Drum Your Prayers – Creativity & Spirituality

By Christine Stevens
(Edited by Jeff Newman)

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Healing Sound Retreat with Christine Stevens, May 28-31 — click here to learn more

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“Life can become boring when the spark of creative fire is not lit in the soul of our spirit.”- Music Medicine, the science and spirit of healing yourself with sound

We all listen to music. Many of us dream of playing an instrument, yet most of us don’t. How do we move from being only consumers of music to becoming music creators?

Creativity is our birthright, an organic medicine of healing. No matter where these limiting beliefs originated, you are the one who can remove them and take action! Otherwise, you may never express the song of your soul that wants to be sung. As the old saying goes, don’t die with the music inside you.

The Science of Creativity – Mind & Body

In a study using functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) to look at brain activity, surgeon and jazz pianist CJ Limb compared improvised piano playing to a rendition of a rehearsed piece of music. The results showed that when musicians used their own creativity, a very specific small area of the brain’s frontal cortex — the medial prefrontal cortex — became activated. This part of the brain functions in self-reflection, introspection, personal sharing, and self-expression; it is often thought to be the seat of consciousness. The medial prefrontal cortex area is also activated when we talk about ourselves, telling our personal story. Simultaneously, a deactivation occurred. The two larger areas of the frontal cortex — the lateral prefrontal cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — were deactivated. These areas deal with self-monitoring, judgment, and self-criticism. It’s a paradox; the larger parts of the brain inhibit our self-expression, while the smaller part reveals the greater self. No wonder it’s a challenge to express ourselves creatively in music.

Are you ready to begin to be a creator; not just a consumer? Try these guided practices and awaken your Creative Spirit through rhythm.

This video demonstrates creativity. Done in collaboration with a friend, this shows a nice balance of masculine and feminine. This is improvisational and multi-cultural. Our prayer is for the beauty of dialogue of cultures, in this case of middle east and Native American. Music is the dancing ground in the center that unites people.

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Healing Sound Retreat with Christine Stevens, May 28-31 — click here to learn more!

Jon Crowder will join me at the Retreat this year offering tai chi, African chants, and wonderful rhythms. He is the founder of Peak Rhythms based in Boulder, Colorado.
Here are a few more ideas to enhance your creativity;

1. Dance to the Beat of your own drum

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Drumming is an immediate portal into musical expression. Everyone can be successful immediately. Whether you are more comfortable drumming or dancing; both are great tools for awakening your musical creativity.

Click here to listen to the free play along track!

Select Rhythm (Chapter 3). Scroll to the bottom and play the last two tracks: Reviving Rhythms and Beauty Groove play-along tracks. Get out a drum, rattle, or homemade percussion sound and play-a-long, improvising the beat that only you can play. Each track is more than seven minutes, giving you time to get out of your head and into your drum. Remember, there is no right or wrong here; simply the joyful feeling of self-expression.

2. Tone your note

Toning comes from “tone,” a single note that is an inner sounding. Give yourself permission to sing your note, whatever it may be, and let it resonate your whole being. Trust yourself. Don’t think about it. Just take a deep belly breath and exhale a note. Now, sing the same note only louder! Repeat. When you complete the toning of your note, allow yourself time to sit with the vibration. Feel the resonance of creativity, of musical freedom reverberating through your body, mind, and spirit.

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Healing Sound Retreat with Christine Stevens, May 28-31 — click here to learn more!

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Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC is an author, music therapy consultant to REMO drums, and founder of UpBeat Drum Circles. Her new book, Music Medicine (Sounds True, August, 2012) includes more than 40 guided practices and 50 audio tracks of healing music. www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUGTmeDh8E8

 

Interview: Waking Up to the Wild with Kay Peterson

 

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Waking up to the Wild: Mindful Hiking with Kay Peterson, July 24-27 — click here to learn more

Like trees in the forest or fish in the sea, we have an innate ability to live in greater harmony with our environment. While trying to navigate our busy, high-tech world, we can develop habits of mind that leave us feeling disconnected and unfulfilled. Delving deeply into the practice of mindfulness/awareness in nature, we turn our attention toward the subtle interplay of our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and sense perceptions and rediscover how we can open to our fundamental interconnection to all things. Rather than always needing to change where we work, live, or who we love, we can change our relationship to these aspects of our lives in a way that brings us greater happiness and contentment.

