Life at SMC

Floral Notes and Bardo: Earth!


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.

Earth, I know you’re alive. People, I know you’re alive. Plants and people equally alive. It’s a stretch for conceptual mind to accommodate that.

We’re not living in harmony with the earth, okay?

But… We are aspiring to.


The other evening, President Reoch held another fireside gathering for the staff. In Shambhala we call these sorts of things “salons,” yet no one seems to be very clear about what a “salon” is. Seems like:

A salon is a gathering, not a party. A salon is celebratory and yet, sincere. A salon is neither business nor recreation. A salon is authentic and social.

So, Jared the Land Steward started a fire. Zane the Rusung (a protector role) attempted to do so but it went out, at which point he said:

“I don’t start fires, I put them out.” Which is true.

Folks asked the President any questions that they wanted to. The ice breaker was about the financial situation of Shambhala and Shambhala Mountain Center. It’s a hot topic. His answer was as short as possible (long) and satisfying. There seem to be skillful changes occurring.

One point: we all need to be less embarrassed about money.

Next question: Jared asked about our relationship to the earth. In Shambhala, the teachings are incredibly clear regarding how we ought to relate to the natural world:

It is sacred, and it is alive along with us.

President Reoch admitted: “We are not walking the talk.”

Yesterday, I sat with Jared for an hour and absorbed his wisdom. He’s in touch. He spends most of his time outdoors, relating to the nature. The living quality of the natural world is apparent to him–clearly apparent. A lot of the time, I feel like I am staring right at something that I am not seeing.

I wish for the boundaries between myself and the living earth to shatter, more and more as I live here. I want to be friends with the flowers and rocks and trees. I want to know them by name and love them like I love my human friends, and my cat. I want to sense their living presence at all times. I do to some extent, but I still feel sort of removed.

I think that many of us are dealing with a dualistic, Newtonian hangover. Our vision is blurry and so we’re still acting clumsily. But, I also feel like we’re coming-to. We’re shaking our heads to clear the fog and asking for help. That’s what I’m doing.

I’m saying: “Jared, I want to walk in the woods with you. I want to shake this unhelpful conceptual fog and connect emotionally to the wind and snow and trees. I want to feel the urgency.”

I feel it more now than ever before. I live with the earth here. And there are lots of opportunities coming up to deepen my connection.

This evening I’m participating in the third staff Ikebana class. Through this art-form, we contemplate and celebrate our connection with the natural world, with unseen inspiration, and with our own human ability. We join “heaven, earth, and humanity.”

This Sunday, Jim Tolstrup will be leading a sweat lodge for the community. This happens every month or so. Jim is connected to Shambhala as well as the Lakota tradition. I don’t know anyone who is more tangibly connected to our earth than he. Being around him always inspires me.

Throughout the coming months there are going to be other teachers and opportunities to explore: weekend programs in which we’ll spend time getting to know wildflowers, the stars, the seasons. Ahh… I live on this mountain, immersed in nature. I’m spending time with you, Earth!

Right now, as I write, snow is melting from the roof, it’s sunny outside, pine trees are waving at me. I say “hello” out-loud. It’s really real.

–February 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.