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 living as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.
The hum, cranking mechanics of this lumpy old computer is so loud, it’s difficult to hear the voice. It’s a wounded beast in the choir. Holy jalopy.
All of these dreams…
Walking in the woods one day during retreat, singing, it occurred to me — All of These Dreams — that lovely little song may be heard as an ode to the terma phenomena.
Saga Dawa — long ago now. At dawn I walked through the woods, across the land to the Stupa — made offerings, prayers, prostrations. Hung a large Gesar flag up in the tress on the hill to the east. Back to the nest, hung more flags all around the yard with Heather. She made a few, which are wonderful. A pink breezy pony flag hanging beside my blue windhorse flag. Our distinct iconographies, minds, complimenting one another. The union… 1+1=3.
Golden Key — blissful days with Cynthia Kneen. Received profound poetry, liquid realization. Merged with phenomena in deeper ways. Having acquired new, reliable tools for connecting in ways that I always have (sometimes).
Warrior Assembly — Dipping deeper and deeper into the mystical aspects of Shambhala. Poisoned by splendor. Delicious.
Meanwhile, a heartbreakingly wonderful friendship, partnership, companionship — more and more real — Heather and I. Honest. Blood and guts, bones, emotion. Heart, inexplicable circumstance, practicality. A good deal.
Immediately following two weeks of intensive program, retreat, assembly — a full day of assisting Sensei, a day of email-a-thon catch up in the office, and then another day — 11 hours — assisting Sensei again. Assisting Sensei in taking down the Warrior Assembly arrangements and creating the Ikebana environment for Scorpion Seal Garchen.
During Warrior Assembly, my job was to help with flowers the whole way through. Mmm! A lot of work. Art work. At one point I brought this question to the assembly: “Is the contribution of the artist valued in this mandala? If so, why does there seem to be so much more emphasis and validation for the military?”
I was in the trenches with Sensei. 11pm, 10 hours into the work, sawing branches. Joshua was there too, helping out. I was terribly cranky, but keeping quiet. Sensei asked me to report on my current experience. I told her.
She said: “And if that crankiness could speak, what would it say?”
Me: “I want to go home. I want a break!”
She was nearly 20 hours into her work for that day. She probably worked nearly as many hours the day before — creating art. Bringing the environment to life for the assembly, for the practitioner, for the guru to share wakeful mind.
I looked her in the eyes — her eyes are always devastatingly kind, accommodating, friendly — I said:
“I want to be able to offer like you do. I don’t know how you do it. I want to be able to offer joyfully, tirelessly, like that.”
She assured me that I shouldn’t be hard on myself, and that I am on a path. She encouraged me to go home so that I don’t burn out or form a negative association with Ikebana.
I went home laughing about how I simply cannot keep up with that woman twice my age. Unbelievable. Promising.
Saturday, the next day — day of rest. Wonderful. Cartoons and cereal with Heather, a couple hours of practice, picnic lunch, a hike — then, sweating, back at the house, laying in the grass, feeling cool breeze, sky-gazing, opened a cold bottle of beer, in the shade, delicious, melted into the land, the sky, the air, the tall, fragrant, grass, the south facing slope across the valley which I had just hiked, wrote some poetry, laid, bliss.
Sunday, a full day of connecting with Heather — our seasonal relationship celebration/strengthening, check-in. Yummy watermelon popsicles on the porch of the gift store (The HUM Depot), friendship-bracelet-weaving, lovely stroll, enchanted aspen grove ceremony, and in the evening, a community solstice celebration event — we all contributed art, words, aspirations to a large prayer flag that will be hung, on an auspicious day, on the hill near the Stupa.
Now, the end of a week of busy-ness. Much driving — dropping off Heather, who is now in California, arranging for the car-hit-tree damage to be repaired — a million things at work, and arranging for Ethan Nichtern to hold an audience with the SMC Staff.
Meanwhile, we are in a sea of high practitioners, Rinpoche is on the land, and everything is high.
Now I must go to eat!
— June 26, 2015
Travis Newbill is a writer, musician, and aspirant on the path of meditation. He currently resides at Shambhala Mountain Center, where he serves in the roles of Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position. Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill