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Floral Notes and Bardo: Playful Culture


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 was the first in a series of classes on Shambhala Culture and Decorum. Various experienced teachers will be leading these classes for us, the community. The question is: What is enlightened culture and how may we manifest that together here at Shambhala Mountain Center?

The first question posed last night was: What is culture?


The class included an engaging discussion around these questions and a hilarious and educational group exercise in which we wrapped gifts for Greg Smith. The point of the exercise was to explore the difference between a speedy, accomplishment-oriented approach to living and a more organic, appreciative one. Many of us felt that our broader national culture is based on the former, which is very masculine, and that we are interested in creating a more feminine, playful, caring culture at SMC and throughout the wider world.


I say: We’re always creating culture and culture is always creating us.


Melanie Klien was leading the course. She suggested that we look at culture in terms of body, speech, and mind (very Buddhist). If a rock is body, then a house made of rocks is speech. If a tree is body, than a toothpick is speech. Culture is speech. It’s an expression, communication. Something made out of pre-existing form which can be experienced. Maybe experienced by more than one of us people-bodies at the same time.

Melanie says: Meditation is culture, enlightenment is not.

Cultures have norms. So, we want… I want… a culture of friendliness, kindness, playfulness, creativity… Good stuff.


After the class, a bizarre conversation about My Little Pony–I didn’t have much to contribute besides my bewilderment. Jason and Heather are both crazy about this cartoon. It was high energy cheer-weirdness.

Afterwards, Heather and I standing in the hallway feeling weird. She grinned. I turned around and down the hallway Jason was sitting in a chair staring at us. We all immediately clicked into some group performance art mode and began taking strange postures, making strange gestures. The stranger the better. The stranger the stranger.

Upside down, tickling, stuffed pony entered the scene, in and out of doorways, rolling on the floor. Over the course of the performance/play various people came through and contributed. It felt so weird and great!

At the end, I was on my back. Jason jumped in and out of his room. He appeared above me dancing with some sort of chakra tuning device. It vibrates at the frequency of OM. he tuned me up real nice and we all hugged and ended the session.

One big point that came up in the discussion in class is Trungpa Rinpoche’s idea of “combining survival and celebration.” Some of us feel that there could be more celebration here. Surviving is a task–we live in a pretty rugged situation. But, what a joyous situation! And so we’d like to play more, cheer more, enjoy more together.

This hallway bizarreness was a nice bit of spontaneous celebration. We occupied the public space of the hallway in the name of play. Good.

This is the stuff of creating culture.

I brought my guitar into bed with Heather and sang a bit: a Bob Marley tune, in honor of his birthday, and a Phish tune, in honor of…I love Phish. Finally, in an act of combining survival and celebration, last night included cold-weather-cuddling and enough sleep (a notable achievement, somehow). Good!

–February 7, 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. 


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