Dakini Map: A Conversation with Cynthia Moku

By Travis Newbill

Cynthia Moku

Cynthia Moku

Master artist Cynthia Moku has contributed to, and drawn much inspiration from various Buddhist Stupas. In her recent exhibit Pilgrimage: A Dakini Map (on display until April 25 at Naropa University’s Nalanda Gallery, 6287 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, Colorado) she presents close to two decades worth of artwork reflecting her mystical experience and insights.

Recently, she took some time to share a bit about this project and her journey.  Please enjoy our interview below.

Also:  in May, Cynthia will be co-leading two programs at Shambhala Mountain Center along with Acharya Dale Asrael:

Taming the Wild Horse: Riding the Energy of the Emotions, May 22-26

Touching the Moment: Indelible Presence, May 14-18

Floral Notes and Bardo: All Textures, Musical


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.

Jump–out of my body
Be–in my body
Grasp, oh, leggo
Pop, shine into a room
Crystal-air fingers sweeping across body–floor, air
waiting for nothing, all textures holy


Storytelling, all the time.

The story of my weekend:

Friday evening–long journey through the snow to Elkhorn house, jamming and arts and crafts. A fun scene. Beautiful free-music and glitter all over the place culminating in a multi-person hula hoop molecule moving to the sounds of ragtime piano music (funky old out of tune piano at Elkhorn house).

Slumber party in Heather’s room. In the morning, Dorje Kasung color-guard, hoisting the flags. We stood in our pajamas and saluted out the window, joined them in singing the anthem, then:

“As you were!”

Back into bed giggling.

Chores at the Stupa, deep cleaning. Felt great. Some practice afterwards. Later group haiku valentine creation–lots of tea, chocolate and laughs in the Shambhala Lodge lounge–such a nice space. VIP.

After dinner ROTA with Heather, I was a bit antsy to finish the shift, leaving some pans dirty, getting out of there on time. She good-influenced me to relax and enjoy the shift.

Buddhism 101: There is no better place to be.

Thich Nhat Hanh: “There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes.” (which is posted on the wall of our dish room)

While we scrubbed, the Monarch Retreat (intense retreat for Shambhala leadership) were having their closing banquet. Being in the right place at the right time (in the dish room beside the kitchen immediately after banquet prep) we tasted some amazing food while we washed dishes. The best stuffed portobello I’ve ever had and then some ridiculous gourmet desserts made by Matt Crow and Adam.

Adam is a really fun musician to jam with–a fiddle player. He was in the mix on Friday night, along with Cait, who is really into crafts, as Heather is. It all fit together nicely.

Anyway, ROTA was a good time. We stayed twice as long as we were scheduled to and sang lots of wholesome American and Gospel songs. It turned out being a really fun date and good practice.

Trungpa Rinpoche said that the point is to feel good all over the place (can’t find the source, maybe not exact quote…)

…Rather than waiting for the elusive “good parts.”

I felt so fond of Heather for having such a genuinely good attitude about washing dishes. So much so that it was contagious and doing chores became a fun activity. That’s magic. That’s bodhisattva stuff.

Sunday morning I wrote a song about it. It was the first time I’ve sat down and wrote a song in months. Heather aspires to help me sing more. She’s doing a good job of that, just by being how she is. We have fun singing together, and she inspires me to sing while I’m in my own space. I’m glad about that.

This morning Tara and I were talking about relationships while walking from breakfast over to meditation. We crossed paths with Heather. I told her how my relationship with Heather has tremendous “path” quality. How after several years of avoiding exclusive, intimate relationships, I feel so inclined to engage.

It is said that by the virtue of all the great masters who have visited here and all the practice, rituals, and blessings that have occurred, that this land is “well processed”–which means that peoples’ minds and hearts are quite available here. That doesn’t make things easier, necessarily, but potent and workable. I see that. My mental and emotional world seems to be more tangible, visible, here. I can see my mind unfolding almost in slow motion. I feel like Neo in the Matrix.

It’s a rich experience–this lil’ love thing. It’s only in the beginning, so… I sense a lot of twists and turns ahead. Sparkles and tumbles. Bruised knees, ice cream cones, and cradling.

Tara brought up the question of losing one’s individuality. I think that’s an interesting point. The play between individuality and being connected to something larger. I feel that dynamic, or tension. I feel it in relating to Heather, and also in relating to the community, the SMC organization, and the world.

I feel a sense of surrendering my territory. I feel that whatever danger there is of losing my perspective… I feel that my practice and devotion to the path will protect me against that.

Devotion to the path, for me, means that everything is path. Acharya Hessey told me:

“Practice and enjoy. Those two things.”

What is there to be afraid of? Death?


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. 

The Last Word at the Great Stupa


Trungpa RinpocheThe founder of Shambhala Publications, Sam Bercholz, described Trungpa Rinpoche as “not just another great Buddhist teacher. He was Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche, for the West.” And on September 13–14 at the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya the final reading of his The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma will occur.

In keeping with the tradition of oral transmission of important texts like The Profound Treasury, a reading tour has introduced sections of the text to the public at a variety of places like the Rubin Museum in New York City, the Harvard Divinity School, and the Halifax Shambhala Center.

judy lief reading

Between 1973 and 1986, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche conducted a series of annual study and practice intensives, called “Vajradhatu Seminaries.” The talks were organized around the three yanas, or major stages, of the Buddhist path: hinayana, mahayana, and vajrayana. It was a landmark moment in a practitioner’s life to be accepted to seminary and even moreso to be able to hear the vajrayana teachings in particular. In these programs he presented heart teachings to his most senior students and transcripts were restricted at Rinpoche’s insistance. However, beginning just a few years after the seminaries started, he began talking about compiling this material and editing it for a general audience. Now, forty years after the first Vajradhatu Seminary took place, Acharya Emeritus Judy Lief has completed the work of compiling and editing the seminary material into three volumes totaling more than 2,000 pages. With the publication of The Profound Treasury, for the first time, these teachings have become publicly available.


the Stupa's Buddha

Rinpoche himself talked about looking at traditional literary arrangements of such teachings, referring to shila, samadhi and prajna, for example, as organizing principles for some material. But reviews of The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma have been full of praise for Judy Lief’s editorial acumen. So please join Acharya Emeritus Judy Lief at the Stupa built in honor of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche for the resounding, or recitation, of the final chapters of The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma. This program is open to all and includes a Friday night talk, group meditation practice, listening and reciting, and discussion.