Reclaiming Prajna

By Jamie Woodworth

It’s a widely agreed upon sentiment, among both newcomers and veteran Shambhalians, that this mountain valley has a quality of spaciousness beyond its physical boundaries. It opens up and unfolds more and more as you walk upon it. The feeling is palpable in the wind, and the life—always at play—gregariously engaging. The place has “juice.”

You can feel that presence when you first enter. It’s the drala. It converses with you in the moments you experience in-between yourself and the world. It’s awakened by the people who live here, over many cycles of leadership and life. And, if you follow your intuition, your felt sense of this place, you may be guided towards the place we call Prajna.

Early photograph of Prajna before remodels done by the Vajra Regent and Sakyong Mipham — provided by Greg Smith.

Prajna translates roughly as “transcendental wisdom.” The spirit of that word abides in the history of this site. Prajna was the home of the founder of Shambhala, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche until 1986, then home of the Vajra Regent, and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche thereafter, until a fire razed it in 2009. The causes of the fire remain somewhat nebulous. It has been described as a reminder of “the potent truth of impermanence.”

burned1_900Photo of Prajna after the fire — provided by Denise Weunsch

Prajna, in its youth, in wreckage, and in emptiness, has enduringly served as a container for authentic encounters. Community members have reflected on the love and guardianship that Trungpa Rinpoche instilled in the heart of Prajna, from its initial settlement up until today. It was a stage to many stories—our teacher’s presence magnetized a vast array of situations. The deck was where he wrote books and chants, held council with his cabinet, and sat down for drinks with his friends and visitors. Prajna’s deck was the window through which he viewed the world, and where the world came to greet him. During his stay, that house received and held the hearts of people who came to share moments of delicate vulnerability. That energy still irrigates relationships unfolding here at SMC. Acharya Noel McLellan reflects,

“Many things happened there that were of personal significance to individuals. Tiny as it was, it was a place where many people met the Sakyong. It always seemed to me to be a part of the tent culture—the walls weren’t solid barriers in a sense. The energy inside the house permeated the whole area.”

Michael Gayner, Executive Director of Shambhala Mountain Center recollects his experience in Prajna at the Seminary he attended in 1994, “that was really where I understood the role of service to the community, and from that, service to all sentient beings, and infinite commitment to being of benefit to the world” (M. Gayner, 2015).

Prajna had a way of defining a path for those who came to both visit and live on the land. The leadership here at SMC has a conviction to keep paths running to and from it, even though its former substance has moved on. We had been discussing a way to reinvent the empty space into something accessible, and ensuring it too can still benefit the world.

Thus began our pavilion project, an endeavor made possible by the generosity of the Shambhala Trust.

IMG_6138Construction site, 2015 — photo by Jamie Woodworth

The Shambhala Trust fundraises and grants money to causes that further the vision of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Their largesse helps to disseminate the ideal of an ‘enlightened society,’ by uplifting many projects inside and outside the Shambhala Buddhist community. Some projects include: The Prison Mindfulness Institute, and the Reciprocity Foundation. John Sennhauser, an original member of the Trust, evoked a special kind of enthusiasm for the Prajna reclamation project in particular, “the current Shambhala Trust was founded in 1995, you know—and, it happened at a meeting in Prajna. I was thinking about this to myself the other day. Things really came full circle—it’s great.” More than that, it’s a homecoming for many trust members, who themselves lived in tents at the Prajna site. There’s a certain air of poignancy coming back 20 years later to the memory of their old lives, and old times with the Sakyong. Funding this project, beyond spreading the Shambhala vision, is a way of dusting off that piece of their hearts, two decades later. Moreover, it’s a service to all the current volunteers, staff, and visitors fresh on the land, who can now enjoy Prajna in a whole new way.

