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: Ordinary and Aspiring

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.

To simply be kind to my fellows, not trying to win, not cheating anyone, doing my work…

10307363_647685145313729_8247107537804061121_n“Magpie strutting” by John Russell of SMC Colorado Front range Style

Another misty day outside.  Many elder practitioners are arriving to receive new teachings from the Sakyong.  This weekend I’m going down to Boulder to receive teachings from him.

Rinpoche: displaying confidence, relaxation, cheerfulness, wisdom.  It seems that he is aware of the suffering of the world, and yet, is optimistic.

A genuine display.

Joyful, not freaked out.

We’re always communicating something…

Ordinary and aspiring…

–June 12, 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 Time…

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.

I walked along a dirt trail, beside Rinpoche, holding a white umbrella over his head to shield him from the sun.

A feeling of cosmic friendship, preciousness, gratitude.

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Earlier in the morning I held a tray for him while he made tea offerings, after returning from his morning run, still catching his breath and sweating.

The core teachers of the Shambhala Buddhist mandala are here: The Sakyong, Ani Pema, the Acharyas, the Kalapa Council.  It’s powerful, enchanting.

The teachings that are occurring here these days are new.  There is a sense of quiet explosiveness.  It’s tangible.  There is a glow.

After one teaching session yesterday, the Sakyong ran joyfully from the shrine hall back to his quarters, his escorts had to keep up.

It’s awesome to be here for this.

A couple of years ago, my first week at Shambhala Mountain Center, the annual Acharya retreat was happening.  I was mystified.  So beautiful.  The first time I saw Rinpoche, he was being escorted down the stairs by someone holding a white umbrella.

Now, the wheel has turned a couple of times, and I’m holding the umbrella.  Where will I end up, and up, as the wheel turns and turns?  How long will I be on the planet before I die?

I like the direction things are going.  I hope to live a long life to allow for more and more blossoming.

And of course… this is it.  Maybe I will live long enough to become a close student of Rinpoche, perhaps I will be an Acharya.  Or, maybe I will die sooner than that.  Today, I am in a very fortunate position.  My dedication to the dharma has brought me here.  I wish to honor that and not let my dedication wane.  I wish to offer more and more, to become more and more sane and helpful to others, and to generally delve deeper and wholeheartedly into the dharma.

