The Middle Way

Zen Spot #282 - Mindfulness, meditation and replacing the roar with nothing January 24, 2020 00:00

Who knew?

I sold new Toyota cars for a little over one year. Never a job I would have chosen, life demanded that I join the circus. 

Among the clown cars being sold was the most famous hybrid vehicle on the planet — the Toyota Prius. To that point in my life, I’d never sat in a Prius, much less driven one. Life is curious.

Among the truly notable aspects of the Prius is the complete quiet that erupts when the ignition is engaged. The silence is staggering. If the dashboard didn’t light up when the key is turned, one wouldn’t know the engine was on. Too, the interior is so well insulated that all but the loudest intrusions from the outside world are eliminated.

Be advised, this post is not a product review. It is, instead, a one sentence story about the warmth of the cockpit, on a wintry day, sitting in the back of the dealership, with the Prius turned on and having absolutely nothing happen. The expectation of a roar following the turn of a key, based on a lifetime of roaring, is replaced with an extreme quiet that, if attention is paid, has a profound depth. 

The loss of the roar is a gift. An unexpected and unusual Zen Spot, to be sure.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 Michael has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

 What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #278 - Mindfulness, meditation and the little blue box January 22, 2020 00:00

Suit and tie

From the time I was a child I hated getting dressed up and, in a world where my clothes reflected my mother and father’s ability to parent, I spent a lot of time being miserable. It didn’t help that our limited funds afforded a lot of polyester which, as a material, to this day, no fashion designer has been able to master. Cheap polyester. The kind that Andy Warhol made movies about. The kind the Village People wouldn’t wear. The kind that creases like a folded cardboard box. The kind that, matched with a pleather overcoat and a box of Marlboro Reds, guaranteed a fistfight from the kids who wanted to look like they could afford cigarettes.

My preferred uniform is cotton cargo pants, a long sleeved t-shirt and hiking boots. When required to dress up for a date night, the cargo pants remain but I will change into a collared dress shirt. A suit and tie are reserved for weddings, funerals, job interviews and, if necessary, office visits. Life is too short to be uncomfortable. 

My wife is frustrated by my choices. My friends and children accept me as I am. Oh yeah, I never leave the house without a baseball hat. No jewelry, tattoos, watches, designer labels or logos. I am a fashion cliche of such epic proportions for my age and ethnicity that it even makes me laugh.

Strolling down Fifth Avenue for the first time

The first and only time I visited Tiffany & Company was during my first time visit to New York City. On an all day bus tour, my girlfriend and I walked from 82nd and Fifth Avenue to Eighth Street, across Washington Square Park, and down to Houston. Then, we turned and found our way back. Among the landmarks we saw on our way south, was Tiffany’s. I didn’t know what it was but I knew it was famous — from a movie I’d never seen. 

With me wearing the early Eighties version of the uniform described above, we walked inside and, from the looks of the sales associates, our tourism was blatant. It was as if they could see the ten dollar bill in my wallet and the thousand bucks in my bank account. That said, I was as impressed with them as they clearly were with me. Having browsed for ten minutes, we were off on a greater adventure, never having paid attention to the little blue boxes.

A documentary about the little blue box

Two weeks ago, my wife introduced to the story of Tiffany & Company — and the other world’s passion for the weird powder blue box. A Netflix documentary described the history, the mystique and the joy associated with the very specific color owned by the company. Tiffany literally owns a color and the hue is viewed as much a jewel as any jewel held within the box. The blue and the brand prompt happiness in a large portion of the world. Interviews with women who had been given a blue box holding whatever, intimated a not-so-sublime joy. I couldn’t have been more confused.

Emotions and attachment are funny things.

The gift

By coincidence, during the week following the video, an associate showed me a ring she’d received. She couldn’t contain her joy. 

I asked. It was a Tiffany. 

Perhaps it was the love. Perhaps it was the blue. Perhaps it was something I will never understand. Perhaps I will someday be rich enough that I will understand completely if, for no other reason, I can witness the joy on the face of the person to whom I give the jewel.

It was, during the writing of the last paragraph that I realized, in fact, that the vast majority of the joy found inside the box isn’t about the color blue, it isn’t the about jewel and it isn’t about the wealth. It is all about the Zen of giving the gift.

I’ve learned a little bit today. Find joy.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #300 - Mindfulness, meditation and the day a Pirate said hello January 20, 2020 00:00

Tweets

We all have childhood heroes. It happened, about three months ago, that one of mine began to follow me on Twitter. Famous as one of the best professional baseball catchers during the 1970s, the platform notified me that the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Manny Sanguillen became a follower. I smiled, safe in the knowledge that no hero of mine would ever spontaneously follow me. I followed back, thereafter not giving much thought to the relationship. Oh, yeah, it should be noted that the Pirates were my favorite team as a child, in the 70s.

Recently, Manny’s account responded to one of my more philosophical posts in agreement to the post’s sentiment. My curiosity peaked, I visited his profile and, after a little bi of research, concluded that the real Manny Sanguillen had commented.

Wryly, I admit that Manny was my second favorite Pirate but, in those days, Manny was almost everybody’s second favorite Pirate and, based on his profile, I am absolutely sure he’s fine with that.

Manny wore number 35.