There was a lot of intentionality behind the choice of the pavilion. When Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche visited the crumbling remains of his old house with John in 2009, he voiced how great it would be to let this land return to nature, and reclaim it as a place where people could sit, contemplate, and rest. He laid the groundwork for the grant proposal to the Trust, and the vision our leadership outlined in it. Michael Gayner described the pavilion as a potential “pilgrimage site” where people could reconnect with the Drala that flowed through Trungpa Rinpoche’s court. Placing a pavilion in this spot is a way of re-energizing Prajna, and making the Dralas available once again. Attracting people to this spot will accomplish the broader goal of reawakening the naturally present magic that Trungpa Rinpoche illuminated so many years ago. The Prajna project will be ultimately completed with the construction of a Stupa some years in the future, once the overall energetics of the land “are proper.”

With this in mind, a lot of consideration went into construction and design. Eva Wong, our Feng Shui consultant, provided guidelines on how to orient the pavilion, and how to stylize it. Danny Boyce, our project coordinator, described how she encouraged the use of certain design elements to make sure it seamlessly conducted the flow of energy. The materials were also all locally sourced from the land, and from an additional parcel of private property about 25 miles away from the SMC property line. The pavilion contains a total of 35 timbers, which were meticulously chosen by our leadership team, Peter Haney, Jared Leveille, Sophie DeMaio, and Josh Halper. Four rocks from the land were also collected to be “scribed” onto the bottom of the posts, to provide an organic transition from the wooden posts down into the earth.

The thoughtfulness of the construction is a manifestation of SMC’s commitment to not only accomplish a job, but do profoundly good work, Michael commented. Danny outlined how the whole structure was masterfully engineered—the pavilion is equipped to hold at least “three feet of snow and twenty people on it.” It will even have a handicap ramp. It’s definitely an edifice that will withstand the test of time, and be enjoyed by many people.

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SMC staff constructing the pavilion, 2015 — photo by Jamie Woodworth

The moment when the frames of the pavilion were raised was itself a demonstration of the love and energy that’s still present at Prajna. Lifting the sides together required the participation of many members of the community, and more people actually showed up than needed. For two hours, a sizable group of staff rallied and pieced together a collective vision. Everybody was pretty proud to have their hands in it.

Michael, reflecting upon that teamwork, said with a smile, “our workers brought in a tremendous amount of heart and skill to Prajna.”

Really, the whole endeavor speaks to not only the continuing spirit of the land there, but also the strength of the community that sustains the beauty of Shambhala Mountain Center, in both material and non-material ways.

Our teachers nurtured a powerful heritage for Prajna. That cadence of life present during their residence is a thread we’re weaving through this present moment, this community, and into the fabric of what Shambhala has yet to become. One Summer evening, about 16 years ago, the Sakyong was standing on the deck of his old house, writing this poem, reflecting on the perfection of being in this place:

A drink from mountain stream—
Lost water comes to haunt me.
Surrounding loneliness,
Mind peers into vast blue sky.
A distant yogin’s love song plays upon my ears.
The silence of this valley
Sings the cry of liberation

Mind paces like a caged tiger.
Heart drowns in inexpressible chasm.
Let us bring it all to the path of bodhi.
Let us climb this mountain of uncertainty.
Look!
Look again!
The sun is rising.
Its golden-orange hue commands us to exhale.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
26 July, 1999

As our lives collide and mesh, we’re looking forward to the poetry of our future—and some new memories housed in this sanctuary, built by the hands of our friends.

IMG_6417 copyThe Shambhala Trust at Prajna, 2015 — photo by Jamie Woodworth

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headshotJamie Woodworth earned her Bachelors of Arts in Environmental Studies and Women and Gender Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Currently, she is a Masters student in Human Ecology at Lund University in Sweden. Her ethnographic research in Iceland couples ecological thinking with feminist theory. Understanding sustainability from a solutionary point of view is the pivoting point for her studies. In the past, Jamie has worked as an outreach coordinator for CU’s Environmental Center, a manager for Colorado Public Interest Research Group, and interned for the Chasing Ice film crew.

Floral Notes and Bardo: A Big Joke

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.

