Floral Notes and Bardo: Into Earth, Into Possibility, Flower

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.

Image of mystery solidified into realness
Heavy “other” became oppressive
Revolution of skepticism, purification, cynicism
Softening, imagination liberated from captivity
Realness dissolves into possibility

IMG_0951 (2)

A healing week, a liberating week — with teacher Marcy Fink, and pepperred by amazing wisdom of wizard Joshua.  Oh, and high lama from Tibet.

Four Dignities, and teachings, exploration of magic, possibilities.  After a retreat a couple of months ago in which I became devastatingly frustrated with the teacher and lost connection, apparently, to the lineage, this — Marcy, Joshua, and the dignities — was restorative.

After the last retreat with the teacher who I found to be inadequate, having gone on solitary retreat, only for the teachings to blossom by surprise — as if someone had slipped acid into my coffee — now, okay, good.

Prancing in the field together, offering fragrant smoke into the sky, discussing with heart, bones, imagination, these teachings, our lives, this earth, the limitless expanse, poetry.  Feasting together, sipping sake, offering dance, poem, song, for each other, for us, delight.  Laying, one afternoon, outside the Stupa, feeling deeply into earth, gazing far into, beyond, sky.  Bliss.  Vultures circling above — death.

The follwing day — Joshua — oh — wild, amazing, heartbreaking, hysterical, ecstatic, living teaching.  In the flesh and spirit.  Laughing into the sky, basking in laughter echoed from Stupa, dancing, skipping, soaring together.  Realizing what all of these teachings are really about — even in glimpses.  Realizing my barriers — okay.  Inside Stupa, all of us with Tibetan instruments, weapons, a sculpture of ego — “mix between 8 1/2 month year old baby and a frog” — in the center. cacophony of sound — like bardo, chaos, world.  Dancers, in turn, embodying the dignities, ritualistically slayed ego-delusion.

A high lama from Tibet visited us on the last day.  I sat right in front, facing him.  In the middle of his talk — on nature of mind, Kalachakra, meditation, Trungpa Rinpoche — he pointed at me and said (through his translator): “This student is meditating well.  I can tell by looking into his eyes.”  Everyone laughed. After the talk I immediately jumped up when we were invited to ask questions.  I asked about vegetarianism — because he is an advocate — and he spoke to the full room about the virtues of vegetarianism:  Eating meat, he said, creates obstacles to awakening bodhichitta, and, among many other reasons for being vegetarian, it is good to not kill other beings unnecessarily, obviously.  It was nice to hear all of this and know that my fellow sangha members were hearing all of this.  The dubious practice of eating meat, to me, is an elephant in the room of Shambhala.

After I took my seat again, he looked at me for a moment and said: “Meditate well.”


The retreat was intense, kept me up past my bedtime every night, and it was really staring to catch up with me by the end of the week.  Tired.

Friday morning I went up to do chores at the Stupa.  While I was up there, Joshua wrote me (I typed) a recommendation for an upcoming retreat program.

Do you recommend this student for this retreat?

“Yes. Extraordinary perception of reality.”

Anything else you would like to say about this student?

“Yes. Put him into servitude to save the world.”

That was it.  Good enough!

Satruday a blissfull day of slowness with Hetaher — pillowtalk all morning, yummy lunch, cartoons and games in the afternoon.  Finally listened to the new Sufjan Stevens album while she attended the first session of the second phase of our ongoing peaceful communication training with Greg Heffron.  I was sorry to miss it, but it just wasn’t lining up.

I’m enjoying, recently, moving the my life more in accordance with the flow of things, less grip on my agenda — watching it rain for a few minutes instead of hurrying to next destination, entering into conversation, volunteering time here and there.  Slow down.  Yes.

After Heather walked down the hill to class, I walked a couple of doors down, rang the bell, and asked Michael (Gayner) for some water.  I was all out and trying to nurse myself back to health.  Without hesitation, he began feeding me all good healthy things — fruits, herbs, tinctures, concoctions.  I felt better immediately, sipping roibos while the ginger, honey, pepper, lemon brew was heating up on the stove.  He hooked me up real nice and was so joyful in doing so.

So good.

Like President Reoch handing me a bunch of money to pass along to my Mom in need: real bodhisattva stuff.  Natural.  Genuine.  Feels good.

And now, entering two weeks of mad-creative-work putting on our second big online event: Beyond Mindfulness. the team is in motion.  It’s happening.  Giddy up!

—  May 4, 2015


PortraitTravis 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

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