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From a post published on Medium.com on June 15, 2015

This week, a man walked by wearing a throwback Pittsburgh Pirates baseball jersey and cap. In Philadelphia, that’s a rare site. Had he been just wearing the cap or the shirt, he’d have blended into the landscape like any chameleon or rabid fan. The combination — and the choice to fly the skull and crossbones — demonstrated passion and knowledge.
Tall, thin, with long graying dreadlocks, he was old enough to be a witness to the sentient being that prompted the gestation of my consciousness. In fact, on any road trip to Pittsburgh in the 1960s, this man may have played witness to a baseball player of epic proportions. If not, greatness and passion could be delivered, in black and white, to his home, by rabbit ears, when the Pirates visited North Philadelphia or South Philadelphia.
I knew, before I saw the back of his jersey, that the number 21 would appear. Not 8. Not 35. Not 22.
Number 21 — Roberto Clemente.
Roberto
He was my favorite baseball player as a kid. I have no explanation why. He played in a town so far away from my home that it might as well have been in China. No memory exists about when I first read his name. He faded into my consciousness from nowhere and for no reason.
His contemporaries included Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Carl Yastrezemski, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and many other Hall-of-Fame players. In Philadelphia, at the time, Steve Carlton, Larry Bowa, Tim McCarver and Mike Schmidt were starters. I heard their names mentioned every night on the local evening news. In a sports-mad town, they couldn’t be missed. Yet, for some reason, I chose Roberto.
The inexplicable weirdness of memory
My first memory, as a human being, is from when I was 18 months old. Few people believe me but my mother confirms my recollection. I was toddling down a hallway in a boarding house in Wildwood New Jersey with my mother. The consciousness faded in and out. I don’t know what happened just before and don’t really remember much else until going to kindergarten, just before I was five years old. From that point on, I was aware that I was alive.
Somewhere between my first year of elementary school in 1967, and 1971, something happened that brought Clemente into my life in a way that connected with me on a visceral level. As I learned to read, I read everything I could find about baseball, but I’m certain there was nothing that I could read, until at least 1971, that would have communicated Clemente’s presence much less his greatness as a baseball player. No family members were from Pittsburgh. None felt an affinity for a player other than those that played at 21st and Lehigh Avenue or in South Philadelphia.
Those that bled, bled red.

The inexplicable weirdness of consciousness

The idea of being and becoming was conceived, I believe, by Heraclitus. If I’ve learned nothing else in this lifetime, I’ve come to believe that any understanding I have of consciousness in the moment will, very likely, be disabused by the reality of a moment in the future. Despite a relentless effort to learn and be present, it’s been proven to me, countless times, that evolution and “becoming” are the only constant reliable forces in life.

Pursuant to this point, while I often remember the forces and ideas and contexts that comprise the variables in any equation of the moment, it’s clear to me that there is no beginning, middle and end to anything.

At some point, in this life or the next, Roberto will fade away, just like he faded in, without explanation, as a result of my being and becoming.

And, I think that’s pretty cool.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #225 - Mindfulness, meditation and hanging a Dharma Wheel in your home January 20, 2020 00:00

No more. No less.

This Zen Spot post — my 225th — is the first that directly addresses the commerce of artwork. Since the beginning of my career, having sold everything from cars to medical device repair, it was always impressed upon me that business must be requested. That is to say, the person selling a good or service must ask the customer to make a purchase.

Before doing so, however, a discussion needs to take place between the buyer and seller that will determine if the product will meet the customer’s need. Perhaps in all of the capitalist world, it is this conversation, along with the request to purchase, that makes people uncomfortable. Most people don’t like to sell. Most people don’t like to be sold.

Art, however, is different. There are no features and benefits. The single determining factor, unless art is being bought as an investment, is the buyer’s visceral response. That’s it. No more. No less.

Except, maybe

Strong, unmistakable symbolism is perhaps the one exception to a collector’s visceral response. To be more clear, symbolism combined with a naturally potent visceral response adds to the possibility that a buyer will make a purchase.

Beyond the visceral, the issue of an artwork’s size can play a role in a purchase — as can the decor of the room in which the piece will hang. As a young artist, to think that decor would determine a purchase was infuriating. Now, it just is what it is. In this context, the Dharma Wheel is tremendously versatile.

Personally, I love its symmetry, versatility and meaning. It can be both a highly personal spiritual icon and a universally accessible image enjoyable for its simplicity, shape, color, materials, finish and presence. It offers endless visceral possibilities that can connect with any viewer. One need not be a Buddhist to appreciate the Dharma Wheel. It helps, however, to have an open searching heart.

The artwork available at SilkDharma.com can be hung in kitchens, living rooms, foyers and bedrooms, and can fit nicely with many different kinds of decor. 

In the future, if my health improves, I will be building larger Dharma Wheels from wood, metal and found objects. Some with be 14" in diameter, others will be eight feet across. I hope you’ll consider purchasing a framed image from my website and, when the time comes, consider a larger piece — perhaps envisioning the place in your home where it will reside. Until then, I hope you will continue to follow the Zen Spot series and other social posts describing the creative processes for building the bigger wheels.

Thanks.

 

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #286- Mindfulness, meditation, sirens, calligraphy and language January 18, 2020 00:00

One doesn’t know they are learning their first language

As an artist, art student, art lover or pedestrian, it is impossible to not eventually be confronted with the splatter paintings of Jackson Pollock — and the accompanying questions of their quality and value. In particular, the perception of ease gets compared to its value at auction, leaving those seeking a cogent connection between the two befuddled. The answer lies in the quantity of time spent learning to become fluent in another language. With immersion and consideration comes understanding and there is nothing more abstract, more expressive and more concrete, in all of human history, than language. 

Second language

I like to think of Pollock’s work in a larger context. Consider the idea that his splatter technique is a skeleton over which the body can thrive. I see free-form improvisational jazz wooed into a free-for-all by the sirens of Japanese calligraphy. And, while I can’t read the Japanese language, I know that behind the construction of the language’s written characters are ideas of immense value.

