Floral Notes and Bardo: Here and There

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 was away for a week, and it’s a whole new world now.  I even have a new name (a good one!):

Good Highland Prankster

(pictured below with Good Equanimity Sword)

10390491_10202771105491221_3320319594040146212_nPhoto by Laurie Amodeo

No one is the same, the land is not the same.  It’s summer time.  So green.  Green: Karma energy — All accomplishing.  In the winter I felt cozy, and now when I try to be cozy I feel restless.  Time to move.  Time to shake it.  Time to sing!

My dear friends Laurie and Todd came here to visit. I say: I would not be here if it weren’t for Todd.  He’s had a lot to do with turning me onto the dharma, Shambhala, etc.  This blog that I write is really just a public version of letters that I’ve been sending to Todd for years now.  And he’s reading this one right now.  Hey dude!

After all these years, and our journey together, it was quite special to host Laurie and Todd here at Shambhala Mountain Center, to show them around, introduce them to the Stupa.  They enjoyed practicing with the community, we had a nice hike around, visited the Kami Shrine, and we hung out and sang around a campfire at my little house in the evening.

A few days later, I flew to New York City, and so did they.  They live there and I’ve been going there to visit them for years.  Usually I visit them.  Now, I live in a place cool enough for them to visit me too!  I always want to live in a place that is visit-worthy, from now on.  Okay…

NYC was amazing as always, and it’s summer time there too.  The parks are lively, music is playing.  Tons of activity everywhere and weather so nice I couldn’t even drag myself inside to check out a museum, not even for an hour.  Living on the mountain, as I do, it is very nourishing to be in the city — especially that one… the city.

Todd and I did Rigden Weekend at the NYC Shambhala Center.  I’ve done most of my Shambhala Training there, and soon the sangha will be moving on from that particular space.  So much has happened there for so many people, including me.

Rigden Weekend is somewhat of a graduation from the first cycle of Shambhala Training, so it was very meaningful to do it there, with Todd.  I saw and hugged teachers who have been so crucial to me on my path: Ethan, Susan, Rachel.  And Acharya Spiegel, who I’ve recently been forming a relationship with, lead the weekend.  It was so powerful.  At the end we took the Shambhala Vow and were given our names.

At the reception afterwards, I offered a toast to the New York City sangha.  They have always been so warm, friendly, welcoming.  They have always accommodated me, done whatever necessary to help me receive my training, progress on the path.  I’m so grateful.  I told them in my toast, that I now live in the most mystical, spiritually charged place that I’ve ever been, and that the dharma is just as alive, just as strong, right there in New York City.

Now I’m back here, and it’s a different world.  This opportunity is rich.  I’m re-engaging, fresh.  So much.  And the theme is: time to be active, time to sing, the sun is shining.


–June 5, 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: Renunciation/Blossom


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.

Wet behind the ear, mind-flower shedding petals and onto my shoulder, cool
petals, living still, still connected to earth. Petals from the flower-song, becoming smaller. And not separate from fresh blossoms.


Valentine’s Day–We handed out flowers from the previous night’s Ikebana class and the haikus that Heather, Tara and I made for all the members of the community. We invaded lunch-time with glittery wishes and cheer. People seemed to enjoy it.

Just before lunch a group of staff gathered at the Stupa to film a Shambhala Day greeting from SMC. Nice weather, cheerfulness…

A super-love day between and Heather and I and… and this is really key for me… it seemed like that situation was connected to a larger one. Like… romantic love and communal love feeding one another. That’s how we both experienced it. I hope it’s true.

Yesterday, in the sweat lodge, I prayed that I not become too addicted to pleasure and comfort.

I am here to help others.

Got that? (speaking to myself)

Every morning I say to myself in the mirror:

It’s not about me. It’s not about me. It’s not about me.

I was given the Buddhist refuge name:

Ngejung Tachok

which means

Renunciation Steed

What is there to renounce? Trungpa Rinpoche says: “What the warrior renounces is anything in his experience that is a barrier between himself and others. In other words, renunciation is making yourself more available, more gentle and open to others.”

So, if I begin using a situation, a person, a drug, whatever, to hide out–that has to go. Maybe not the person or the situation, but that way of engaging…indulging.

Trungpa also says:

“You can make a distinction: you can discriminate between indulging and appreciating”

I’ve avoided intimate relationships for a while because I was scared of getting so sucked-in that I wouldn’t be able to feel or connect with the rest of the world.

That’s something I’m trying to be aware of this time around. It can’t turn into a mush-fest. Susan Piver says: “Love without mindfulness is goo.” Right.

With that said, Valentine’s Day was very sweet and romantic, and more creative and joyous than gooey. Good.

–February 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. 

Q&A: Susan Piver Discusses the Writer’s Groove and “Fearlessly Creative”

By Travis Newbill

Susan Piver leads Fearlessly Creative: A Meditation and Writing Retreat, December 20-23


Susan Piver

A couple of common obstacles that most writers–or would be writers–encounter: 1) No time to write! 2) The fear of putting the pen to the page (err, typing words into the computer).

Meditation teacher and New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Piver has a remedy. It involves structuring daily life in a way that is conducive to creative work, and…practicing meditation. Does that sound simple? Impossible? Worth exploring?

This weekend, Susan will be leading a retreat at SMC which is intended to provide a space for writers to find their groove and produce work, and also to model a routine which will allow them to live more fully as writers in their daily lives.

Recently, Susan took some time to discuss the retreat.

So, what is the intended purpose of this retreat?

Susan Piver: If you have something that you want to work on—a book, a memoir, anything—this program is meant to provide a container for you to do so. It’s not learning how to write, it’s not getting prompts and learning writing techniques, it’s for writing.

Who would you say this program is for? Anyone who wants to write?

It’s a program for artists of any kind—although I never say that because people get intimidated, thinking that they aren’t artists, or that they aren’t writers. But, you know, it’s for people who want to reflect, and create art with words.

Will there be lots of discussion, and that sort of thing?

It’s not about talking. I made it that way because, that’s the program that I want to go to. Maybe I’m the only one, I don’t know.

Does this sort of environment somehow help writers overcome the fear to see a work through or to start a work?

Yes, and it’s rather hard to explain how that happens. It’s not that you get a trick that helps you overcome your fear. Meditation practice is the trick. I never say that. But, there’s something about the combination of meditation, companionship of fellow writers, and specific periods of time for work that calls the words forward.

You say this is not how to write, but it kinda seems like it is?

It doesn’t teach you how to write, but it teaches you how to be a writer. Because every writer has to be afraid, and stay. And then allow. And it’s hard for everyone to do that. But this program shows you that you can do it. And you don’t have to be at Shambhala Mountain Center to do it–although that is better.

What’s the takeaway?

You will learn a technique for writing that you can take home. So, it provides an actual container in which to work, and is also informative for the introverts coming together here to take back into their regular rhythms.

So, folks may learn ways in which they can structure their daily lives to allow for writing.

Yes, it will model a routine–that they can replicate at home–for being a writer. No matter what else they do in their life.

Sounds great. Thanks, Susan.

Thank you.


Here’s a video with some folks who participated in one of Susan’s past writing retreats.

Susan Piver leads Fearlessly Creative: A Meditation and Writing Retreat, December 20-23

Meditation & Creativity

flower bigNew York Times bestselling author Susan Piver will be teaching an Open Heart Retreat April 5-8 at the Shambhala Mountain Center. Susan discovered the dharma in 1995 after reading books by Chogyam Trungpa and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, who is now her teacher. According to her website, she practices a formal sitting meditation, acting right, being nice, digging deep, and forgiving herself when she screws up. Susan writes for the Huffington Post and has written five books, including her most recent, “The Wisdom of a Broken Heart.” Susan has generously allowed us to reprint this article. For more information on her retreat, visit our website.

Yesterday I read a tweet from someone looking for advice about taking up meditation for creative reasons. I don’t know this person and I’m not sure what they were looking for, but it started me thinking on what I would say if he asked me directly.

Some of you may know that I lead meditation and writing retreats that are about reconnecting with our own creativity and, beyond that, with the moment of inspiration. And after all, what is creativity exactly, besides a continuous series of moments of inspiration? Which begs the questions: what is inspiration and where does it come from? Can my meditation practice help?

When it comes to the latter question, the answer is “absolutely” and “of course not.”

To get to the reason for this interesting dichotomy, let’s look at the former question: what is inspiration and where does it come from?

Begin by asking yourself: “If I had to come up with one word that was a euphemism for inspiration, what would it be?”

Perhaps you’ll come up with something like “motivated” or “connected” or “awed.”

Fascinatingly, wiktionary offers us this definition: To infuse into the mind; to communicate to the spirit; to convey, as by a divine or supernatural influence; to disclose preternaturally; to produce in, as by inspiration. And this: To draw in by the operation of breathing; to inhale.

At no point is the definition offered: “to be clever” or “to impress.” Rather, the definitions allude to something far more simple, receptive, and intimate.

When I think of inspiration, the word that comes to me is “clarity.” Suddenly I see something that I hadn’t seen before—not because it wasn’t there, but because I simply hadn’t noticed it before. To me, this means that inspiration comes, not from conquering new horizons of thought or acquiring skills I had been lacking, but from relaxing into a more spacious view. This is why our most interesting inspirations almost always happen when we do not expect them, while showering, or dreaming, or driving. When we stop striving—even to be more creative, relaxed, or intelligent—moments of clear seeing are more likely.

Of course our meditation practice teaches this exact skill: that of relaxing our minds by resting attention on breath without agenda. The moment we apply an agenda to our meditation practice, even a great one like practicing in order to be more creative, its energy is drained. When we practice in a way that is both free and disciplined (the discipline of not applying an agenda), our innate brilliance is unleashed and in this way, mental and emotional innovations (aka inspiration) arise spontaneously.

One of the greatest teachers ever of the Enneagram (about which I am passionate), Chilean psychiatrist and brilliant thinker Claudio Naranjo, said about music, “Only repetition invites spontaneous innovation” and of course this is true of all the arts. You can’t sit down at your computer or pick up your guitar or paintbrush and command yourself to innovate. Much sloppiness results from such an approach, unless you just happen to get lucky. But we can do better than hoping to get lucky in art by learning to work with our minds skillfully and openly. Meditation is a very powerful way to do so—but only if it is practiced free from any and all agendas. At this point, one’s vision expands.

So, can meditation help you become more creative: Definitely. And no way.