Last night, the moon was blazing full, everything aglow and quiet, the only sound — the aspen leaves gently quaking in soft, cool summer breeze.  I was standing on my doorstep, just enjoying, awake for a few minutes in the middle of the night.

Ikebana Program_Apr2014-12Photo by Paul Bennett 

Earlier, a small group of us stood and watched the moon rise up from behind the ridge.  Huge moon.  Orange.  Clear sky.

Kate and I had been discussing dharma for about two hours.  Others came in and out of the conversation, which was inspired by some notions presented in the prologue of Shambhala Principle.

I believe we were on the topic of nonverbal communication, and that being so key:

We’re always communicating.  We’re creating culture with each interaction.  We’re altering reality.

Kate and I had been sitting in the staff Living Room…

Oh, the Staff Living Room is so sweet.  It’s a spot downtown, which in the wintertime is our dining room.  In the past it has been a shrine room.  In fact, it’s one of the oldest buildings on the land.  H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa performed the Black Crown Ceremony in the room.  It’s usually turned into the staff shrine room in the summer time.  This summer, though, a bunch of us lobbied for it to be turned into an uplifted, quiet, common area — for study, tea, quiet conversation.  We have Elkhorn House up the hill, where we can jam, watch movies, party, have fires, and generally hang out and have fun.  This space is serves another purpose.  So nice…

The previous night, a group of us sat together in the Living Room and watched video of a talk that Trungpa Rinpoche gave at Naropa, forty years ago.  The talk was on tantra–the first in a series of fourteen.  We’ll be watching one every week.

We had some discussion afterwards.  One point that kept coming up was about how much of what he was communicating was nonverbal.  Some of us expressed that, more than anything, we were bewildered by the words that he said, but, somehow, something was communicated very clearly.

Watching him, there was no hint of doubt.  And he said:

“There’s an enormous joke behind the whole thing.  A big joke.”

I was at once bewildered and reassured.  It’s not what I think it is, but that’s more than okay.

— June 13, 2014

~~~

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. 

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Blissful Who-Knows-What (HUM HUM HUM)

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.

Greeting my smile at the bottom of the ocean, therefore unconcerned with flotation or undertow.  Wakeful waves — only the chatter of the depths.

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Friday evening — Feast celebration for Trungpa Rinpoche‘s Parinirvana.  Sadhana of Mahamudra.  In the middle of the triple HUM recitation — the space of rainbow magic manifest — the Sakyong and the choir of Acharyas, appeared.  We created an isle, parted the sea.  Rinpoche came in and prostrated three times to the large Buddha, which contains his father‘s skull relic, and a picture of the Vidyadhara on the shrine along with many offerings.

He gazed at the picture, whispered blessings, and tossed a khata into the seated Buddha’s opened palm (perfect shot).

He offered amrita from a skull cup to each one of us.  Then, out front, he said some words about the preciousness of us all being gathered at the Great Stupa for this occasion.  Then, we sang the Anthem and circumambulated.

I circumambulated behind Pema.

Then, back into the Stupa and resumed the feast:

HUM HUM HUM

After the feast, chants, and a video of Trungpa Rinpoche giving a talk at Naropa in 1976. Then, old-timers shared stories.

~~~

Saturday, a day of catching up with Heather. Since the move it’s been so scattered. Lots of time together. Felt great, healthy.  Anyway…

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Sunday morning, a talk from the Sakyong to the staff.  Beautiful.