Mindfulness is a language.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 

 


Zen Spot #260 - Mindfulness, meditation and the quiet of a block party January 16, 2020 00:00

Chaos, the dog

We recently moved to a tight-knit neighborhood where, every August, a giant party cordons off the street from end to end. Families begin setting up bar-b-ques at sunrise. Tents sprawl. Adirondack chairs become a maze. Coolers become chairs when the Adironacks are full. Fifteen kinds of music blast. Kids chase dogs. Dogs chase kids. 

Hot dogs are replaced by pulled pork, ribs, chicken and steak. Potato salad creates fury. A giant bouncy-house is set up smack dab in the middle of the block. 

Chaos is not just the name of my neighbor’s dog.

Sound off

Inside, the air-conditioning mimics the music outside . Music, too, blasts. Family and friends who revel in the cool, gently cajole smiles, provoke opinions, eat words and eat cake. All the while, the TV remains fixed on a continuous roll of whatever Bruce Lee movie is on — with the sound off — enhancing the comfort that comes from miles of comfort food.

A moment taken to watch the movie, while sitting on the stairs, offers a glimpse into the silliness and worthlessness of almost all TV. A plasma goo rainbow.

Sex ocean

Alcohol having lubricated the masses for ten hours, a collective bust-thump somehow erupted from every loudspeaker along the street. Where chaos reigned, a single pounding heartbeat grabbed the instinct of everybody. Bodies moved. Body parts ground together. Musk and perfume. A plasma goo rainbow. 

Navigating the dancing sex ocean in pursuit of a refill

I don’t dance. I eat potato salad. A refill required a swim from the front door to the kitchen, through the sex ocean. Women playfully ground body parts, wanting to to know they could provoke the instinctive response that slipped nipples and quarter-twerks were designed to prompt. I carried a full plate, my arms extended upward, from shore to shore, back across the ocean, knowing full well I could have eaten it in the kitchen.

Imperfection

The second precept of The Noble Eightfold Path is Right Thought. Who are we if some of our thoughts are not impure? Who are we if all our thoughts are pure?

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #243 - Mindfulness, meditation and the yin of a doppleganger January 14, 2020 00:00

Parent

My children are grown. They will, however, always be my children. Mine. Between 1986 and 1996, I spawned three hellions, each of whom is finding their way in the world.

Mine.

An idea about time and love

About twenty years ago, I was introduced to the idea that this current lifetime exists purely for the growth of our souls. Further, as the idea suggests, before birth we enter agreements with past and future ancestors to create as many daunting challenges as are necessary for our souls to grow. Too, those ancestors who love us most deeply construct the greatest hurdles.

Throwing darts

My daughter is in one of the photos above. Taken about eight years ago, it projects the kind of joy I wish for her for the entirety of her life. Funny, quirky, kind, creative and driven, she inherited the best parts of both her mother and me.

Her journey has been one of particular fascination for me. Growing up with one brother and a long list of male cousins and friends, few girls entered my life until I went to college. Thus, watching her grow into a fine young woman has been a privilege, a delight and a challenge. Our souls have grown together.

Image

We are taught that how a person looks has little to do with their soul. As such, the existence of a doppleganger is almost irrelevant to a discussion of growth unless, perhaps, the person holds a particular physical beauty. 

Two close friends of mine — both women — are very physically attractive by western standards. And, each admits that their beauty has offered opportunity that they believe would otherwise not have enjoyed over the course of their lives. It’s worth mentioning that each has reached mid-life and find the privilege that their beauty has afforded them fading.

Conundrum

If one believes in the idea of beauty bestowed in order to facilitate fewer challenges, what does that say about their soul’s journey and the ancestors charged with growth? Is beauty an indicator of a milestone on a soul’s journey? Is fading beauty a hurdle to growth?

Dopple

One of the images above is of a young European woman. A friend sent the images across social media because of the stark resemblance to my daughter. the young lady and I corresponded twice through Facebook. She was fascinated by the resemblance. My daughter, however, saw no resemblance at all. The mind’s eye is a funny thing.

Who knows

It is easy for me to create stories. Most never leave my head. Always searching for some cosmic, philosophical or spiritual understanding of existence, I constantly look for that single algorithm that explains the universe — like Einstein tried to bridge the gap between quantum mechanics and what ever the other thing was.

Among the algorithms considered is the role of beauty as a challenge and, in this particular case, the journeys of twins who have never met.

On to the next algorithm. 

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.


Zen Spot #245 - Mindfulness, meditation, rhetoric, hyperbole and the dog with the human head January 13, 2020 00:00

The ninth mile

On Flat Road, in Malvern Pennsylvania, at the far end of a half-mile long cornfield, nestled between the last ear and the local granite quarry, is the Union Hall graveyard. Surrounded by a four-foot stone wall, with one three-foot wide entryway, this small cemetery is the final resting place of several congregants of the first Amish meetinghouse settled in the United States, some of whom may have been laid to rest before the colonies declared their independence. With the exception of the wall that runs along Flat Road, the cemetery is immediately engulfed by thick northeastern underbrush and briars. At night, especially in the dead of winter, it’s a creepy place.

Legend holds that a creature patrols the graveyard. It is a bastard, described best as a dog with a human head. Imagine the body of a rust colored pit-bull, proudly carrying eight pounds of rugby ball-shaped evil on its shoulders, with one pound of face having been beaten into the head with a flail and mace. Those who witness the beast are known to die in the following 24 hours.

I’ve never see the monster but I’d be lying if I said I don’t get a little nervous every time I drive by. I was introduced to the legend during the ninth mile of a ten mile run, as a high school freshman, as I ran by the cemetery for the first time. It was September 1976 and my shaman was the senior captain of the cross country team.

I was thirteen. Rhetoric and hyperbole hadn’t been born yet.

