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: In the Sun, Reading Shantideva

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.

Om my way to lunch yesterday, I came across Oakes on a bench in the sun, reading Shantideva.

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He was in a head-on car crach the other night, while doing his evening rounds as Kasung.

Oakes was quite inspired, helpful, and strong before the accident.  The way he was speaking yesterday was more-so — more-clear, more enlightened…

He said: we have such a precious opportunity in this life to help people.

He expressed gratitude for how much the retreat we’re hosting is blessing all of us, and the land.

“It’s such an honor to help that happen.  The least we can do is give them what they need.”

His spirit of generosity was immense and folksy.  It didn’t have the flavor of spiritual pride.  Oakes is earthy, real, even gritty.  His heart is huge.  He sweats while he works without complaining.  He is available.

Last fall, we took refuge in the three jewels together — formally committing to the Buddhist path.  Next month, we’ll take our Bodhisattva vows.

Lately my mind has not been like the mind he shared while we sat on the bench.  There’s been lots of aggression, resentment, a feeling of burnout.  I know I need to turn it around 180 and put others first.  It’s not easy.  It’s counter-instinctive, somehow.  The only way to do it is genuinely.  But, there may be a “fake it till you make it” process.

So, perhaps what I’m seeking, within myself, and within my experience, is trust.  Trust in what?  Trust in my own non-existence.

– July 9, 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: Paramitas and a Mess

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.

Yesterday morning, I suited up in my baggy Kasung uniform and headed into the Court.  The Court is wherever the Sakyong is residing.  When the Sakyong is on the land, the second floor of Shambhala Lodge is transformed into the Court.  It feels imaginary and real at the same time.  The curtains are white.  Once you walk through, you’re in.  Inside, everything is sparkling.  People float around, glowing.

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I took my post.   When Rinpoche came out of his quarters, I held a tray for him while he made the day’s tea offerings on his way to give a talk to the Sacred World Assembly folks.

They’re in deep.  My friends are in the program, which was formerly known as “Vajrayana Seminary.”  They’re receiving secret teachings and formally entering into a guru-disciple relationship with the Sakyong.  It’s heavy, powerful, joyous.  The Main Shrine Tent is rocking, beaming with energy, singing, late into the night and early in the morning.

My friends are raw, inspired, minds are blown.  It’s really amazing.  The Shambhala Mountain Center staff is working hard hosting the program.  I’m feeling maxed out trying to fit in all of my day-job hours as well as many hours of Kasung volunteer work.

Yesterday afternoon, I noticed a sign-up sheet on the bulletin board for those who would like to take vows this summer — Refuge and Bodhisattva.  I’ve been waiting for the Bodhisattva vow to come around.  Here it is.  I will vow to put others before myself until all beings in the whole universe are liberated from suffering.  It’s a binding commitment.  A good one, I feel.

Yesterday evening, I attended a Kasung “Mess” — which is the military version of a soiree.  We had sake and horderves and chatted.  Then the Sakyong (Makkyi Rabjam is his Kasung name) arrived and we entertained him with goofy marching (jokes) and such.  The march leaders directed us to bump into each other and the walls, then we did “haiku drill,” reciting lines in pairs of three as we marched past Rinpoche in his chair.  He then said a few words to us about Kasungship.

My favorite part was when he said that some of us are deep into Kasungship, and we ought to go deeper.  And others are just checking it out, and we won’t remain Kasung long term, but it’s good that we’re getting a taste.  That’s me.  I’m glad to be getting a taste.  It does offer a deeper look into Shambhala, and is allowing me to learn about myself and my tendencies.

I was talking with a friend yesterday who feels similar resistance to Kasungship, but has signed up also.  We were discussing “Shambhala Boundaries.”  There are endless tasks.  There are endless positions which need filled.  How much can we take on as individuals without burning out?  How much can we take on and do joyfully, without resentment?

Joshua joked that setting boundaries is the seventh paramita.  My friend added that it must be the eighth, because the seventh ought to be humor.

– July 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.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

 

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Until I Sing

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.

Mental combustion in the middle of the night, fuming while the mist hung cool over the peaks in the morning.  Soft, and myself, dense — until I sang.

