Floral Notes and Bardo: Earth!

 

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.

Earth, I know you’re alive. People, I know you’re alive. Plants and people equally alive. It’s a stretch for conceptual mind to accommodate that.

We’re not living in harmony with the earth, okay?

But… We are aspiring to.

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The other evening, President Reoch held another fireside gathering for the staff. In Shambhala we call these sorts of things “salons,” yet no one seems to be very clear about what a “salon” is. Seems like:

A salon is a gathering, not a party. A salon is celebratory and yet, sincere. A salon is neither business nor recreation. A salon is authentic and social.

So, Jared the Land Steward started a fire. Zane the Rusung (a protector role) attempted to do so but it went out, at which point he said:

“I don’t start fires, I put them out.” Which is true.

Folks asked the President any questions that they wanted to. The ice breaker was about the financial situation of Shambhala and Shambhala Mountain Center. It’s a hot topic. His answer was as short as possible (long) and satisfying. There seem to be skillful changes occurring.

One point: we all need to be less embarrassed about money.

Next question: Jared asked about our relationship to the earth. In Shambhala, the teachings are incredibly clear regarding how we ought to relate to the natural world:

It is sacred, and it is alive along with us.

President Reoch admitted: “We are not walking the talk.”

Yesterday, I sat with Jared for an hour and absorbed his wisdom. He’s in touch. He spends most of his time outdoors, relating to the nature. The living quality of the natural world is apparent to him–clearly apparent. A lot of the time, I feel like I am staring right at something that I am not seeing.

I wish for the boundaries between myself and the living earth to shatter, more and more as I live here. I want to be friends with the flowers and rocks and trees. I want to know them by name and love them like I love my human friends, and my cat. I want to sense their living presence at all times. I do to some extent, but I still feel sort of removed.

I think that many of us are dealing with a dualistic, Newtonian hangover. Our vision is blurry and so we’re still acting clumsily. But, I also feel like we’re coming-to. We’re shaking our heads to clear the fog and asking for help. That’s what I’m doing.

I’m saying: “Jared, I want to walk in the woods with you. I want to shake this unhelpful conceptual fog and connect emotionally to the wind and snow and trees. I want to feel the urgency.”

I feel it more now than ever before. I live with the earth here. And there are lots of opportunities coming up to deepen my connection.

This evening I’m participating in the third staff Ikebana class. Through this art-form, we contemplate and celebrate our connection with the natural world, with unseen inspiration, and with our own human ability. We join “heaven, earth, and humanity.”

This Sunday, Jim Tolstrup will be leading a sweat lodge for the community. This happens every month or so. Jim is connected to Shambhala as well as the Lakota tradition. I don’t know anyone who is more tangibly connected to our earth than he. Being around him always inspires me.

Throughout the coming months there are going to be other teachers and opportunities to explore: weekend programs in which we’ll spend time getting to know wildflowers, the stars, the seasons. Ahh… I live on this mountain, immersed in nature. I’m spending time with you, Earth!

Right now, as I write, snow is melting from the roof, it’s sunny outside, pine trees are waving at me. I say “hello” out-loud. It’s really real.

–February 13, 2014

~~~

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?

~~~

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

~~~

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: Love is a BOOM

 

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.

A thousand things we can’t see, in our tea-cup, and yet our
reflection on the surface–warm, cooling, gone.

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Mr. Cushman sent out a homework assignment for Joy class

Question 1. Contrast “awakened heart” and “love”

On my way up to the Stupa yesterday afternoon to do chores, I let the question bounce around and eventually said to myself:

Love is a more complete exhalation
Awakened heart is a spark, love is a fire
Awakened heart is a pop, love is a BOOM
Awakened heart is a nod, love is surrender

~~~

I have felt myself become a bit slack in my Dekyong duty recently. This weekend I’m participating in a program called The Six Ways of Ruling, which will be lead by Richard Reoch, the President of Shambhala. I had the honor of interviewing him about the teachings recently. The program will present Shambhala teachings on leadership, which were only transmitted in secret until fairly recently. I feel like this may give the Dekyong-Me a needed shot in the arm.

This morning I was photographing a snow-covered tree stump, I sensed and heard a person pass by behind me. I sensed that it was President Reoch. It was. His presence is so warm, inspiring, genuine. I’m really looking forward to the teachings, and the whole weekend.

