I work a lot here.  Most everybody that lives here works a lot.  Between the day-jobs that we have — which keep the business running — and our community service, obligations, participation…  it’s a lot.

And…

I just realized a couple of days ago that I ought to go down to Florida for a week or so in the beginning of May to help my mom.  Our family home is being foreclosed upon.  My brother is soon going off to college.  So, she’ll be alone.  The house is full of stuff — physical and emotional.  It’s been accumulating for half a century.  It’s a mess.  It’s quite haunted.

Anyway…  I’m just a little freaked out and need to go on retreat.  Note to self.  Got that?  Retreat.  Or, carry on and do my best with the state of mind and circumstances that are arising.  The time for retreat will open up and I’ll know it.  Keep the peepers peeled.

Last night in Fearlessness in Everyday Life class, lead by Greg Smith, we paired-up and asked each other: What are you afraid of?

My current answer: My own hallucinations.

– April 17, 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: 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.