The Middle Way

Zen Spot #236 - Mindfulness, meditation and the Lascaux cave paintings March 25, 2020 00:00

Nuns

Even most artists hate art history, except for the parts that they love. Gaps in understanding are fine, except for academics, who will turn around and teach another generation of uninterested artists and academics. Perhaps tourists care, too. Specific art that inspires and influences specific artists is anything but academic.

I was introduced to the Lascaux cave paintings in the first week of my undergraduate career, in the first minute of the first art history class I was required to take on my path to graduation. Much like Sister Patricia Jean broke out the name Abraham in the first minute of the first day of first grade, in a Catholic grammar school, the attempted indoctrination into a certain worldview of art was punished into my boredom — and, yes, I remember the first minute of first grade.

Torch

It didn’t occur to me until two decades after said art history class that caves are dark — black dark — and that the artists needed to set something on fire, the light from which was used to paint. Could have been a torch. Could have been an entire horse carcass dragged inside, on fire or not.

Horses

I am ridiculously afraid of many things, including horses. Biting. Kicking. Trampling. Perhaps it’s the fact that, were I a horse, that’s what I would do to me. To feed a horse an apple brings and expectation of drawing back an arm without a hand. I understand their beauty, utility, companionship and brilliance, however. 

I’m given to understand that more than one horse adorn the caves’ walls. The artist could have chosen to paint himself, or a landscape but, instead, chose animals. Prey, predators, machines, herds.

It is the horse that stands out.

17,000 years

Was a story being told? A balance sheet itemized? A threat being made? 

The written word, to me, cannot be created in a mindfully. Too much thought is required. Perhaps it’s different for other writers. The act of painting, however, is completely intuitive, no matter the materials or the subject. To paint is to be completely in the moment, with no future and no past. 

Were I to sit down today to paint a horse, I would just do it — and not think about it, mindless and mindful. I wonder if the Lascaux artist was mindful? Was their a collective? Was it mindful?

What do you think?

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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 #253 - Mindfulness, meditation, mediocrity, the Middle Way and The Great Venn Diagram of Life February 29, 2020 00:00

The peak

I designed the poster shown above in 1991. Six years after graduating art school, it demonstrates the peak of my ability. Nothing before or after was quite as good. It played to my strengths. The way I naturally use color, and draw graphic figures, and compose an image, all came together to sing in unison. Hand-drawn, and illustrated, one year before I began to use the Macintosh, it expressed a facility that belies my mediocrity.

To be completely clear, my deficit could be found in the development of any visual design required to support a business objective. Ironically, I write very well in support of a business objective, never having been trained.

Weird.

Acceptance

It took seventeen years following the poster design to accept the fact that I was not very good at my chosen profession. Throughout university, I was convinced that I was the best student in the school — and nobody would have been able to convince me otherwise. Acceptance required time and distance. The waters of desire and indoctrination needed to recede. Also, it took me until I was thirty-eight years old to acknowledge the fact that I would never throw a pitch at Fenway Park, not having thrown a pitch of any kind in the previous ten years. Ego.

I write for an hour or two every day — never going to extremes. Having discovered the ability fourteen years after my Fenway epiphany, perhaps my prose is mediocre as well. I could be convinced.

The Middle Way

The Buddhist concept of the Middle Ways holds that a fulfilling life does not go to extremes — that the choice to walk a path that goes neither too high or too low offers the greatest likelihood of lessening suffering. That said, the question of how both the concept of The Middle Way and the concept of mediocrity overlap in the Great Venn Diagram of Life bears scrutiny. Should their overlap be significant, my life path can be characterized as an unintentional yet successful example of living the Middle Way — but that assessment doesn’t feel quite right.

Perceived value

Among the many lessons I learned as a mediocre consumer product packaging designer, the single most peculiar focused on the concept of perceived value. Specifically, the concept of perceived value is built on the belief that the larger the size of the box holding a product, the greater the likelihood that a consumer will pay more for the product is comparison to precisely the same product packaged in a smaller box. Logic need not apply. Blind spots abound. Learning can take place in the midst of profound mediocrity.

Freedom

I suspect there is a blind spot in my observation of the possible overlap of mediocrity and The Middle Way as expressed inside the Great Venn Diagram of Life. Further, I suspect that everybody who can see my blind spot, if it truly exists, would be thrilled to point it out. Too, those who can’t identify the blind spot would be glad to tell me what color it is — as would those who know it doesn’t exist. I could chase their beliefs and observations in circles forever, as if any of them hold the truth.

It is the chasing, I believe, that causes me to drift from the Middle Way. Following this realization, knowledge arrived that mediocrity and excellence and failure and blind spots all overlap in the Great Venn Diagram of Life.

That is my observation. That is my truth. That is my paradox. That is my logic. That is my Zen. 

Thank goodness for mediocrity.

>

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 #238 - Mindfulness, meditation and the inside of the Buddha's nose February 3, 2020 00:00

Watercolor

Perhaps the most intuitive and difficult artist’s medium, I gave up on trying to master watercolors three decades ago. Requiring an unusual kind of mindfulness, control and trust, most of my attempts resulted in stained useless paper balled-up in a trash can. My admiration for artists who can master the techniques border on envy.

An artist must be completely in the moment to succeed. 

1978

I am a fan of the English rock band Jethro Tull. Their lead singer, Ian Anderson is a great showman whose antics and musicianship appealed to the sixteen year-old me. When a desire to live in the past rears its head, I listen to their 1972 album Living in the Past.

Rendering

As a young artist, I rendered most of my artwork from photographs. To this day, when I come across work from that time period, I can remember — and often still possess — the photo that I copied. Neither my memory or my possessions contain the source from which the image above was rendered. Likely, I simply rendered from memory.

Icon

A recognizable image of Ian was easy to draw or paint. Applying long hair and a long beard to a Caucasian stick figure wearing a velvet trench coat was enough to get the job done. Rose-colored, hippy sunglasses always added a nice touch. A giant, elbowed English tobacco pipe was both silly and appropriate. Knickers, riding boots and a vest hammered the coffin shut.

Iconography plays an unusually strong role in branding and religion. I’ve drawn two Buddhas in my life.

Details

Having found the artwork above stored away before moving my home, I was struck by how big Ian’s eyes are. More peculiar, is the confrontation with his nostril caves. Likely the result of an inability to draw perspective, I am fascinated by the mindlessness of my choice to render an image looking straight up a god’s nose. Further, given the hairy nature of most nostrils, in a painting filled with hair, I wonder why I didn’t add pepperoni to the pizza.

Perhaps the future holds a drawing of a Buddha. Perhaps nostril caves will be involved. Perhaps I will call him Ian. Mindless. Mindful. Trusting. Distrusting. Controlled. Trusting.

Be assured — it will not be rendered in watercolor.

>

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.

 

>

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.

>

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.

>

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 #198 — Mindfulness, meditation and another doodle Dharma Wheel November 26, 2019 00:00

Scribbling is immediate and perfect

Sometimes, the easiest way to remain in the moment is to doodle -- mindlessly and mindfully -- at the same time.

>

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 #234 -- Mindfulness, meditation and the whispering songbird November 22, 2019 00:00

Whispering

Freedom, true freedom, is often best symbolized by the gift of flight. Photographs, drawings, paintings and videos of birds soaring can capture the feeling of a special kind of unrestrained joy that transcends their two-dimensional format. However the viewer defines freedom, whether visceral, metaphorical, spiritual or literal, an image of wings being carried on wind can connect a human being with their innermost definition of freedom.

The image above, however, depicts two birds sitting on a wire  chatting. One listening, one sounding off. While each appears to be the type of songbird that greets the morning, sometimes long before sunrise, the animal on the right doesn’t appear to be singing. Perhaps it’s the cock of the head or how it holds its breast, but it appears to be whispering.

What would a songbird whisper? Something about freedom...

>

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 November 14, 2019 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 most 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 or unframed imagand, when the time comes, consider a larger piece. Until then, I hope you will continue to follow the Zen Spot essay series and other social posts describing the creative processes for building the bigger wheels.

Thanks.

>

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 #330 - Mindfulness, meditation and sitting in front of forever November 4, 2019 13:58

Rothko color fields

While many people worldwide may not know Marc Rothko’s name, most assuredly they know his color field paintings. So simple. So sublime. They hug the spirit within each viewer in the same way that a non-believer is hugged by karma.

The great and powerful Oz

This photo pulls back the curtain on a holy place — Rothko’s studio. And, while the work is stunning, for the sake of this essay, I am transfixed by the Adirondack chair. 

Picturing Rothko leaning back, smoking a cigarette, while contemplating the work in front of him, suggests a leisure that few artists feel while in the act. Perhaps the nature of Rothko’s work and process occupied a different kind of time where nothing exists inside the creative act except time or no time. Perhaps time is a precise color that one can’t pull from the air, it is either given or not given by time, so Rothko simply needed to wait in a comfortable chair.