In the evening, dinner in the shrine room, because we’re re-painting our dining hall.  Joshua and Greg (old dogs) telling us about consorts and yabyum deities (because we asked like curious children).  Mystical things in a fun tone.

~~~

Being around the Sakyong and Acharyas… Feels warm, big.  Glad to be a part of it.  Yesterday, before Rinpoche left the land, I was speaking with Acharya Lobel.  He expressed to me what a powerful retreat it was for all of them.  That they were grateful for the staff holding the space so well, and that, inside, they were blown away by the teachings.

It’s great to hear that.  I’m glad to be contributing.  And, hearing reports of what’s going on “inside” keeps me brimming with curiosity and longing.

It’s fun.  It’s an adventure.  How to get to the next point?  Clues and questions.  Magical encounters.  Synchronicity…

So much synchronicity while they were all here.  Like, whatever was going on in that shrine room was affecting everything else.  The waves extending and stirring things into blissful who-knows-what.  Music.

— April 7, 2014

~~~

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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: This Time…

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.

I walked along a dirt trail, beside Rinpoche, holding a white umbrella over his head to shield him from the sun.

A feeling of cosmic friendship, preciousness, gratitude.

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Earlier in the morning I held a tray for him while he made tea offerings, after returning from his morning run, still catching his breath and sweating.

The core teachers of the Shambhala Buddhist mandala are here: The Sakyong, Ani Pema, the Acharyas, the Kalapa Council.  It’s powerful, enchanting.

The teachings that are occurring here these days are new.  There is a sense of quiet explosiveness.  It’s tangible.  There is a glow.

After one teaching session yesterday, the Sakyong ran joyfully from the shrine hall back to his quarters, his escorts had to keep up.

It’s awesome to be here for this.

A couple of years ago, my first week at Shambhala Mountain Center, the annual Acharya retreat was happening.  I was mystified.  So beautiful.  The first time I saw Rinpoche, he was being escorted down the stairs by someone holding a white umbrella.

Now, the wheel has turned a couple of times, and I’m holding the umbrella.  Where will I end up, and up, as the wheel turns and turns?  How long will I be on the planet before I die?

I like the direction things are going.  I hope to live a long life to allow for more and more blossoming.

And of course… this is it.  Maybe I will live long enough to become a close student of Rinpoche, perhaps I will be an Acharya.  Or, maybe I will die sooner than that.  Today, I am in a very fortunate position.  My dedication to the dharma has brought me here.  I wish to honor that and not let my dedication wane.  I wish to offer more and more, to become more and more sane and helpful to others, and to generally delve deeper and wholeheartedly into the dharma.

May I relate to all the flickering conditions of my life as dharmas, and know the entirety of my life to be the path of awakenment.  May I not take my good fortune for granted.  May I not seek refuge from fear and discomfort in conditional situations, but rather, take genuine refuge in the three jewels, again and again.

~~~

“This time, practice the main points”

“‘This time’ refers to this lifetime. You have wasted many lives in the past, and in the future you may not have the opportunity to practice. But now, as a human being who has heard the dharma, you do. So without wasting any more time, you should practice the main points.” — Vidyadhara, the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

 — April 3, 2014

~~~

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. 

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: My Lil’ Spot and the Ongoing Miracle

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.

“…the womb of Avalokitesvara, a vast secret silence, springtime in the Void…” –Jack Kerouac

Drawn like a sketch, watercolor, drawn by a star–across the meadow, into a spot in the valley –feels like home.  I’m in my spot.  I am that spot.  That spot is my spot.  There is no better spot for me.

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After four months in the cushy (oh so cushy!) lodge, we’ve moved back out into the woods, into our little cabins and trailers.  I’m so glad for it.  I’d been becoming a bit attached to lodge living–a bit lazy, a bit like vacation.

Now, getting back into my groovy little cabin last night, right near the Stupa, felt so good.  After being in there for a few minutes it started to overwhelm me.  It was like connecting with an old friend.  I’ve never felt more at home in any spot on this planet than I do in my little cabin on the hill, which Trungpa Rinpoche named Avalokiteshvara.

I glowed for a while.  Heather was up on the loft in the bed, enjoying my giddiness–deep giddiness.  I lit my incense and hugged the house with my energy. Ya, ya, ya… Ahh.

So glad.

And… Heather was now in my house, which was so surreal.  It’s been such a solitary, mystic, artist thing up there.  Now, she has manifested like a dream.  Before she arrived at SMC,  I sang about her in that house, her art was on the walls. Now she’s here.  Beautiful girl in my little house.  Little honey blessing.

