Floral Notes and Bardo: Squirm, Squirm, Leap

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.

There is no escaping the collective here.  The buzz in my skull is a shared reverberation.  There is internal and external chatter, and calm.

This is the shrine in my yurt:

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Through my comical aversion to Kasungship, I’m recognizing my inclination towards maintaining my bubble.  I have an agenda.  I’ve been so worked up about things.

I decided to plant myself for a day this past weekend.  A 24 hour retreat, to settle.  I went to the Stupa early in the morning, to be alone, in peace.  There were already people there.  I practiced for a while.

I ate breakfast by myself in an aspen grove.  I made a sign and clipped it on my shirt: “Noble Silence,” indicating that I would rather not engage in conversation with anyone.  The noble silence badge is common around here.  People wear them during retreats.

After breakfast I sat back down in my yurt for a long morning of solitary, sitting meditation.  Ahh…

About an hour into my session, I heard footsteps outside.  Kasung Kate came to my door.  I gestured for her to come in.  She had done the work of organizing a gathering for those of us who will be attending Enlightened Society Assembly later this month.  One of the teachers, Acharya Melissa Moore, was leading an online discussion.  Kate had hiked all the way up to my house to retrieve me.  Very kind.

I walked down after her and listened to the talk, asked questions.  It was a very auspicious interruption of my day’s agenda.

I ate lunch in the trees and afterwards went back up to my house for several hours of meditation, with a bit of study thrown in at the end.  I read Treatise on Enlightened Society.

There seems to be no escaping the reality that we’re all bound up in this together.  And I realize that I have an inclination toward self-protection, comfort-seeking.  There seems to be a real leap that has to occur.  I have to leap over my laziness in order to be helpful.

All the teachers say that helping others, that not being selfish, will bring true joy.  I know it’s true because I’ve experienced that before.  But I forget.

There’s a leap involved in opening up to people, to their beauty and fragility.  Lately, I’ve noticed a tendency to immediately judge negatively.  People are easier to ignore if their ugly.  It’s not helpful.  It seems that to shift things in a positive way for myself or others I have to leap, leap, leap.

I’ve been glancing at this truth with a skeptical eye recently.  And, I’m finding that resisting the truth that helping others is of utmost importance brings misery and struggle.  It’s becoming more real — because with my skepticism, I’m beating it into a pulp.  There is no squirming out of anything.  We’re all in this together.

– June 30, 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.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Some Hallucinations

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.

What am I afraid of?

Feeling overwhelmed forever, failing in my endeavors, losing people’s approval, not achieving what I wish to, not receiving the recognition that I crave, not being special at all, being a grain of sand, being fundamentally mistaken, being nothing but a brief-luminous-flare.

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I really feel the need to go on retreat.  I’m all wound up.  I’m feeling clouded.

But…

It’s difficult to find the time.  Some people seem to think that living here is like being on one big retreat.  In a sense, that’s true.  But…  I work a lot here.  Most everybody that lives here works a lot.  Between the day-jobs that we have — which keep the business running — and our community service, obligations, participation…  it’s a lot.

And…

I just realized a couple of days ago that I ought to go down to Florida for a week or so in the beginning of May to help my mom.  Our family home is being foreclosed upon.  My brother is soon going off to college.  So, she’ll be alone.  The house is full of stuff — physical and emotional.  It’s been accumulating for half a century.  It’s a mess.  It’s quite haunted.

Anyway…  I’m just a little freaked out and need to go on retreat.  Note to self.  Got that?  Retreat.  Or, carry on and do my best with the state of mind and circumstances that are arising.  The time for retreat will open up and I’ll know it.  Keep the peepers peeled.

Last night in Fearlessness in Everyday Life class, lead by Greg Smith, we paired-up and asked each other: What are you afraid of?

My current answer: My own hallucinations.

– April 17, 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. 

 

 

Connecting Tai Chi and Buddhism with Larry Welsh

By Travis Newbill

Larry Welsh will be leading Flowing Like Water, Strong as a Mountain: Tai Chi Retreat, April 25-27

Larry-20Welsh-IMGP0429cc-(1)The ancient practice of Tai Chi Chuan has often been called the “supreme ultimate exercise.” When joined with mindfulness sitting meditation, these two forms bring forth a potent way to awaken health and restore well-being in body, mind, and spirit.

Larry Welsh, MAc, MA, has trained in the Yang-style short form, listening hands and sword form of Tai Chi Ch’uan since 1977. Larry is Senior Adjunct Professor and Mindfulness-Meditation teacher in the Traditional Eastern Arts program at Naropa University. He practices Japanese Classical Acupuncture, herbal medicine and whole-food nutrition in Boulder, Colorado.

Watch our interview with Larry Welsh below, or scroll down to stream/download the audio.

If you’d like to download the audio file, CLICK HERE and find the “Download” button. Otherwise, you can stream the audio below.

Larry Welsh will be leading Flowing Like Water, Strong as a Mountain: Tai Chi Retreat, April 25-27. To learn more, please click here.

Floral Notes and Bardo: Good-life Immersion

 

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 week of staff retreat–so, so good…

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Meditation in the mornings, talks from our teachers, a beautiful lahsang on day one, cooking meals for each other.  In the afternoons–activities: music group, art, nature, physical movement, study…

So, peeps chose a track, grouped up, and got deep into those activities.  Some of us peeps got into music.  I facilitated the group and encouraged deep listening, space exploration, improvisation…  edgy spots, sweet spots, unexpected things.   And after we bravely improvised together, becoming braver as the days went on, we’d spend some time just hanging out with some tunes–Irish tunes, Brazilian jazz tunes…  everyone in the group was coming from a different place, musically, and so the improv was interesting and also the hangout section was lots of fun and varied.

The first night of the retreat we held council practice for the whole community.  People sharing from the heart in a sacred space.  I felt such deep love for everyone.  It set the tone for the rest of the retreat.

Such immersion into what it is to live here.  Time spent together–practicing, playing, just being together.  Lots of spontaneous, long conversations.  People staying after meals just to hang…  Ahh, so good.  Time with the land.  Time enjoying living in this amazing situation together, free from the day-to-day complexities and stresses that go along with trying to keep the thing afloat, and progress towards greater operations.  Of course (of course!), the greatest operation is ever-happening.  This was a nice reminder of that.

In the evenings there were various activities–dancing, movies…  Nathaniel and I hosted a sound bath.  People laying on cushions in the center of the shrine room–heads together in the center, huge speakers all around, dimmed lights, and an hour and forty minutes of washy, lush, beautiful music curated by Nathaniel, who has exceptional taste.  I offered a bit of my music into the mix, which he blended nicely.

Milarepa Day on day 6.  Oh, wow!  A full day of reciting, singing, chanting “The Rain of Wisdom“–spontaneous songs of our Kagyu forefathers.  So, so, beautiful.  So deep.  We began at 9am and went until after 10pm.  A very rich, traditional Buddhist day.  We drank chai  and nettle tea on breaks.  Sho mo! What a joyful, good experience!

The next day we went to the Great Stupa for Sadhana of Mahamudra.  I was so glad for how everything lined up/unfolded.  We spent a lot of time planning and preparing for the retreat, and then it seemed the magical forces kicked in and carried it to better places than we could have imagined.

We ended with a feast at which we practiced the Shambhala Sadhana, dined, and had libations, toasts, and made offerings.  The music group performed, others sang and shared things about their experience throughout the retreat, the art group had everyone throw colorful paper airplanes…

Rejoicing the Container: Our friend Tara–who was here and then left–asked us to put this nice thing into place: a box which collects ‘thank yous’–to people, from people.  We did so and offered the thank yous at the feast.  Everyone read one from the box.  Touching.

So… Ahh!  Such a deeply beautiful immersion into the magic of living here together.  That’s the thesis.  That was the intention and it really hit nicely.  So grateful.  Now onwards into the springtime…

–March 24, 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: Golden Sky, Level 1.5

 

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.

Sun/torch
brought close to
buzzing fly–not to fry the lil’ baby, but to remind it
of eventual disintegration.

Golden water will vanish, and also: butterflies.

Not so scared of tumbling into the dream.

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Time spent with sky and sparkling snow, and emotions, my friends and Teacher Steve. I was a helper for Shambhala Training Level I last weekend. Two years after I first took the program with David and Ethan Nichtern in NYC. It was a wonderful experience–again.

After a full weekend–full heart, full of meditation, and awakening-moments, a walk around with friends up to my little house for a tea party. Then hiking back down–gazing 360 with amazement at the sunset. A lovely nap/sweet cuddle. Barely made dinner and heard about a party. Across the land again, now stars out–baffling. And giddy to be walking with this friend. Joyous gathering–sweet booze/poison from Chile, saw my dear heart-friend (had been a long time), and an amazing tarot reading–one friend to another in the middle of the party. Incredible–loving, wild, comedy. Trio hike home. Big moon. Friend showing me constellations, then goodnight. Late to bed. Laid awake–again. Laying down meditating. Opened my eyes to golden sky.

~~~

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: Slow-down Practice (Slow Down, Practice)

 

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 much happening these days–all days, always
in my mind, body, office, and in the general atmosphere. So many ideas about
the path forward–business-wise, community-wise, and
personally. I am feeling more and more
one
with this organization.

My sleep has not been so restful. Maybe too much tea
too late in the day. But also, for sure,
activated imagination. So much energy to process.
It’s challenging. I’m glad for it.
There is a lot to do. There is a lot of work to do.
The is a lot of art to do. There is a lot of caring to do.

–On this planet. In this day and age.

I’m learning how to do that.
There are teachers here who are helpful.
The whole life here–

here = SMC; but also, here = HERE

but, especially SMC (for me)

is a place to practice.

Practice meditation. Practice friendship.
Practice art. Practice work.
etc.

Because there are bombs going off in my chest and
brain these days, I will spend the entire day tomorrow
meditating in the Stupa.

One of my aspirations for 2014 is to sit a nyinthun on every Saturday
which follows a New Moon.

sit a nyinthun = meditate for a full day

Sitting meditation is the opposite of propagating sickness. Here is a sign which is posted on the Quadropooper:

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This is the Quadropooper:

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Bracing the old shack for a windstrom that’s been on the way since before
contruction began.
Before the trees were planted.
Long before lumberjack swung for pay–
greasy sausage

An entry from an encyclopedia
belted out operatically to illustrate
the continuity of knowledge and feel,
words and intuition,
art and work,
speech, song, hearing, and growth.

Passed on from elderly–a verse about the future,
the restaurants are nervous to serve meat,
the folks who sat at the booth are concerned that their coffee may spill on their
laps because they no longer trust their bodies.
Jimmy Dean on a chipped porcelain plate is wet with grease
after the meal the original prophetic-neurotic-author saw himself
in the puddle of lardy-juice,
laughed,
and said “Oh lardy!”

~~~

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. His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community. 

Taking Joy

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 Photo by Greg Smith

Author, teacher, and innovator in the mindful recovery movement, Kevin Griffin, shares an exclusive excerpt with us from his new book, a work in progress tentatively titled Happy, Joyous, and Free: A Buddhist Guide to Contentment in Recovery. 

No matter how together our lives are, how good they look, how much stuff or success or fame we have, if we can’t take joy in it, we won’t be happy. Taking joy is the realm of mindfulness, practice at the center of all Buddhist teachings. Mindfulness is fundamentally about being present for our life, for each moment in a wholehearted, non-reactive, inquisitive, and intuitive way. While mindfulness is an inherent human capacity that we all have, it’s something most of us have never developed and need guidance and practice to establish. Mindfulness training is done formally in meditation. It is done informally in all activities, like walking, talking, eating, or exercising. Anything we can do, we can do mindfully and mindfulness enhances the experience of any activity.

With mindfulness, we actually experience the joy in our lives. We taste our food more fully; we feel our emotions more clearly; we see the beauty around us and are touched by sorrow, joy, and pleasure. Mindfulness enriches every moment.

When we take joy, we remind ourselves to fully experience something. I often find it amusing when I’m at some beautiful natural site and people pull out their cameras. Instead of actually experiencing the beauty, they are trying to capture it and take it home. How silly. As if looking at a picture of the Grand Canyon or the Golden Gate could be more satisfying than being there. And yet, if we don’t learn how to be fully present, to be mindful, this is often the best we can do. When we are numbed by the constant inflow of sense experiences that our culture provides, it can become hard to feel anything more than superficially.

For me, it was only after I’d gone on a Buddhist meditation retreat in California that I started to discover this kind of engagement. Returning to my hometown in Pennsylvania for Christmas, I was shocked to see how beautiful it was. I’d never noticed the loveliness of the brick sidewalks, the Victorian mansions, the tree-lined streets, and the 18th century church. I realized that I’d sleepwalked through my life until then, caught up in my own thoughts and feelings, taking my surroundings for granted. I finally began to take joy in the world around me.

In my role as a spiritual teacher, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to perform a few marriages. Each time I do, I try to emphasize to the couple the importance of being present and taking joy in the moments of the ceremony. Especially in experiences like getting married—with all the excitement, stress, and trappings—it’s easy to get lost and forget to pay attention. These are precious moments that only come once (hopefully), and we must remember to fully take in their joy. As a musician, I used to play at weddings from time to time, and seeing the bride or groom getting drunk was particularly tragic to me for this very reason.

Here’s another, much simpler example of taking joy: When I eat a piece of high quality chocolate, I stop and savor it, smelling the chocolate, inhaling the flavor, rolling my tongue over the smooth texture, chewing slowly, and taking in the whole pleasurable experience. Ah!

Interestingly, when I was working with some mindful eating researchers who were developing a program for severely obese people, this same technique was used to develop aversion to unhealthy snacks. The researchers asked the participants to slowly and mindfully eat junk food, the result being that the participants realized that they didn’t really like this stuff, but were eating it out of habit. This exercise has important implications for all of us, that if we pay attention to any of our activities, we will see which ones are bringing us happiness and which ones are leading in the other direction.

Mindfulness helps us to see clearly the difference between taking joy and grasping at pleasure. While the Buddha pointed out the fruitlessness of clinging, he also encouraged us to appreciate what we are experiencing here and now. Take joy in each moment, and then let it go. This is our path.

Kevin is leading The Joy of Recovery: Buddhism, Chi Kung &12 Steps with Greg Pergament at SMC from December 6-8. To read more about this powerful and supportive retreat, click here.

Healing and Transforming Consciousness Through Sacred Sound, Music and Dance

Internationally renowned World Music artist, composer, educator and peace activist Yuval Ron will be coming to Colorado for two very special engagements—a concert in Boulder on March 27 presented by SMC in the City and a weekend retreat from March 28-20 at Shambhala Mountain Center. Read more from Yuval below.

This March I will be coming to Boulder, CO and to Shambahla Mountain Center, finally! Over the last 20 years I have met so many people, specifically people who graduated from Naropa who were compelled to comment on how much my work belongs in Boulder. The retreat that I will be leading is based on my work with master spiritual teachers of the East such as Pri Zia Inayat Khan, the head of the Sufi Order International, and neuroscientists of the West including brain researcher, Mark Robert Waldman, who wrote the bestseller, How God Changes Your Brain.

536385_354846544578343_1960086781_nDuring this program, I will be taking participants on an incredible journey into their inner world, providing them with a rare perspective into the worlds of Zen Buddhist masters, mystic Sufi leaders, Kabbalistic rabbis, leading neuroscientists and scholars of the mysticism of Christianity.  We will experience introspective and ecstatic practices of four ancient spiritual paths: Zen Buddhism, Kabbalistic Judaism, early contemplative Christianity and Sufi-Islam. Drawing from the hidden wisdom of the Eastern traditions of sacred music chanting, movement and spiritual mindfulness practices, I expect we will have a life-transforming weekend at Shambahla. These practices have been shown to alter the structure and function of the brain in ways that enhance memory, cognition and social awareness. They also help overcome the neural mechanisms that generate stress, anxiety, depression and anger.

In each session, we will focus on a different tradition, demonstrating the deep commonality and love for life and humanity reflected in these spiritual practices. I like to emphasize that these kinds of seminars are experiential and will not be lecture-based. The focus is on providing a deep spiritual healing experience, including walking, sacred movement, ecstatic chanting meditations, storytelling and poetry.

The night before the retreat, on Thursday, March 27 at 8 pm, I will be giving a special intimate concert in Boulder celebrating the divine Sufi poetry of Hafiz and Rumi along with sacred Hebrew music of the Middle East. This will be a unique program. Joining me on stage will be my wife, Carolyne, and my daughter, Silan, playing harmonium and violin, plus one of Boulder’s best percussionists, Ms. Kathleen McLellan.  I hope you will be able to join us for these exciting events at the end of March.

Peace be with you,

Yuval Ron

To read more on the concert at the Solstice Center in Boulder on March 27, click here.

To read more and register for the weekend retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center from March 28-30, click here.

The Dark Light

 by Elizabeth Rabia Roberts

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“As long as you do not know how to die and come to life again,
you are but a poor guest on this dark earth.”
  —Goethe

It is likely, if you are past midlife, that you have had at least a mild experience of “The Dark Night of the Soul.” You may have had months or even years during which you lost your sense of purpose and confidence about the direction of your life. There may have been feelings of deep sadness and grief over what appeared to be lost. During this time you were overcome by existential questions: “Who am I? Why am I here? What is Life’s meaning?” And despite your prayers, you remained lost in a fog of unknowing.

As painful as these dark times are, without them we cannot participate fully in the great rhythms of the Earth. Winter, after all, is not a failed summer. It is necessary for the renewal of life. There is a lineage of both religious and secular literature reminding us that times of total darkness are a natural part of the human condition. To descend, submit and die—the openness to being acted upon—is the essence of the human experience when we come face-to-face with the transpersonal. It is a defining part of the spiritual life.

A singular aspect of every major life change is the need to move from our thinking capacities to our deeper knowings—those laid down in the right brain before the gifts of the left rational side were even recognizable.

For millennia our ancestors acknowledged and honored these transformational experiences through ceremonies and myths about a descent into the “underworld” where our old identity is stripped away. There we must stumble blindly waiting for a new “dark light” that guides us to our rebirth into greater awareness and wisdom.

Unfortunately, our present western culture prefers to hide death and medicate unhappiness, making these natural rites of passage all the more difficult. Our commercial media teach our young that happiness is a reliable measure of success in life. And grief, sadness, uncertainty, and loss are all signs of a failure to grasp “the American dream.” In our culture, growth and fulfillment are defined by accumulating, not by learning to let go.

Despite these erroneous messages, we cannot avoid change; and if change is to transform, it will inevitably take us into the unknown—that place where our old ways of navigating life no longer work. Here we intuit a different set of messages: gifts of insight left by those who have gone before us. These can help reveal the underlying patterns that characterize every transformative journey.

In my first public workshop since my accident, we will use the energies of the winter season to work experientially with our own dark night, exploring the terrain and transformational power of not-knowing and surrender. Please join me, if you can, for this weekend workshop. I will be right there in the dark light with you.

Love and Dust,

Rabia

During this weekend we will explore these patterns as they appear in the ancient Sumerian myth of Ianna’s descent to the Goddess, the surrender of Christian and Islamic Mystics, and the rites of passage in Native American tribes.

A Rare Pairing, Awareness Through Moving & Stillness

by Katharine Kaufman and Kim Hansen

Katharine Kaufman  and Kim Hansen will be teaching: Awareness Through Moving and Stillness: Feldenkrais and Meditation September 6–8, 2013 at Shambhala Mountain Center.

miss kaufman adjustsParticipating in an Awareness Through Movement lesson is like wearing clothes that fit well. Imagine you have an exceptional suit, and it doesn’t fit.  It’s a little too big around the shoulders; so you go to the tailor to take that in. It is a bit too long in the legs, too snug in the waist…By the time the tailor is finished with your suit, it is no longer baggy in some places and tight in others. It fits freely so you can move unencumbered, and naturally.  You could wear the special suit with ease all day and through the night.

In this retreat rather than one size fits all, participants are guided continually to create choices based on their internal experiences such as comfort, intuition, sensation, feelings, vitality, and thoughts.  Movements can be soft, subtle, influenced by the breath– or large, moving through space. The mind/body connection is investigated as well so we begin to trust the situation, and can begin to move and find stillness in integrated, holistic, and organic ways.

Awareness Through Movement practice is offered in thematic lessons, through verbal cues, like little movement puzzles. The practice helps sort out habits and internalized patterns from the inside out. The most simple movements become fascinating.

Then we take a break and have some tea, or stroll about, or talk with each other, and allow the lesson to integrate.

We can let things be as they are, without adding additional stories or judgments to confuse direct somatic experiences. One may find more possibilities, fewer subconscious chains dragging down behavior and creativity. One may actually feel new connections coming alive. During this retreat in the early days of September there will be plenty of opportunity to wander, roam and pause through the magnificent land at Shambhala Mountain Center, with our new found freedom of awareness, movement and stillness.

When this type of exploration is combined with the art of sitting, standing, lying and walking meditation, the meditator becomes uniquely and deeply aware of the whole experience as an integrated one. When we look and feel our breath and allow small micro-movements then the stillness of meditation is not so still after all. When the emphasis strays from holding a posture and instead transforms to experiencing a posture then meditation becomes quite alive, and fresh. We have the possibility of recognizing our choices even during seemingly still meditation postures. One is able to rest with awareness in the process of meditation.

Combining Awareness Through Movement lessons with meditation practices we can discover ourselves as new as a brilliantly fitting suit, in the way we turn toward our unavowed dreams, human dignity, and relationships.

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Katharine Kaufman and Kim Hansen will be teaching: Awareness Through Moving and Stillness: Feldenkrais and Meditation September 6–8, 2013 at Shambhala Mountain Center.