Art must transcend

It’s been suggested by people smarter than me that a viewer can transport themselves into a Rothko. That, if a viewer steps closely enough to one of his paintings — to that point where one’s peripheral vision sees only the color of the artwork —that the viewer has stepped into forever.

One doesn’t need to be standing in front of one of Rothko's paintings to experience the forever described above, but I submit that Rothko is the only painter to offer an invitation through his art.

>

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 #242 - Mindfulness, meditation and the music in a dream painting October 31, 2019 13:36

Clapping, drums, nothingness

With the exception of a few modern painters, I find it hard to see beyond the composition of an artwork. Perhaps it’s because I have spoken to too many artists — and listened to explanations of what their paintings mean. Great stories are rarely told. Commentary is common. Technique stands out. Questions abound about icons, models and subject matter exist, but the ability for my internal monologue to tell an immediate story is rare. The Sleeping Gypsy is no such painting.

In the moment, immediately, I understand the story — start to finish. Despite a nocturnal predator perusing a possible lunch while its prey is vulnerable, the story ends quite pleasantly, with friendship and understanding. Too, the story is accompanied by music. I know it’s there, but I can’t hear it. Possessing deafness in a world where I listen carefully is unsettling.

I’ve never felt music accompany a painting. Not the Mona Lisa, not Starry Night, not any masters artwork. Stories rarely accompany great works as well.

The phenomenon doesn’t appear to be a paradox but neither does it feel like a personal limit. The sound of one hand clapping?

>

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 #219 - Mindfulness, meditation and the coolest suit in history December 3, 2018 00:00

Hand grenades

My maternal grandfather was a great guy. In contrast to his paternal counterpart, who had twenty-five grandchildren, my brother and I were his alone. He treated us like princes, leaving behind two-dozen stories of his simple and creative indulgences bestowed on the duo he loved profoundly. Said tales will never be told — except to say that fire, ice, giant fish, bikes, baseballs, fan belts, lead pipes and pilfered stickers made the twisted list of tools used to create shared experiences that would otherwise require hand grenades.

Decades

For seventy years, he slept with a cedar chest at the foot of his bed. Holding and protecting his finest clothes, of which he had few due to the limited earning potential of a man with an eighth-grade education, the aroma of cedar was a contrast to the memorable dent made by his Viceroy cigarettes. The opportunity to open the chest following his death was both welcomed and feared. The story told by a man’s few possessions, the most valuable of which were collected and protected inside the cedar, could go in any direction.

He was buried in charcoal threads with a red tie. His remaining suit, when unfolded and held up by the shoulders, brought a smile.

Eulogy

He was five foot seven. I am six foot four. Perhaps I could have worn his suit when I was in seventh grade. Perhaps not. Not having the option allowed my imagination to run wild. I knew intuitively, however, that he would want he to make a hand grenade. 

Metaphorically. Happily. Creatively.

Blueprints for a hand grenade

It’s been thirty-one years since his death and I haven’t built the device. I’m not ready to part with the garment, but I will. Eventually. Along the way, during construction, I will take pictures and notes.

Step 1: Find a tailor’s mannequin worthy of the project
Step 2: Hang the suit on the mannequin and paint it with brilliant, thick, red acrylic pain that hardens into a stiff facade
Step 3: Glue five giant boxes of crayons all over the suit
Step 4: Nail-punch dozens of spoons into the mannequin
Step 5: Wrap the entire suite with hundreds of Christmas lights
Step 6: Build a 10” x 10" x 3" cedar box, with a hinged top, and cut an inset for the box to sit in inside the suit and tailor’s mannequin
Step 7: Paint a fluorescent yellow moon on the front of the box
Step 8: Gently place the box into the inset 
Step 9: Place a handwritten note, from me to my grandfather, inside the box
Step 10: Lock the box forever
Step 11: Build a massive pair of wooden wings, paint them white and affix them to the back of the sculpture
Step 12: Forget about gravity and set the entire contraption on top of the single fork of a single bicycle tire
Step 13: Write a children’s book about how the sculpture was made, dedicated to a very cool guy named William Alfred Kay — the man who made two little dents in the universe
Step 14: Throw away the key

Some place on the planet is waiting for the suit to arrive — clearly a Zen Spot on stand by. 