–January 31

~~~

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. 

Q&A: The President of Shambhala on ‘Who is A Leader’ and ‘How to Lead’ (Note: You Are A Leader)

By Travis Newbill

President Richard Reoch leads The Six Ways of Ruling: Surviving, Transforming, and Working with Others, January 31-February 2.

Richard Reoch

Richard Reoch

Who are the “leaders,” anyway? Are the leaders “us” or “them”? Are we all leaders? The notion of leadership may arise in various contexts: we all strive to lead decent lives; when two people are dancing a tango, one person is leading (or else there will be extreme sloppiness, if not injury); some of us are in positions in which we lead groups of people in one way or another on a daily basis.

For leaders of any sort, there is profound guidance to be found within a set of teachings whose roots extend 2,600 years into human history. The Six Ways of Ruling stem from teachings on enlightened society given by the Buddha and were articulated in this age by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche–founder of the modern day Shambhala tradition–as a means to train his successor as Sakyong (“Earth Protector” or “King”). Only in the last decade have the teachings been made available to the public.

This coming January, Richard Reoch, the President of Shambhala, will present The Six Ways of Ruling in a weekend program at SMC. Recently, President Reoch generously made time in his schedule to have some discussion about what these teachings are all about, and who may benefit from engaging with them.

Can you describe the history of these teachings and who they may be applicable to?

President Reoch: When Trungpa Rinpoche first presented these teachings, he presented them as the training of the new Sakyong: When the prince first sees how much chaos and drama there is in the world, of all sorts, and how much needs to be accomplished during his reign, he might lose heart. So, Trungpa Rinpoche says, in order to accomplish his purpose while he’s the Sakyong, he needs to be thoroughly accomplished in the Six Ways of Ruling.

I see.

And from that perspective, these teachings are a recipe, or an orientation, for that kind of leadership. At the same time, of course, the notion of Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo [the female counterpart] is meant to be an indicator and an inspiration for how we lead our own lives.

So, we are all leaders–kings and queens–in a sense?

There is a quality in which you need to attend to your own life. You have relationships with others–whether you like them or not. Most people have to work–whether they like it or not. Most people end up in teams of some sort, and then there’s the larger notion of community and society.

And these teachings are helpful in working with that stuff?

These teachings are completely and utterly applicable whether you’re just figuring out how to lead your own life or whether you’re pondering becoming the next Secretary General of the United Nations. So, no limitations there in terms of leadership.

So, how can we be good leaders?

I think the first thing is to use your own insights about yourself in order to understand the other people that you’re working with. Fundamentally, I believe that most of the leadership work that we do, at most levels in Shambhala, is entirely about working with others, and working with others’ states of mind.

So, the first thing is not to reference a to-do list?

If we approach leadership from the point of view of task first, generally speaking, we find we’re not capable of accomplishing the task.

Interesting.

Because the states of minds, attitudes, aspirations, and insights of others are the raw material that we work with all the time, the first thing really is taking the time and having the insight and the kindness to have a real sense of who the other members of the team are.

Doesn’t that take time away from the “actual work”?

Well, this doesn’t mean we never get any work done, but there’s got to be a sense of “How are we today?” and “Where are we at?” and “Where are we going?” It’s extremely important to lay that sort of ground in order to work for the best interests and the benefit of the whole group.

It seems that, conventionally, people equate speed and agenda-obsession with accomplishment.

That sort of approach produces a certain kind of accomplishment, but usually that kind of accomplishment runs into the sand pretty fast. The alternative is to be a person who kind of understands what the mood of the group is, and where we’re at today, that kind of thing.

Sounds like how to not be a dreaded “boss.”

It’s really a question of being open minded and attentive to people and realizing that there’s wisdom and intelligence in the group. A quality of open heartedness, open mindedness, and intelligence of that sort creates a common spree decor.

And that sort of situation produces tangible results?

I would say that it is capable of accomplishing much more, having much greater stamina, and creating more mutual support than any amount of–no matter how well informed it is, or how well intentioned–directive leadership. That, by the way, is what it says in the Six Ways of Ruling.

How does the notion of renunciation relate to leadership?

In his book Ruling Your World, the Sakyong says–and I am paraphrasing–if you have the feeling that you can do something without working with others, that is a clear sign that you have not conquered self-absorption.

I think this is the key point here: You could say that in some forms of what are regarded as conventional leadership, people are seen as having large egos or being in it for themselves. And then you have extreme forms which we see in the world around us as abuse of power, corruption in high places, self-promotion, and all that sort of thing.

And this occurs on the smaller levels as well…

On the smaller level the person who is leading from the point of view of ‘what’s best for them personally’. Or, they need to accomplish their agenda. Or, they have a kind of narrow minded approach to things, you could say. That is what needs to be renounced. So, in place of what is being renounced, what is being adopted is a more open-minded attitude, a more open-hearted attitude, a concern for the welfare of others, and trying to lead for the benefit of the overall vision or the overall benefit of the group or the people that you’re leading.

It seems that there’s a quality or service.

I’m sure you might be familiar with the phrase “servant leadership.” There’s a sense that you’re serving. So the interesting thing there is that often people hear the word “serving” and they tend to think of it as “low in the hierarchy” or somehow associated with “servile” or has some kind of quality of denigrating oneself: “I’m only here for others,” that kind of thing. And I think the flip in the Shambhala approach is that actually the highest position–or the king’s view, or the greatest manifestation of leadership–is leadership which is totally devoted to the welfare of the entire society, and is ultimately the practice of egolessness.

There’s a line in a Grateful Dead song: “You who choose to lead must follow.” Is that what you’re talking about?

So, there’s a fine line there. Leading for the benefit of all might not be the same as following. Not to take issue with the Grateful Dead, but that’s part of the skill and discernment involved here. Asking “what does ‘serving others’ mean?” “Serving” is definitely not used in the Shambhala teachings as being popular. And at the same time, you have to have enough people like you so that you can be in your position. So there’s a real dance of discernment–of working with others, open-heartedness, dignity and integrity and that sort of thing, and one might be leading in a direction that is counter to what people habitually might want to do. Interesting, huh?

Yes, indeed. Thank you for your time.

It’s been a delight.

President Richard Reoch leads The Six Ways of Ruling: Surviving, Transforming, and Working with Others, January 31-February 2.