Life at SMC

Floral Notes and Bardo: Translucent Owls and Such

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.

Don’t read too loud.  Inner noise and voice.  Voice.  Voice as distinct from “thinking out loud.”  Voice as blossom of invisible beauty.  In these lines, in and out of resonant voice, in and out of ego-overlay chatter, in and out of state of genuine perception/expression.  Cracking jokes versus liberated approach articulated.


I sense an inclination to write without noticing myself writing.  It’s sneaky.  It’s like coming upon a person in the woods dancing naked, totally free, and not wanting to interrupt.  Also not wanting to look away.  Trungpa talks about giving up privacy altogether.  Today I am not alone in the library as I write.  It’s rare to be alone here — in this snow globe, diorama, play-pen, dharma center.  Center?

There’s always someone around the corner.  Sometimes, avoiding small talk encounters feels like some ancient Atari game, Frogger, or something.  Trying to make it to my sacred writing space is a challenge.  So much noise, business, in the office.  Can’t write there.  So many people in between the meditation hall and the sanctuary library, so many potential disruptions to the silence after sitting that I wish to maintain and bring to the page.  So, I’ve worked to minimize the possibility of interruption.

I fill my Thermos with hot water before I leave the dining hall after eating breakfast, and I grab an empty mug, then I go into my office and grab my big, clunky laptop — and I bring all of this junk with me to the shrine room.  After the ending gong rings, I make sure to be the first one out of the room so that I can slip on my boots and slip out the door without anyone snagging me with commentary or questions of any sort.  I B-line it to the library.  Usually I’m alone in here and it is heaven.  I write for a half hour, then study dharma for an hour, then head into work.  It is ideal.

Later in the day I return to the library to study poetics for an hour, then I head back to the shrine room for evening chants, then back to the library to read a poem, and then off to dinner and into open space — hang out with Heather or other friends, get into recreational activities of various sorts.

Last night Ryan, Jeremy, and I were invited over to Michael’s house (usually I call him, in this blog, Director Gayner, but in real life I call him Michael) for some delicious cocktails and some hanging out.  We watched a movie called Deal Lands about the war and peace between two indigenous tribes in New Zealand.  I liked how their connection to the earth and the invisible spirit realm, spirit of things, spirit in general, was portrayed.  I like how it is an ordinary aspect of their lives — presence of ancestors, spirit, energies of the land.  I sense all of that sort of thing living here, but there’s a lot of push and pull inside me about how to relate with all of it.  Because we are a little snow globe in a culture that has mostly lost (maybe beginning to rediscover now) touch with the living earth, with the living energies of the world, of the human mind, heart.  Of big mind.  There’s more than meets the eye, but materialist worldview cannot see that.  Knowing with the heart.  Speaking with the heart.

I’m wondering recently what I’m doing in this writing.  And, I might have more to say about it later.  For now: I wish for the story of discovering resonance, harmony, to be told — the story takes place in the outer world of Shambhala Mountain Center and the inner world of my mind, feelings.  Here and there flashes of space — the source.  All of this may be summed up by the ancient notion of joining heaven, earth, and humanity.  This is something I’m actively exploring.  It’s what I’m doing in Ikebana, and it seems with the writing as well.

— April 23, 2015


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