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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 #208 — Mindfulness, meditation and a week of nothing but reading, drawing and Bebop September 8, 2018 00:00

Disconnect with pleasure I

It took seventeen months, but I’d become completely saturated by the twenty-four hour news cycle. And, while the citizen demanding justice is alive and well, the rational man and voyeur within had died. So, for one week, I disconnected. For seven days, I wrote, read a book, drew and listened to jazz.

I’m listening right now.

Sugar I

I eat too many cookies and, somehow, I don’t gain weight. Too, too much sweet tea is processed by my pancreas. Given the fact that I am in my seventeenth year of recovery, I allow myself this indulgence. Having tried multiple times to quit, I don’t. 

Not can’t. Don’t.

Meaningless 

As a child of the 70s, I’d spent much of my time listening to 70’s pop music. That said, as all radio Pop becomes rote, the lyrics come to mean nothing and the message, whatever it is at the time, penetrates like an awful jingle. Brands prevail.

This observation might explain why I can never listen to Pop while I write.

Drawing

When I sprawl to draw, my mind goes wherever my internal rhythm takes it — mindless and mindful at the same time. I feel neither joy nor sadness but I do respond to music. Bebop enhances the personal creative experience. And, while I would likely end up in the same place, with the same finished drawing, the journey is more something.

Reading I

I consume news by reading — online. Videos take too long and are rarely as comprehensive as the written word. And, while I don’t believe the Right’s belief in fake news, I do believe news has become a brand — a brand designed to incite. Truth, in many ways, has been processed into refined white sugar.

Cookies.

Reading II

I re-read The Sun Also Rises. More than most novels, the prose fades in from nowhere and fades out similarly, with a story set in a time where time was passed differently — without news, and with art with a capital “A”. 

Disconnect with pleasure II

The first day without news was tough. Out of disgust, I’d been using Facebook sparingly since the 2016 election — so ignorance was easy. Television was easier. As an avid Twitter user — the preferred communication method of our president — quitting was hard. The experience, however, made me realize that news is everywhere and one must make a choice to ignore it or be consumed by it. But, after 24 hours — one news cycle — my pancreas began to thank me.

Bebop

I don’t know anything about jazz, except to say that I don’t have the words to describe how profoundly it has enhanced the experience of drawing. In particular, I listen to a channel called Calm Radio — Bebop at Radionomy.com.

Try it. 

Of course, food

Because I’m retired, control of my schedule and pace is easy. Little else, except cooking and errands, was done during my experiment. I was reminded of the priorities I once held dear and of which, somehow, I had slowly let go. My simple dream of a life of art, reading and meditation had been given away. Too, I realized how dramatically, despite my best efforts, my attempt to lead a mindful life was effected by a consistently high news-blood sugar level.

I’ll revisit the old world as necessary but, from now on, life will be art, reading, music, meditation and mindfulness.

Particularly Bebop.

>

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 #195 — Mindfulness, meditation and a perfect gold circle June 19, 2018 00:00

Altar

A perfect gold circle hangs on the back wall of the altar in a nearby Buddhist temple. Measuring about six feet in diameter, the actual ring is approximately 18 inches wide. At once, it is simple, sublime and brilliant. Made of painted wood perhaps, it is as radiant as stained glass on the sunniest of days.

In contrast to other Philadelphia temples, very little ornament is enshrined throughout the building. Housed in what appears to be a former Christian church, little has been done to convert the holy plainness of the entirety of the sanctuary, making the circle all the more powerful as an ornament and a symbol.

Observing 

One must want to see beyond the materials and finish to experience the transcendent. This gold circle — and every other gold circle — is no exception. That said, one must only take a step or two forward, into the world of the visceral open mind, to know that there is something more to life than just passing time, if only to understand that, at the instant one decides to take the step, time stands still, unmistakably.

A circle is more than a circle.

Leaf and paint

In April of 2013, I began to draw Dharma Wheels. Attracted to the ornament and bright colors, I enjoyed the playfulness and geometry. 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.

Plain and simple

Having created hundreds of Dharma Wheel drawings, some good and some bad, the prospect of simplifying my work, especially in the context of starting to actually build the wheels, I've become attracted to making simple gold circles of all sizes, materials and textures, with the knowledge that, no matter what, each will be perfect. 

Like inventing the perfect word, instead of finding an existing word to complete a poem, each circle will bring a story into focus. Whatever is inside a viewer will be coaxed forth — good, bad, sad, happy — and, hopefully, it will be transcendental. I can’t wait to begin building them. 

I am expecting nothingness.

