Zen Spot #36 — Mindfulness, meditation, autopilot and the internal gyroscope February 20, 2018 00:05

Auto-pilot and gyroscopes

It happens, from time to time, that a memory returns from an alcohol-fueled blackout. There’s no telling what will jar the memory loose. Sometimes, it’s like walking into a wall. At other times, the memory fades in slowly, over the course of a minute. Even after fifteen years of sobriety, it still happens once in a while.

At its worst, while still drinking, I would end up passed-out on a park bench, in a nice business suit. It happened in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Miami, Washington D.C and other cities. Perhaps my physical size was the only thing that kept me safe. Predators must have moved on to easier targets. The police ignored me as well.

It is a time I never want to revisit and, as of this writing, it has been 5414 days.

Washington Square, PHL

Walking from corner to corner, at about 9 pm on a recent Friday night, on my way to an art gallery, my memory opened up. This rarely happens in Philadelphia. My auto-pilot and internal gyroscope could always help me find my way through my home town.

This time was different. 

I don’t shuffle, but my foot speed is noticeably slower than in the life I have since forgotten. That night, I was taking my time, too. It was a beautiful evening. As I passed a particular park bench, my memory faded into a time having crawled across the sidewalk puzzle of rectangular flagstone, until I could pull myself onto the bench. To the best of my estimation, the year was 1998. I had probably been at Dirty Franks, a bar about twelve blocks away, which falls in line with my modus operandi of walkabouts while living in oblivion. No recollection of the stroll has returned.

The bench

As the flashback fully returned, I stood looking down at the bench for a full minute. Shaking my head, I closed my eyes and swayed back and forth on unsteady feet. Shame accompanies these experiences no matter how much time has passed.

I chose to sit. Sobriety, and clarity, provide the option to choose. I further chose to take a breath, with my hands on my knees, in the dark, and make peace with the memory. The quiet was full of distant sirens, plates being cleared by waiters in a nearby restaurant and the sound of rubber tires turning on asphalt.

I imagined a space ship having departed some 5000 days before, disappearing into the blackness, only to return, unannounced, just minutes before. A guy about my size got out, sat down next to me and disappeared into nothingness.



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?