Floral Notes and Bardo: I Drowned a Tick in Booze


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Recently, Heather and I have been helping to water the seedlings for the community garden.  What seedlings am I watering right now — in the cosmic garden?

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Compassion feels sore and self-righteousness is a rush.  I want to strengthen my tendency and love for the former, and decrease my lustful craving for the latter.  Buddhism.

Yesterday I kicked off my new schedule and was able to practice — meditation, writing — and study — buddhadharma, poetics — and do good work in the marketing office, community service, have some lesiure time and get a good night of sleep.  The leisure time was only partly leisurely.

What I really don’t want to write about — and so chose to describe my routine — is the way that I’m feeling about a cultural attitude that I think ought to be examined.

I’ll not be specific here because it seems charged, sensitive, and some actual discussion with human beings in the community may need to come before published contemplation.  Skillful?  Timid?

Shantideva: Be like a log.

In other news, Sasha and I in the shower this morning, and a small mouse in the tub.

This morning — after bragging a bit yesterday about how I told the ticks to leave me alone and they obeyed — a tick jumped onto my leg.  I put it in a Kahlua bottle with a bit of booze in the bottom — left it to die.

I was discussing parasites with a friend recently.  In his view, karmically, ticks and mosquitos cannot get much lower, and so it seems fine to “send them on their way” — my friend said that Trungpa Rinpoche said this about mosquitoes.

I decided to kill his tick to send a message.  To let them know that I’m not messing around here.  After I put it in the bottle, I went outside and, while urinating in the grass, told them again, very sternly, with a few cuss words thrown in, that they must leave Heather and I alone!  I explained that I really don’t want to kill them.  And I attempted to explain that their behavior brings great misery to us.

I don’t think they understand that.  They’re too caught up in their blood-thirsty ways.  They are addicts.  Insane.

Reading Pema/Shantideva this morning.  The teachings describe how we fall under the spell of kleshas — anger, lust, and so on.  The ticks are extremely taken.  Myself and my homies may become tick-ish, but we snap out of it and return to humanness.  We’re fortunate to have that capacity.  Precious human birth.

Strengthening the non-virtuous habits though, leads to greater and greater tickishness — and maybe the Kahlua botlle.

And so in considering my feelings about certain policies and attitudes that are in effect here at SMC, I need to be careful — like I’m walking along the edge of a cliff, as Pema/Shantideva says.  I need to be deeply considerate.  In my actions, and even thoughts, am I chasing the buzz of self-righteousness, or is it compassionate action?

It happens a million times each minute — probably a lot more.  Choosing.

– April 15, 2015

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious creature on the path of artistry and meditation, who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the lil’ society include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: I Showered Today


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

This morning, my skull was a-buzz, body tagging along, narrator giddy and ignorant.  Empty chair across from me — an invitation to settle.  I don’t need a real god to sit there and watch me.  And, I don’t need a real me to write.

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Strolling down the hill after morning song with Heather, my nose in-and-out of a book — Shantideva/Pema — I got fifteen minutes of reading and studying in on the way down the hill.  Then contemplated a line while in the shower.  I showered today.

As the schedule has shifted, and my location, and everything, my routine –scattered — I haven’t been showering very much.  Apparently it is not as important to me as: breakfast, meditation, writing.  Anyway, my body is clean today, and I have a good feeling about the days ahead.  I planted my flag of routine last night and came up with a good schedule.

Lots of reading, writing, and work to do; lots of beautiful people to know; lots of nature to enjoy… Time to poop.

The springtime is coming on — plump little mice are running around, mating, wooing, ticks are chomping into our flesh, pasque flowers are coming up — the first wildflowers to arrive on the last each year.  My body has been knicked and a bit off balance.

Saturday night a bunch of us sat in the Stupa as Thomas Roberts offered a Tibetan Singing Bowl meditation.  It was very soothing — the Stupa resonant with those gorgeous tones, in and out of harmony, sound and space.

Sunday a field trip down to Fort Collins to get Heather’s tick bite — the nastiest tick bite of the season — checked out.

