Floral Notes and Bardo: And, who knows? But living…

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.

Green blades of grass are popping up from the ground.

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Last night a deep discussion on death and impermanence in class with Greg — Fearlessness in Everyday life.  Afterwards, with Heather, connecting in presence, communicating, acknowledging a disconnect in… view, personality, life-approach, interests.  Acknowledging the possibility of splitting as well as the possibility of not.  Impermanence is not theoretical here.  None of the teachings are.  This whole place is a living, breathing, dharma lesson.  Teachings in 3D.  Maybe 4D.  I can taste the dharma here.  It rubs my shoulders and smacks me on the head.  Walking away from her, I felt relief — in imagining passing, freedom.  Now… What is freedom?   Solitude — free of mirrors?  Free to only dive into dharma?  What is dharma?  Sitting on a cushion and reading books?  I know that my work here, my whole life here, is the path of dharma.  I may be here for ten years.  This morning in meditation, I was contemplating impermanence.  I recalled my brother singing “All Things Must Pass” to our dad while he was dying of cancer.  There seems to be enough room — in my life, heart, mind — to let that happen.  Clinging is clear to see here, and its futility.  Beauty in arising, beauty in dwelling, beauty in passing.  And, who knows?  But living with the reality of impermanence…

– April 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: Wild and Dignified

 

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-Ching toss last night–”stillness.” The image of a mountain–first hexagram. Second: progress. The image of the sun rising.

Greg said: Taming the mind, meditative stillness, and waiting until the right moment to act. And, when I do, it will be effective. Something about the hexagram saying: Don’t allow your hips to become frozen. You’ve got to boogie. No cave-dwelling yogi life for you right now, Ngejung Tachok.

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And, be with the peeps. Being a leader, you’ve got to be with the peeps, not separate from them. You are a peep.

Greg was giving me an I-Ching reading upstairs in the library, meanwhile downstairs in the shrine room, the Beastie Boys, dance party. Pounding electronic music. I’d been dancing then saw Greg in the hallway and asked for a reading.

He’d given the ceremonial reading for SMC earlier in the day.

Shambhala Day (or, Losar)… The New Year. Big day of celebration.

It began at 6am toast to the new year, then we marched up to the Stupa–Kasung-style:

“Left, left, left, right, left…Eyes on the horizon!” and the sun was coming up–orange, radiant. The weather was lovely, clear, crisp.

At the Stupa–lahsang ceremony. Clouds of smoke and offerings, group chanting, juniper, waving flags. Then inside the Stupa for Elixr of Life sadhana, bathing ourselves in saffron water, reminding ourselves of death, preciousness of life, making aspirations to not sleep through it. To use our lives to wake up and help the world.

Lovely breakfast, socializing and then we gathered in the shrine room for the webcast of the Sakyong‘s Shambhala Day address–beautiful. Funky mountain-internet connection made it comedy.

Later in the evening, a formal dinner and the Shambhala Ball (Bhal?).

I dressed in tights, tie, and tu-tu. At dinner I toasted the Sakyong, from the bottom of my heart. Greg asked me to make the toast. When he told Director Gayner that I’d be doing it, Mr. Gayner said:

“In his tu-tu?”

and Greg said:

“He’s wearing a tu-tu?”

It went well.

These sorts of things can happen at SMC. That’s why I know I’m in the right spot. This may be the wildest spot in the mandala. Yeah…

The Bahl began with a choreographed waltz. Several of us had been rehearsing, lead by Greg (who is so darn graceful), in the week leading up to the event. So magical… So fairy tale.

Shambhala really has this whimsical, fairy tale quality to it. Dragons and kings, and ball gowns, horses, magic… And it’s all grounded in authentic buddhadharma. Ahh…

After a few waltzes, DJ Stephen Extro, who lives here and is a hot-as-shit awesome DJ, played music for us. Really high energy awesome electronic music. A bunch of us on the dance-floor together–Joshua, Director Gayner, Kaleigh-boss, Heather, friends–my peeps. Everyone together enjoying this high energy dance vibe.

A moment with Mr. Gayner, as he was doing weird powerful martial arts moves, directing energy with his hands. I joined him. Such a mystical scene. All of us holding and playing with, all of us within this, potent energy field. So much good energy from the day erupting in this dance experience.

May SMC always be wild and dignified.

Towards the end of the night, while the music was still pumping, a few of us set up the meditation cushions for this morning’s session. Just the slightest tinge of a hangover this morning and I rang the gong only 5 minutes late.

–March 3, 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: Kill the Buddha

 

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.

Black honest and white too pure for stars to hold. The shakier the fringes the more it may be expanding. More space-venue for exploration.

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Dön Season Day Two:

In the morning, Mr. Cushman helped me with the Vajrasattva mantra. It’s long and hard to pronounce. In the evening when Greg lead the chants, he whipped through the mantra so swiftly that I had no chance of reciting it along with him. After a few times through (we recite “Pacifying the Turmoil of the Mamos” 21 times during Dön Season)… After a few times through I gave up on trying and instead just opened up to Greg and connected with his recitation. He was positioned beautifully, an elder master, conducting the ceremony using sacred implements–bell and dorje, displaying mudras.

Later in the evening… A disagreement with teacher in class regarding a point of dharma. I felt confident that he was not presenting a point accurately and so felt responsibility to debate him. It was a long exchange, which ended in me saying that “we have different interpretations.” It was unsettling…

Döns are ripening negative karma. This was definitely a moment of that. Afterwards, when I was discussing the event with Heather, I was feeling myself slipping towards emotionally charged criticism of this teacher–harmful speech, “talking about injured limbs.” No good. At that moment, she interrupted me and brought me to a wall on the other side of her room where pictures of My Little Pony characters are hanging.

She told me how the six main character ponies seem to represent each of the Six Paramitas, which we were discussing in class.

She protected me from creating more negative karma. Whether or not she did it on purpose isn’t important. Interference like that is good, is protection. We chant in order to bring about occurrences like that. In order to influence the flow of reality so that events arise that wake us up, that stop us in our tracks when we’re about to do something stupid.

–February 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. 

Interview with a Meditator: Learn to Meditate

 

“People realize that they can make friends with themselves and that seems to be the main point”

Greg Smith started meditating in 1976 and began teaching meditation practice in 1982. In this interview he addresses some of the questions that he regularly encounters with beginning meditators, about the purpose of meditation and the Learn to Meditate program, and his own reasons for beginning this powerful practice.

Beginning meditators rarely begin this practice without misconceptions of what it is that they are doing. For so simple an activity, meditation is often made out to be something it is not. “They kinda want to make their minds go away, which is probably not such a helpful approach” says Greg, suggesting that it’s more about leaning to make friends with yourself.