Before we turned out the little solar-powered lantern to go to sleep, the little book on my milk-crate night-stand was calling me: The Scripture of the Golden Eternity.  My brother gave me his well-worn copy a few years back.  It’s a special book–beat-dharma from Brady.  So, the little book was calling me and I felt like there was something nice in there for the moment.  Here’s the passage that I opened up to, by chance/karma:

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The words “atoms of dust” and “the great universes” are only words. The idea that they imply is only an idea. The belief that we live here in this existence, divided into various beings, passing food in and out of ourselves, and casting off husks of bodies one after another with no cessation and no definite or particular discrimination, is only an idea. The seat of our Immortal Intelligence can be seen in that beating light between the eyes the Wisdom Eye of the ancients: we know what we’re doing: we’re not disturbed: because we’re like the golden eternity pretending at playing the magic cardgame and making believe it’s real, it’s a big dream, a joyous ecstasy of words and ideas and flesh, an ethereal flower unfolding a folding back, a movie, an exuberant bunch of lines bounding emptiness, the womb of Avalokitesvara, a vast secret silence, springtime in the Void, happy young gods talking and drinking on a cloud. Our 32,000 chillicosms bear all the marks of excellence. Blind milky light fills our night; and the morning is crystal.

This morning I woke up at 5, walked down to the outhouse singing, just like I used to (my body remembered just what to do).  I kissed Heather good-morning, made a lil’ pot of pu-erh, lit my incense and offered water on my little shrine, lit the candle, did my little lujong routine, sang a bit and then out the door to breakfast.  Feels like falling right back into the grooviest groove I’ve known in my life.  Said good-morning to my neighbor: The Great Stupa.

Mojo, mojo, mojo.  Wishing that beneficial songs, truths and beauties may come forth in this new/familiar arrangement.

May all beings know good mojo, good houses. May all beings recognize the ongoing miracle.

–March 24, 2014

~~~

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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: So Many Ways to Be

 

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.

So many ways to be. More ways to be than I allow myself to imagine, let alone embody.

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My first time in Kasung uniform Friday night–like sticking my finger into a electric socket. I’ve worn some crazy things for the sake of art and exploration. The Kasung uniform shook my core–identity–as much as any outfit ever has.

Wearing a wedding dress is less of a big deal, because that’s just me being weird. Painting my fingernails (which I did (Heather did) earlier in the day) is also less… Well, it’s a similar sort of thing.

I like subverting norms and expectations–my own and those that others hold. I especially like playfully subverting gender norms

Wearing the Kasung uniform is extra edgy because it carries heavier connotations: I’m part of something, I have a role within a larger organization, which appears to be a very strange thing.

A sense of surrendering. I’m learning that it’s usually good to throw myself over the edge in order to expand– expand my comfort zone so that I may accommodate more feelings, be more relaxed in more situations: enjoy the whole ride more. And, being slightly less freaked out than other people is maybe the best way I know of to be helpful.

So, Kasungship is a practice of expanding my comfort zone and embodying a particular energy with the intention of helping others.

Kasung is protector. Protect what? Protect the teachings, the teachers, the community–the things that I actually care about most in this life. And, yet…uneasiness about the whole thing.

Trungpa Rinpoche created this form which is meant to provide protection, and in the process, provides an opportunity for those doing the practice to experience all sorts of hang-ups that they have about identity… and all sort of stuff.

Kasungship may be the most outrageous and multi-dimensional teaching that I have ever encountered, and I’ve only had a taste thus far.

It’s huge. I feel like a galaxy has exploded into existence in my body. I’m only beginning to process it. I wish to be able to articulate the brilliance and humor of this Kasung thing in the not too distant future.

It is a deadly serious joke. An amazing gift from Rinpoche.

–February 24, 2014

~~~

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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Renunciation/Blossom

 

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.

Wet behind the ear, mind-flower shedding petals and onto my shoulder, cool
petals, living still, still connected to earth. Petals from the flower-song, becoming smaller. And not separate from fresh blossoms.

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Valentine’s Day–We handed out flowers from the previous night’s Ikebana class and the haikus that Heather, Tara and I made for all the members of the community. We invaded lunch-time with glittery wishes and cheer. People seemed to enjoy it.

Just before lunch a group of staff gathered at the Stupa to film a Shambhala Day greeting from SMC. Nice weather, cheerfulness…

A super-love day between and Heather and I and… and this is really key for me… it seemed like that situation was connected to a larger one. Like… romantic love and communal love feeding one another. That’s how we both experienced it. I hope it’s true.

Yesterday, in the sweat lodge, I prayed that I not become too addicted to pleasure and comfort.

I am here to help others.

Got that? (speaking to myself)

Every morning I say to myself in the mirror:

It’s not about me. It’s not about me. It’s not about me.

I was given the Buddhist refuge name:

Ngejung Tachok

which means

Renunciation Steed

What is there to renounce? Trungpa Rinpoche says: “What the warrior renounces is anything in his experience that is a barrier between himself and others. In other words, renunciation is making yourself more available, more gentle and open to others.”

So, if I begin using a situation, a person, a drug, whatever, to hide out–that has to go. Maybe not the person or the situation, but that way of engaging…indulging.

Trungpa also says:

“You can make a distinction: you can discriminate between indulging and appreciating”

I’ve avoided intimate relationships for a while because I was scared of getting so sucked-in that I wouldn’t be able to feel or connect with the rest of the world.

That’s something I’m trying to be aware of this time around. It can’t turn into a mush-fest. Susan Piver says: “Love without mindfulness is goo.” Right.

With that said, Valentine’s Day was very sweet and romantic, and more creative and joyous than gooey. Good.

–February 17, 2014

~~~

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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Playful Culture

 

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.

Last night was the first in a series of classes on Shambhala Culture and Decorum. Various experienced teachers will be leading these classes for us, the community. The question is: What is enlightened culture and how may we manifest that together here at Shambhala Mountain Center?

The first question posed last night was: What is culture?

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The class included an engaging discussion around these questions and a hilarious and educational group exercise in which we wrapped gifts for Greg Smith. The point of the exercise was to explore the difference between a speedy, accomplishment-oriented approach to living and a more organic, appreciative one. Many of us felt that our broader national culture is based on the former, which is very masculine, and that we are interested in creating a more feminine, playful, caring culture at SMC and throughout the wider world.

~~~

I say: We’re always creating culture and culture is always creating us.

~~~

Melanie Klien was leading the course. She suggested that we look at culture in terms of body, speech, and mind (very Buddhist). If a rock is body, then a house made of rocks is speech. If a tree is body, than a toothpick is speech. Culture is speech. It’s an expression, communication. Something made out of pre-existing form which can be experienced. Maybe experienced by more than one of us people-bodies at the same time.

Melanie says: Meditation is culture, enlightenment is not.

Cultures have norms. So, we want… I want… a culture of friendliness, kindness, playfulness, creativity… Good stuff.

Anyway…

After the class, a bizarre conversation about My Little Pony–I didn’t have much to contribute besides my bewilderment. Jason and Heather are both crazy about this cartoon. It was high energy cheer-weirdness.

Afterwards, Heather and I standing in the hallway feeling weird. She grinned. I turned around and down the hallway Jason was sitting in a chair staring at us. We all immediately clicked into some group performance art mode and began taking strange postures, making strange gestures. The stranger the better. The stranger the stranger.

Upside down, tickling, stuffed pony entered the scene, in and out of doorways, rolling on the floor. Over the course of the performance/play various people came through and contributed. It felt so weird and great!

At the end, I was on my back. Jason jumped in and out of his room. He appeared above me dancing with some sort of chakra tuning device. It vibrates at the frequency of OM. he tuned me up real nice and we all hugged and ended the session.

One big point that came up in the discussion in class is Trungpa Rinpoche’s idea of “combining survival and celebration.” Some of us feel that there could be more celebration here. Surviving is a task–we live in a pretty rugged situation. But, what a joyous situation! And so we’d like to play more, cheer more, enjoy more together.

This hallway bizarreness was a nice bit of spontaneous celebration. We occupied the public space of the hallway in the name of play. Good.

This is the stuff of creating culture.

I brought my guitar into bed with Heather and sang a bit: a Bob Marley tune, in honor of his birthday, and a Phish tune, in honor of…I love Phish. Finally, in an act of combining survival and celebration, last night included cold-weather-cuddling and enough sleep (a notable achievement, somehow). Good!

–February 7, 2014