In the waiting room at urgent care, while “Dude Where’s My Car?” played on the television, while a grandmother became furious because the people at the front desk turned her and her sick granddaughter away in accordance with a new policy, while folks in the chairs beside me played loud videos on their iPhones with the volume up — I read a poem — which I enjoyed in the midst of the raucous, germy, environment.  “The Canyon Wren” — rushing down the river in a raft, being pulled along, spun, splashed, and then the call of a small bird pulls the writers mind into the larger environment.  Songs of all sorts do this for us all of the time.  As Pema Chödrön says — sometimes is takes a Mack truck running into us, and other times it can be the curtains moving gently in soft breeze.

– April 14, 2015

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious creature on the path of artistry and meditation, who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the lil’ society include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Auspicious Tick?


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

This morning, on our way down the hill, past the lake, the wind blowing — ripples on the surface — on the dusty trail, a conversation about auspiciousness.

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Last night I arrived back at the cabin — my future official residence on the land — Oh… news yesterday… as I was walking to the bathroom, Molly pulled up and rolled down the window, Patrick (so famous now!) was in the passenger seat and she asked if it was alright for her to show Patrick the yurt — Avalokiteshvara — the most auspicious abode I’ve occupied — anyway, Ryan has been considering moving in.  During Sadhana of Mahamudra on Parinirvana day in the Stupa, he said his mind kept flashing on it.  So, yesterday I told him that someone else may be interested and at dinner he told me: “I’m going to do it.”

Good.

Just then, Greg sat down on the other side of me — myself in between the two of them — and I told Greg the news, and I told Ryan that Greg is way back in the lineage of Avalokiteshvara residents — “Before you were born!” he said.  Which is true — for Ryan.
Okay…

Last night when I arrived back at the cabin, Danny B pulled up out front, came in and fiddled with the heater, and we enjoyed a beer together and talked about sangha, Rinpoche, and then, when Oakes came down from his upstairs room, mostly naked, we all started discussing and freaking out over the reality of insects, especially ticks!  TICKS!  TICKS!  TICKS!  Oakes had just pulled one off.  I’ve pulled off four!

Heather came home and, as is ritual nowadays, we stripped down and thoroughly searched each other’s bodies for those little parasites.  None.

The other night, I rose from bed, flipped on the light, discovered a tick, pulled it off, flicked it outside, and said, very sternly: “NO.  You are not welcome to my body or Heather’s body.  Please, please, leave us alone.  Thank you.”

So, we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation.

Even a tick.  Auspicious tick stopping my mind, allowing me to remember death, the suffering of others, compassion. Auspicious tick?

– April 9, 2015

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious creature on the path of artistry and meditation, who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the lil’ society include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Rather than to Get High

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a regular 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 had to remove those droopy flowers from the shrine.  I don’t know who put them there.  Afterwards, while urinating, I noticed a couple of small rainbows projected onto the wall in front of me.  Thinking “there really are rainbows everywhere,” I glanced over my shoulder and noticed the wall beside me glowing purple — the sun and my sweater mixing, radiating.

Previously:

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Trungpa was in a dream last night, I don’t remember the details.  But, I woke up thinking of Heather, and my mother, and the words — “You’re my peeps.  My closest peeps” — was looping.

I’m feeling a bit more settled today, somehow.  The spiritual growth-spurt concept is simply transforming into more luminous regular old reality.  There will never be regular old reality.  And, I feel some caution about speaking openly about this sort of stuff, a bit concerned that I might freak people out.  And wondering about Right Speech.

There’s a sense that being genuine isn’t about spurting out thoughts, unfiltered, but rather, being in tune with my experience and the environment, and offering what may be helpful, delightful, and so on.

As I was writing above, and getting into the trip, my body was frazzled.  It was total brain splatter.  I noticed, and then spent a moment feeling my way into the body, into the room, and felt more calm.  Feeling more calm now.  Okay.  Is this less exciting?  Am I writing to excite?

