Life at SMC

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 they were cleared out.

There was a spectrum of experience: from the ethereal visualization of the pure land of Shambhala, and Acharya’s arrival there, to the gritty earth, human realm of burning bosy, and all my friends surrounding it, somehow brought to life more vividly because of it.

It’ll be each of us one of these days.

On that note, after the ceremony, I luckily landed at a lunch table alone with John Ohm, who has recently had his own brush up with mortality, and who has worked every cremation we’ve ever held at SMC.

His attitude around death is curious, reverent, but also pretty relaxed, as far as I have observed.  For Dia de Los Muertos, he made an amazing, crushing, charming installation in the dining hall (pictured above).

It was also wonderful to see Valentino appear at the ceremony, and to spend some time with hm afterwards, talking about all sorts of amazing poetic things:  The consciousness of mushrooms, the tendency for humans for carry on naive relationships with plants and their corresponding spirits, bees and their behaviors, shamanism in Korea, and a fascinating Native teacher who outlasted all of the 200 people who attended his recent book signing in Boulder by sitting and listening, and asking further questions of everyone who approached him.  We had dinner together with Joshua and the stimulating conversation continued.

Finally, a few of us gathered in a circle and shared Allyn Lyon memories.

Joshua: “I once spent five days in a bungalow on a beach in Thailand with her.  On the first morning, she said, ‘let’s see who can do the least…’ ”

Myself: “…and that’s when she said ‘…as long as you promise me that you won’t stop going to concerts, because all bodhisattvas must be joyful!”

As we were walking out of the room, I quoted her one more time: “And all god’s chil’n gots basic goodness.”

She’d say it with a funny southern accent.

— November 25, 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

1606965_10154263909095154_2100377528113425384_nTravis Newbill is a writer, musician, and aspirant on the path of meditation.  He currently resides at Shambhala Mountain Center, where he handles the SMC Blog, and other marketing tasks. He also gives tours of the Great Stupa and is empowered as a Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Check out: travisnewbill.com Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill