Writing as a path to Awakening

By Albert Flynn DeSilver

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Writing as a Path to Awakening with Albert Flynn DeSilver August 13-17, 2015 — click here to learn more

Writing as a path to Awakening is a dynamic and fun process using mindfulness as a way to deepen your writing practice and expand your creative potential. Spiritual practice has always brought insight to my writing—increasing the flow of ideas, the big open inclusive ideas of beauty and of being and of surrendering to a state of love and compassion.

Too often we get pigeon-holed into false conceptions of ourselves. There are a million distractions, negative self talk, old voices of doubt and self recrimination often holding us back. We experience it in the form of writer’s block, in the creation of flat characters, in novels left half-written collecting dust on the table.

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I know if my heart of hearts when people have a safe place to express their true poetic self they can realize who they really are, and this process of awakening can change the world. If you take a look at the great spiritual teachers from around the world— Ghandi, the Dali Lama, Amma, Thich Nhat Hanh — they have something in common beyond their spiritual practice and messages: they are writers. They have to be in order to spread their messages of compassion and love. Think about it. Is there anything more powerful than the written word? “In the beginning was the word and the word was with god and the word was god.”

How powerful would it be to follow in the footsteps of these leaders, to integrate an expansion of consciousness into your writing and vice versa? Writing as a path to Awakening is a process of utilizing the practice of writing toward further self-awareness, increased emotional intelligence, and overall expansion of consciousness. It can allow you to express the truest form of yourself to the world through your writing.

I want people to remember that creativity isn’t something that some people have and others don’t. Creativity is not something you go and get at a workshop, or even a thing that you learn. Creativity is you, it’s who you are at your very core. One just needs to stop, turn off the computer, phone, i-pod, etcetera and listen in silence, spend time in nature, and there you will merge with the creativity that is you!

No matter what your vocation is in this life, you can integrate mindfulness and certainly writing if you are so inclined. In order to live the awakened life, you need to get in touch with who you really are. Writing as a path to Awakening can be part of that journey. When you open up your mind to your inner self you begin on a journey into creativity—exploring your sociological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual story—over time you gain insight, understanding, further clarification of the self, and ultimately the ability to transcend a lot of perceived limitations.

Through mindful being and reflective writing you will find that your very existence is miraculous. This simple and profound insight is not only worth writing about, but a courageous and beautiful step toward changing the world.

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writing-retreat-with-albert-desilverAlbert Flynn DeSilver is an internationally published poet, writer, speaker, and workshop leader. He served as Marin County’s very first Poet Laureate from 2008-2010. His work has appeared in more than 100 literary journals worldwide. http://www.albertflynndesilver.com/

You can follow Albert on Facebook and Twitter

Floral Notes and Bardo: Snow Totoro (Snowtoro?) No Poem


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 don’t want to
start this post
with poem

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Yesterday having tea up near the Stupa with dear buddy Frenchy (other people call him that), we discussed artistic engagement as path.  He is just finishing up an MFA in sculpture.  I am tip-toeing towards Naropa writing and poetics MFA program.  To do so I have to devote time every day to reading and writing — in addition to time on the cushion and studying dharma.  Devoting time, daily, as practice, to the arts feels like a departure at this point.  It feels unsanctioned.  I know I’m being a “good boy” if I am meditating and studying dharma.  How about if I’m reading poetry?

This is revealing a tip of iceberg psychological complex that I believe is lurking in my mindstream.  I’d like therapy exploration someday.

Anyway… it snowed a ton.  3 feet.  People were squishing their cars stuck into piles of snow — left and right.  Heather and I sat cozy in the cabin and watched a whole episode of Mark Corwin rescuing Oakes with the plow truck.

So cozy inside.  Snow falling, falling, falling out the window.  Piling up.  Huge heaps.  On Saturday, my first toboggan ride — right out in front of the cabin!  Then, warm drinks, burgers, music, games, yummy times inside the cabin with Heather.  Yesterday, she made an epic Totoro snow sculpture on the dining platform.  It took her three hours.  Now, her face is sun-burnt and her arms are sore.  She says: I’m experiencing physical discomfort.  I don’t like physical discomfort.”

This morning, she also said (her first words of the day):  “I dreamt that I was at the Nutcracker ballet.  Everyone that I’ve ever known was there.  It was beautiful.”

Friday was the heaviest super snow day.  We cancelled all of our weekend programs so the staff-community was hanging out in the dining hall — playing games, later watching a movie.  It was a good warm feeling.

Yesterday, after Stupa chores: Social Meditation. Such a great practice.  We sit in a circle, meditate, then, eye gaze, then, heart-speech-and-listening communication, then, snacks and more casual conversation.  Sharing gaze with friend, I felt all irritation melt away.  I had to refrain from bursting into laughter.

I always have resistance to entering into the gaze, but then, it is like immediate medicine.  That practice is as profound as any practice I’ve done — in the longer group or solitary retreats, or anything.  It brings it all to life — interdependence, non-duality, real love, real compassion, the basis for compassion, the lightness of the whole thing!

