Floral Notes and Bardo: Florida Notes #2

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.

Being in Florida is like post-meditation — rubber meeting the road.  Hot road.  Messy world.  Tenderness in everything, and a resistance to feeling it.  An impulse to fix it.  It’s painful to be in the midst of.  It’s painful to witness my habitual reactions.

…except for the consistently warm feelings I get whenever I see Fluff.

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As soon as I arrived, I called Rachel, my teacher in Florida.  She said:

“Our whole practice is about not reacting.  All that practice that you do, this is what it’s for.  This is a great opportunity.”

I want to fix it.  I want to be triumphant! It’s not working.

“Being present in nowness is the only success you will achieve in this situation, if you want to call that success.”

In a recent talk at the Being Brave retreat, Pema Chödrön talked about living in a privileged, comfortable, spiritual bubble.   And she’s grateful to meet with people who are in the trenches because it punctures the bubble and keeps her from believing that everything is smooth.

Somehow, SMC is the trenches and the bubble.  Ever since I arrived there a couple of years ago, I’ve regarded it as a “macro meditation cushion.”  All the elements of my world are represented there (except for Florida), but it all occurs within a meditative, contemplative container.  So, it’s all very tangibly practice.

Out here in Florida, I have set up a shrine in the room where I’m staying, as a reference point, reminder.  There are reminders all over the place at SMC.  You can hardly turn a corner without seeing prayer flags, buddhas, teachers.  It’s easier to forget here in Florida.  So, it’s easier for me to get worked up, stupid, aggressive.

Sakyong talks about how culture affects us and we affect culture.  It’s interesting to look at Florida through that lens.  It’s tough here for me.  It’s not a prime situation for doing what I want to do, which is study and practice the dharma.

I feel freaked out here.  I see lots of freaked out people here.  I see lots of crap, nature is oppressed.

And, how am I affecting it?

Trungpa Rinpoche says that a fallen leaf can affect a stream.  So, rather than trying to “manhandle” the state of Florida, my task seems to be to abide in my heart — apply what I spend my life practicing.  Every encounter I have changes the situation.  So, basically, relaxing and doing my thing.  Be kind.  Refrain from trying to fix.

It’s sad.  I feel like Florida is f’d.  Really though, I think it’s not so bad.  F’d is my projection.  I ought to go jump in the ocean and enjoy my time here, letting it be what it is.  I can be glad that I don’t live here anymore.  I have a good home in Colorado.  A really good home.  I’m lucky.

– May 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: Not Vacationing — in Florida

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

I told Joshua that leaving felt like a small death.  He said that arriving would be a Big Death: “The myth of freedom,” he said.  “I hope you have good waves.”

After getting off the plane, the anxiety of seeing people in Florida for the first time since I left was very pronounced.  It had been in the background — hopes and fears about how I may be perceived by them; whether there would be approval, or not, etc.

I’ve not worried for one second about how I would be perceived by Fluff.

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I spent the whole plane ride studying dharma.

I’ve not wanted to come back to Florida, and also, I was kind of excited to, because I knew it would be eventful — at least mentally and emotionally.  So far, that has proven to be true.

It’s really been amazing to notice my reaction to the environment and people, and my tendencies to spin stories about how it’s going, how it ought to go — wishing for things to go a certain way because I think that will bring pleasure.

It’s kind of ugly down here.  I’m witnessing my mother in a tough situation and I don’t feel able to fix it.  It’s awful.  And, I’m well aware that there a millions of people on the planet right now who are worse off than she is.  And I don’t feel able to fix that either.

By comparison, I am in a very cushie situation.

Here, the connection to my mother’s pain is unavoidable — but I find myself trying to shut it out.

I think this is happening a lot, all over the place, in my engagement with the world.

Yesterday on the plane, I found myself judging people negatively.  And, the dharma was saying: No.  You really have to understand that you are those people.  You are not better than anyone.  You are here to help alleviate their suffering — that very suffering which is making you so uncomfortable that you want to attack it.  That’s not the way to go about it.  You have to help people relax.

So, I’m down here in Florida practicing.  It’s like the opposite of a vacation.

– May 7, 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: Back/Forward to Florida

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.

At breakfast, I overheard a couple of friends talking about the Milky Way.  One had an experience last night, which was a clear night.  The other forgot to look up, and hasn’t seen it for a couple of months.

I used to live in Florida.  Here is a mural by Kelcie McQuaid of the ol’ crew:

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I’m going to Florida on Tuesday.  I have some worries and hopes about how it will go.  Returning for the first time since I left.  Some expectations: How will I be perceived?  How do I want to be perceived?  And, that’s not the point.  Will there be expectations?  I live at a retreat center so I should be _______. Peaceful?  Wise?

Part of me wants to prove that it’s working, that I’ve made a good life decision in coming to live here, that I am living a good life.  I would like peoples’ approval — if not admiration.  It’s a game, it’s a trap.  There is nothing to prove.  There is nothing but how truly we’re connecting in the moment.  It’s not about me.  It’s about not causing harm, being gentle, maybe being helpful and rousing authentic joy.

But I’m stuck (I’m not stuck) in the loop, the old loop of hope and expectation.  It’s a poverty-stricken mentality.  It’s ignorance.  Maybe today, tomorrow, “these days,” “this time,” I’ll buy into it less than before.  Maybe I will be able to just relax and be normal — a bit more than before.  Maybe I can try less, and be more authentic.

– May 2, 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: Don’t Stay Stuck

 

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.

Sweltering Florida is a heavy swamp,, shirt soaked in
doubt, mowing the lawn, day to day dirt. Muck.

Mountain air is fresh.

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Last night I was asked to describe a transition which has occurred in my life. I spoke about the move from suburbia Florida to a mountain-dwelling contemplative community.

I said lots of things:

What did I leave behind?

Petting my cat. Being close to my Mom. Swimming in the ocean. (and other lovely peoples and things, of course)

What have I gained?

My life is rich with meaningful relationships. I laugh so much more! So much more. That actually says it all, I believe.

I feel confident that I am right where I need to be.

–Lately, in the middle of my morning writing (as just now), I get a little knock on my door and it’s Heather, who visits my room just to kiss and smile for a minute before she hikes up to work–

She’s the one who interviewed me about transition. I thought she meant something else when she proposed the idea and so a bouquet of attachment, disappointment and freedom played out in my body and I read dharma.

Anyway…

I live here near the Great Stupa. I live among teachers and fellow practitioners. We talk a lot about mind, emotions, death, and the quirks of everyday living.

I’m learning tons about marketing, buddhadharma, love, leadership and generally leading a good human life.

I was asked what advice I would give to my pre-transition self:

Don’t stay stuck for too long.

–February 11, 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.