Floral Notes and Bardo: Having a Cow (Finally)

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.

Ever since I first arrived here two years ago, I’ve been seeing cow pies… but never a cow.

Where there is smoke there is fire.

Where there is cow poop, there are cows.

Not so!

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“I feel like my mind just did a somersault.  This turns everything around, on its head.”

That’s what Mimi said last night when I was reading a piece of Trungpa’s dharma on the eighth consciousness, basic ground, abhidharma…

Anyway, “having a cow” is a good description of my mental state recently.

There’s been a fair amount of resentment and aggression.  People have always reported here that summer is a beast…

So, a shift…

I declared I’d be taking the Bodhisattva vow next month — picked up the lojong cards, brought tonglen into my practice.  The other day Director Gayner gave a great presentation on the Feng Shui of the land, the magic…

There has been a recent leaning towards skepticism, cynicism, wanting to be really straight and clear about things.  It became too tough, too hard — the attitude.

Soften into magic! …without becoming indulgent and safe.  Be joyful!  Lighten up!

Don’t have a cow!

Yesterday, I saw a cow and cheered up a lot, instantly.

It happened on my way to the Stupa for a Sukhavati ceremony, for a friend’s father.  Much of the community was gathered, and it was beautiful. Soften…

– July 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.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Don’t Do That

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.

Growling in a cave, no one to hear, no one to blame, just the discomfort of… Or, alternatively, the bliss of no one to impress. But what if all this society stuff falls apart? What if no one shows up to ring the gong and lead chants?

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There have been times when I’ve been the only one in the shrine room for a session.  I ring the gong and chant solo.  It’s lonely, sad.  Something a bit pathetic about it.  DON’T WALLOW IN SELF PITTY And yet it feels tremendously powerful, brave, inspired.  That’s the flip.  DON’T TURN GODS INTO DEMONS

If someone misses a dish washing shift here, it is plain to see that the dishes are dirty.  So, no one can get away with it.  If I don’t meditate, my mind is like stinky dishes…

DON’T PONDER OTHERS

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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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Stew in Space, and…How to Rule?

 

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.

Clapping muscles. Fangs into popsicle–shock like a bell, breastbone. Dirt in mid air–my dirt, your dirt, our dirt. Tears, mud. How else would we know this stuff but to care enough to tumble together?

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President Reoch leading a fireside chat.

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Everything that happens here, happens in a big way. Little things happen in big ways. It can be like throwing a dart at a barn, or being bit by a pterodactyl (rather than a mosquito).

Last weekend, President Reoch lead The Six Ways of Ruling. Amazing teacher, amazing teachings on leadership from the Shambhala tradition. To begin with–leading one’s life. My life is like a stew and I don’t feel like I’m holding the bowl or spoon. I may be the steam rising off the top, or a slice of potato. It’s a rich stew–dharma practice, romance, work, and a legitimate position of leadership within our little society.

I am trying to organize all of this stew-stuff so that it can all reside in the bowl nicely. I want folks to be able to dunk a spoon in and delight in it. What am I talking about?

I’m talking about a super rich and full life and feeling a bit off balance and not in control. It’s all good stuff. But it’s a LOT of good stuff. And I’m afraid that my neighbor’s knee is going to bump the table and hot stew is going to scold my crotch.

Be grateful to everyone.

Dharma–saving grace.

If my neighbor does so, I will (try to) blame myself and be thankful for the way the lava-like-stuff of my life becomes impossible to ignore, thus rousing me from my comfortable slumber.

My uncle, The Captain, says “If you ever get your shit together, you’ll then have a big pile
of shit.”

Steamy.

Trungpa Rinpoche says:

“Groundlessness is your protection.”

It’s difficult to keep track of all that is splashing around. Maybe trying to do so is the root of insanity. Stew is chaotic. Stew is good. Stew is nutritious.

I’m feeling bewildered and I trust what is happening. Versions of myself are being gobbled up by gentle breezes which I am referring to as gale force winds.

–February 4, 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: A Crazy Thing I Made

 

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.

Ghost-pepper sneeze of truth, came out a like a face-fart aspiring to be a sonnet. If you love me, you’ll understand. If you love me, you must be able to accomodate these types of things. If we’re going to really be friends, you must forgive farts of all sorts and be unafraid to cry if pepper dust from my stupid-sneeze hits you in the eye. I’m sorry. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. A formula for friendship?

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This is Avajra John posing with a crazy thing I made for him.

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The other night an impromptu gathering in Heather’s room–craft jam. I made a crazy thing for Avajra John, Heather made New Year’s cards for her Vietnameese friends, and Dorian worked on a figure drawing. I’ve been up past my bedtime so much recently. I’ve not been singing in the morning the last couple of weeks–I miss that and need to start it back up. I’ve been tired in my days. Yesterday I did a live video-interview  with a wonderful mindfulness teacher, Shastri Janet Solyntjes. I was so sleepy that I was concerned that my brain would go numb and our conversation would poo-out. But, it went well. I think that she skillfully transmuted my sleepiness into wakefulness. Good teacher. Later, in lojong class, I didn’t have any questions for teacher–which is a rare thing. Usually I have too many.

I try to be careful but open with my speech. It sucks to say stupid things. Here is a lojong slogan which is helping me handle the psychological aftermath of having said something stupid:

“When the world is filled with evil, Transform all mishaps into the path of bodhi.”

Basically swapping “Oh shit” with “Okay”–viewing the whole thing as a learning process. That’s my interpretation and application, anyway.

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It’s about time to step up my Dekyong game. It’s fallen off a bit recently along with the singing. I’m glad to report that the meditation practice is as consistent as ever. That’s the most crucial thing.

–January 29

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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: Sunday Stuff, Nice

 

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 is there to devour? My expectations?

Soft snow falling out the window. It’s going to pile up. We’re going to make snow beasts. We talked about it yesterday and wished for the materials. Snow, snow, snow…

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Some stuff on a Sunday:

Morning meditation, wrote a bit and then my dishwashing shift, contemplating lojong slogans while scrubbing pots and pans. Afterwards, kernels klanging against a metal pot, fun music–friendly cooks helped me make popcorn. I dusted it with nooch (nutritional yeast, yum). Plans to watch a movie later.

Heather and I had lunch together, called our moms on the phone… During a lull in conversation with my mom, I heard her ask her mom:

“Have you smelled anything interesting recently?”

We did laundry and cleaned our rooms. Laundry was adventurous–I won’t say why. I will say that it was fun watching our clothes tumble around.

After our chores were completed we sat on a bench. The sky became pastel magic. We got up and walked around, stopped in the middle of a snowy meadow, layed down and watched the rest of the sunset. Then, hiked up a hill and snuggled into a rock-boulder-sofa-nook together and gazed out over the valley. Heavy purple clouds. The occasional voice-echo from somewhere. Mostly…stillness. Gently swaying pine tree beside us. Clumps of pine  trees scattered. Rock formations all around. The Stupa to the south. Stillness. How did we get here?

Before it got too dark we climbed back down the rocks, held mitten hands walking back across the meadow, across the land. Just in time for dinner–Amazing restaurant quality Italian meal, warm bread, fancy olives and all.  We sat at a corner table. It felt like a booth.

She said: “Some standards can be observed even on top of a mountain

After dinner we grabbed the popcorn and some other goodies which I had stashed and walked across the icey land again to the little Elkhorn House–which is our community hangout space.  It has a big screen TV, games, a piano, a great sound system, and sofas. This stuff was generously donated as gifts to the staff.

We made pepermint tea, cuddled up on a sofa beneath a tie-dye blanket and watched a bizarre movie. We didn’t budge when the film ended and so the DVD looped  and the movie started again. We peeled ourselves up about half way through, bundled in our coats and boots, and stepped outside. Snow. We walked across the land again–her flashlight pointed down at the ground and mine up, illuminating the snow flurries (warp speed, star-travel). Finally arriving to our clean, cozy lodge rooms. Goodnight.

It’s still snowing. This morning I hit her with a snowball. She picked it up and threw it back at me. Then we looked at the pretty snowflakes landing on the sleeves of our jackets.

–January 27                  

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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: People Flower


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.

Passing pictures back and forth–how many times per second?
Flickering dream, expressing itself as kisses.
Under the bed, shadow monsters.

The main thing is:
so much care.

So much care is required for people to flower.

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Acharya Lyon is leading a class on logong–about recognizing the dreamlike quality of our experience, and then engaging in a way that helps to alleviate the suffering of everyone who is mixed up in this thing.

Meanwhile–I’m becoming delightfully, terrifyingly, willingly mixed up with a particular-fellow-person.

I’m nursing a cold. I’m tasting high-grade sweetness. I’m saying things like this to myself:

Joyous to have
Such a human birth,
Difficult to find,
Free and well favored.

But death is real,
Comes without warning,
This body
will be a corpse.

Unalterable
Are the laws of karma;
Cause and effect
Cannot be escaped.

Samsara
Is an ocean of suffering,
Unendurable,
Unbearably intense.

(“The Four Reminders” by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche)

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.