Maybe I wrote this yesterday: That the good motivation is to benefit others, the world, rather than to get high, to have heightened experience.  This is one of the main things I came out of retreat with, and so I immediately made lojong cards and have been working with the slogans again.  Meanwhile, the Shambhala magic is being revealed.  Meanwhile, the good ol’ Mahayana is fusing into my marrow.  I am dedicated to creating strong habits of consideration for others, putting others before myself.  I made this commitment almost a year ago now.  The greatest commitment of my life — the Bodhisattva Vow.  Anyway…

This idea of right motivation — benefitting the world, rather than getting high — seems to pervade everything that I may do: meditation, art, love-making, beer drinking… beer drinking?!

I was once in an interview with an Acharya, and he made a joke, imitating someone receiving oral sex and raising a fist dedicating the experience to all sentient beings.  His point was that we still like to get high.  And, vowing not to get high may be a bit much.  Maybe it’s fair to make the aspiration to keep that in check.  To be aware of when I’m getting high and being committed to not letting that get out of hand, to not allowing my pleasure seeking to actually create suffering for others — choosing pleasure over love.

So, that’s not the point.  Of course, I’m part of the world I have vowed to benefit… so a cookie here or there is good!

Okay.  What’s going on at SMC?  The aspens have grown fuzzy little caterpillar seed pods and when the wind blows — the wind blows! — the millions of little fuzz-puffs scatter into the air and fly across the land, across the picnic area — where more and more people are enjoying their meals.  A couple of new volunteer and staff have arrived — the first splashes of what will be a wave of newcomers in the next few weeks as the BIG summertime rolls around.  One new staff member is named Patrick.  He was here this past summer and, arriving yesterday, said nice things about this blog.  Thanked me for writing it.  I told him that now that he is here, he will probably show up in the blog.  Here he is now: Patrick!

– April 6, 2015

~~~

PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious creature on the path of artistry and meditation, who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the lil’ society include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Egg, Apparently

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a regular 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 world in which rock-people swirl as if only vapor, the sky answers in snowfall poem, and light allows dust to be messenger of song…

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A week of everything — some real, some imagined, some really imagined — up in the cabin — Sambhogakaya — and roaming an enchanted corner of the land.  Offering smoke and reciting, hearing, esoteric verses from inscrutable Trungpa — rather, “from” who? — some say this or that.  And so terrifying — possibilities open as if revealing the core of the earth.  The core of my being, beneath sage brush of comfort, mountain peaks of reassurance, forests of familiarity.

Some uncertain lava sure to devour any versions of myself that I uphold which are not in accord with roaring truth, muse.  Cosmic.  The circumstances of my voice in the sunlight are far more vast than I tend to recognize.  My melodramas will be swept off in a single breath of this wind.

I always kinda knew that the path would open up wider, and that which I’d glimpsed would breathe — hot — in my face, and otherwise on the back of my neck.

Now, several years into the conversation, subtle dance, with lineage — practice, hearing, feeling — things are opening up — but it’s like a growth spurt.  It’s not quite a shock, but a bit sudden.  It’s not quite foreign, but a bit more strangely personal.  A bit more real than before — which is disconcerting.

Perhaps my center of gravity is shifting, and I’m struggling a bit to adjust, find my balance.  Or, also knowing that things will likely always be in flux…  Anyway, it’s one of those bardo periods.

We moved out of the cozy lodge suite with the bathtub just a few days after I returned from retreat — a rather traumatic re-entry in which I tried to say and show a lot of my experience — things that may be better digested than shown while being chewed upon.  I opened my mouth and showed Heather — the nitty gritty of spiritual expansiveness and utter bewliderment.  We rode this moment of blazing ambiguity and eventually came home to one another.  And then, we moved into a new home.  Boxes into the mini-van.  And now, sharing a small bedroom in Manjushri.  Planning to move upstairs into the larger room soon.  One of my main homies, Ryan, is considering moving into Avalokiteshvara — the yurt.  I’ve been trying to sway him like I’m a Realtor.  That lil’ house is sacred and I feel protective.  I want to pass it onto to someone who I feel would be a good successor-inhabitant.  It’s a lineage thing

Meditation and meal times have changed and my routine has been scattered — by the breath.  Yesterday I spoke with Naksang Rinpoche about written symbols, and I’m leaning into the practice of writing.  Tonight I’ll read the epilogue to Jeremy Hayward’s book Warrior King of Shambhala: Remembering Chogyam Trungpa.  This book has provided nice accompaniment to my recent curiosity and exposure to further Shambhala teachings, practices, energies, possibilities.

Saturday, Trungpa Rinpoche’s Parinirvana — we all celebrated in the Stupa — Sadhana of Mahamudra feast.  Yesterday, Easter Sunday.  We dyed eggs previously and Heather organized an Easter egg hunt, which, fortunately, some kids participated in — which wasn’t part of the plan.  I took my first full shower in two weeks and felt re-born.  Showers now in Karma Bathhouse.  This morning I showered again and rang the gong for morning session — first for me this season.

Also, tic season.  I’ve pulled four off of me so far.  The first was in retreat.  I had a lucid dream, and a monster appeared and bit into my thigh.  I woke and grabbed it right off.  I could see clearly that it was terrified.  I whispered blessings and then asked the insects to leave me alone.  I made offerings of peppermint tea on all of the windowsills and at the doorway.  There were no more incidents.  Now though…  Heather has had ticks too. Last night, she was quite upset.  Me too.  Disturbed.  I did tonglen, laying in bed — for her, for us — I forgot about the tics.  So many beings to be amidst — seen, unseen, parasitic, lovely, at any given moment.  Me too.

– April 6, 2015

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious creature on the path of artistry and meditation, who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the lil’ society include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Magnanimity, Bhanu, and the Back Nine


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular 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 sleepy this morning, both of us, and Heather said:

“It’s cute that we have temples, huh? Like, my body is a temple, and my temple is a temple… And my temple is my body!”

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At breakfast, Director Gayner — who is in the midst of high-level Shambhala leadership retreat — in which they practice for 20 hours a day — approached Heather and I with a big grin.

“Ahh! Just the two that I was hoping to see.  This is very auspicious.”

We nodded, and he went on:

“Magnanimity!  Do you know this word?”

He’d like for us to come up with a calligraphed presentation of this word along with its definition from the 1812 Oxford English Dictionary (or something like that) as a gift for Richard Reoch, who is leading the retreat.

We gladly agreed.

