The Middle Way

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.

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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 #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.

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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 #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?

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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 #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.

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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 #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.

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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 #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?

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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 #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 taken — 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 a particular 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, the parallel privacy makes it hard to find and share these gems. Be assured that, when you are lucky enough to find a comfortable place in an artist’s second home, with a little curiosity and trust, you’ll begin to understand what makes another human being tick — and how each of you is interdependent — with each other and with humanity.

Portrait of the artist as a young person

It is easy for me to walk the halls of my art school, thirty years after leaving. The school, itself, 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 or revisited. A dozen sofas — each with its own culture and discourse — could be found throughout the building. Never in plain site. Never invisible, too.

One must be welcomed into a womb.

Another Quaker connection

The mural shown above is painted on an art house 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, took a cleansing breathe and…

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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 #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. The city is amazing — cozy, warm, delicious and friendly. His apartment was on the fifth floor of a wonderful building, with a kitchen window that overlooked the surrounding homes’ red clay roofs for what seemed like miles. The angles and juxtapositions of the roof lines — some over two hundred years old — opening up into private courtyards that only one’s imagination can fathom , were a dreamer's feast.

The painter next door

Bologna is not America. With the exception of established, high profile shopping districts, smaller stores and other addresses are not well marked. A hallmark of the city are the porticos that cover almost every sidewalk. It is possible, because of the porticos, to walk through most of the city, in pouring rain, and barely get wet. Sometimes the porticos make it impossible to find even well marked addresses. If you don’t walk by, while under a portico, you might miss something wonderful.

I did.

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 his building, six inches to the left of the next-door neighbor’s front door. 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 trying to describe his work, other than to say that it is sublime and understated, yet powerful, I recommend you try to see 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 very 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. My memory of the reading is singular. 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.

It was wonderful.

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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 #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.

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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 #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?

 

 


Zen Spot #128 — Mindfulness, meditation and the color of language February 13, 2018 00:05

Words are words

Frank Zappa, the late musician and savant, when confronted by pundits about his usage of the English language in his songs, with an emphasis on the words and ideas covered by those lyrics, offered the defense that words are just words. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Now, on most topics, I agree with Frank. And, in a world where almost everything exists on a continuum of shades of grey, I lean strongly in the direction of his opinion on language, in the context of the First Amendment. Our paths diverge at the point where a portion of humanity and dogma merge onto his autobahn — especially for those choosing to drive cars slowly, in the fast lane, because they are unable to take the vehicle beyond first gear.

Words are not words

A book was written, with words, a long time ago, that too few people have read and fewer of whom truly understand. I count myself among both groups.

The book has been read to me hundreds of times and I can mimic the sounds of the words by rote without ever considering the meaning. They are crickets on a summer night, or a waterfall, or wind chimes, or Kenny G. playing in the background at a dinner party. Of those who have read with diligence, I’ve met few who can read between the lines. 

This book could be any book. It is any book.

Order is critical

In a black and white world, Frank Zappa would be Right, if the order of words was as benign as his contention of the power of individual words portends. When ordered purposefully, individual words become more powerful — sometimes geometrically. And people do stupid stuff because of the order.

Order is not critical

In the world of language, order is a law of nature. Individual words are given power, as are phrases and paragraphs and books, based on billions of words written previous to their singularity or crafted order. Consider the influence of Hamlet on Huckleberry Finn, and Huckleberry Finn on Factotum. 

An argument can be made that these books exist as much based on the order of words spoken as the simple sum-total of all words ever spoken and written. 

Chanting and singing

Harmony and melody can invalidate language, especially when rote memory wrestles literacy to the ground. Songs sung from anywhere in front of an altar are particularly suspect — which would explain Zappa’s beliefs. No matter how purposeful and thoughtful the story told by a song, the story most often serves the music. 

Consider singing a song supported by a simple repetitive melody, in a language you can’t understand. Discover how little the words can come to mean to you. Further consider the possibility that those words could lead a native speaker to violence while driving in the fast lane, in first gear, on any autobahn.

Right speech.

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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 #96 — Mindfulness, meditation and the language behind a stained glass window February 13, 2018 00:05

Black sheep

My children were raised with art all around them. Their mother and I met in art school and, where she is intuitive, I am literate. 

I study. I read. I understand how the pieces of art history fit together. People smile when standing with me, in front of a Jackson Pollock or a Cy Twombly, and I explain how the painter got to his destination.

