Creative Expression, Life at SMC

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.


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.


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


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