~~~

I woke up this morning early and a bit jumpy.  Jumbled dreams, especially in the morning.  I’ve been restless at work all week, wishing I were able to do something else.  In particular, spend time exploring poetry, experimental prose, theory, and things in the writing world that I don’t understand.  I have a wish to attend grad school for this sort of thing when I leave SMC.  The idea is inspired by a long inclination towards writing, a connection with Allen Ginsberg, who is connected to Trungpa, who founded the school I want to attend, and all of that.  And, a very magical meeting with Bhanu Kapil, who is a major teacher at the university.  I’ve probably written about that before and will write about it again…

This blog began on the way down from Marpa Point, after I had led Bhanu into the charnel ground and then up to Ginsberg’s memorial reliquary in the Milarepa Poetry Garden.  She encouraged me to write a blog, and sang joyfully about how our meeting signified the re-connection of Shambhala Mountain Center and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

Lately, that’s what I’m thinking about most — Bhanu, the word, and the school.

Meanwhile, I have a job to do here, which is feeling more like a job than it used to now that I have the taste of fine arts and academia in my mind.

Next week I will be going into solitary retreat.  I’m now half way through my stay at SMC, feeling my way into the back 9.

Just now, Heather spoke to me from the ground, up through our second story window.  She told me that I am being summoned to give a Stupa tour to a high school class on a field trip.  So, I will do that now.

– March 12, 2015

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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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Recently, and A Bit About Demons


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

In the woods, on the hill, among scatterred ashes
A restless demon, lustful for validation

In the chair, in the polite room, among polite people
A restless demon, lustful for stimulation

On the floor, in the quiet room, among sacred symbols
A devoured body, calm, gently thumping heart

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Recently:

A five day meditation retreat in which I received a powerful treasure text from the Vidyadhara, sat on the cushion for seven hours a day, and questioned relentlessly the adequacy of the teacher to bring such subtle truths to life.