Next month, psychotherapist, wilderness guide, and Shambhala meditation instructor Kay Peterson will be leading a wonderfully nourishing retreat here in the powerful natural environment of Shambhala Mountain Center.  Recently, Kay took some time to discuss the importance of tapping into the natural world, and how doing so can benefit our daily lives.

Enjoy this interview below, and to learn more about the upcoming retreat, please follow the links at the top of this article.

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KayPetersonKay Peterson, MA, MFT Intern, is a psychotherapist, wilderness guide, and Shambhala meditation instructor. She has been facilitating nature-inspired programs focused on individual transformation, creative group processes, and mindfulness since 1996. Kay also teaches Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and is adjunct faculty at Naropa University.

5 Things I Learned on a Meditation Retreat

By Ryan Stagg

Shambhala Meditation O'Hern - For Web5

At the end of a recent week-long meditation retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center another participant remarked about how difficult it would be to explain her experience back home. “We sat a lot, walked in circles, and didn’t talk much,” she said with a laugh.

And yet somehow after a week of performing this simple routine, often in complete silence, we all had smiles on our faces and a clear appreciation for the journey we had just completed. It was hard to pinpoint exactly what, but some transformation had undoubtedly occurred. The atmosphere in the room was simply lighter and more spacious.

There is something very radical about choosing to go on a meditation retreat. In many ways it stands in contrast to the speediness and excitement of our everyday lives. It also creates a fundamental shift in our perspective—rather than seeking fulfillment externally, we resolve to sit and look inside, at our own bodies, hearts, and minds.

The effects of embracing this contemplative perspective have long been promoted by practitioners and more recently by scientists. What’s fascinating is that the benefits don’t come from outside as we are so often socialized to believe. They come from within our own being. Somewhere in the midst of sitting and walking circles people continue to discover something magical. In Shambhala we call this our “basic goodness.”

To discover basic goodness is to glimpse one’s own inherent worthiness and completeness. It’s a feeling of contentment with things as they are. Of course there are many benefits of going on retreat and everyone will have their own unique experience, but I’d like to share five things that I’ve learned about the journey:

1. I had to take a leap. Breaking out of the cycles of everyday life to come on a meditation retreat is not easy. I worried about getting behind at work. The long winter was finally breaking and warm spring days made me wonder if leisurely weekends might be a better way to spend my time. I knew from retreats before that my back would hurt…a lot. The list goes on. A definite leap had to occur out of my daily routine and all the momentum it carries. It’s really the first step of the practice—to break the attachments to habitual tendencies and comforts. It’s a challenge to put aside a week or a month, but that decision becomes the essence of the practice; it lays the foundation for letting go.

2. There is no replacing the full immersion of extended retreat. I’ve sat a number of weekend retreats recently, which are certainly a good way to spend a weekend. However, I find something happens around day 3, a kind of immersion where the practice becomes a little more embodied, a little more effortless. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to sit even 25 minutes in a day but the transition to sitting hours and days at a time is surprisingly simple. The container created by the retreat staff and the other participants becomes a powerful support and I seem to find a hidden patience and resolve.

3. Relentless kindness to one’s self is key. The Shambhala teachings have really done a number on my idealistic expectations of meditation. When you try to be a Buddha you end up being very hard on yourself, when you try to be a human you end up being kind to yourself. The Acharya of this retreat led us in a three part exercise each day where we’d feel what we were feeling—maybe pain in the body or a particular emotion—extend kindness to that feeling, and then relax into the feeling of being kind to oneself. It’s a simple and powerful practice that helped me reintegrate the more difficult parts of myself I’d rather not sit with—the parts that don’t seem “enlightened.” This technique helped alleviate a lot of the conflict and struggle of sitting meditation and replaced it with a holistic appreciation of what it means to be human.