May I relate to all the flickering conditions of my life as dharmas, and know the entirety of my life to be the path of awakenment.  May I not take my good fortune for granted.  May I not seek refuge from fear and discomfort in conditional situations, but rather, take genuine refuge in the three jewels, again and again.

~~~

“This time, practice the main points”

“‘This time’ refers to this lifetime. You have wasted many lives in the past, and in the future you may not have the opportunity to practice. But now, as a human being who has heard the dharma, you do. So without wasting any more time, you should practice the main points.” — Vidyadhara, the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

 – April 3, 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: Wild and Dignified

 

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.

I-Ching toss last night–”stillness.” The image of a mountain–first hexagram. Second: progress. The image of the sun rising.

Greg said: Taming the mind, meditative stillness, and waiting until the right moment to act. And, when I do, it will be effective. Something about the hexagram saying: Don’t allow your hips to become frozen. You’ve got to boogie. No cave-dwelling yogi life for you right now, Ngejung Tachok.

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And, be with the peeps. Being a leader, you’ve got to be with the peeps, not separate from them. You are a peep.

Greg was giving me an I-Ching reading upstairs in the library, meanwhile downstairs in the shrine room, the Beastie Boys, dance party. Pounding electronic music. I’d been dancing then saw Greg in the hallway and asked for a reading.

He’d given the ceremonial reading for SMC earlier in the day.

Shambhala Day (or, Losar)… The New Year. Big day of celebration.

It began at 6am toast to the new year, then we marched up to the Stupa–Kasung-style:

“Left, left, left, right, left…Eyes on the horizon!” and the sun was coming up–orange, radiant. The weather was lovely, clear, crisp.

At the Stupa–lahsang ceremony. Clouds of smoke and offerings, group chanting, juniper, waving flags. Then inside the Stupa for Elixr of Life sadhana, bathing ourselves in saffron water, reminding ourselves of death, preciousness of life, making aspirations to not sleep through it. To use our lives to wake up and help the world.

Lovely breakfast, socializing and then we gathered in the shrine room for the webcast of the Sakyong‘s Shambhala Day address–beautiful. Funky mountain-internet connection made it comedy.

Later in the evening, a formal dinner and the Shambhala Ball (Bhal?).

I dressed in tights, tie, and tu-tu. At dinner I toasted the Sakyong, from the bottom of my heart. Greg asked me to make the toast. When he told Director Gayner that I’d be doing it, Mr. Gayner said:

“In his tu-tu?”

and Greg said:

“He’s wearing a tu-tu?”

It went well.

These sorts of things can happen at SMC. That’s why I know I’m in the right spot. This may be the wildest spot in the mandala. Yeah…

The Bahl began with a choreographed waltz. Several of us had been rehearsing, lead by Greg (who is so darn graceful), in the week leading up to the event. So magical… So fairy tale.

Shambhala really has this whimsical, fairy tale quality to it. Dragons and kings, and ball gowns, horses, magic… And it’s all grounded in authentic buddhadharma. Ahh…

After a few waltzes, DJ Stephen Extro, who lives here and is a hot-as-shit awesome DJ, played music for us. Really high energy awesome electronic music. A bunch of us on the dance-floor together–Joshua, Director Gayner, Kaleigh-boss, Heather, friends–my peeps. Everyone together enjoying this high energy dance vibe.

A moment with Mr. Gayner, as he was doing weird powerful martial arts moves, directing energy with his hands. I joined him. Such a mystical scene. All of us holding and playing with, all of us within this, potent energy field. So much good energy from the day erupting in this dance experience.

May SMC always be wild and dignified.

Towards the end of the night, while the music was still pumping, a few of us set up the meditation cushions for this morning’s session. Just the slightest tinge of a hangover this morning and I rang the gong only 5 minutes late.

–March 3, 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: Building the Plane as We Fly/One Love!

 

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.

Ital food!!! Awwww, yea! (In celebration of Bob Marley’s birthday). What an amazing surprise at lunch today. Few substances on the planet lively up myself like Ital food. Irie!

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In other news:

Most of the SMC leadership people (upper tier of the hierarchy) are in an intense retreat this week: Monarch Retreat. It’s secret sort of stuff. I don’t know what’s going on in there, but I feel confident that it is good stuff. I’m glad they are all in there. It’ll be good for everyone for those folks to be even more tapped-into their wisdom-ruler-mojo.

Meanwhile, I lead the weekly community meeting yesterday. It didn’t go as planned. It turned into a group check-in–everyone had a turn to share from the heart. It was great, except that I didn’t set it up right. From time to time we do something called Council Practice. That’s kinda what this meeting turned into, almost accidentally, except it was missing some key components–mainly the set-up.

In Council Practice, a sacred space is created and everyone participating agrees to treat the space that way. No one responds to what other people say, everything that is shared is confidential, and nothing leaves the space. You can’t follow-up with someone afterwards. A talking-stick of some sort is passed around the circle and everyone has a turn to share. The emphasis is on deep listening. We go around three times.

Yesterday, we all shared intimately, but without the sacred set-up, though I did begin with a contemplation on deep listening. Anyway, in the meeting and afterwards, because I didn’t create a good container (I believe) there were some emotional flare-ups. Some people got hurt. It was kind of a karmic oops on my part. Mostly though, people seemed to benefit. So, it may have been close to neutral.

Many of us feel now that there needs to be more gatherings like that. Something I feel inspired to work on as Head Dekyong is cultivating more warmth and togetherness in the community. Some folks are reporting feeling isolated, and not much community-togetherness these days. Maybe it’s part of the winter-blue season.

We all see each other a lot. At least everyday at meals, and throughout the day all over the place. Yet, we can feel so distant from one another.

This is the stuff. This is the real experience/experiment. How to cultivate a culture of kindness? Of empathy and friendliness? I’m right here in the thick of an experiment. I’m so glad for that! We’re all here. How can we set things up so that it works? This is training ground. This is the petri dish. We have to be able to get it right here if we (humanity) are to have any hope of doing it on a larger scale.

We have to figure out how to exist together, and sustain ourselves in various ways. We’ve got to pay the bills and we’ve got to enjoy life also. We need to achieve financial and emotional well-being. We need to balance work, community, and personal lives. How to do it?

The Shambhala Teachings say a lot about this. So, we have some guidance. Still, it is so experimental. There is no recipe to follow. It is often said here: “We are building the plane as we fly.”

How great is that?!

–February 6

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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.