Intuition is a gift. Each of my three children received that gift. In addition, my oldest received the literacy. 

Inside churches, outside bars

It’s been observed that, in certain neighborhoods in Philadelphia, if one stops and asks for directions, the only landmarks used will be churches and corner bars. True dat.

The brilliance of stained glass, when sitting inside a church on a sunny day, is something of a toy store for the mind. Perhaps that’s the point. What child wants to leave a toy store? To be sure, it is ten times more expensive to find a new customer than it is keep an existing one.

Tap rooms, on the other hand, broadcast neon brands, through windows, to pub goers and other passersby, with the intent of throwing a lasso. From inside, once seated on a bar stool, alcohol is the toy. One’s buzz is the god.

A window can parse light in both directions. A soul can parse light in both directions.

It showed up out of nowhere

When he was about seven years old, my oldest son was at a gathering of extended family. Not shy, but also not a showman, he was sitting with cousins listening to dance music. To that point in his life, his mother and I had only seen him dance like a toddler — when he was a toddler. Jumping and clapping and smiling.

Like radar, he heard a favorite song start before anybody else and jumped to his feet. A strong bass line of funk ensued, and he started moon-walking and spinning — and bobbing and breaking — for the entire song. Lazarus bops. His mother’s and my head spun, looking at each other as if we each had been keeping a secret. 

Neither had.

Just as quickly and surprisingly as the dance began, it ended, and he never did it again. It’s been twenty-five years. He denies the incident. 

Beyond childhood drawings, my oldest son has never created a piece of art — at least not that he’s shown me. Living in an apartment he shared with five people while studying in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar, he had a bedroom window through which the morning sun blasted as if accompanied by a crescendo. 

An early riser, he welcomed the morning sun and, like that dance he did twenty-five years earlier, he picked up acetate, paint, foil, glue and markers, and spontaneously created the window shown above. Intuitive and literate.

He chose, for some reason, to leave a small section of the window bare — in the middle, just below the center, near the yellow circle. From inside, one can see out and vice versa. I’ve always wondered why, but will never ask him. 

A window can parse light in both directions. A soul can parse light in both directions.

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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 #81 — Mindfulness, meditation and an esoteric peephole February 12, 2018 00:00

Garbage pails

South Jersey used to be filled with pig farms. Demand for apple cores, potato skins, carrot tops and other rotting vegetables was so high in the 1960s that my grandmother, and her neighbors, would hang pails full of the rot from their second floor kitchens, into the alley behind their houses, so the pig farmers could collect free food for their livestock.

Pig door

By looking at the barn door above, there’s no way to know if pigs or horses or chickens thrive on the other side. That swirling nose-bending aroma of rot hanging from second floor kitchens is nowhere to be found. 

I believe about Dada what I believe about Zen

Dada is an early twentieth century European literary and art movement that, simplistically, embraced chance, absurdity and the ordinary, as the building blocks for a movement that was antithetical to even itself. A movement that is not a movement, that has to be a movement, retreating from being a movement.

Zen
I get it but I can’t explain it. My inability to explain it proves that I get it. Were I to offer an explanation to a friend based on logic or research, I could create a list, or point to academic opinion, but that would not get to the core of the their need to change their viewpoint and accept the difference between what they’ve been taught and what they feel.
--
Dada
I get it but I can’t explain it. My inability to explain it proves that I get it. Were I to offer an explanation to a friend based on logic or research, I could create a list, or point to academic opinion, but that would not get to the core of the their need to change their viewpoint and accept the difference between what they’ve been taught and what they feel.
--

A voyeur named Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp was, arguably, the most famous Dadaist despite rarely committing his identity to the movement.

His opinion that artist’s tend to create the same thing over and over again is incisive. With the exception of only a few artists, he’s on point. The whys and hows can be debated but, if one stands back and takes a critical eye, his vision was uncanny. He saw artists. He saw himself. He created within his viewpoint.

The creative act, for him, was not a language within which an artist could become fluent — including himself. The creative mind could cultivate a language but, once cultivated, only a few pieces could be conceived before having to learn a new language.

Cheek to cheek 

Getting too close to painting in a gallery or museum will quickly result in a viewer being warned to step back behind a real or imaginary line. Imagine mashing your face into a Picasso. 

