The Middle Way

Zen Spot #148 — Mindfulness, meditation and the night Max wore his wolf suit February 01, 2018 00:05

Accordion doors 

I entered kindergarten at the age of four — a full year before my peers. When the teacher would ask the class to hold their hands above their head and signal how old we were by holding up five fingers, I would quizzically hold up four. In hindsight, my early entrance into public education was less a statement of my brilliance than of my mother’s desire to get me out of the house. The following twelve years were full of mediocre grades despite being able to read before entering kindergarten. 

Lazy and flaky, I guess. Ego unabashed. Even at four. 

In the rear of the classroom, along the entirety of the back wall, was a closet with a hook for each child’s coat, and a cubby for lunchboxes. A long set of two accordion doors, each of which met in the middle of the front of the closet, could be closed to hide our coats, cubbies and books, at the discretion of the teacher. Above the hooks, out of our reach, were two shelves that ran the length of the closet. On those shelves, picture books were displayed so that, while seated, if we turned around, the golden treasure of story time could be seen and craved.

It can’t be overstated, though, that we needed to be physically seated, or standing in the middle of the classroom, in order to see the the display. The books were invisible while we were hanging our coats because, while doing so, we'd be looking straight up at the bottom of the shelf that held the treasure.

Mrs. Vanden Hegel knew something about managing the herd, especially with the accordion doors. Putting them to their full use by closing the doors brought the desired quiet of twenty active children into full effect.

Max

To be sure, my mind wasn’t fully formed at the age of four. That said, a fully formed mind becomes narrowed, semi-logical, and able to discard whatever thoughts its culture deems discardable — even if other cultures fully embrace the same. One man’s trash, as they say. 

The unformed mind, in my opinion, is able to see and feel things that its culture doesn’t want it to see. In this context, science can prove that colors exist on a much wider spectrum than is visible to the human eye. Now, I’m not suggesting that, as children, we were able to see those colors or that our culture has trained the ability out of our minds but, as a kindergartener, on the shelves I described, I saw a book glow with gold while it sat on the closet shelf.

It became my favorite book — ever.

Where The Wild Things Are

This essay assumes that you’ve read the book and fully understand the fear and excitement that the “Wild Rumpus” can engender in a four year-old. That a bedroom could transform into a forest, and Wild Things could be coaxed forth to dance and gnash, drew me in like a fly ball to an outfielder’s mitt. 

Studies of memory suggest that a specific memory is the memory of the last time the memory was accessed by the computer of the mind. That, in fact, the gold glow I witnessed was created by a creative mind run amok, and repeatedly reinforced every time the book was lent to me by the library of my mind.

At some point, the truth doesn’t matter. I can never prove it happened and even the most ardent scientist can’t prove it didn’t. The book, itself, remains magical — something I look forward to sharing with grandchildren, if the time comes. 

Know this — something glows for every child in the same way that Where The Wild Things Are glowed for me. I submit that, within the glow, the seeds of mindfulness can be found.

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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 #18 — Mindfulness, meditation and the Four Noble Truths in a private public staircase January 29, 2018 00:05

Worn painted landings and stairs

If an art student were doodling in a notebook on one of the landings of this staircase, passersby would probably tip-toe around. The spot is womb cozy despite its concrete and metal exoskeleton. A pillow would probably be welcomed by those wanting to sit and draw or meditate, but sharing time with one’s mother is sometimes uncomfortable. 

Like many others I share, this Zen Spot is surrounded by books — tens of thousands of books. The stairs spiral up to a second-floor walkway that perimeters a huge room, perhaps 100' x 100', with four two-story windows that, in turn, hold up a magnificent three-story ceiling. Solid oak shelving, built into the walls, cradles religious books that offer insight and opinions published around the time the library was built until, perhaps, yesterday.

The quiet is wonderful. Truly. 

Walk the perimeter slowly. Graze the railing with the palm of your hand with the same care you would wave your hand over a lotus floating. Breathe. Take ten minutes to walk the four-hundred odd feet. Halfway around, stop to face the windows. Witness the sunshine, the clouds or the night. 

At the conclusion of your stroll, stop on a preferred landing on the staircase. Sit quietly. If you have a pad and paper, draw a picture of whatever comes to mind and, as you leave, open a random book. 

Leave the drawing in a random page. A friend might find it the following day or in another hundred years.

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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 #82— Mindfulness, meditation, parking meters, poems, love notes and library books January 22, 2018 22:28

Tres bien

In Philadelphia, WMMR’s midday disc-jockey’s name is Pierre Robert (pronouced: Roh-bear). Spreading good vibes among the citizens of our fair city for 36 years, Pierre vibrates humor, kindness and a special kind of light. I was listening to his first show.

Street parking

When Center City parking meters still gulped quarters, and four quarters could still buy an hour of street parking, Pierre would encourage friends and neighbors who had yet to meet to drop a quarter in an expired meter to save that friend a ticket.

Indeed, the smallest of gestures can build the healthiest of communities.

A book is a book

A book is a wellspring. A book is a prompt. A book is a pipeline. A book is an artwork. A book is a trivet. A book is a cover. A book is a medium. A book is doorstop. A book is a vehicle.

A book is a parking meter

I don’t read poetry. More accurate, perhaps, is the fact that I don’t pursue poetry. Either it reveals itself to me or it doesn’t — but it always does. 

Read enough of anything and poetry presents itself as reliably as tomorrow’s daybreak. In biographies, blogs, novels, textbooks, magazines — even technical briefs. Look closely. It’s always there. 

For years, following Pierre’s lead, when I was in used bookstores, thrift shops or libraries, I would open random books and drop a slip of paper, with another writer’s poem, between the pages. When I left my home, I always made sure I had something printed on sheets small enough to fit in a paperback, and always made sure it was an unknown poem.

Love notes

Moving forward, once a week, I am going to handwrite a love note to a human being. Any human being. Genderless. Genuine. Unknown. Thoughtful. Empathetic. Compassionate. Real.

I’ll leave it in a book.

Perhaps it will be to me. Perhaps it will be to you.

I’m asking you to do the same.

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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 #2 - Mindfulness, meditation, a southern exposure and millions and millions of books February 18, 2015 14:37

On the second floor of the main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, in the southeast corner of the building, is a quiet room with ceilings that rise at least two stories. The librarians ensure quiet. Homeless men and students occupy the same large wood tables - reading, dozing, writing or hiding from the weather. 

In the corner furthest to the southeast, hidden behind several rows of shelves, darkened by a permanent shadow, standing meditation can consume you. A mantra of pages turning, patrons coughing, mice clicking and keyboards tapping immerse themselves in the sunlight that blasts quietly through giant windows. 

I rarely visit this monastery but, the last time I did, I left a drawing of a Dharma wheel in the pages of a book.

Stop by. Enjoy the peace. Listen.

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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?