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Last night a mime appeared at dinner.  Then we held a Sukhavati ceremony for distant friend.  As the ceremony was beginning, a tremendous thunderstorm rolled in.  Hail came pouring down onto the shrine tent.  Acharya couldn’t speak over the noise, so we paused.  We sat while the storm raged.  Then, continued the ceremony.

Afterwards, I realized that my shoes were soaked.  I walked barefoot on little balls of hail and dirt trail beside Acharya and we enjoyed how the whole thing had unfolded.

I woke up the in middle of the night, angry, resentful of my commitment to Kasungship.

Basically: I have to devote hours of my life to helping others, rather than doing what I feel like doing, and I’m throwing a tantrum about it.

One of my storylines is that there are plenty of ways to serve, and one of them is Kasungship.  And Kasungship is not the one that I feel most naturally inclined towards.  I’d rather be arranging flowers, making music, nurturing the Delek System.

I think that story is valid.  And, it doesn’t matter.  I took an oath.  So, it’s my job to do my duty without complaining.  Seems like a positive thing to do.  Seems like I may grow through the experience.  But, man, it’s a pain in the ass.

This is the nitty gritty of the path.  This is the pickle of devotion.  My inspiration is low.  If catastrophe were to strike, I would be singing a completely different tune.  I want to not drift so far before remembering.

My heart is calling for a refresher: retreat.  Re-connect.  When will the window open?  What will it be like on the other side?  Will I look back with clarity and shake my head, with humor, for having allowed myself to drift so far, become so worked up and muddled-dumb, before taking a step back so that I may enjoy the beauty of the whole display?

Methinks: yes.

– June 25, 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: This Has Never Happened Before, Again

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 past couple of mornings, posted up at the torri gate — guarding the entrance!  Pretty much just sitting there, in my Kasung uniform — which doesn’t fit me so well.  Heather brought me breakfast.  Meditating.  Enjoying the bird songs, blue sky, trees in the breeze, chipmunks.  Sakyong comes running by with his crew.  I stand and salute.

We’re hosting Scorpion Seal VI, which means high practitioners are all over the place.  It’s very cool to be in the midst of them.  Their presence, practice, creates a heightened atmosphere.  The sounds of their rituals echo throughout the valley.  Smoke from ceremony, chanting, warrior cries.

Shenpen, Sensei is among them.  Yesterday she glided over to me and offered me a piece of chocolate, then with big bright whole-being smile, asked if I’d help uplift (clean) a small corner table in the staff mud room, so that it may properly host a flower arrangement.  She spreads flowers all over, generally, in all sorts of ways, on many levels.  She is in the bodhisattva business of beautifying.  I’m drawn to her style of contribution.

There’s all sorts of powerful teachers all over the place.

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Acharya Hessey is here.  He’s been an Acharya-homie of mine ever since we met last fall, when he and I sat together — I asked him questions about psychedelics, meditation, and what not.  He led me in meditation, incorporating Grateful Dead lyrics into the guidance.  It was beautiful.  Later that night, there was a gathering of folks around a fireplace and Acharya Hessey, Greg Smith and I played guitar, sang, jammed — played some Dead tunes, some jazz, I offered some originals.  A very fond night in my memory!

Anyway, Acharya Hessey has devoted a lot of his life to Shambhala Mountain Center.  He’s been involved for nearly four decades.  He’s lived here, worked and taught here, served as executive director, has sat on board of directors for a long time.  He’s as local as they get.  I carry around a bag I found in the free room which has his name scribbled inside.  It was his a long time ago.

Last night, Acharya Hessey sat in the Staff Living Room with a group of us, sitting in a circle on chairs and couches, and gave a beautiful talk, led discussion: What is Shambhala?  What are these “Scorpion Seal” people up to?  How may we approach living here together at Shambhala Mountain Center?  What obstacles arise?

The thing is: We can work together to create a friendly, gentle environment.

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Some notes:

Always new.  This has never happened before.

Feel whatever I’m feeling, not always acting on it.

Not laying trips on others.

READ SHANTIDEVA

– June 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: Oh to Be Hose

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.

Aching and illuminated, all of us — aching or ignorant, delighted or ignorant… Some bruised moments, touched firmly enough to evoke panic.  All the while, something bigger than the breezes unfolding forever, forever unresolved.  The aspen tress are full of leaves these days.  The smallest ones have the biggest leaves and all of them are fluttering, quaking to be precise, in the shifting winds.