Old School, New School

Our cross-country coach was old school. He trained kamikazes; placing such a ruthless priority on mental toughness, self reliance and a commitment to the team that, if you were afraid to walk onto the school’s football field and punch an offensive lineman square in the face, you didn’t deserve a place on his team. The disparity between a 5' 10" distance runner and 6' 3" football player was a pock-marked wall for the weak to hide behind.

Rhetoric and hyperbole hadn’t been born yet.

Seasons bleed, cultures scream

Cross country season bleeds almost seamlessly into winter track. Distance runners bleed less seamlessly — transitioning from the bucolic to the deafening and claustrophobic.

In the 1970s, in southeastern Pennsylvania, high school indoor track meets were held on Saturdays, in regional college field houses. Thirty tribes, each with forty athletes, jam their culture, pride, fear, talent and volume into a shoe box.

Hollinger Field House

West Chester University owns a particularly weird field house. Like most college field houses, it is designed to serve many masters — basketball, tennis, track & field. The architecture is odd. It is almost an aircraft hangar. The confines are extremely tight with the building’s outside walls towering within eighteen inches of the outside lane of the three lane track. The edge of a basketball court, which is the building’s centerpeice, is inches inside the track’s first lane. The track, itself, is unusual — 146 yards, 12 laps to the mile. From the center of the court to the apex of the roof, it is probably sixty feet — an open mouth waiting for a jet engine.

That jet engine is a high school winter track meet.

Getting jumped in

My shaman prepared me for another legend — a twelve-feet high, fifteen-feet wide and 40 yards long Thunderdome.

Every runner gets jumped in like a Crip — beaten and eaten whole and fighting for survival in the belly of a beast. Punches are thrown, elbows fly, teeth get knocked out. If I owned a pair of brass knuckles, the shaman recommended that I bring them. A switchblade would be good, a two foot length of chain would be better. A flail and mace best.

I was terrified. The fate of those swallowed by the beast was left to my imagination.

The Beast

The most curious aspect of the Hollinger Field House track is a tunnel that consumes an entire turn of the track — approximately 40 yards. The tunnel runs underneath the grandstand. The sixty-foot ceiling drops down to fifteen. With, the exception of the fifty meter dash, every track race enters the tunnel at least once. During your race, when you enter the tunnel, the jet engine convulses into silence. When you leave the tunnel, the engine sucks you back into its fan blades.

As a miler, I was scheduled to run through the tunnel twelve times. And, while I had plenty of opportunity to stand in discreet alcoves inside the tunnel during other races, and watch other runner’s get jumped in, the choice never entered my mind. I waited.

Within thirty seconds of reacting to the starter’s gun, after being chewed up and spit out, I found out that my shaman was an asshole.

Rhetoric and hyperbole had been born.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 Michael has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

 What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #283 - Mindfulness, meditation and letters of dissent January 12, 2020 00:00

Masthead logo for now defunct Australian magazine D!ssent

The 42nd Street Public Library

I’d seen the two lion sculptures sitting on either side of the front entrance to the 5th Avenue branch of the New York City Public Library hundreds of times in photographs. Walking past, alone, that day in 1981, the building had a gravitational pull. Never having been inside, the time was right. I was nineteen years old when I burst between the beasts.

Just inside, I was met by a poster introducing an archival display called Letters of Dissent. At the time, I associated the word dissent with malevolence.

Informed disagreement

I was raised in a larger environment where dissent was quashed. Believing that a disagreement with the thinnest splice of dogmatic hair threatened their control of the universe, my extended family would berate naysayers into submission. Data wasn’t even a word. Veering from any flat-earth belief displayed hatred for the church, for the patriarchy, for the inebriated, for the cook, for the cops, for the ignorance. There was no place for logic or discourse and eventually I believed the belief. I didn’t know that data was relevant — and that, when combined with compassionate observation, resolutions for growth could often be achieved.

The letters

I remember feeling a sense of community among the writers. Handwritten, and in some cases typewritten, the connection I felt was overwhelming. What began as a open-ended walk down Fifth Avenue became a brief glimpse into enlightenment. The letters undid, in ten minutes, what my community taught me in nineteen years. I was home among the dissenters. I was, I found out, a dissenter. The road less traveled is dissent.

Mindfulness is dissent.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

 

 


Zen Spot #287- Mindfulness, meditation and a memory that's More Than A Feeling January 12, 2020 00:00

I was listening to terrestrial radio this morning. More Than A Feeling from Boston’s 1976 self-titled album Boston came on. Nuf said for today.

I looked out this morning and the sun was gone
Turned on some music to start my day
I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away

It’s more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)
And I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
Till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walkin’ away

So many people have come and gone
Their faces fade as the years go by
Yet I still recall as I wander on
As clear as the sun in the summer sky

It’s more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)
And I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
Till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walkin’ away

When I’m tired and thinking cold
I hide in my music, forget the day
And dream of a girl I used to know
I closed my eyes and she slipped away
She slipped away

It’s more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)
And I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
Till I see Marianne walk away

Songwriters: Donald T. Scholz

More Than a Feeling lyrics © Next Decade Entertainment, Inc

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot 250 - Mindfulness, meditation and the paradox of parallel existence January 10, 2020 00:00

Parallel

A couple of month’s ago I visited an athletic coach from my freshman year of high school — 1976. He has had a profound influence on my life. So much so, that I often still rely on his lessons. Among the most important were mental toughness, grit and belief in the ability to overcome adversity through hard work. For the first several months of my tutelage, I possessed none of these qualities--and I knew it. There was shame associated with this understanding.

One day, I got tired of the feeling and decided--actively decided--to change my life and attitude. My life transformed. He demanded and I complied. The next four years were an incredible experience built on hard work, fraternity and achievement. That said, I was not blessed with the gift of athleticism and, as such, was not a dream to coach. Not a dream — for a coach who wanted to dream. I was just a guy who loved his sport. The experience set a standard for the rest of my life.

During the visit, I made very clear how much his coaching had affected me and thanked him for his contributions. We talked about the people and events from those days. In particular, we discussed the most gifted of his athletes; those who a coach dreams about. It was clear they held the fondest memories. I was a nice addendum. We occupied much of the same space, at the same time, for long periods. My experience was profound, his was nice.

Two people. Same time. Different existence.

Several weeks ago, I ran into a colleague from fifteen years ago. My counterpart explained that my influence on his life had been profound. He intimated that the lessons learned during our discussions extended beyond the discussions themselves. Our discourse were never pedestrian--or nice--but I had no understanding that it could affect another human being as positively as my colleague explained.

Concurrently, my oldest son has described, in one way or another, that my parenting had a similarly positive effect. Given the fact that my younger children still believe I am quite obtuse, my son’s perspective is welcomed--and important--because my children are the people I want to teach.

Another paradox that becomes less a paradox as life goes on. Perhaps one day I’ll understand.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #239 - Mindfulness, meditation and the Buddha of Bazooka Joe January 8, 2020 00:00

America

Twenty-four years ago I founded a graphic design studio that specialized in toy packaging. A sensible choice, since the three partners met at Tyco Toys.

Our portfolio earned entrance into most companies that marketed products designed to appeal to children. In hindsight, creating graphics whose sole purpose were to induce a frenzied tantrum was a dubious moral venture at best. In the moment, the opportunity to create playful graphics seemed wonderful . Time has a way of putting one's choices in perspective. 

Rock hard

I performed business development for the studio. Among the clients I pursued was The Topps Company, maker of the baseball cards I loved as a child. Turned out Topps also owned Bazooka bubble gum. Not quite a brand on par with Coca Cola, but still a defining American consumer brand, I was excited about redesigning their packaging line to reflect a more contemporary feel.

As my business partner and I were in the elevator leaving the company's offices, the solution came to him fully formed. Thirty minutes after we returned to home, he had the entire project mapped out and the basics of the redesign in place. His creative ability was incredible.

Over the course of the following weeks, he designed dozens of different plastic buckets, boxes, displays and wrappers for what seemed like a million different rock hard flavors. Rock hard. Chewing a piece of Bazooka bubble gum right out of the wrapper is like chewing a car tire.  

Joe Buddha

During the first few chomps, the chewer was usually reading the Bazooka Joe comic wrapped around every tire. It didn’t occur to me until years later that, somewhere on the planet, an artist/writer needed to actually create the comics. I like to imagine that the artist was mindful, perhaps choosing to cram a quote from The Buddha into a comic.

Silliness.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #285 - Mindfulness, meditation, the Brown Sound and Dave McCorry's blue Jeep Renegade January 6, 2020 00:00

Stick shift

We were driving south on Warren Avenue. Having just passed under the train tracks, through a half-circle tunnel, we were almost idling at the traffic light. Dave was inexplicably angry at having to drop me off at the light, despite the stop being on his usual route home following cross-country practice. The Jeep’s standard transmission was whining. A dog was chasing a chicken in a parking lot off to my right. Dave's running shoes stunk horribly. I was hungry despite the stench. 

Eddie Van Halen dropped in on a gooey personal experience. 

Dave, Dave and Eddie

It’s called the Brown Sound. While I’m not a musician, I understand it's derived by tuning a guitar unusually, then setting its amplifier in an equally distinct manner. The first power chord played thereafter -- by anybody -- blasts an unmistakable brownness that could not be more appropriately named. Eddie is its master.

Before the Jeep entered the tunnel, the quintessential 70’s cowbell counted upwards, followed shortly by the first chords to Dance The Night Away . David Lee Roth screeched coarse sandpaper.

I’d never heard anything sooooooooooooo brown. Amazingly brown. Seductively brown. Instinctively brown. I knew it was brown, never having heard the color. Life has never been the same.

Waffle Trainers

I’ve written before about my gift of memory. To this day, I can tell you what McCorry was wearing, the titles of the textbooks in the back seat, the brand of tires on the Jeep and the date of its next inspection. The label on the eight-track tape was scrawled with his older brother’s name. I was wearing two-year old Nike Waffle Trainers and my sweatshirt hadn't been washed in over three weeks.

Absolute zero

I’ve written before about a singular life experience when the first four dimensions were flash-frozen into a single experience of absolute zero. I was pumping gas at a mini-mart in the Swiss Alps. Benignly. Unexpectedly. Spontaneously. At once, I experienced a millisecond and an eternity. A near death experience without the fear of death.

Dave and Dave and Eddie were flash-frozen into the brown that day on Warren Avenue. One was angry and the other two didn’t know I existed. The brown, in hindsight, was well aware of my being.

Buddha and the Brown Sound

I recently listened to an online recording of the guttural chanting of a group of Buddhist monks. And, while I’ve heard the depths of their nothingness before, it happened, this time, that I was sitting at the traffic light on Warren Avenue, having just passed under the train tracks, through the half-circle tunnel.

The monks' sound was noticeably brown and my youngest son, sitting next to me, was angry for making him listen to the monks. I’m no longer sure that the two experiences didn’t happen at the same time, flash-frozen.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #299 - Mindfulness, meditation and the nothingness of Sting, Flea, Bono and Banksy January 2, 2020 00:00

Call me Dude

My favorite movie is The Big Lebowski. Having seen it at least fifty times over the last five years, watching is now an annual event. On Thanksgiving morning, while preparing for my family’s arrival, during that time when my father used to watch the Macy’s Parade, I give thanks with the Dude.

Not knowing the story before watching it the first time, I was riveted by the weirdness — especially the absurdity residing at the cross-wired intersection of the Dude’s and Walter’s personalities. I channel both characters. And, while I don’t see it or hear it, I am reminded that I resemble the Dude at least once each week. It’s an observation I welcome despite it being completely invisible. If the observer sticks around, I am inevitably called "Dude" until they leave.

The first time I watched, I cringed when the Dude told an acquaintance not to call him "Jeffrey" or "Mr. Lebowski" and, instead, requested to be called "Dude". I almost changed the channel. Where I come from, nicknames are bestowed, not chosen. I persisted through another five minutes and was hooked.

The Dude, as he reminds us, abides.

One syllablish

Bono. Flea. Sting. Banksy.

Brand names. Names that mean business, all. Each has a story connected. Each person had a hand in crafting the name, if only by not protesting too much.

Paul. Michael. Gordon. Whomever.

I am DharmaMechanic

A screen name I pulled out of thin air fourteen years ago, I was intrigued by the idea that the dharma is an engine I could rebuild. I loved it the moment I wrote it in a notebook. As a brand, it works exceedingly well. As a name that would turn my head, if used by a friend, it seems silly.

My peers would be confused and tease but, since I was too young to suggest an alternative when the name Michael was bestowed, I am taking the opportunity to change my name in the world of art. 

I expect nobody to call me DharmaMechanic. I expect everybody to know to whom the name refers. Perhaps the notion of any name is at odds with the idea of nothingness, but even nothingness needs a name.

I am DharmaMechanic.

 

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 

 


Zen Spot #259 - Mindfulness, meditation and diminishing physical strength December 31, 2019 00:00

Do as I say

Until the age of 18, physical weakness profoundly influenced almost every decision I made. Having gotten my ass kicked every time an altercation was invited because my lack of physical strength was well documented among my classmates, I reminded the my counter combatant that I was going to grow much larger and would never forget their aggression. 

I did and I didn’t. To this day, the fury resides within.While having learned how to forgive —and being armed with the practice of mindfulness — a pilot light burns, along with a near-eidetic memory.

Arms pinned

Among my first memories, after having been allowed to play with the other children in my neighborhood, is Keith Mazzarelli pinning me to the ground, with his knees on my arms while he pummeled my face. I was six. 

Nothing I tried provided release. Completely at his mercy, I didn’t wait for him to finish. I bucked, squirmed and tried to roll, but nothing worked. He laughed. Other kids watched and, eventually each took their turn at some point in the future.

My memory is long.

The right arm

I loved playing baseball as a child and, over the course of my my youth developed an 85 mph fastball. And, while my body was weak, the mechanics required to focus the entirety of my energy into the release of a ball was gifted by the gods.

Despite not being able to bench press 100 lbs, in an environment where peers could outperform me by three times that amount, I could have killed anybody unlucky enough to take an snowball to the head. That knowledge comforted me. A warm comfort. The kind of comfort one might feel while pinning a younger child’s arms to the ground, straddling their chest, and punching them in the face until simply losing interest. I took every chance available to clock anybody who had ever punched me, never considering the fact that they would beat me mercilessly because I plunked them.

Baseball coaches ignored my talent. 

Both arms

The day I bench-pressed two-hundred pounds, when I was nineteen, felt like a release from prison. The day I benched three hundred pounds, a couple of months later, delivered equality — an equality I was determined to never relinquish. The resulting muscle came an intimidating physical power. Having grown from six feet tall and one-hundred sixty-six pounds to 6'4"/235 gave me the gift of being left alone.

The physical presence

With size comes respect, no matter how weak the character of the giant. In the right environment, the respect gets transposed with fear. Creating fear was okay with me, despite believing that no amount of physical power could keep me from ending up being pinned to the ground. I did not discourage fear for thirty-five years. I never acted. I never hit anyone  or pinned anyone to the ground, but everybody treated me like I could. 

The quality of quiet associated with meditation followed my physical size in the form of a palpable unpredictability. I was fine with the quiet.

The fastball gone

Ten years ago, during the first softball game that spring, I was playing center field. Not having thrown a ball since the previous September, the expectation that I could kill someone with a fastball remained intact until I charged a ground ball, twisted my body to prepare for the throw and violently swung my shoulder over my head, as usual. My arm almost ripped. 

In the six months between throws, I had aged enough that the fastball dropped into the 50s. Still large, my shoulder muscles could no longer complement the still reliable body mechanics. Mostly reliable.

The physical present — testosterone waning

Muscle and testosterone go hand in hand. Along with the gift of a fastball, I was gifted with the double-edged sword that is testosterone. The natural steroid drives compulsive decisions. Stupidly. Humorously. Dastardly. It provided the strength I relentlessly pursued and that which gave me hope and warmth. Sex, too. Good sex. Bad sex. Fractured.

Now in my 50s, the friend who offered a weird shelter is slowly drifting away  and I couldn’t be happier. My shoulders are smaller. I throw like a man who has never thrown a baseball. My hair is graying. My mind is more clear than ever. 

Time to blow out the pilot light. Time to move forward with vulnerability. I will miss my friend occasionally but I am mostly glad he will be gone.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #247- Mindfulness, meditation and the forever struggling vegan December 29, 2019 00:00

Local news 

In an interview with a local woman who had reached 102 years old, she was asked the secret to longevity. She said, “Eat for health, not for taste.” I’m not precisely sure what she meant, but it made me feel like more raw vegetables are the key to a long life.

Silly seven

A scene from the movie Seven Years In Tibet shows the construction of a building being halted because the workers found an earthworm while digging the foundation. Considering the possibility that the worm might be the reincarnation of a loved one, it was treated with reverence. The foreman, a Westerner, beseeched the young Dalai Lama to ignore the worms and allow construction to plow forward. The joy with which His Holiness challenged the architect to find a creative way around the worms — and to respect all life — bled into the architect’s soul.