~~~

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. 

 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Stew in Space, and…How to Rule?

 

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.

Clapping muscles. Fangs into popsicle–shock like a bell, breastbone. Dirt in mid air–my dirt, your dirt, our dirt. Tears, mud. How else would we know this stuff but to care enough to tumble together?

~~~

President Reoch leading a fireside chat.

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Everything that happens here, happens in a big way. Little things happen in big ways. It can be like throwing a dart at a barn, or being bit by a pterodactyl (rather than a mosquito).

Last weekend, President Reoch lead The Six Ways of Ruling. Amazing teacher, amazing teachings on leadership from the Shambhala tradition. To begin with–leading one’s life. My life is like a stew and I don’t feel like I’m holding the bowl or spoon. I may be the steam rising off the top, or a slice of potato. It’s a rich stew–dharma practice, romance, work, and a legitimate position of leadership within our little society.

I am trying to organize all of this stew-stuff so that it can all reside in the bowl nicely. I want folks to be able to dunk a spoon in and delight in it. What am I talking about?

I’m talking about a super rich and full life and feeling a bit off balance and not in control. It’s all good stuff. But it’s a LOT of good stuff. And I’m afraid that my neighbor’s knee is going to bump the table and hot stew is going to scold my crotch.

Be grateful to everyone.

Dharma–saving grace.

If my neighbor does so, I will (try to) blame myself and be thankful for the way the lava-like-stuff of my life becomes impossible to ignore, thus rousing me from my comfortable slumber.

My uncle, The Captain, says “If you ever get your shit together, you’ll then have a big pile
of shit.”

Steamy.

Trungpa Rinpoche says:

“Groundlessness is your protection.”

It’s difficult to keep track of all that is splashing around. Maybe trying to do so is the root of insanity. Stew is chaotic. Stew is good. Stew is nutritious.

I’m feeling bewildered and I trust what is happening. Versions of myself are being gobbled up by gentle breezes which I am referring to as gale force winds.

–February 4, 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. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Thank You, Catfish

 

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.

They’ll gallop beyond their bodies…
Bones in a meadow, scattered,
vultures have eaten well.

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The above picture was drawn by Catfish, who was visiting for the weekend. He also gave me a 200 year old Japanese tea pot. It spent about 100 years in the mud by a river, I’m told. Wow…

~~~

A refreshingly warm morning, walk to the Stupa, pausing, gazing at a big sky, all was so quiet.

“Open your territory completely, let go of everything.” —CTR

Contemplating the suffering in the world and giving away all delight–the glow deepened. Everything so rich, cool, fresh. A long, beautiful practice session in the Stupa.

Afternoon spent in conversation. Too much talking. Another hour on the cushion before dinner, then Joni Mitchell in the headphones for a while, and then some time with Heather. She was at a restaurant earlier and brought me a picture that she colored. She asked me to add some words.

We were talking a bit about Shambhala, and about being a lil’ pair of adventurous art-flowers, spreading seeds. I say: May wild-art blossom all over the place.

I’ve borrowed this phrase from one of my key teachers:

“Occupy Shambhala”

~~~

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.