A day on the land being cooked by the sun, filming Richard Reoch — who is a real bodhisattva — jolly-wise-pappy. He listens until the wisdom reveals itself, through whomever he is engaging with. He knows that the environment is alive with truth. He is delighted and deeply touched. He is devoted so fully that his joy is all pervasive.

A full day in bed with Heather, for the heck of it. We responded to requests for songs with a seven minute Spaghetti Medley, enjoyed snacks, played games with friends, and even had room service — dinner delivered. Our mantra: “Whatever the heck we want,” which we wrote on a poster. The next morning we got out of bed and took the poster down. We want to play more.

– March 11, 2015

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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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Met My Chest Like a Wedge


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Stark solidity, tender impermanence — an orange flower.  The perception met my chest like a wedge — heart so sore and radiant.

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Last night I dreamt of a hologram Ginsberg as a teacher in a classroom.  His words, display, energy, was so inspiring and brilliant — in ways that I often wish for in dharma teachers.

I said to someone near me that I’d do anything to get close to a teacher like that. I wish to attend  JKS when I leave SMC.  This is the second truly strong dream that has pointed in that direction so clearly.

Heather and I spent the weekend down in Boulder — with our friends Kitty, Matty, and baby Benny; and the Sheffield crew, who I used to travel to the Northeast to see, but now most of us live here in Colorado.

Yesterday they came up to SMC for the day and we took a nice walk around the land.  I showed them that cabin that Heather and I hope to move into in the spring, we sung in the Stupa, hugged the Grandfather Tree, and made it down to the shrine room in time for Mamo chants.  We’re officially into Dön Season now, so we’re doing extended protection rituals.

Last night I woke in the middle of the night with a sore back — hit by a dön — recalling sore dreams.

– February 10, 2015

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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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Sand, Soda Ash, and Limestone


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular 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’m drinking
water from a glass–which is not
sand, soda ash, and limestone

I’m questioning its clarity
in hopes that my own bones and blemishes
may be revealed to be clear

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Up late studying the dharma, dialoging with Heather, and celebrating Goundhog Day.

Therefore, woke up late in the morning — did my things swiftly — write, shit, shower, vows, Qigong, kiss and sing to Heather.  Then shoveled granola, grapefruit and tea into my face and raced down the stairs so as not to miss opening gong.

Sitting on the cushion, my stomach dealing with all of the stuff I bombed it with, I felt sad and confused — how to conduct a life that is smooth, not self-centered, productive… productive?

Joy: How?

That’s the question.

Peace: How?

Bliss: How?

– February 3, 2015

~~~

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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Family and Family — Circle


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular 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 take refuge in the sangha, as support for traveling the path.

This morning I met with the Care Council, to open and share a deep, murky, entangled, situation that I am doing my best to navigate well.

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It has to do with kin in dire straits.

We sat in a circle — I used to sit as a member of the Care Council and offer space and feedback to people who are in states of like I have been experiencing recently.

I opened up and spoke all about the situation, offering information and a bit of emotional tone.  It was a vulnerable feeling, especially before we began.  Sitting in the room waiting for the others to sit on their cushions.  I was contemplating the teachings on emptiness, and considering how solid things can feel.  But the solidity was only a flash, and dissolves into flavored space.

Arising.

So, my drama arose gently for us all to see.  And then, my friends offered feedback.  They offered their perspective.  Reported what they were seeing from their side of the circle.  And it was so helpful.

I went in with a bowl of spaghetti, and came out with some olives in a row.  Some understanding and some action items.

The main dharmic point seems to be exploring the distinction between compassion and idiot compassion.  That has been the dharmic theme recently, but I hadn’t put words to it.

Fearless beyond idiot compassion.

That’s one of the eight slogans of the Dorje Kasung.  Rusung Edwards offered it into the circle, and it reminded me of the dharma.

The Care Council assured me that they would be there to support me as I work through this.  I know, and I appreciate it.  We bowed, and Rachel said that the merit would be dedicated to helping myself and kin move swiftly through this challenging spot.

  — January 30, 2015

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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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill