Floral Notes and Bardo: All Turn

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.

Last night in the library, my mala burst.  It’s said that it happens at an auspicious time.

Heather and I were talking for hours, about all sorts of exploratory, self-reflecive, what-is-life stuff.  She mentioned her wish for a fairy godmother.  I had a thought about how the Sakyong, in a way, is my fairy godmother.  At that moment, the mala — which was a blessed gift from the Sakyong — burst.

Heather said: “It happened!”

Then we fell into deep eye contact for what felt like an hour or so.  Myself, experiencing such rich, almost comically mysterious, energy exchange — in the library.

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Earlier in the day — in the beginning — laying on the porch, in the sunshine, without clothes.  Those days are numbered now that the cool autum breezes are beginning to blow and earlier in the week we had our first snow.  Anyway, soaking it up.

After breakfast we had a life-planning session: what am I doing?

I’ve been so out of routine.  The wish for ryhthm — dharma, art, relationship, work, recreation…

After we made a nice list and schedule for life, I hiked across the land to the Stupa, to work with Joshua.  It felt so, so good to work at the Stupa again, with Joshua.  It had been a while.  That’s where it all began, and that’s how it shall continue, I realized.  I felt reconnected to what I’m doing here.

The Stupa embodies the whole thing, and service to the Stupa — service to the whole thing — is the point.  Working with my hands, beautifying, caring for, the Stupa is tangible, real work.  And, Joshua is my teacher.  He is my fairy godmother. Working for him feels right — expressing appreciation, devotion.  And, there is no bullshitting him at all.  And, there is no bullshitting the Stupa.

So clearly: I am here to work on the Stupa.

This morning I launched my new routine.  For a while, I’ve felt myself searching for a new groove, now I’m beginning to tap in.  Here we go…

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The colios that I brought from Brooklyn lost its leaves, at the same time that I came down with the heavy cold, in which I lost all of my leaves and am now regenerating, feeling renewed.  The aspens, meanwhile, are beginning to turn — the first signs of yellow, a few leaves dropping off.  Tonight a dance party for the staff and this weekend, our Harvest of Peace, autumnal equinox celebration.

All Turn.

I brought the colios to my desk so I can give it love all day, and it has friends — two plump jades.  My desk is like a garden.  My mind is like the sun.  My life is blessed.  Kaleigh is now running the blender, making a raw cacao bananna smoothie for me, which shall be delicious.

The crazy noise of the blender is the sound of nourishing universe.

– September 15, 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: 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

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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: Down the Hill, Down the Road

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.

A group of us piled in the car on Friday, headed down to Boulder.  Rolling down the hill in the sunshine, it was reminiscent of heading to music festivals in the summertime with my old friends.

Ikebana Program_Apr2014-18Photo by Paul Bennett

We were headed down for a Shambhala program with the Sakyong, Acharya Asreal, and Shastri Ethan Nichtern (my main dharma-teacher-homie from New York City — so cool to connect with him, eat falafel with him, in Colorado!).  Great line-up!

A few of us stayed at Marpa House, which is a residential Shambhala-Buddhist co-op sort of place in Boulder.  It felt amazing in there.  I felt quickly that Marpa House will be the next place that I live.  After a couple more years at SMC, after I graduate from Sacred World Assembly, I’ll move to Marpa House to do my Ngöndro and study at Naropa.

In this moment, that path ahead is clear as day.  (who knows how it may shift?)  Clear as day!

We actually slept in the Ngöndro shrine room.  Oh!  They have a room for Ngöndro!  Ngöndro is the practice you begin doing once you formally enter the vajrayana stage of the path — which I am aiming to do before leaving SMC.  A sort of graduation… Marpa House seems like a mighty fine place to do Ngöndro.

And, for a decade or so, I’ve had a dream of studying at Naropa — at the Jack Kerouac School of (Dis)embodied Poetics.  How could I not go to study at that school in this lifetime?!

Boulder is lovely.  Such a nice time strolling through the neighborhoods and enjoying the activity on Pearl Street.

Inside the Shambhala Center, the retreat was awesome.  Powerful teachings all the way through, great community of people.  Provocative contemplations, conversations.

We considered how we may practice in three areas, or levels, of our world:

The personal, interpersonal, and collective.

SMC is a pretty amazing place to practice with all three in a vivid way.

– June 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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: As the World Becomes More Intense…

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 are we doing?  Sunrise in slow-motion.

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Last night a small group of us re-watched the Sakyong’s recent address to the community. It was full of beauty-wisdom.  And, seeing him from the angle of the camera, and zoomed in close on his face, I appreciate his brutal depth and tenderness even more.  So raw.  Waves of intensity, his eyes gazing upwards, his jaw moving slightly — in a vast pause in-between statements.  And then gentle, ordinary words.  Mystical and ordinary.

He said lots of things.  One thing: As the world becomes more intense, places like this are going to be more important.  And people like you who dedicate your lives to this.  Your work will become more meaningful. (paraphrase)

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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: Great Eastern Sunshine Daydream

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 wheel is turning and you can’t slow down…

The Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion) runs through Shambhala Mountain Center…

The Dead and the dharma.  Thus it is.

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(I created an image for this post–a mash-up of the Great Eastern Sun and the Grateful Dead Steal Your Face logo.  I really liked it a lot, because it fit so well here, and also because I know so many Shambhalian-Deadheads who I think would have liked it a lot also.  However, it seemed inappropriate for public display/internet, since it may be too easily misunderstood.  So, instead, here’s Dorian enjoying a moment of psychedelic arising at Elkhorn, on a night the weekend prior to the events described here.)

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Still not quite settled into my house, but I spent a great deal of the weekend setting up the Sakyong’s residence.  At first I felt resentful. Why am I working on this house when mine is in disarray?  I wanted to feel selfless devotion and inspiration.  Eventually I did.

I skipped out of my window cleaning duties for thirty minutes one morning to go online and score Phish tickets right when they went on-sale…  Yea!

Then, back to cleaning and setting up Rinpoche’s household.  Friday evening, a gathering at Elkhorn.  I screened the Grateful Dead Movie.  Fun!  Warm up for Saturday night field-trip:

A group of us went down to Boulder to Dark Star Orchestra concert (Grateful Dead tribute).  We were well hosted by a friend named Lee, who lives in a legendary house on the East-side of the valley (Boulder-town below).

The concert was explosive-color-fun.  Singing and dancing.  Wonderful to be with my SMC peeps in that space, that energy-field.

Back up the mountain Sunday, just in time for lunch, then a talk on diversity from two Acharyas: Eric Spiegel from New York and Marianne Bots from the Netherlands.

I asked about the tension between individual intelligence, individuality, and devotion, or faith, or going along with this Shambhala thing.

Acharya Spiegel’s answer was powerful, and I don’t quite think I can do it justice.  Something about getting a strong enough whiff of familiar truth and lineage that you trust the whole thing enough to go further.  Further.  It’s personal, and quite mysterious.  First you understand the words, and then the meaning.  So…a journey.

I felt a strong connection with Acharya Spiegel.  I think I’ll travel to NYC in May to do Rigden Weekend (the next retreat for me along the progression of the Shambhala Path), which he is leading.  I was going to do it in Boulder with Acharya Hessey, but the dates conflict with a program that we’re hosting here at SMC called “Relationship as a Path of Awakening,” which I’m really excited for after speaking with the teacher — Bruce Tift, a long-time Buddhist in the Shambhala sangha and a psychotherapist.  Since a relationship is happening in my life these days, I feel I ought to do the program to nourish and encourage its “path” potential.

–March 31, 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. 

The Lady Who Runs

By Cynthia MacKay

Cynthia MacKay will be leading a retreat at SMC from August 30-September 2 based on Sakyong Miphams book ,Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training the Body and the Mind. Geared for runners, walkers and athletes, this program will offer fresh insights into the activities of meditation and movement. All levels of runners and walkers welcome.

Cynthia runs past Dodgers stadiumIn my neighborhood, there’s The Corn Guy, The Lady With the Boxers, The Couple Who Live in the Victorian and The Korean Grocer. I am The Lady Who Runs. My neighborhood in east LA is called Lincoln Heights. It sits in the shadow of Dodger Stadium, just north of Downtown. People don’t think of Los Angeles as a good place to hill train, run trails and stay off the paved streets but Lincoln Heights is just that. I can run in any of the four directions and have a very different feeling from each run.  

North

On Saturdays, I head north. Saturdays are my long runs and from my house I can get 18 plus miles in on both paved and dirt trails. I have to run through my neighborhood for about 1 1/2 miles to get to the LA River Bike Trail. Once on the Bike Trail, it’s a flat, long, traffic-free 7 1/2 miles to Burbank.

running past sign

There are rare sections of the LA River that are not encased in concrete. A 3 1/2 mile stretch along the Bike Trail is filled with beautiful greenery and a myriad of birds. Families can be seen fishing and wading in the river. The bike trail runs smack next to the busy 5 freeway, so on one side is incredible greenery and the other side cars are whizzing by.

the trail

There are several bridges going over and under into Griffith Park, where there are over 4,300 acres of parkland and trails.

South

the road

Wednesdays are my hill runs and for that I go south. Ernest E. Debs Regional Park is a small city park, only about 300 acres, with an Audobon Center near the bottom. There are several extreme hills that I slog up and down. The view from the top goes all the way out to the ocean over the downtown skyline in one direction and the valleys leading up to the heaving San Gabriel Mountains in another direction.

stretching

Once at the top, it’s a short run to a pond where people may be fishing, ducks may be swimming or dogs lapping at the shore. Snails climb the skinny spindly weeds and hang there in the breeze waiting for the next rain.

path with river

From the pond, it’s a steep downhill on the other side with views of the valley floor south with its endless rows of houses and small hills.

East

I go east on Mondays. I descend into a small tributary of the LA River that comes from the east and handles runoff from the San Gabriels. It’s encased in concrete up until the Rose Bowl where it opens to dirt rivers and shaded ponds. A paved trail runs right next to the small stream of flowing water. After about 3 miles, the small river trail ends at a horse stable with chickens running around and a huge fig tree stocked with delicious fruits in September. I pick up a small dirt trail around a golf course, this and the all white horse running in the corral, are my favorite parts of this run.

eastern path

It’s a single person trail and perfectly rolling so that I can speed up but still have to be mindful of my footing. It’s engulfed in trees so it’s very cool and quiet on a summer morning.

There is a tunnel under the 110 freeway that I call “the bardo.” It’s dark and the sandy earth is loose, so I can’t tell what I’m running on. I raise my gaze to the light at the end and trust that I will remain upright and relaxed. A tinge of fear mixes with confidence as I exit the tunnel and head towards the Rose Bowl in the Arroyo Seco. The Arroyo Seco boasts an archery range, a bass casting pond, another horse stable and several flocks of wild parrots who make a noisy ruckus among the archers and horses.

West

On Tuesdays, I go west. It’s a high dose of both urban and natural beauty. I’ve discovered a stairwell that goes up into the 110 freeway, the first freeway built in the west. There was originally a walkway that has now been sectioned off with fencing and barriers but the stairwell leads into the old walkway.

the stairwell

I run smack next to the cars on the busy 110. It’s a mash of freeways, bridges going over bridges, over freeways and over the LA River. Train tracks run through the whole mess and everything is covered in graffiti. There is something about it that grips a buzzing energy for me–it’s gritty, real and completely alive to all my senses.

western run

The stairwell exits into Elysian Park, home of Dodger Stadium and the Police Academy. Up a few hills and into trails, I head up a steep dirt track that turns east.

On some days I hear the patter of many feet as I come out of one trail to cross to another. Coming down the hill will be the in-line, strong formation of police cadets in training, running these hills in unison in perfect time with perfect posture. They greet me one by one with “good morning ma’am.” It’s very sweet.

I turn to head home through some more dirt trails and across the historic Broadway Bridge, once again crossing the incredible pulsing artery of our city, the LA River.

the bridge run