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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 #181 — Mindfulness, meditation and the red grandmama dress April 21, 2018 00:00

It takes a village

Painted on the side of a small building in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, when I first saw this mural I instantaneously searched for a doorway that would allow me walk into the building of the dress. To be clear, I wasn’t looking for the front door of the structure on which the mural was painted. My mind wanted to become part of the parable told by the painting, I suppose. 
The rendering left me begging for a kitchen, parlor, bedrooms, windows, a spiral staircase and the warmth of a home inside the dress. I wasn’t expecting the cheap thrill of cartoon legs or a set of clicking ruby slippers. No, my mind’s eye sought a portal to the village outside of the home inside the dress.

A housecoat and sweet, hot tea

My maternal grandmother lived with an apron cinched over one of seven housecoats, each worn for a particular day of the week. The style was common across her sisters, cousins and neighbors. Omnipresent, the apron never seemed to get dirty when making meals. Instead, it seemed to take the place of the pearls she would never be able to afford. Live inside that idea for a second — a world where jewels are replaced by utilitarian fashion that never gets dirty. 

My brother and I rarely stayed at her home overnight. Among the breakfast treats, when we did, was hot tea filled with as much milk and sugar as desired. Toast, jelly, eggs, bacon and lots of tea. 

Her home, in my mind, tastes like hot tea with sugar and milk

A truck driver bought that housecoat and dress

My grandparents went dancing every Saturday night at a local social club and, for four hours every week, my grandmother wore a red dress with a faux-embroidered floral pattern. Perhaps she had a black dress for funerals and weddings, but the red dress meant joy and fun. While my grandfather saw it every week, its existence, for me, took only the form of Polaroid pictures. He drove a truck so she could have that dress and have that fun.

He never cooked a meal, but loved hot tea with sugar and milk.

Grandmother

In the mural, I never noticed the blue infant in the basket just below the woman’s forearm until I began to describe my desire to find a doorway. And, from the instant I first saw the female figure I perceived the woman to be a grandmother. The figure’s curiosity belies youth, however. Her examination of the house — and the houses — portends a search for safety, and a place for a child to play. 

Too, I believe she is looking for the doorway — imagining a kitchen, parlor, bedrooms, windows, a spiral staircase and the warmth of a home in the circle of life. 

I'll bet she makes hot tea with sugar and milk.

>

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 #178 — Mindfulness, meditation and the giant Zen kitchen March 28, 2018 00:00

Illusion

The orange sphere in the mural above is painted to appear three-dimensional. It is placed, strategically, into the corner of the brick wall so that, when the viewer stands twelve inches to the left or right of where I took this photo, the sphere flattens out. Perhaps the shapes in the rest of the mural would appear more dimensional if they weren’t bound by the top of the wall or the start of the sidewalk. The effect of the sphere is especially stunning — almost levitating.

Drawn into the corner, wanting to touch a sphere that doesn’t exist, I found myself standing in the corner in much the same way a mother might have disciplined a child in the past. I got close enough to the paint to touch it with bent elbows. A flashback to a punishment from my third year overcame me. I had crayoned the entirety of my bedroom’s hardwood floors — not the Sistine Chapel, but close enough. Caught while I was backing out of the doorway, having completed my masterpiece, my effort earned a trip to the corner of my mother’s kitchen.

The neighborhood where I found the mural, located near 2nd Street and Girard Avenue, in the City of Brotherly Love, became a giant kitchen.

A giant Zen kitchen.

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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 #165 — Mindfulness, meditation and a single tree March 8, 2018 00:00

 

Questions and answers

A particular satisfaction can be found by making a single mark, while drawing, and giving it a name: tree. The visceral becomes the literal. The literal begs questions.

  1. Where are the branches?
  2. What is the season?
  3. Is it bending in the wind?
  4. What is the surrounding landscape?
  5. Is it dying?
  6. Are the branches covered in snow?

Dozens of questions can be asked about a single mark and, while I see a tree, you may see something else — or nothing at all. Language extends well beyond the order of characters of the alphabet.

Be mindful. What do you see?

>

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 #32 -- Mindfulness, meditation and dozens of worn-out couches inside a true arthouse February 25, 2018 00:05

Sofas and chairs

Every artist’s studio needs a comfortable place to sit that allows one to recline and contemplate the most recent creative actions. A well-worn sofa or an overstuffed armchair, perhaps. Furniture picked from the trash or donated from a doting grandparent can be especially charming. I have an affinity for French Provincial sofas with a plasticky texture or broken sofas discarded from man-caves. Burn marks, dried spilled paint and cushion tears add a character of comfort. 