Every hole is a peep hole

We are all voyeurs. Submit evidence to the contrary. To me, it’s only a matter of degree, self awareness and motive. Voyeur is a charged word. It can make people’s knees buckle, if only because they are physically contorting their bodies to look within — like tilting one's head when trying to more fully understand something.

Looking inward means nothing without looking around though. Interdependence. The clear, pure mind requires soap and the mind isn’t a soap factory. That said, peep holes are charged holes. A level of guilt is associated. Filth sometimes. Shame. 

Something to voy

The first time I saw the Pig Door, I didn’t know what was on the other side. In an odd place, finding the door is like finding Ferrari in a cave. I knew the door didn't protect a freight elevator or a grain elevator. 

Two peep holes are bored into the wood — in the center, about five inches apart and approximately five feet off the ground. Peep holes in a barn door. And they’re not well marked. One needs to come upon another voyeur to know that there’s something to voy.

The vagina and the landscape

Smash your face against the peep hole. There’s a vagina inside. Well, not just a vagina. A naked lady, laying in a field, with mountains and brambles surrounding. Holding a gas lantern. But the vagina’s there. Loud and proud. 

No head.

Neither a vagina worthy of Larry Flynt nor Georgia O’Keefe, it is disconcerting — if only because it is at the back of one of the best collections of Dadaist art in America. This barn door is in an art museum, not a pig farm. Unless you’re a pig.

Quiet on both sides of the doorway

The door is at the back of the last gallery in the north wing of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in  the Louise and Walter Arensberg gallery. All the way in the back. Take a scooter.

Do not lean against the wall

During my last visit, the voyeur within had just lovingly mashed my eyeballs against the peep hole for the fifth time. I leaned in, like most people. Ten finger tips pressed against the wood to keep me steady — and make sure that I kept all my teeth if a pig came barreling through from the other side. 

Face mashed. Finger tips. Leaning.

When I finished, the gallery was quiet. I was alone. It was late. I sat on the ground, to the left of the door and leaned back intending to be mindful — and was reminded, by a security guard, that patrons shouldn't lean against the walls.

I should have leaned against the door and listened to the pigs.

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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 #121 — Mindfulness, meditation and the sanctity of a temple, a church, a synagogue or an artist’s studio February 12, 2018 00:00

Inside

Artist’s studios are usually and necessarily spartan and chaotic, at the same time. White walls, grey floors, and plenty of storage. Tools organized and disorganized. Smells and aromas. Tables on wheels, work benches and places to splatter stuff. Light, sometimes natural and sometimes not, but bright, that the nuances of mixed colors may ascertained.

Splatter and light

Holy places, as it were, are often the opposite of spartan and chaotic. Ornament adorns, with an accompanying iconography of visual language, that assigns parabolic meaning to single letters in an alphabet. Where, in English, a three-lettered word like “cat” refers to a single four-legged animal, in the language of myriad dogmas, the word “cat” can be assigned a meaning so complex that armies can be launched if its meaning is maligned.

Usually, the complexity of meaning refers to either darkness or light, in the most absolute sense of each word.

This studio, temple, church or synagogue

Just north of University City, in Philadelphia, the building in the photo above sits on perhaps a three acre plot. And, while University City — home to the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University — most assuredly sits in West Philadelphia, this brilliant building does not sit in University City. 

I came upon this dwelling while taking a shortcut, trying to avoid traffic. Thinking that I knew where much of the best public art could be found within William Penn’s grand experiment, I was blown away. It captures the mind. 

Having a bag of baby carrots and a bottle of lemonade with me, after taking the pictures, I leaned against the painted brick, underneath the screaming mask, just to the right of the garage door, and gave 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 #9 — Mindfulness, meditation and a rusted iron obelisk on fifteen dead acres February 11, 2018 00:05

A safe place

At the right time of day, with the sun shining, one can sit at this obelisk's base, find the lotus position, close one’s eyes, lean back, and embrace the quiet. It offers a natural and perfect seat. Often, a breeze encircles the courtyard at the center of which the sculpture resides.

It is an altar of sorts. 

I walked by every day for four years and never touched it. The day I took this picture, I did the same and don’t know why. It appears to be cast from solid metal,  perhaps a combination of steel and iron. If so, the behemoth must weigh several tons. And, if one were to strike it with the expectation that a dark bell will respond, there will, instead, be a sharp pain. If one were to comfort it with a hand, the rust would redden as much of one's palm as touches the face of the sculpture.

