Life at SMC

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Path is Under Your Heels

Colorful strokes, executed by a master, adorning my wall.  Gentle, Kaz.  Such contrast to my recent frenzy of complaint and hiding.  The little mice freaked me out so bad that Heather became frightened.  So, that was a big flashing sign.

I spent the weekend wading through murky mind, within a program.  I took a slow, non-ambitious, maybe just a bit lazy, approach.  Feeling so depressed.  Leaning into it (as they say), indulging it.  Feeling like it would be too contrived, and take too much effort, to try to shake myself into a different state of mind.  I’ve received practices for that, but my priority was (is?) authenticity.  Authenticity seemed to mean: pissy, victimized, aloof.  And so I went along with all that, with some awareness around the whole thing — that it was a dead end, or downward would eventually bring some kind of tragedy.

Kaz Tanahashi, so peaceful, and authentic.  Peaceful, and authentic.

I was enjoying my cynicism.  Like I finally didn’t care to the extent that I could just express.  Like other people, perhaps.  It’s kinda easy to crack jokes from a place of cynicism.  I know it’s cheap, but at least its something.

The “mindful,” considerate, compassionate — that’s the one — approach is more subtle.  Somehow edge has to be surrounded, held, accommodated by gentleness, compassion, humor.

Sunday night I hit the bottom (again) with the mice.  Every time I turn around, a mouse scurrying by.  Infested.  Turds everywhere.  Everywhere I look, a turd.  Too much.  Feeling utterly hassled by reality.  Like a plague.

Really — I realized afterwards — each mouse, each turd, reflects my own sense of inadequacy.  I’m not caring for my life well enough.  I’ve allowed my world to become filthy, infested with rodents.  I’ve allowed my mind to become over-run by poisonous vapor.  Filth — inside and out.

Not resembling “bodhisattva” or even “practitioner.”  Not resembling Kaz.

I vented my frustration towards the mice.  Something like: “Dammit, I can’t seem to get a break from the hassles of living.  I just want some peace and quiet, some ease, some comfort, and you people are running amok in my own house, my place of refuge.  You are shitting all over my things.  You are creating more work for me.  I don’t like to live in filth, and you all are making my house filthy.”

I had some sense of empathy for people who are swept up in aggressive states of territoriality.

Heather felt distant.  We spoke, and I unraveled quite a bit.  We saw a mouse running across the floor, and she asked what its name was.  Immediately, I saw the mouse as a person.

The hassles of living will not cease, and yet, I have to live peacefully.  Aggression brings too much pain, fear, horror.


I woke up the next morning and prayed that I may be peaceful.  I rolled down the hill to the lhasang ceremony for the groundbreaking of our new greenhouse.  Cleansing smoke, myself playing the cymbals, chants that we may overcome the forces of aggression and bring about splendor.

The necessity to be able to accommodate aggressive energy.

Of course, Valentino appeared in the midst of the darkness.  He appears whenever I need to be cut through.  Whenever I need to be woken into the brilliance of the dharma.  To be reminded of REAL.

He spoke to me about the importance of relaxation, and how it’s not only about being calm, but about being able to accomodate all energies. Relaxed so that intensity may arise and bloom as flowers. Bliss.

I mumbled something about how difficult it is, and said, almost as an excuse, that “it’s a path.”

He said: “You know what the Buddha said about the path? He said ‘The path is under your heels.’ ”

— September 15, 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.


PortraitTravis Newbill is a writer, musician, and aspirant on the path of meditation.  He currently resides at Shambhala Mountain Center, where he serves in the roles of Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill