Creative Expression, Life at SMC
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Floral Notes and Bardo: Yesterday, Sitting Beside Sensei

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

Yesterday, sitting beside Sensei…


As she introduced Ikebana to the students from Chapman University, from LA, who are here for a week to immerse in Shambhala culture in a program called “Ancient Wisdom: Modern Madness,” which we’ve been hosting here for 25 years.

Sensei is musical in everything that she does; floral. Her speech, throughout the hour long talk — which touched on Japanese culture, Tao, Heaven, Earth, Humanity, flowers, flowers, branches, sticks and stones, meditation, avante garde, and more — was fluid.

She told me afterwards that she used to be too shy and nervous to even make an announcement that lunch was ready.

That quality of nervousness, she said, is gone.

“It’s gone.”

After the talk, my friend Noel remarked: “Sometimes I think that they shipped her in from another dimension.”

“She’s floral,” I said.

In the next session I helped her hand our flowers to the students, who sat in a large circle with their eyes closed.  She instructed them to explore the flowers through touch.  I’d done this exercise with her several times, but this was the first time that I got to watch other people explore — brushing the flower on their cheeks, smelling, tickling.

Just as I was becoming amused and delighted at watching the others she leaned over to me and said “Close your eyes.”

She handed me a flower and I enjoyed my time with it.

We all placed our flowers in small containers and then, slowly, while Sensei rung the various singing bowls, we stood and placed the flowers in the center of the room, making a large, collective installation.

Then we circled the room together, slowly.  “Moving the energy around,” she said.

We all bowed to each other, recited protector chants, and everyone went to dinner.  I stayed back with Sensei and prepared for the evening session.

I ate dinner with her and we spoke all about art, dharma, living at SMC.  I shared my ongoing frustration with her, which is that I think I should be making more art.  And I told her about the recent shift towards surrendering that, and allowing myself to focus more fully on deepening into dharma.

“That’s the best thing that you could do for your art,” she said.

Oh yeah.

Years ago, while reading True Perception (which awakened my mind and approach to life and art forever), I realized that meditation is first.  Before making art, allow mind to settle, awaken, and then simply express, go forth without trying to manufacture anything.

The big idea about coming to live at the dharma center was to deepen into dharma, and then go forth into the world, into my art, whatever.  I decided to live here as I was turning thirty.  So, in the large arc of my life, the idea was (is), as a good way to enter this next phase of creativity, I’ll first meditate for a good while.

I told her about my recent meeting with Joshua, and how he encouraged me to deepen into dharma.  And I asked, “What about music?” And he said “Sing dharma!”

And it’s funny because that’s what has been happening, even before that meeting with Joshua.  I study dharma all the time, and while I’m walking around the land, I sing verses, and I improvise, and I simply sing.

While I’m hanging around my room with Heather, I pick up the bass and groove for a while.

I make Ikebana arrangements every week. I write a blog.

Art is happening all over the place here… just not in the way that it used to.

It’s not the main focus.

Sensei said: “It’s the tea sweet.”

—  January 26, 2015


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 Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

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