4. I felt a lot. Sometimes more than I’d like to. I find it amazing how the world opens up from sitting. Maybe distant memories in which I could smell my childhood home and feel the warmth of a glowing fire in the hearth. Maybe a rush of emotion of the deep love I have for a close friend.

We also had a much-needed “aerobic walk” each afternoon. I live here at Shambhala Mountain Center but each time felt like the first time I’d ever seen this incredible land, my perceptions were heightened, I could vividly feel the point of the pine needle and the pleasant ruffle on the water of Lake Shunyata.

5. I found a lasting place of calm. Many of us go seeking externally for peace and quiet, awaiting our next vacation or moment to escape. But real peace and quiet comes from working with the mind. The depth of meditation I cultivated on retreat is something I can come back to over and over; it isn’t based on external conditions. It’s subtle, but that sense of my own basic goodness grows each time I make the leap to sit a retreat. I couldn’t think of a more valuable way to spend my time.

Click here to learn about Dathun / Weekthun Retreat 2015 — Your opportunity to meditate for a week or full month!

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10524698_676605145764845_4615874047729965354_nRyan Stagg received an MA in Contemplative Religious Studies from Naropa University, and currently lives and works at Shambhala Mountain Center, where he explores the dharma as a personal, social, and professional path.

An Eleven Minute Journey — Healing Shamanic Music

 

We’d like to invite you to lovingly interrupt your current state of being by pushing play on the music box below.  Generously give yourself eleven minutes — eyes closed preferably, but while at your desk writing emails is acceptable — to experience the rejuvenating power of this music from Byron Metcalf, an award winning musician, transpersonal psychologist, shamanic practitioner, and healer.

Also, we invite you to lovingly interrupt your current life trajectory by attending the upcoming retreat that Byron Metcalf will be co-leading at SMC May 1-3:

Click here to learn about Shaman’s Heart: The Path of Authentic Power, Purpose & Presence

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ByronMetcalf_1214Byron Metcalf, PhD, is a transpersonal guide and educator, shamanic practitioner, researcher, and award-winning professional musician. For nearly three decades, he has been intensely involved in consciousness research and spiritual development, specializing in the transformative potential of alternative states of consciousness. As a drummer, percussionist and recording engineer, Byron produces music for deep inner exploration, breathwork, shamanic journeywork, body-oriented therapies, various meditation practices and the healing arts.

As workshop, retreat and ceremonial leader with over 25 years of experience, Byron has facilitated personal growth and healing workshops featuring Holotropic and HoloShamanic Breathwork and The Shaman’s Heart Program/Training throughout the US. He lives in the high-desert mountains of Prescott Valley, Arizona and is the founding director of HoloShamanic Strategies, LLC. Learn more at his website, www.byronmetcalf.com.

FLOW: I Move Because I am Curious

By Katharine Kaufman

Katharaine Kaufman will be leading FLOW: A Meditation and Yoga Retreat, April 25-27

I start in stillness. Then I recognize I am breathing. The breath appears to be more clear—prominent. I recognize a sense of body—what is touching the ground, what is a little snug, what feels tired. Hello body. I relax my jaw and shoulders and along with this, discursive movement relaxes too. Breathe out. I am landed. Where does movement start? Mind? A reflex? Breath? I move not because I am uncomfortable and want to change my posture. I move because I am curious. I am looking for what my mentor, Barbara Dilley, calls, “kinesthetic delight.”