 How we do, what we do, is as important as what we do.

Breakfast

Every morning, I make oatmeal — one cup, with a little brown sugar. It’s easy, fast and good. Measure, add water, pop in the microwave, add the sugar, boom. Thankfully, it’s vegan. More than easy, however, it’s easy. Two minutes exactly.

An eternity at times.

Preparation is everything

Meat tastes good. Or not. Vegans with whom I am in contact tell me that, once meat is removed from one’s diet, a return tastes not so good. Sugar, I’m told, offers the same experience. Hard to believe. I love both.

That said, I recently realized that a large portion of the vegan experience is, well, the experience. Choosing food carefully. Preparing food thoughtfully. Consuming food mindfully. Success, I’m told, is found by devoting time.

Washing raw stuffs. Paying attention to color. Chopping vegetables. Measuring ingredients. Arranging portions. Slowly enjoying. Devotion. 

I am not devoted to oatmeal.

Boomerang green

That I cannot look into the eyes of an animal about to be slaughtered hinders devotion — as does the personal weakness that I have only overcome in fits and spurts. Not being perfect, the flight of the meat boomerang will hopefully get longer and longer, until such time that it never returns. Weakness overcome. Compassion more fully embraced. Health inspired. Animals alive.

Time taken.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #275 -- Mindfulness, meditation and words from the white space December 27, 2019 20:24

The choice of a word

In a past life, thirty years ago, when I was an art director at TV Guide Magazine, my mentor frequently observed that everything begins with the word

Everything. 

Young man that I was, I argued, as did every other visual artist. With an open mind, I learned. With time, I understood.

Words matter. And, while they do become visible when printed on a page or pixeled on a screen, those manifestations are almost as invisible as is any word that remains unspoken or unwritten. Ink on paper, pixels on plasma — they are the air that occupies a threshold, not the frame, hinges or door.

Dance, painting, drawing — they all begin with the word. Should you protest, examine why. Fewer truisms exist.

Choice

Among my more maddening traits is the long pauses that I spontaneously inject into conversation when trying to find the perfect word. Sometimes, ten or fifteen seconds will pass, while in mid-sentence, during which I will search the memory banks for the precision I value, and the search is absolutely sublime. I enter a white space of nothingness. Longer pauses accompany my writing.

White space

Spontaneously, my breathing slows down, I close my eyes, and I enter a space where logic means nothing. Despite not quite knowing my destination, I never crawl around in the dark. Instead, I simply exist in the white space until the word arrives — and it always does. Between the time I close my eyes and the time the word taps on my shoulder, time stands still.

Should the next life be the white nothingness where I wait for a word, I suspect I will be happy. Until then, in this life, I’ll occasionally search for the word  and be happy.

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In this essay, the word from the white space was pixeled.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #163 - Mindfulness, meditation and the ordinary moment December 25, 2019 00:00

Ordinary

Taken at about 6:45 on January 23, 2019, the photo above captures the evening’s nighttime light exquisitely. Not enhanced with color correction, it represents the skill of an unskilled photographer concurrent with his desire to be completely imperfect — exquisitely imperfect— seeking nothing but the experience of an ordinary moment in an ordinary way.

The kind of moment that is experienced 2.5 trillion times in an ordinary lifetime, one at a time, with neither the previous moment or the upcoming moment existing in every ordinary moment.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

 

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Submit an anonymous online offer on any brand new car

 

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Find a guest blogger. Be a guest blogger.

 

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Need words? Make contact.

 

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Zen Spot #281 - Mindfulness, meditation and the shape of wind December 23, 2019 00:00

The wind is self-evident

Today , January 2, 2019, there is no wind outside my window. Trees are still. Branches are uniquely frozen in forty-five degree weather. No whistle whistles by when I open the window. Despite a grey Philadelphia sky, during the third week of winter, everything is still. Should you have had the luxury of simply appearing on the planet for the first time today — outside my home — you would have no idea that air can move by its own choice.

Sheer fabric draped against dancer’s bodies

The first time I saw the image above, I thought it was a figment of an artist’s imagination. Perhaps a hyper-realistic painting combined with a highly controlled abstraction. More likely, a photographer hired Merce Cunningham or a troupe of Alvin Ailey dancers to exist in motion, covered in sheer fabric, to be captured in time by a gifted photographer. Surely, no god or natural force could sculpt so brilliantly. Michelangelo couldn’t reach such heights, even if one agrees that his hands were touched by God.


Willem de Kooning — Abstract Expressionist painter

His best work — the “Woman” series from 1948–1952 — is stunning. So much so that, if one first sees the work in print, one might expect the paintings to be the size of a building. They’re that powerful. The atmosphere in each painting is a broken fly wheel, still spinning at a five thousand rpm, throwing off bits and teeth at the world around a single frontal female form.

Some critics and viewers consider these paintings to be a violent statement expressed against the female model. I don’t. Instead, I believe that de Kooning’s paint renders the violence in the atmosphere around the female form. Here, the Buddhist concept of inter-dependence applies. The air around a cup is as much a part of the cup as is the clay from which the cup is made. The female forms in his paintings are serene; the world is violent.

The wind.

 

 

 

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #264 - Mindfulness, meditation and Willy's rose tattoo December 21, 2019 00:00

Love is a funny thing

My grandfather Willy, as he was known to his friends, tattooed my grandmother’s name on his arm one year before she agreed to marry him. With an eighth-grade education, and tens of thousands of miles of experience driving a gasoline tanker truck across the northeast, he was never short on guts. The glee he demonstrated, fifty years after the fact, of having spent one month on a Georgia chain gang for punching a liar in a bar was, to me, both confusing and sublime. That said, he expected my brother and I to attend college and live a life very different than his own. Blood was expected to spill no blood.

