Floral Notes and Bardo: Rather than to Get High

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 had to remove those droopy flowers from the shrine.  I don’t know who put them there.  Afterwards, while urinating, I noticed a couple of small rainbows projected onto the wall in front of me.  Thinking “there really are rainbows everywhere,” I glanced over my shoulder and noticed the wall beside me glowing purple — the sun and my sweater mixing, radiating.

Previously:

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Trungpa was in a dream last night, I don’t remember the details.  But, I woke up thinking of Heather, and my mother, and the words — “You’re my peeps.  My closest peeps” — was looping.

I’m feeling a bit more settled today, somehow.  The spiritual growth-spurt concept is simply transforming into more luminous regular old reality.  There will never be regular old reality.  And, I feel some caution about speaking openly about this sort of stuff, a bit concerned that I might freak people out.  And wondering about Right Speech.

There’s a sense that being genuine isn’t about spurting out thoughts, unfiltered, but rather, being in tune with my experience and the environment, and offering what may be helpful, delightful, and so on.

As I was writing above, and getting into the trip, my body was frazzled.  It was total brain splatter.  I noticed, and then spent a moment feeling my way into the body, into the room, and felt more calm.  Feeling more calm now.  Okay.  Is this less exciting?  Am I writing to excite?

Maybe I wrote this yesterday: That the good motivation is to benefit others, the world, rather than to get high, to have heightened experience.  This is one of the main things I came out of retreat with, and so I immediately made lojong cards and have been working with the slogans again.  Meanwhile, the Shambhala magic is being revealed.  Meanwhile, the good ol’ Mahayana is fusing into my marrow.  I am dedicated to creating strong habits of consideration for others, putting others before myself.  I made this commitment almost a year ago now.  The greatest commitment of my life — the Bodhisattva Vow.  Anyway…

This idea of right motivation — benefitting the world, rather than getting high — seems to pervade everything that I may do: meditation, art, love-making, beer drinking… beer drinking?!

I was once in an interview with an Acharya, and he made a joke, imitating someone receiving oral sex and raising a fist dedicating the experience to all sentient beings.  His point was that we still like to get high.  And, vowing not to get high may be a bit much.  Maybe it’s fair to make the aspiration to keep that in check.  To be aware of when I’m getting high and being committed to not letting that get out of hand, to not allowing my pleasure seeking to actually create suffering for others — choosing pleasure over love.

So, that’s not the point.  Of course, I’m part of the world I have vowed to benefit… so a cookie here or there is good!

Okay.  What’s going on at SMC?  The aspens have grown fuzzy little caterpillar seed pods and when the wind blows — the wind blows! — the millions of little fuzz-puffs scatter into the air and fly across the land, across the picnic area — where more and more people are enjoying their meals.  A couple of new volunteer and staff have arrived — the first splashes of what will be a wave of newcomers in the next few weeks as the BIG summertime rolls around.  One new staff member is named Patrick.  He was here this past summer and, arriving yesterday, said nice things about this blog.  Thanked me for writing it.  I told him that now that he is here, he will probably show up in the blog.  Here he is now: Patrick!

– April 6, 2015

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious creature on the path of artistry and meditation, who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the lil’ society include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Sacred Training Ground

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.

Illuminated, frosty song — anchored by the mournful howls…

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Riding up the mountain road yesterday, on my way back to Shambhala Mountain, after having spent a couple of weeks in Florida, I had this baffling, beautiful feeling that I was entering another world.

I feel at home in this world. The energy here is tangibly different, heightened.  Meditation practice is more powerful, and people are operating in a different way.

We had a community meeting yesterday, and I was struck by the way we exist together up here.  The ordinariness of heartfelt, vulnerable communication is remarkable.

This is a different world.

And I feel connected to the suffering of my loved ones elsewhere.  Florida was intense.  Being there for so long (two weeks is a pretty long time to be in Florida, and a pretty long time to be away from here),  I became unified, just enough, with what’s happening there.  It’s my problem too.

Living here is not a way of escaping from those troubles, but a way of strengthening so that I can really help.

The way that I related with the situation down there was different than before.  I felt much more able to be patient, compassionate, accommodating, and to refrain from reacting aggressively when I encountered something that I didn’t like.

I encountered a lot of things that I didn’t like.  And I found that I could actually love those things.

In short, I feel reassured.  The practices are working.  The path is real.  I’m inspired to go further.  I believe that I can help this world, and deepening my commitment to the path is the best way.

Shambhala Mountain is a sacred training ground.  My life here is good — I am so well taken care of, and I’m growing a lot.

My heart was erupting with gratitude and joy as I reconnected with Heather, and felt myself landing — here at home, on the mountain, in my nest.  It felt great to receive food from my friends, to open the dharma books, and everything.

– January 8, 2015

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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: Not Normal

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.

Gluten free, vegan french toast, chocolate muffins and not-cow milk, but lots of big, fat cows all over the land.

None of this is normal.

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Meditation time has been moved an hour earlier and I’m off balance.

I was describing my feeling of being so out of routine lately, and how this has really started happening as teachers have been welcoming me into the mahayana.  “Good job,” Zane said.  “Enjoy the rug-being-pulled-out constantly, from now on.”

“Logic is safe,” Joshua told me.  “Sometimes the virtuous thing to do is sleep in.”