Given the womb-like nature of most artist’s studios, privacy makes it hard to find and try these gems in their studios. Be assured that, when one is lucky enough to find a comfortable place in an artist’s second home, with a little curiosity and trust, one can begin to understand what makes another human being tick — and how each of us is interdependent  with each other and with humanity.

Portrait of the artist as a young person

It's easy for me to walk the halls of my art school, thirty years after leaving. The school has been boarded up for years, but the energy and life that occupied its hallways and studios are alive and well in my mind’s eye. Talent, opinion, curiosity, competition, anxiety, community, rhetoric and action came together to create a wonderful goo that can never quite be pumiced off. A dozen sofas , each with its own culture and discourse , could be found throughout the building. Never in plain site. Never invisible.

One must be welcomed into a womb.

Another Quaker connection

The mural shown above is painted on the exterior wall of an arthouse on the campus of Haverford College, just outside Philadelphia. The campus is a sublime sanctuary. Both quiet and supremely alive, the Quaker undercurrent is palpable. 

Peace.

Never explain your artwork

I don’t understand the story being told by the imagery and I’m not going to try to translate the language. Like all great art, it shouldn’t be translated, even by its author. It should be visited. Time should be spent. 

A sofa on the lawn, facing the mural, would be great.

I’m not sure exactly what kind of studio or classrooms are inside the arthouse but, in my mind’s eye, the entire third floor of my art school was living on the other side of the mural — including all of the sofas.

Breaking down a locked door

The sun was warm. A portico protected the mural. Just enough shade was offered that, when I sat on the concrete and leaned against the paint, my eyes were protected and my body began to bronze from the shoulders down.

I closed my eyes, walked through the locked door, found my favorite sofa, sunk deeply and took a cleansing breathe.

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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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Invented by DharmaMechanic
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Zen Spot #28 -- Mindfulness, meditation and still life painting at 36 via Fondazza February 20, 2018 00:05

Italian interdependence

I recently returned from a trip to visit my son in Bologna, Italy. Cozy, warm, delicious and friendly, the city welcomes visitors with open arms. On the fifth floor, with a kitchen window that overlooked miles of red clay rooves, my son had made his apartment a quiet respite, excepting the chimes from fifteen cathedral bell towers that could be seen while cooking pasta. 

The painter next door

With the exception of established, high profile shopping districts, smaller stores and other addresses are not well marked in the neighborhoods. Porticos cover almost every sidewalk. It's possible, because of the porticos, to walk through most of the city in pouring rain and barely get wet. But, sometimes the porticos make it impossible to find even well-marked addresses. If one doesn’t walk by while under a portico, something wonderful might be missed.

I missed something wonderful.

It wasn’t until the last day of my visit, as I was walking to meet my son, after just having descended five flights, that I noticed a small sign affixed to a nearby apartment building on his street. The name Giorgio Morandi was etched.

A still life

Morandi was a modern master of the painted still life. He lived in Bologna, at 36 via Fondazza, from 1910 to 1964. His work is unmistakable. Instead of trying to describe his work, other than to say that it is sublime and understated, yet powerful, I recommend viewing an image in person. Photography can’t capture the nuance and texture, both of which are critical to understanding his mastery.

Among the most common of his still life subjects were clay pots, bottles, vases and cups, arranged in tight formations, sitting on a sparse table top.

The handle of a cup

Several years ago, I read The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. In his explanation of interdependence, His Holiness describes how a cup and the handle of a cup come together to create the entirety of a useful object. Without both, the cup would not be the cup that it is. Morandi’s cups included.

A stiller life

When I found Morandi’s home, I started to contemplate the life he lived, with an emphasis on the idea of so many masterpieces having been created in a single place. The life of a painter is often quiet and, having lived and painted at a time when mass media hadn’t poisoned his personal culture, I image the quiet was profound.

I used my contemplation as a starting point for a brief meditation. Having sat on the sidewalk, with my back against the front of the building, my skin protected from the midday sun by a portico, I closed my eyes and took a breath.

>

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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Invented by DharmaMechanic
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Zen Spot #108 — Mindfulness, meditation and the rats next to my head February 20, 2018 00:05

The internal monologue

Were there rats and maggots in the walls of the bedroom where I felt so safe as a child? Were they inches from my head, as I dozed, just on the other side of the plaster wall, chewing on the slats? Was my oblivion a blessing? Was I not fully connected to the world and, therefore, closer to truth?

Paschall Avenue

That row home has rats now. The date of their arrival is in question. In summer, well into the evening, when it was too hot to be inside, neighbors would sit on their front stoops, in lawn chairs and on concrete stairs, sharing and laughing. The rats of the mind have overrun the minds of the owners and the owners moved away.

Tyler

The stoop in front of the door in the image above was always busy. Sitting was impossible. Inside was an art school. A fine, busy art school. A warm wonderful place. The rats of the mind have overrun the minds of the owners and the owners have moved away.

Breathing

I closed my eyes and sat with my back against the plywood blocking the door, believing I was safe, committed to the path, but clearly much further from the truth than when the rats were inches from my head.

>

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 #51 — Mindfulness, meditation and a motorcycle trip to Willem de Kooning’s studio February 19, 2018 00:05

It began with a black cloth-covered book in the library

Tyler had a small library in 1980. Tyler School of Art, that is. The library offered a quiet respite between classes and was full of big cool art books. I’m not sure what drew me to the black book. It was smaller and beaten up, with fraying edges. Perhaps it was the fact that it was beaten up, worn from use and love.

It was dedicated to de Kooning’s Women series. I’d never seen anything like the work that called the book home. As a realist artist, to that point in life, abstract art was of no interest — until Willem de Kooning.

By cracking the book, a door had been opened.

Roberto Clemente

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.

I never met him but my brother did. And Roberto was warm, the way a parent hopes a child’s hero would be.

The toilet bowl entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel 

Another book was cracked when the island of Manhattan appeared in front of me for the first time, as my bus eased through traffic and around the oval that drops you into the tunnel's toll booths, just in front of the gaping holes that swallow bus after bus after bus. The skyline. The awesome expanse. Forever into the distance. Still jaw-dropped at the sight of the twin towers, despite having seen them through the bus window, from ten miles away on the Jersey turnpike, I couldn't wait to set foot in the new world.

I was eighteen years old. Willem was seventy-six. Just to find him. Electricity, youth, the natives and curiosity would serve me. To my surprise, at the time, most famous artists were listed in the phone book. Not their agents or brokers, their personal telephone numbers. The phone book. That five pound weapon opened doors.

Cool. Where’s Willem?

East Hampton

He’d moved to Long Island permanently in 1971, the same year my brother met Roberto. Long Island was one of the five boroughs, right? The Queensborough Bridge offered hope. Brooklyn’s Bridge? How do I get there?

Hope. Nope. He was in a town so far away from where I was standing that it might as well have been in China. My world was small. It was reflected in my art and my heart.

A ‘47 front-end with a ‘57 back-end

Tommy Dunwoody’s beard was a ten inch braid. Red hair fell to his shoulders, holding more grease than a french fryer. He did so much crank that, while trying to simultaneously smoke and sleep for one hour every day, at lunch, he’d burn his chest when a smoldering butt would fall from a suspended hand while he laid down and dozed off. 

Dozens of burn marks stippled him. You don’t know Tommy, but if you know someone blessed with an infectious smile, you know Tommy’s smile. We worked together, during the summer, in shirtless heat, scraping boogers from the bottoms of elementary school desks, in stinking sweat that soaked through shorts, listening to WMMR, hoping to hear Little Feat. 

At 7:00 am, give or take, Tommy would arrive at the school we cleaned, on a Harley Davidson. Loud, proud, smiling, high. His hog had a ‘47 front-end and a ‘57 back-end — or that’s what he said. It was awesome.

Hogs, Enduros and Racers

I’ve never ridden a motorcycle but I’ve lived around plenty of Tommys, so a Hog should be a dream--especially since, for me, all riding is a dream. I'd prefer a bastard child however--a motocross bike made street legal with a headlight and a Hail Mary.  Perfect for chasing ghosts inside the ghost of the Cedar Street Tavern.

The dream of dream of a three and a half hour motorcycle ride to East Hampton.

Red wine, discourse, silliness and fading into nothingness

De kooning’s work awes me. That said, at an undefined point, I decided to let the dream fade. To a degree, bad decisions, Bordeaux and Budweiser made the decision for me. 

Despite his studio being in a rural area, my mind’s eye projected sharing red wine in an open air cafe on Bleecker Street. Listening to a master. Learning. Being given knowledge worth millions of dollars for the price of bottle. 

Silliness all around.

The thrill of Bill

I know little of Willem de Kooning’s temperament. Unlike some of his peers, I’ve never heard his voice. Video interviews, if they exist, have avoided me and, now, I avoid them. Perhaps he had an infectious smile like Tommy. I suspect he was quiet. And methodical. And serious.

A monk? A drunk monk? Legend holds.

I don’t want to know. I can sit in his studio any time I want because, while I’ve seen the maze of paintings in pictures, I never experienced the maze first-hand. Because I never mounted that headlight or said the Rosary, my imagination is free to sit anywhere in his studio I find myself, no matter where I find myself.

Eightfold Path

He's gone. So too is the need for idols and approval and proximity. The knowledge I sought I either had all along or got from the anonymous spirits to whom I should have been listening. Bad decisions, pain, Bordeaux and Budweiser helped.

After several breaths, the maze is mine and, if I breath quietly, methodically and seriously, it will fade away.

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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 #88 — Mindfulness, meditation and Early Sunday Morning February 19, 2018 00:05

Rise, no rise

There is a palpable calmness and solitude to the Edward Hopper painting shown above. It’s as if the town through which the street runs is abandoned and safe — like nobody is laying in bed, behind the curtains. Nobody is cooking breakfast. Music isn’t moving. Oranges are not being squeezed. Eggs remain in the icebox. Entire families' freshly laundered Sunday-best hang completely still in hundreds of cedar closets.  

The quiet of an empty church. The fall of a tree in the woods when nobody is around. An unplugged black and white television sitting like a fire plug.

A fierce empty soundlessness

There is a kind of quiet that, when experienced, so reveals the omnipresence of nature of the true, that the rarity of an extended immersive encounter is inexplicable. A dropped pin that should have been a chainsaw. A falling feather that should have been a fire engine.

Ironically, the Middle Way of silence.

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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 #137 — Mindfulness, meditation and the leaning tower of whimsy February 15, 2018 00:05

A child’s observation

A mother, with two children, strolled by as I stood next to the piling shown above. An infant was quietly snoozing in a stroller and a four year-old girl, with curly blond hair, in a blue dress, was holding her mother’s hand. With bouncing locks, and a sly smile, she walked up to the piling and said, “I thought it was going to be a lot bigger.”

Cause and effect

A truck must have backed into the piling. Made of thick steel conduit, and filled with cement, the pipe is bent in the opposite direction of the one-way street on which it sits. Ipso facto, the accident must have happened in slow motion as a truck was beeping and backing up.

Capriccioso and f=ma

There is something odd and wonderful about the power required to bend the pipe. A canvas was crafted from a mistake. The beeping noise of a larger box truck backing up, combined with the screeching of a hardened steel bumper warping an obdurate boom, was as random and predictable as a jazz improvisation. The echo of a human yawping from the driver’s blind spot, pleading to reverse the reverse, was the last stitch placed by the loom.

There is something profound about an artist finding the canvas and finding inspiration — perhaps in slow motion. Humor. Creation. Vision. Math. Simplicity. Complexity. 

Obdurate.

Without doubt, when finished painting the tower, the artist leaned back, smiled, closed her eyes and took a breath. 

I did the same and, after opening my eyes, I chose to smile at every passerby. And every smile was returned.

Lunchtime.

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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 #123 — Mindfulness, meditation and imagining the family February 15, 2018 00:05

The image

The photograph above is, by far, the most popular image that I post on Twitter. The home, I believe, looks hopeful and warm and interesting. One’s imagination is stirred. A story is evoked.

The story

A one hundred six year-old woman has lived in the home since 1920. With eight children, twenty-one grandchildren, six great grandchildren and two great, great grandchildren, her genes have dispersed to western Europe, Morrocco, Japan and eleven states. 

Built in 1906, in one of the first neighborhoods on the west side of the Schuykill River, the home has three bedrooms and one bath. Essentially two shotgun shacks, one sitting atop the other, coal was shoveled through a street-level window in the front of the structure, to heat the home, until 1952.

Her name is Dorothea. For sixty years, she cleaned offices in Center City Philadelphia. Otherwise, she stayed at home, cooking for her family and, when she had time, painted pictures of her neighborhood.

I’ve never spoken with her.

Truth

Dorothea doesn’t exist. Never did. I fabricated her soul because that’s who I want to live in the home. Could be an artist lives there — or an electrician, a vandal, a trash truck driver, a nurse or a secret billionaire.

Show me a home and I’ll tell you a story that always ends with a question and about an existence that doesn't exist.

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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?