We’re planning to do it every Sunday now, like we did last summer.  Very glad for this.

Also, I am making my own kombucha.  Eric transmitted the mother to me.

— April 20, 2015

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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

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.

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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

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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Come with Me — Haiku and Katharine


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.

Deep tissue, heavy with ocean — blink and it’s mist.

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I had accumulated some savings, stability, now all gone to help kin.

Yesterday at my desk, and Scott knocked on the door.  I opened and he took me by the arm: “Come with me.”

I went with him, wearing the slippers that I wear inside the office.

Katharine Kaufman — Zen teacher, poet, spontaneous movement angel, coolest person — had ordered him to do so, saying “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

So I spent the morning with her studying and practicing haiku.

I wrote:

Wind is cold
I am sitting in the shade
I’m going indoors

and then…

The door is ajar
The floor is cool
People made these things

Someone else wrote:

Wind outside
Fart inside
Such suffering

I said “That was the best haiku I have ever heard.”

After our session, at lunch, the guy who wrote that poem engaged with Danny, our resident magician, in a little card-trick showdown.  It was awesome.

Before lunch, after haiku session, I spoke with Katharine for a while in the shrine room — about poetry, buddhism, and the possibility of attending Jack Kerouac School at Naropa when I leave SMC.

She was enthusiastically supportive of the idea.  She was under the impression that I am already an accomplished poet.

“I don’t know anything about poetry,” I said.

She told me that her “knowledge is spotty also.”

I told her that it’s always been like that with everything I do: I’ve made music for two decades now and I don’t know how to read music.  I’ve never memorized scales.  I don’t know what a circle of fifths is.

It’s that way with dharma too: I am not a scholar, but I practice a lot.

She said she’s the same: “I’m a practitioner.  I practice a lot, whatever I get into.  And Buddha said, teach from experience.”

She said she thinks there is a place for people like us, in the univeristies — as students and teachers.

Hearing that helped to resolve some hesitation that I’ve been feeling about the idea.

Okay.

I’ve written a lot and only read a very little.

“That’s good to acknowledge,” Katharine said.

So, I’m going to start engaging with JKS, poetics, texts, and see where it goes.

— January 29, 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: Yesterday, Sitting Beside Sensei


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.

Yesterday, sitting beside Sensei…

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As she introduced Ikebana to the students from Chapman University, from LA, who are here for a week to immerse in Shambhala culture in a program called “Ancient Wisdom: Modern Madness,” which we’ve been hosting here for 25 years.

Sensei is musical in everything that she does; floral. Her speech, throughout the hour long talk — which touched on Japanese culture, Tao, Heaven, Earth, Humanity, flowers, flowers, branches, sticks and stones, meditation, avante garde, and more — was fluid.

She told me afterwards that she used to be too shy and nervous to even make an announcement that lunch was ready.

That quality of nervousness, she said, is gone.

“It’s gone.”

After the talk, my friend Noel remarked: “Sometimes I think that they shipped her in from another dimension.”

“She’s floral,” I said.

In the next session I helped her hand our flowers to the students, who sat in a large circle with their eyes closed.  She instructed them to explore the flowers through touch.  I’d done this exercise with her several times, but this was the first time that I got to watch other people explore — brushing the flower on their cheeks, smelling, tickling.

Just as I was becoming amused and delighted at watching the others she leaned over to me and said “Close your eyes.”

She handed me a flower and I enjoyed my time with it.

We all placed our flowers in small containers and then, slowly, while Sensei rung the various singing bowls, we stood and placed the flowers in the center of the room, making a large, collective installation.

Then we circled the room together, slowly.  “Moving the energy around,” she said.

We all bowed to each other, recited protector chants, and everyone went to dinner.  I stayed back with Sensei and prepared for the evening session.

I ate dinner with her and we spoke all about art, dharma, living at SMC.  I shared my ongoing frustration with her, which is that I think I should be making more art.  And I told her about the recent shift towards surrendering that, and allowing myself to focus more fully on deepening into dharma.

“That’s the best thing that you could do for your art,” she said.

Oh yeah.

Years ago, while reading True Perception (which awakened my mind and approach to life and art forever), I realized that meditation is first.  Before making art, allow mind to settle, awaken, and then simply express, go forth without trying to manufacture anything.

The big idea about coming to live at the dharma center was to deepen into dharma, and then go forth into the world, into my art, whatever.  I decided to live here as I was turning thirty.  So, in the large arc of my life, the idea was (is), as a good way to enter this next phase of creativity, I’ll first meditate for a good while.

I told her about my recent meeting with Joshua, and how he encouraged me to deepen into dharma.  And I asked, “What about music?” And he said “Sing dharma!”

And it’s funny because that’s what has been happening, even before that meeting with Joshua.  I study dharma all the time, and while I’m walking around the land, I sing verses, and I improvise, and I simply sing.

While I’m hanging around my room with Heather, I pick up the bass and groove for a while.

I make Ikebana arrangements every week. I write a blog.

Art is happening all over the place here… just not in the way that it used to.

It’s not the main focus.

