Month: November 2015

Understanding Karma Through the Lens of Buddhist Psychology

By Julie Flynn Badal ~~~ In the Western world, the concept of karma is frequently misunderstood. Many people take the term karma to mean one’s predetermined fate or destiny. This interpretation has a fixed and fatalistic quality, as if there is little or nothing one can do to change one’s current situation. However, through the lens of Buddhist contemplative psychology, we can come to understand the notion of karma as something more fluid and transformative. Working with a Buddhist psychologist, individuals can begin to examine how past traumas have shaped perceptions of reality and reactions to the present moment. In this way, we can begin to see how karma is not what happens to us, but what we do with what happens to us. To understand the relationship between our individual history and karma, I turned to an expert. Dr. Miles Neale, a Buddhist psychotherapist with Nalanda Institute of Contemplative Science and a popular meditation teacher at the Tibet House in New York City. His classes frequently touch upon the relationship between karma and trauma. …

Floral Notes and Bardo: Goodbye Teacher

My sweater smelled of burnt human flesh as I walked into the office yesterday.  I wish I could’ve, would’ve, done something else with that time after the ceremony, but I had to send an email about an online dharma course. The ceremony was beautiful, intense.  I loved the liturgy, the weather was clear, but cool and windy.  At a certain point, we all went up single file, and tossed rose petals on the corpse.  Then, after some more chanting, mantras, and so on, we went up again and tossed powdered jumiper onto the burning corpse.  Then we all hung around, holding the visualization, reciting the mantra.  Some were speaking with each other, or going into the nearby house for refreshments.  I was mostly hovering around the burning body, occasionally tossing in another handful of juniper. The flesh burned away slowly.  When I first walked up, her face was still somewhat recognizable, though charred and bubbling. Bubbling: yellow fat, muscle, brains which were falling out the back of the cracked skull and also through the eyeholes once …

Floral Notes and Bardo: Bardo, Bardo, Bardo

A week of writer’s retreat–magical practices and getting into the page, with heart, up in my perfect writer’s nook in Manjushri.  Staying evening’s in Druk Dzong, the palace, house-sitting(?) for Michael.  Beautiful fires in the fireplace, cushy bed, toilets, and so on.  Breakfasts with music playing in the house.  A stark contrast to cabin living. We stayed there for two weeks, and the second week was our fall staff retreat.  A great time getting into the Maitri Space Awareness teachings and practices again, led by the fairy dharma godmother Janneli Chapin.  Musical psychotherapist angel. Lots of play and practice with the community.  Bonding.  Sharing circles.  Got into raw topics: diversity, revealing things about ourselves, loneliness, critiques of SMC and love for SMC.  Meals and celebration.  Art jams, sound bath.  All of this–a great week. Now, moved into the lodge.  Oh.  Oh.  OH.  It’s a different world.  It’s a higher realm. During the staff retreat, Acharya Lyon went into the hospital in Boulder.  We dedicated practice sessions to her throughout the retreat.  By the end, it was …

Floral Notes and Bardo: Cremation Poem

Saw her brain boiling, falling out the back of her charred, cracked skull. Prayed for her to be born into the pureland. Saw her brains bubbling through eyeholes in her charred skull. Prayed for her to be free of doubt and terrifying images. Saw the fat of her body, yellow in the fire, bubbling. Prayed for her to have confidence. Saw her arm bone, without hand, rise up from the fire. Visualized the pure land. Saw some blood squirt straight up out of the pile of charred flesh and bone, suddenly. Visualized her entering the pure land. I looked around the hearth at my friends–still living, vivid, animated. Brought to life by the reality of the burning corpse. — November 24, 2015 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 living as part of Shambhala Mountain Center. About the Author Travis Newbill is a writer, musician, and aspirant on the path of meditation.  He currently …

Floral Notes and Bardo: A Phan Plugs In

It’s good to get off the land every now and then. ~~~ I got up close and Trey and I locked eyes during the “Sand” jam. At that moment, I nearly shit myself. We held it for a long while: Our bodies writhing in response to one another His fingers tracking every subtlety of the emotional union through the guitar Our faces naked, demonstrative It was difficult to bear but Trey was willing to go further, becoming even more raw We swelled and hung in space We confessed our mortality and became ecstatic My breaths were heavy The jam peaked and tears came into my eyes Trey Anastasio: fountain of bodhichitta enlivened by his giving Afterwards he smiled, waved, offered a bow and left the stage — November 13, 2015 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 living as part of Shambhala Mountain Center. About the Author Travis Newbill is a writer, musician, and …

Floral Notes and Bardo: Unlimited Cupcakes

We got our first real snow the other day–driving back from town in the dark was quite edgy — and bathroom season (toilet, sink, and shower in my place of residence) is right around the corner. Molly’s 30th birthday celebration at Druk Dzong–a great group of people and fancy bottles of alcohol.  Heather at a table with tween Adreanna and Demitrio tallying up the ballots from the SMC election day polls.  Questions like: What should we name the koi fish in the greenhouse? What is the best date idea at SMC (hike up to Stupa, PB&J for dessert, check email together in breezeway)?  I ought to just post a photo of the ballot. Awake in the World event “launched” and it seems to be going well.  A bunch of us went down to Fort Collins to watch the kick-off live broadcast and then celebrated at the pub afterwards.  Then, crazy snow on the way home and Erik did a great job driving.  Crazy. My computer shit the bed, I got new glasses, I’m going to …

Floral Notes and Bardo: Fury for Dignity

Danny B reminded us of haunty virus (hantavirus) one evening, and so we went home and unleashed our passionate fury for dignity onto the poo-cluttered house.  Somewhere along the line, Heather brought out a Green Tara tapestry (thanks Schmoopie)–so she entered–after Lama Tsultrim had guided me in that visualization earlier in the summer.  Green Tara, who helps in swift accomplishment–arriving in this time of need. Saturday, a much needed morning of meditation, then in the afternoon, errands in town. Attempting to re-stabilize.  Sunday, an intense day of cleaning, and a Stupa Tour.  I then put on a half-assed haz-mat suit and purified our poo situation from the summer.  I won’t go into detail here.  It was the darkest hour. This morning I walked across the field to the nearest outhouse–not bad. We got rid of a good deal of stuff, and shit, over the weekend.  Reclaiming the space.  Creating Good Nest.  And now I’m getting to work on the application essay.  Can’t get into something like that unless the space has been created–physical, energetic, and temporal. …