Life at SMC

Floral Notes and Bardo: A Big Joke

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Last night, the moon was blazing full, everything aglow and quiet, the only sound — the aspen leaves gently quaking in soft, cool summer breeze.  I was standing on my doorstep, just enjoying, awake for a few minutes in the middle of the night.

Ikebana Program_Apr2014-12Photo by Paul Bennett 

Earlier, a small group of us stood and watched the moon rise up from behind the ridge.  Huge moon.  Orange.  Clear sky.

Kate and I had been discussing dharma for about two hours.  Others came in and out of the conversation, which was inspired by some notions presented in the prologue of Shambhala Principle.

I believe we were on the topic of nonverbal communication, and that being so key:

We’re always communicating.  We’re creating culture with each interaction.  We’re altering reality.

Kate and I had been sitting in the staff Living Room…

Oh, the Staff Living Room is so sweet.  It’s a spot downtown, which in the wintertime is our dining room.  In the past it has been a shrine room.  In fact, it’s one of the oldest buildings on the land.  H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa performed the Black Crown Ceremony in the room.  It’s usually turned into the staff shrine room in the summer time.  This summer, though, a bunch of us lobbied for it to be turned into an uplifted, quiet, common area — for study, tea, quiet conversation.  We have Elkhorn House up the hill, where we can jam, watch movies, party, have fires, and generally hang out and have fun.  This space is serves another purpose.  So nice…

The previous night, a group of us sat together in the Living Room and watched video of a talk that Trungpa Rinpoche gave at Naropa, forty years ago.  The talk was on tantra–the first in a series of fourteen.  We’ll be watching one every week.

We had some discussion afterwards.  One point that kept coming up was about how much of what he was communicating was nonverbal.  Some of us expressed that, more than anything, we were bewildered by the words that he said, but, somehow, something was communicated very clearly.

Watching him, there was no hint of doubt.  And he said:

“There’s an enormous joke behind the whole thing.  A big joke.”

I was at once bewildered and reassured.  It’s not what I think it is, but that’s more than okay.

— June 13, 2014


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 Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community.