Floral Notes and Bardo: Good-life Immersion


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.

A week of staff retreat–so, so good…


Meditation in the mornings, talks from our teachers, a beautiful lahsang on day one, cooking meals for each other.  In the afternoons–activities: music group, art, nature, physical movement, study…

So, peeps chose a track, grouped up, and got deep into those activities.  Some of us peeps got into music.  I facilitated the group and encouraged deep listening, space exploration, improvisation…  edgy spots, sweet spots, unexpected things.   And after we bravely improvised together, becoming braver as the days went on, we’d spend some time just hanging out with some tunes–Irish tunes, Brazilian jazz tunes…  everyone in the group was coming from a different place, musically, and so the improv was interesting and also the hangout section was lots of fun and varied.

The first night of the retreat we held council practice for the whole community.  People sharing from the heart in a sacred space.  I felt such deep love for everyone.  It set the tone for the rest of the retreat.

Such immersion into what it is to live here.  Time spent together–practicing, playing, just being together.  Lots of spontaneous, long conversations.  People staying after meals just to hang…  Ahh, so good.  Time with the land.  Time enjoying living in this amazing situation together, free from the day-to-day complexities and stresses that go along with trying to keep the thing afloat, and progress towards greater operations.  Of course (of course!), the greatest operation is ever-happening.  This was a nice reminder of that.

In the evenings there were various activities–dancing, movies…  Nathaniel and I hosted a sound bath.  People laying on cushions in the center of the shrine room–heads together in the center, huge speakers all around, dimmed lights, and an hour and forty minutes of washy, lush, beautiful music curated by Nathaniel, who has exceptional taste.  I offered a bit of my music into the mix, which he blended nicely.

Milarepa Day on day 6.  Oh, wow!  A full day of reciting, singing, chanting “The Rain of Wisdom“–spontaneous songs of our Kagyu forefathers.  So, so, beautiful.  So deep.  We began at 9am and went until after 10pm.  A very rich, traditional Buddhist day.  We drank chai  and nettle tea on breaks.  Sho mo! What a joyful, good experience!

The next day we went to the Great Stupa for Sadhana of Mahamudra.  I was so glad for how everything lined up/unfolded.  We spent a lot of time planning and preparing for the retreat, and then it seemed the magical forces kicked in and carried it to better places than we could have imagined.

We ended with a feast at which we practiced the Shambhala Sadhana, dined, and had libations, toasts, and made offerings.  The music group performed, others sang and shared things about their experience throughout the retreat, the art group had everyone throw colorful paper airplanes…

Rejoicing the Container: Our friend Tara–who was here and then left–asked us to put this nice thing into place: a box which collects ‘thank yous’–to people, from people.  We did so and offered the thank yous at the feast.  Everyone read one from the box.  Touching.

So… Ahh!  Such a deeply beautiful immersion into the magic of living here together.  That’s the thesis.  That was the intention and it really hit nicely.  So grateful.  Now onwards into the springtime…

–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. 

Halloween Special: What to Do with a House Full of Demons?


“One evening Milarepa returned to his cave after gathering firewood, only to find it filled with demons. They were cooking his food, reading his books, sleeping in his bed. They had taken over the joint. He knew about nonduality of self and other, but he still didn’t quite know how to get these guys out of his cave. Even though he had the sense that they were just a projection of his own mind—all the unwanted parts of himself—he didn’t know how to get rid of them. So first he taught them the dharma. He sat on this seat that was higher than they were and said things to them about how we are all one. He talked about compassion and shunyata and how poison is medicine. Nothing happened. The demons were still there. Then he lost his patience and got angry and ran at them. They just laughed at him. Finally, he gave up and just sat down on the floor, saying, “I’m not going away and it looks like you’re not either, so let’s just live here together.” At that point, all of them left except one. Milarepa said, “Oh, this one is particularly vicious.” (We all know that one. Sometimes we have lots of them like that. Sometimes we feel that’s all we’ve got.) He didn’t know what to do, so he surrendered himself even further. He walked over and put himself right into the mouth of the demon and said, “Just eat me up if you want to.” Then that demon left too.”

― Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

A: Invite them all to tea.