DSC_0104Photo by Barb Colombo

I was standing in an aspen grove the other day, just standing, and I let myself go into as full of an immersion as I could.  I wish I could be more interwoven, or not think so much about that, rather, delighting in the movement of light and shadow, the sounds of the leaves, the sturdiness and softness of the tree trunk, branches…

Last night marching with the Kasung…  I have ongoing aversion to Kasungship (which is something to work with, I know).  I’m so grateful for the existence of the Kasung, but I don’t feel inspired to be a big-time Kasung.  When I’m serving as Kasung, I feel like I’m doing my duty.  Those aren’t the teachings that really sing to me.

Also, it’s a matter of time.  So much I’m trying to do here, while also not trying to do so much that I can’t ever kick back.  Last night I was resentful of the kasung meeting — I’ve taken a one year oath, so I feel obligated to fulfill that commitment by attending meetings, signing up for shifts, etc.  Not that it isn’t a very cool and often fun thing…

Anyway, the Miami Heat were playing in the NBA Finals and I wanted to watch the game, but instead I had to go to Kasung meeting.  The previous night I went to a class, tonight I’ll be going to a screening of a talk that Trungpa gave in 1974, tomorrow night a study group, then on Friday going down to Boulder for a weekend retreat lead by the Sakyong.

Every night of the week there’s something to do.  Something very good to do!  Something virtuous!  I’m so fortunate!  And, I’m so lazy!  Feeling a bit burdened.  But, really, feeling like something’s got to crack open.  That’s the forward facing attitude.  That’s facing East, always.

I’m subtly searching for genuine motivation — to engage, create, help others, serve the world.

Why not flop?  When I begin flopping with any sort of regularity, I begin to feel very restless.  It’s a self-correcting situation.  It’s becoming more-so.

This afternoon we’re having a Community Meeting, which I will be leading.  The purpose will be to re-establish, re-strengthen the Delek System as we head into summer.

My attitude about the Delek System has shifted a bit, which is part of a broader relaxation. “You don’t need to work so hard.” is what Hope Martin told me when she put her hands on my body and felt how hard I work to be upright, wakeful.

My approach to path, to my roles at Shambhala Mountain Center, has relaxed.  I’m seeking the balance between slouching and striving.  I’m seeking the HOSE.  At times,  Phish gets into a state of creativity which is effortless – as if they are a hose watering a garden of flowers.  The audience the flowers, the music the water, the band the hose.

I want to be a hose.

A hose can be a hose all day without becoming tired of being a hose.

– June 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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: So Many Ways to Be

 

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.

So many ways to be. More ways to be than I allow myself to imagine, let alone embody.

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My first time in Kasung uniform Friday night–like sticking my finger into a electric socket. I’ve worn some crazy things for the sake of art and exploration. The Kasung uniform shook my core–identity–as much as any outfit ever has.

Wearing a wedding dress is less of a big deal, because that’s just me being weird. Painting my fingernails (which I did (Heather did) earlier in the day) is also less… Well, it’s a similar sort of thing.

I like subverting norms and expectations–my own and those that others hold. I especially like playfully subverting gender norms

Wearing the Kasung uniform is extra edgy because it carries heavier connotations: I’m part of something, I have a role within a larger organization, which appears to be a very strange thing.

A sense of surrendering. I’m learning that it’s usually good to throw myself over the edge in order to expand– expand my comfort zone so that I may accommodate more feelings, be more relaxed in more situations: enjoy the whole ride more. And, being slightly less freaked out than other people is maybe the best way I know of to be helpful.

So, Kasungship is a practice of expanding my comfort zone and embodying a particular energy with the intention of helping others.

Kasung is protector. Protect what? Protect the teachings, the teachers, the community–the things that I actually care about most in this life. And, yet…uneasiness about the whole thing.

Trungpa Rinpoche created this form which is meant to provide protection, and in the process, provides an opportunity for those doing the practice to experience all sorts of hang-ups that they have about identity… and all sort of stuff.

Kasungship may be the most outrageous and multi-dimensional teaching that I have ever encountered, and I’ve only had a taste thus far.

It’s huge. I feel like a galaxy has exploded into existence in my body. I’m only beginning to process it. I wish to be able to articulate the brilliance and humor of this Kasung thing in the not too distant future.

It is a deadly serious joke. An amazing gift from Rinpoche.

–February 24, 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.