I’m seeking balance, still, stability in mid-air.  Studying teachings last night from the Sakyong about finding balance: time at the Shambhala Center, time being a householder, time out in the larger society.  Sometimes one area is receiving more attention than the others, and it’s always shifting.  What is path?  What does it look like?  Not always looking like a shrine room, church, or whatever.  The whole sacred display full of poetry and meaning, and empty, beckoning me forever to dance and play.  Not resisting change, emotions, or any person, and so a joyful presence.  May it be so.

Oh goodness… heading to the Phish concerts — weekend camp-out.  My soul-mouth is watering.  Ahh… Phish!

Each morning and evening I play a Phish song for Heather, as she’s not so familiar.  A couple of weeks ago, at dawn, we hiked up to the top of Marpa Point, overlooking the valley, beautiful dawn, and we listened to Gamehenge.  I had been leading up to it with stories — hints that Gamehenge is the parallel dimension sister-village to Shambhala Mountai Center.  (Truly, this is as close to living in Gamhenge as I could have arranged for myself.)  Anyway, I told her that Icculus lives up on the top of the mountain, and midway through the story, about the time that Icculus shows up in the story, a shirtless summer volunteer came out onto the top of the peak, above us, and howled.

Icculus!

This is a fairytale life, indeed.  I’m sure there are dragons in the air that we can’t see, and that the trees hear me singing.

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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: Still Crazy After… One Year

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.

Oh Bardo, this morning, golden brown strokes in deep grey skies, drizzling cool summer rain, and… cows everywhere — humongous cows… mooing, chowing grass.  Not normal.  Bewildered boy, in transition — perpetually, and now, indeed.

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Reflecting on the solitary sage dream, realized up on the hill, in the yurt.  Awake at 4am and breathing the teachings, texts.  Reflecting on… spiritual materialism, hinayana… and Heather, who appeared in the enchanted aspen grove and became an imaginary romantic character, a dream, and now, realized — deeper and deeper.  A real friend, in the flesh and imagination, always.  Now, mahayana heart dissolving barriers, and the richness and truth of the path of relationship.  This morning, did not make it to the shrine room, missed my drumming shift, instead, spoke with Heather in bed, watched cows out the window, did Qigong while the rain came down.  After breakfast, in the shrine room by myself, aspiring to become sustenance in all ways for all beings.

It used to be cut and dry, in my mind, and now the dharma is more fluid — my mountain bones and ocean, blood.  Inhale, exhale — vapor so luminous and sweet.  The shrine room, a house and car, and cat.  A job and paying bills… time in the cave, the festival, and the bedroom with lover.  The path unfolding in unexpected, yet somehow familiar, trustworthy, poetic ways.

I’ve been here for a year now.  Onwards, further, further, further…

– August 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.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

 

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: 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: Into Crystals, Refracting

 

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 a stream of powerful teachings in, through, from, the Stupa. I sat within the stream, arriving nowhere, continuously–to my delight, terror, amazement.

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Here’s what happened:

Acharya Emeritus Judith Lief spent many years compiling and editing the teachings that Trungpa Rinpoche gave over the course of thirteen three-month long seminaries. Until earlier this year when “The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma” was published, these teachings were not available to the public.

To celebrate the publication and the teachings themselves, there have been “Resoundings” or “read-a-thons”–folks have been reading the books aloud all across the globe. The final “Resounding” took place yesterday, with Acharya Lief, in the Stupa.

I was moved by the words. I moved the words. The whole thing was huge and fluid.

We were resounding the vajrayana teachings, which… are utterly beautiful and shattering. I was shattered and swept into the air–crystals refracting brilliant light.

After the first session–three hours of continuous resounding–we exited the Stupa. Looking up–rainbow colors, so vivid, in the clouds around the sun, behind the Stupa. ohwow…

I went down to lunch and nearly yelled at my friend when he told me he wouldn’t be attending the afternoon session because he was going to do laundry.

Moments later another friend of mine turned a cold shoulder towards me. I don’t know why.

I felt shattered, more.

The teachings emphasise the importance of building a strong foundation in the Hinayana–cause no harm; and the Mahayana–cultivate empathy. It’s crucial to do  this before entering into the Vajrayana–sacred everything, engage.

I recently took Refuge in the Three Jewels–formally entering the Hinayana stage of the path. Historically, I have often felt anxious to “get to the good stuff”–a.k.a. the Vajrayana magical stuff. I felt so glad and inspired touching into the stream of vajrayana teachings yesterday. It feels good to glimpse it. At the same time, I am becoming more and more respectful of my current spot. I’m in less of a hurry.

The teachings are brilliantly alive here, at Shambhala Mountain, where I live. I am here. I can stay here and progress along the path at a natural pace. I can afford to go deep into each stage.

It’s happening in unexpected ways.

Things don’t need mouths to speak–communication is happening all the time. There is always feedback. There is a message in each moment. That’s what the teachings say. That’s what I say.

This morning I was sitting at the table eating breakfast. I was looking around at the few other people scattered around the room–My fellows. My community. My family.

Sangha.

I have been feeling blown-out. I have been feeling as though I have no grip on what is happening. I have been sensing that the idea that there will ever be relief is just wishful thinking. I’ve been experiencing devastating loneliness. And I KNOW… I KNOW…

I KNOW… because I have felt this before, because I am somewhat familiar with the pattern, with how things arise and give way, how insight and growth occurs…

I know that the thing to do is:

Hang in there. Be curious about it. Don’t try too hard…

We’re all hanging in there (in here) together. That insight brought relief at the breakfast table. Being kind then felt like a very simple and effortless thing.

Sitting in space, trapped in space without a home… all of us. Seeing–the source of warmth?

~~~

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.