Thirty-two

He’s been gone since 1987. To this day, however, I can see him walking through poor neighborhoods filled with people who can barely make ends meet — and who sometimes have to spill enough blood to make a point. If the assailant is violently missing a tooth, or quietly missing a bed for the night, he is Willy. Willy was every man who scrapes and spills.

These men carry a distinct sub-dialect of the already unique Philadelphia accent. Generations of the barely literate in Southwest Philadelphia spill as much blood on the language as on the sidewalk. Charles Bukowski’s dirt ,  the dirt I love so much ,  is under the fingernail of each vowel. Or, under the tongue of each speaker’s guardian angel.

Churches, roses, passion & fire engines

A Methodist, my grandfather never went to church to my knowledge. Though, whenever we drove by the local Methodist church, he’d point to the red front doors. He'd tell me about the day he painted each door after having hitchhiked back from Georgia. They’d been painted over many times over the course of the intervening decades, but that day remained vivid and valued. 

Red, the color of a passionate love. Red, the color of a rose. Red, the color of a fire engine. I suspect that, if he’d painted the doors blue, I’d never have known he painted the doors at all. The color, for some reason, was important. It’s importance was implicit. The color of the front doors of a building he refused to enter was important to him. Perhaps he felt he wasn’t worthy to open either. All the blood spilled outside.

Dirt

Among the things often discussed in my family was the fact that my grandparents couldn’t get married in the Catholic church because of Willy’s religious upbringing. Instead, they were married in the parish Rectory. My great-grandfather saw to the priest’s participation, so as to make the marriage official in the eyes of God. I’ve heard a little of the priest’s blood was spilled to ensure his participation. 

Ironic, all the way around.

A man with a flower on his arm

Willy loved passionately. He told me that he knew he was going to marry my grandmother the first time he saw her , before he’d even spoken with her. The man who never entered his own church spilled blood and faith onto his arm.

My blood.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #305 - Mindfulness, meditation and the lasting wonder of a lullaby December 19, 2019 21:31

 

Depth of love

A sublime expression of unconditional love, a mother’s cradling lullaby is a singular home that echoes within the soul forever. It is a mantra shared.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 

 


Zen Spot #289 - Mindfulness, meditation, a vinyl 45, Mighty Mouse and a Saturday night in 1975 December 12, 2019 00:00

Studio 8H

I was seated on a shag carpet, in front of large television/stereo console made of real oak. The entire unit was six feet long, three feet high and two feet deep. With a nineteen inch color TV, two audio speakers, an AM/FM radio and a crappy turntable, it was a provincial relic that had been manufactured within five years. 

Ten friends and I got together to watch a new late night television comedy show that was purported to steal raw meat from the jaws of an alligator. There were samurais, Greek cheeseburgers, a plasticine doll destined to die a thousand deaths, an ignorant slut and a forgettable smoking priest—all broadcast live, four days short of my thirteenth birthday.

Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night.

The mind

I expected magic. I still expect magic. I want to believe there is a dimension to life that transcends the ordinary as if the seven billion people on the planet have collectively kept secret proof of life after death. 

Nobody set that expectation. I distilled it, alone, sometime between birth and that night. Perhaps it was the stories of Abraham and Moses that my family insisted were true and magic, both at the same time. 

My expectation has never been met, but it has been twisted occasionally. At the time, my mind was fertile, naive, cloistered and almost ordinary. In a world where kids three years younger than me rode the New York City subway by themselves, at all hours, I rode the school bus back and forth, went to bed at nine o’clock and did all my homework.

Everything was ordinary. Until Andy came along.

Here I come to save the day

Amidst a set of live skits written to be conventional and subversive, the camera faded onto an ordinarily unusual man standing next to a small phonograph. The weirdness was palpable from a hundred miles away. Too, it was inexplicable and uncomfortable. 

In the following minute, Andy Kaufman lip synced. 

To further describe the performance would be to minimize the transcendental oddity and ecstasy. Watch the clip — and remember that, at that time, only three television channels were broadcast and Walter Cronkite was an anchor on the evening news. Much of the world was still lived in black and white. 

And Andy lip synced. Talentless. Unfunny. Charlatan. Doofus. Awesome.

Josef Beuys meets Lenny Bruce. Mick Jagger weds Jack Nicklaus. Bukowski writes War and Peace

When he finished, my friends and I shook our heads, our mouths dropped and we were speechless. Andy turned the prism just enough to see the colors slightly outside the odd and usual spectrum. I’m not sure he saw the equation he’d written on the chalkboard. We saw it. We didn’t understand it, but we saw it. 

Andy. Zen? Maybe not.

There is that feeling of having completely cleared one’s mind — to have thoroughly erased the equation on the chalkboard— that reminds one there is something beyond the odd and usual spectrum. One can be talentless, unfunny, a charlatan, a doofus and awesome.

You have to know the equation exists before you can erase it. When you do, everything becomes ordinary. Clear and ordinary.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #288 - Mindfulness, meditation and the enigma of twenty Buddhas December 9, 2019 12:15

 

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #251 - Mindfulness, meditation and how she hears a songbird at dawn December 4, 2019 00:00

Where I see red, you see blue

When I tried to explain my idea to a friend, that there’s no way to prove that two people see the same colors in the same way, she looked at me like I was crazy — or perhaps obtuse. Trained as an engineer, deviating from a linear view of the world prevented an assessment. Pragmatic to the core, she thought any discussion was a waste of time. 

Having just taken a philosophy class, the idea fascinated me. I live in my head.

Rising late, mostly

I rose early last Thursday — early enough that I could hear the call of morning birds. A bolt struck spontaneously. 

What if she hears a completely different song?

One voice. All voices.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?