I open my peripheral view to the others in the room. Pretty soon we are moving through space, slowly, and somewhat together. I don’t have to hold this body up—by myself. I think of my yoga teacher, Richard Freeman who always said we can “ride the breath.” And there’s a sense of support from the group. When we slow our movement we can take care of ourselves as we enter and leave the poses. When we slow even more we don’t need to push at anything. The breath seems to carry us. Gravity seems friendly.

DSC_2289Photo by Barbara Colombo

The creative yoga sequences are funny— and there is some laughter, and a few groan as someone is challenged with how to unwind from a pose. When we enter a twisted posture it seems that the breath is all that moves. Our entire body works as a unit in strong poses. When we balance there is a tremor. Someone who usually toughs it out chooses to rest for a while and then joins a little later. So it goes—starting simply, we move into more complex poses and then return to the simplicity of sitting or standing, or lying. We have been around the block -–looked into our alleys and windows… With each sun-salutation, plank pose, and savasana we feel both the limits of our movement and the expansiveness—We know ourselves as moving beings. After all this moving it feels natural to sit, so we do.

This is what we do with our short time together. This is practice. The land supports us in our practice. The staff understands. They are friendly and gentle. Other programs support us in our practice and the practice itself supports our practice. Zen Master, Kobun Chino said, “practice is a fancy word.” It’s not special. It’s ordinary and visceral. We have the opportunity to go to the depths as well as shallows, and to let our recognition of each current exploding moment expand us.

Then there are meals –beautiful vegetarian meals —waiting for us. We walk in the springtime mountains. Are there flowers yet? I forgot. It has been a long time. Maybe there is a puffy spring snow that melts as it touches the ground.

After lunch I walk up to the stupa and around the perimeter a few times. I only hear the sound of my steps on the gravel so I try to walk more softly to match the silence. This allows me to really feel each step and swing of arms, legs. The wind shoots through the land. I realize I don’t know much about wind, this land, myself…I find this hysterical and burst out in a big laugh. When I enter the stupa I am surprised by a rush of energy and clarity as I sit, facing the mystery of who I am, what phase I am in. I feel the vulnerability of this human life. Here, I don’t need much to be satisfied.

Being removed from my habitual routes and places gives me the opportunity to look at my thoughts, body, relationships, and days from a bigger perspective. Questions arise as we move through our practice—in relationship with our own mind and body. They are questions that can be translated to our lives. I may ask, Where is space in this back bend? What flows? What is necessary? With what kind of energy and awareness am I stepping on the ground? How gracefully do I perform these stops and starts? Can I let go here—and here? Is my movement too swift for how my body really feels? The questions are enough. They don’t require answers.

Katharaine Kaufman will be leading FLOW: A Meditation and Yoga Retreat, April 25-27 — click here to learn more

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Katharine_Kaufman2Katharine Kaufman, MFA, is ordained as a priest in the Soto Zen lineage. She studied Yoga in India and practiced and taught for many years at Richard Freeman’s Yoga Workshop and Wendy Bramlett’s Studio Be. Katharine is an adjunct professor at Naropa University where she teaches Contemplative Movement Arts and is a student of poetry.

Simplifying Meditation: Why Practice? To Wake Up!

By Thomas Roberts

Thomas Roberts leads The Path of Simply Being: A Meditation Retreat, November April 10-12 2015

These days you hear a great deal about meditation. This kind of meditation, that kind of meditation; all sorts of books describing what it is and what it can do for you. Often meditation is associated with a particular religion or spiritual practice. Let’s clear something up right at the start.

Meditation is not a religion. Meditative/contemplative practices have been part of numerous spiritual practices throughout history. No one owns it.

Meditation is not Prozac. It does not cure or solve anything.

Meditation does not make you a better parent, a better doctor, a better student, help you be less depressed or anxious.

In fact meditation does no-thing at all!

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 Like everything else that gets exploited, meditation is now neatly packaged for your consumptive desires.

Everybody is touting and selling meditation. Step right up and get yours.

Okay let’s restore some sanity here.

A meditation practice doesn’t help you overcome anything. It just helps you face your life with greater patience, openness and compassion.

If you do meditation for some outcome you’re not doing mindfulness. I’m not sure what you’re doing and it may be beneficial but it is not meditation.

You see, the real practice of meditation has no outcome. You don’t do meditation to get anywhere or achieve anything. If you do, you run the risk of becoming attached to that particular outcome and that interferes with your meditation practice.

So why practice mindfulness?

All the great teachers (Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Toltec, Muslim, Native Peoples) have taught one thing:

The only reason to practice mindfulness is this:

to wake up!!!!

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That’s all.

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To wake up!

A regular meditation practice simply peels back the layers of self-deception to see things clearly as they truly are. The more you wake up, the more you are able to live your life from an open compassionate heart, and a balanced calm mind; from a deep place of innate wisdom. The benefits of awakening move in all directions throughout all your experiences.

Meditation is the awakening of our entire experience, not just our minds; the awakening of our entire body-mind and its sensory experience. This awakening reduces our fear-based reactions and cultivates our natural ability respond to others and ourselves with great patience, openness and compassion. Our senses become alive with wonder and curiosity for past conditionings and limiting attachments.

So let’s stop all this nonsense of trying to practice meditation for any particular outcome.

It comes down to this: Practice this enduring skill for its own sake, and everything else will take care of itself.

The simple yet profound practice of mindful meditation, whether on a cushion or in a chair, or in a grocery line, or talking with another, just keeps you in an open, balanced, and compassionate place that just makes this a better world.

The Path of Simply Being retreat will be a wonderful experience in developing a meaningful and beneficial meditation practice.

You need not have any prior meditation experience. Or you may wish to attend to deepen or re-kindle your practice.

Hope to see you here at Shambhala!

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Gassho.

Tom

www.thomasrobertsllc.com

www.innerchng.com

P. S. Here is a video I made of the practice of meditation:

Thomas Roberts leads The Path of Simply Being: A Meditation Retreat, November April 10-12 2015

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Tom-RobertsThomas Roberts, a Zen Buddhist and psychotherapist, has led dynamic, refreshing, and practical retreats on mind-body healing and meditation practices for over 30 years. This retreat will draw from his book The Mindfulness Book: A Beginner’s Guide to Overcoming Fear and Embracing Compassion.

The No-Selfie: Miksang Contemplative Photography

 

Miksang Woman with Orange UmbrellaAll photos in this article by Julie DuBose

Discover how to see the world in a fresh way and express your full and complete experience through your camera. Miksang Contemplative Photography as developed by Michael Wood and Julie DuBose teaches us how to recognize the experience of direct visual perception — direct in this case means without the filters of our habitual ways of seeing and experiencing. In the interview below, Julie DuBose offers some wisdom related to this beautiful discipline.

Click here to learn about our upcoming weekend workshop: Opening the Good Eye: Miksang Photography, April 2-5, 2015 — This is Not Just A Photography Class

Watch our interview with Julie DuBose below, or scroll down to stream/download the audio, and to see more Miksang images.

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

Click here to learn about Julie DuBose’s upcoming retreat at SMC: Opening the Good Eye: Miksang Photography, April 2-5, 2015

Miksang Diner Seat

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Click here to learn about Julie DuBose’s upcoming retreat at SMC: Opening the Good Eye: Miksang Photography, April 2-5, 2015

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Click here to learn about Julie DuBose’s upcoming retreat at SMC: Opening the Good Eye: Miksang Photography, April 2-5, 2015

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JulieDuBoseJulie DuBose began her study of Miksang with Michael Wood in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1998. She has been traveling and teaching with Michael since 2000 and is a teacher of all Miksang levels. She founded the Miksang Institute for Contemplative Photography in 2009 in Boulder, Colorado and Miksang Publications in 2012. Julie lives in Lafayette, Colorado.

Her first book,  Effortless Beauty: Photography as an Expression of Eye, Mind, and Heart, was released in March 2013. 