The opportunity offered to sit perfectly is unambiguous. Quietly screaming for meditation, I missed the opportunity.

An estate

It sits at the center of dead monastery. Where art and discourse once thrived, boarded doorways, broken windows, graffiti and dreadful silence now eat into its spirit. Bolts, plywood and industrial locks create walls out of doorways. 

At the corner of Beech and Penrose Avenues, three blocks north of Cheltenham Avenue, in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, lies the remains of the original Tyler School of Art. Set on the once private family estate of the members of the William Elkins Lukens fortune, the school graduated its first class in 1934. Surrounded by a five-foot stone wall, the campus is a quiet, bucolic respite that protects young artists from the surrounding world in much the same way the walls of a monastery protect young monks.

I graduated in 1986.

In 2009, the school moved to Temple University’s main campus, about ten miles away. In its wake, it left the husk of a previous life onto which I still hold. I rarely return because I don’t want new memories. The beauty of the old memories is far more appealing. Their volume and intensity are enough to overwhelm and displace a brief visit, thankfully. A past life is still visible in my mind’s eye, while I am moving to the next.

The husk is fading as I write this sentence--as it should be.

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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 #146 — Mindfulness, meditation and another doodle Dharma Wheel February 7, 2018 00:05

 

Scribbling is immediate and perfect

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

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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 #130 — Mindfulness, meditation and an impossible composition of one February 7, 2018 00:05

Observe

This image is a favorite when posted on my Twitter feed. For some reason, viewers respond well despite its simplicity. I’m not sure where I was when I captured the image. The wetness of the bark attracted my curiosity.

Play

I picked it up and ran the tips of my fingers along both sides, then tried to break it, only to find that I could only severely bend it--into a circle. Having done so, when released, it quickly regained it’s original form. 

Snap

I laid it down, took out my camera, steadied my hand and snapped a photo.

Move

There is something to be said about intuition, action in the moment, moving on and knowing something good happened.

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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 #78 — Mindfulness, meditation and Waiting for Columbus January 31, 2018 00:05

Little Feat’s manifesto

Six words: Fat Funk Silk Weasel Cash Blast

This concrete poem doesn’t need to make sense right now, especially because it’s not a concrete poem, but it might after you’ve listened to all four sides. If not, you’ll conceive your own set of six unrelated words to describe the visceral experience of Little Feat.

Butcher Holler meets The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Folsom Prison meets Walt Whitman. Billy Holiday meets Van Halen. Miles Davis punches Frank Zappa square in the jaw, brawling at the intersection of Beale Street and Bowery.

The title

I was the first of my friends to figure out how the cover illustration, shown above, related to the title. The explanation: In the background, to the right of the tomato in the hammock, is a relic from the new world — a cultural icon that could never be found in Europe. And, until Columbus returned, the tomato, at least by legend, didn’t exist in the Old World. The tomato is, thus, happily and seductively…waiting for Columbus.

Other people’s turntables and column speakers

I’m not an audiophile. Neither am I a musical elitist. My taste does, however, run to the slightly esoteric. Where it’s not esoteric, my favorite audiophile refers to my taste as schmaltzy. Hardcore music lovers, especially elitists, might drop the gloves if accused of such heresy. I laugh it off because I’m just a guy. Labels mean nothing.

Ten inches

I subscribe to the school of vinyl. Not necessarily because of the difference in fidelity but because I believe in the whole story told by an album. Whether part of a concept novella or simply the sum total of disparate tracks cobbled together, every vinyl LP tells a unique story. The latter can be as personal as the former. Vinyl demands patience.

In a world where media — a song, a video, a blog, a vlog — is judged in 15 seconds or less, and we invest 3 minute increments in those that pass muster, the time needed to live inside an artist’s mind for forty-plus minutes is now the equivalent of reading Tolstoy. One needs to be smart , and creatively curious in a rare way, to read War and Peace.

Wherever

I don’t listen to the album much anymore. For it to remain transcendent — and therefore leading to the transcendental — it must remain silent for long periods of time. Like a two-ton cast iron bell, it is always hanging, waiting to be rung.

Unlike the bell, it is hard to reach a clear mind while it rings. Instead, the story must be finished, leaving my mind ringing, relaxed and ready.

Wherever.

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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?