Sensei said: “It’s the tea sweet.”

—  January 26, 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: Be Befuddled or Change


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.

Guitar music is floating out from the room across the hall.  It enters through the vent in the bathroom, and also seeps through the door, and the wall.

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I’ve been hanging out with the acoustic bass that Dorian gave me, and singing all over the place.  My art is not quite a discipline these days, but it’s very much part of life.  It’s a joy, and it’s very easy.

Joshua encouraged me to be a minstrel.  He said if he ran this place he’d pay someone to just walk around all day and play music — maybe a clarinet or guitar.

I asked him about finding time for dharma study and music.  He said: “Study, and then play what you studied.”

Funny… I’ve been doing that — taking a phrase from the text and then singing it all day.  It’s been beautiful.

I wondered about “Travis” music — Will all of my music here be so… formally dharmic?

“The circumstances will determine what kind of music you make.  Be amenable.

And, about the general frustration of not being able to find the time…

“You have two choices: you can either be befuddled, or you can change.”

The art is going to come out.  If it is being suppressed, it will forcefully re-aggange the surroundings in order to make space for itself.

Funny… that’s been happening also.  I recently, quite simply, decided that I’d extend my morning meditation session by 30 minutes, and also add an hour of art-making to my morning right afterwards.  When I sat down and looked at the calendar, there’s no reason why I can’t do that and also get my work hours in.

And… be flexible.  Some days, he said, the thing to do will be to just go deep into the music.  Other days, maybe not.

I told him about my ongoing efforts to schedule out my whole life to ensure that everything I want to do happens.

“Schedule is good, and breaking the schedule is better,” he said with a huge grin.

— January 21, 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: Complete in Process

By Travis Newbill

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 all consuming glow, inviting me to go forth from self concern, to love perfectly.  A work in process that is never incomplete.

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Making plans and letting them drop; keeping the tires off the line; big wave picks me up–flourishing.  Then, I want that to always be the case.  Then I fall off a bit, resisting all the way.  Then, I let go.  Then, things are simpler.  Then, I have the space of mind to be organized again and flourish.

Meanwhile, chaos is terrifying, abundant, and the source of all great explosions of art.

Who am I to talk about the source?

Some artistic activity attempts to present a tidy package.  Maybe sometimes it’s appropriate.  Much of the time though, it seems that the name of the game is fluidity.  Ever shifting life.  The dharma influences the flow.  And then it’s letting go and lots of improvisation.

Am I becoming what I want to become?

Am I on the road to success?

Oh… I am on the road!

— December 17, 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: Burnt on Government

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.

Within a dense tangle — stop, drop, and sing.

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Recently, Harvest of Peace community celebration, welcoming the autumn. The marketing department buzzing at a high frequency, like an exploding galaxy, bringing our big project into being — Awake in the World.

My community work has been more demanding than ever, as a group of us has been meeting to create the Shambhala Mountain Center values statement.  Along with Care Council, Community Council, and the rest of Delek System work.

I’ve been maxed out.

And so, a shift…

Now… each week (beginning last week) I’ll be doing an Ikebana arrangement on Friday morning, and on Friday afternoon, I’ll be going up to work at the Stupa for three hours.

This week I’ll be stepping down as Head Dekyong and will be beginning Teacher Training with Greg Smith.

Last night I spent an hour and a half playing music.  Ahh…

I’ve been involved in all sorts of things and not so much in the basic things that bring me joy: Art, Stupa, Dharma.

I know, I know, it’s all art and it’s all dharma.  But, at this stage in my being alive, it feels so good to do Ikebana, play music, and directly work with… Buddhism.  That’s my stuff.

I’m burnt on government.  I’ve been not-so-joyful recently.

Acharya told me:

“All bodhisattvas must be joyful.”

Bhanu told me:

“Be your music self up here.”

Something is shifting and I feel like I’m discovering a new way of being a member of the community, which is actually the way I used to be, but wasn’t sure of its value.  I thought I had to take on esteemed positions, or more formal leadership roles, more formal service roles.  Now, I’m feeling my way into joyful service.  I’m feeling my way into being myself, very simply.

— September 29, 2014

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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 Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Healing Sound: A Conversation with Christine Stevens (Video/Audio)


Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Healing Sound Retreat with Christine Stevens and Silvia Nakkach, August 29–September 1, 2014.

Christine Stevens is on a musical mission to introduce people to the most ancient and transformative vehicles to support healing and release joy: Voice & Rhythm. Through guided sound-centered contemplative practices of drumming and chanting, students gather an original repertoire of medicine melodies to use personally and in shamanic, psychotherapy, and wellness sessions. In this interview, she shares her inspiration, discusses her journey, and leads listeners/viewers in a healing exercise.

Watch our interview with Christine 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.

Related posts on the SMC Blog:

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Christine Stevens

Christine Stevens is the founder of UpBeat Drum Circles and author of the Sounds True books Music Medicine and the Healing Drum Kit.  She has appeared on PBS, NBC, and led the first drum circle training in a war-zone in northern Iraq. Learn more on her website: www.ubdrumcircles.com/