Creative Expression, Life at SMC

Floral Notes and Bardo: Flowers and Sensei, Awake

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.

Speed like weeds.  Flowers like music.  Pulsating perfection, and busy bodies missing beats.  A million words, a million actions — exhausted bodies wanting to flop…  but far too busy.  A million deaths and missed opportunities, a smile, and one perfect ringing note — the bliss bell.  Soon-enough, tumbleweeds of thinking.  Busy bodies.  But, perhaps more and more often — bell.

Ikebana Program_Apr2014-16

Breathe.  A weekend with Shenpen, Sensei — arranging flowers, slowing down, opening up.  Her being is her teaching.  It’s always that way.  More the wholeness than the spoken instructions.

My emotional state — worked-with through arranging.  And then the arrangement as a mirror.

Heaviness purified through art-form.  The energy, once challenging, now reflected, purified, no more grief about it, rather…  there it is.

Flowers.  Resistance to knowing flowers, revealing ever-floral me — the fragility is too much to bear.  Always so tender and never-lasting.  Afraid to say goodbye…  and, thus, afraid to say hello.

So…  dropping all of that and being simple.  I wish to be more relaxed — not in a floppy way, but in an open way.  I wish to do my work, but without all the tension and goal-orientedness.  I believe it works better that way.

What good is scatter-brained accomplishment?  What power is there in that?  Instead, one simple, perfectly timed bell.

One after another.

After the weekend program concluded, Sunday with lunch, I went to my house and napped.  Then, awoke and cleaned, and arranged, my space.  Sensei said that Ikebana is a dangerous contemplative art, because it will change your life.

I see the way environment affects mental and emotional states — and vice versa.  It felt amazing, uplifting, to be in my space after it had been cleaned and arranged.

The world is always communicating.  We are always communicating…  What is the message?  Heart, care, awake, play, not-so-serious.  We’re expressing always.  Artwork — changes the world, changes minds.

The whole way through.  Friday afternoon, I felt like I wanted to nap for three days.  I was so burnt from the work week — so much activity.  So much obligation.  So much hope and fear.  Instead of curling into a ball, I engaged in artwork.  It purified my state.  And the result was more beauty in the world.  The whole process was helpful and beautiful on many levels.

Grateful.  Grateful for the reminder.  For the immersion.  Grateful to have been in space with Sensei.  Her floral radiance.  Her heavenly wisdom and strong hands, delicate touch.  Glad to know my world to be a living arrangement.  Sensei, smile.  Oh, virtue of whimsy.  May I not become too busy.  Sensei, awake.  Pause.  Awake.

— April 21, 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.