Life at SMC

Floral Notes and Bardo: Squirm, Squirm, Leap

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.

There is no escaping the collective here.  The buzz in my skull is a shared reverberation.  There is internal and external chatter, and calm.

This is the shrine in my yurt:


Through my comical aversion to Kasungship, I’m recognizing my inclination towards maintaining my bubble.  I have an agenda.  I’ve been so worked up about things.

I decided to plant myself for a day this past weekend.  A 24 hour retreat, to settle.  I went to the Stupa early in the morning, to be alone, in peace.  There were already people there.  I practiced for a while.

I ate breakfast by myself in an aspen grove.  I made a sign and clipped it on my shirt: “Noble Silence,” indicating that I would rather not engage in conversation with anyone.  The noble silence badge is common around here.  People wear them during retreats.

After breakfast I sat back down in my yurt for a long morning of solitary, sitting meditation.  Ahh…

About an hour into my session, I heard footsteps outside.  Kasung Kate came to my door.  I gestured for her to come in.  She had done the work of organizing a gathering for those of us who will be attending Enlightened Society Assembly later this month.  One of the teachers, Acharya Melissa Moore, was leading an online discussion.  Kate had hiked all the way up to my house to retrieve me.  Very kind.

I walked down after her and listened to the talk, asked questions.  It was a very auspicious interruption of my day’s agenda.

I ate lunch in the trees and afterwards went back up to my house for several hours of meditation, with a bit of study thrown in at the end.  I read Treatise on Enlightened Society.

There seems to be no escaping the reality that we’re all bound up in this together.  And I realize that I have an inclination toward self-protection, comfort-seeking.  There seems to be a real leap that has to occur.  I have to leap over my laziness in order to be helpful.

All the teachers say that helping others, that not being selfish, will bring true joy.  I know it’s true because I’ve experienced that before.  But I forget.

There’s a leap involved in opening up to people, to their beauty and fragility.  Lately, I’ve noticed a tendency to immediately judge negatively.  People are easier to ignore if their ugly.  It’s not helpful.  It seems that to shift things in a positive way for myself or others I have to leap, leap, leap.

I’ve been glancing at this truth with a skeptical eye recently.  And, I’m finding that resisting the truth that helping others is of utmost importance brings misery and struggle.  It’s becoming more real — because with my skepticism, I’m beating it into a pulp.  There is no squirming out of anything.  We’re all in this together.

— June 30, 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.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill



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