The Middle Way

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.

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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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Zen Spot #45 — Mindfulness, meditation and the legend of Checkpoint Charlie February 7, 2018 00:05

Child of the Cold War

I’ve learned not to tell my children about the past. Never discuss a building that covers a cornfield from my youth. Refuse to remark of the fistfights found at the 700 level in Veterans Stadium. Avoid tales of Warlocks thundering into the center of West Chester while their brother was on trial. Reject a comparison of the price of a candy bar, then and now.

Lobbing ICBMs

A radio documentary aired in 2005 described an evening in 1974 when warheads were close to being launched over the North Pole. At the time, I was oblivious. As reported, the rest of the population, even adults, was just as unknowing.

I forget why.

I was aware of a wall

It separated people in a funny way. On one side, life was lived in full color, with food and heat. On the other side, life was lived in black and white. Mostly black. Maybe dark grey. Cold. Tattered. People wanting to climb over.

My father explained the need for desperate hungry beings to dig tunnels. Like prison. He offered legends of people building improvised ramps to jump cars across.

He never explained no man’s land

I opened a National Geographic and saw pictures of the eighty-yard gap between the tangle of barbwire on the eastern side and the base of the wall on the western side. No man's land. With images of machine guns hovering, spotlights swiveling, voracious dogs waiting and land mines laid, I finally understood why people were trapped.

The story detailed death found by people with wire cutters and improvised ladders. Fuzzy silhouettes running from bullets blasting dirt at their feet.

Checkpoint Charlie

A funnel withered down into a path across the death zone -- just enough for a car to drive through -- with snipers and barriers on both sides. It was the only legal gateway. We could go in to the prison, but they couldn’t come out. 

We and they.

Almost overnight, in 1989, when I was 27, the wall fell. The death zone died. East Berlin was gone. People danced on top of a wall that, just weeks before, would have dripped blood.

Charlie died of cancer.

Johns Hopkins University

My son recently graduated from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington D.C.

In a very small courtyard, in the front of the college’s main building, a piece of the Berlin Wall is alive and well. Shown above. 

During my first visit, walked by the chunk without notice. Passing by a second time, I noticed, surprised that I hadn’t felt its presence like a soul buzz -- Radio Free Europe broadcast into my dopamine. The visceral feeling I expect to experience when I kiss the ground in Scotland for the first time was notably absent. The light I felt radiating from Where The Wild Things Are as a five year old was elsewhere. More should have happened, but I just walked by a wall. Death on one side, life on the other.

I wanted to tell my son, but he already knew; he’d been walking by it every day for a full year. I wanted to implore him to understand the ICBMs and machine guns and dead people and misunderstanding and grey lives and cheap candy bars and open cornfields.

Find the mindfulness.

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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 #40 --  Mindfulness, meditation, love and whimsy tattooed to a building February 1, 2018 00:05

Graffiti

Stunned by any artist’s ability to make a truly spontaneous mark , I found this image on a small street in an Italian city. Love and whimsy tattooed to a building. Hearts tugged by destruction of property. 

Street art is too often created by men. With no way to tell the gender of this artist, the image belies a feeling rarely associated with the alpha-defiance of a painter who might need to sprint for a mile to outrun cops.

I hope it was a woman. I hope it was defiance. I hope it was love.

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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 #48 -- Mindfulness, meditation and opposing impossible mirrors with my son walking away January 31, 2018 00:05

Shaving

Perpendicular, to my right, the medicine cabinet is nearly impossible to use when I shave. A bigger mirror looks at me from over the bathroom sink. When the door of the cabinet opens wide and the mirrors are almost opposite, the reflections appear infinite. Common and wonderful.

Matthew

My first born. With that, for him, came the awesome responsibility of raising me. At the time of his arrival, I wasn’t fully formed. My unready unsteady mind  could have served him better. Perhaps most new parents feel this way. Perhaps comparison is a waste of time.

He had curly hair in a family of straight blondes. White locks that spun like an angel’s. Babushkas reached out. Women remarked, kindly. A grail. We let it grow long. A grail.

A son ventures

Our family was picnicking in my parents’ back yard. Matthew was 18 months old. Next door, two sets of twins had birthday's within twelve months of Matthew’s. Until that day, he’d never ventured more than thirty feet away from his mother or me. Bouncing into the yard, the four brothers and sisters followed butterflies that didn’t exist and swirled in the proximal orbit of siblings. 

Matthew looked at his mother, silently asking if he could play with the children. Excited and scared, the unknown beckoned. We let his hand go and he ventured out into the world.

Bologna, Italy

Twenty-nine years later, Matthew and I found ourselves in the hallway shown above. His neighborhood. Via Fondazza. The veering from reflecting mirrors was alive. Portico after portico after portico. His hair cropped short, but still wonderful. A grail in waiting.

My camera raised, I captured him walking into infinity. Having let go of his hand decades before, I watched him venture into the world again.

Forever.

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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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