Relationship as Spiritual Path: Couples Retreat Master Ben Cohen

 

Intimate relationships are both an opportunity and a challenge to our capacity for love and vulnerability.  Once we get past the romantic love stage, we often find ourselves surprised by these challenges.  Drawing from the work of Harville Hendrix, PhD, (Imago) Ben Cohen works with couples in exploring the essential principles and practices of conscious relationships — both in his private practice and as a leader of couples’ retreats.

Click here to learn about our upcoming weekend retreat: Relationship as a Spiritual Path: Getting the Love You Want (A Couples Workshop), April 24-26

Watch our interview 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.

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Ben-CohenBen Cohen, PhD, is a psychologist in private practice in Boulder and Denver specializing in relationship counseling. He has also had an active meditation practice for over 25 years and integrates Eastern and Western traditions in his teaching and practice.

His departed mom told him to help me…

By Sue Frederick

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Bridges to Heaven: A Grief Healing Workshop, led by Sue Frederick, June 5-7, 2015

Saturday night I went to do online check-in for my flight home after teaching a Bridges to Heaven: Talking to Loved Ones on the Other Side grief workshop and discovered that when United put me on a different flight to San Fran because of weather that it cancelled my entire ticket. I had no flight reservation home to Colorado.

I called United and spent 45 minutes on the phone with an extraordinarily sweet agent who fixed everything and got me back on the same flight with no extra fees.

He told me at the end of the call that he put extra energy into helping me because his departed mother whispered to him to help me out. He had no idea what I do for a living or that I’d just spent two days teaching a Talking to Loved Ones on the Other Side – grief workshop.

So we spent another ten minutes connecting with his mom and discussing his future great work. He was crying with happiness at the end of the call.

Amazing thing is that almost everyone in our workshop today was grieving their mom. (Each group usually has a distinct theme). We laughingly called our group the dead moms club. I kept telling my students that the room was filled with loving mother energy. You could feel it in the air.

I got to finish the day with this amazing conversation with another soul who was grieving his mom.

I’m so blessed to do what I do in the world.

And Divine Order blows me away. Always.

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SueFrederickSue Frederick is the author of Bridges to Heaven: True Stories of Loved Ones on the Other Side; I See Your Soul Mate and I See Your Dream Job. An intuitive since childhood, Sue has trained more than 200 intuitive coaches around the world. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, CNN.com and Yoga Journal, among others.

Is Today a Good Day to Die? How Meditation and Yoga Can Liberate You From Fear

 

I hope, as you read this, that you are well and free from any indications that your life will be cut short.  At the same time, I invite you to take a moment today to contemplate death.

Personally, I tend to skate by much of the time without reflecting too deeply on this inevitable aspect of life.  When I do contemplate impermanence though, the beauty and preciousness of my experience of living becomes illuminated.  So, it seems to me like something worth doing, perhaps more regularly.  Maybe you feel the same way.

In this video, Elysabeth Williamson offers some guidance for living in moment-to-moment, day-to-day relationship with our own death.  As she goes on to say later in the interview, the result can be incredibly liberating and joyful.

Watch the three minute clip below.

Click here to learn about our upcoming weekend retreat: Savasana: Exploring Our Death to Liberate Our Lives, March 13-15

If you feel inspired to deepen into this practice of contemplating impermanence and the preciousness of life, please click here to learn about the upcoming retreat that Elysabeth will be leading. 

Hear more of what Elysabeth has to say by checking out our full interview with her below. Watch the video 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.

Please click here to learn about this retreat on our beautiful land in the Colorado Rockies — Savasana: Exploring Death to Liberate Our Lives 

Thank you for being connected with us — sharing this good life.

Wishing you longevity and much joy,
Travis Newbill

P.S. Here’s a photo I took of the full moon rising up from behind the eastern ridge of the SMC valley.  It’s sort of on theme with that “dead snag” in the foreground…

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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