The Middle Way

Zen Spot #64 — Mindfulness, meditation and what I don’t believe about the Buddhist path February 4, 2018 00:05

Against the grain

Like almost every aspect of my life, and since I was a child, I am a contrarian. My belief that, if a majority of people agree on something — anything — there must be a flaw in the trend, is a belief to which I am committed. Perhaps more precisely, I hold the belief that when science is not involved, humanity almost always reaches the wrong conclusion. The empirical is the exception. Global warming is a perfect example of a correct group belief. 

When a person tells me they believe something simply because they believe it, I run for the hills. Religion in particular. Even Buddhism. I believe in The Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path, The Middle Way and how these three ideas translate to living a mindful life, but it basically ends there.

I’ve chosen to write this essay because I believe there is a small minority who believe as I do, but are concerned about voicing their opinion.

Purity

I am dirty. The world is dirty. My mind is dirty from a lifetime of exposure to messages of how I should be. It’s the kind of dirt that can never be completely clean. There is no starched white shirt of the mind. The idea of impermanence, in this case, is true in that, every day, I have to get up, go down to the river, beat my clothes against the rocks, bring them home to hang in the air, then iron them. The work must always be done. 

I was hoping to do it once.

Silence

Most practitioners are not monks in temples. The world is loud. Silence, true silence, is something that happens in short bursts. Often a room or a space or a mat is dedicated to practicing meditation in almost complete silence. Practicing mindfulness is just one part of the Buddhist path. The need for right mindedness happens when someone cuts you off in seventy mile per hour traffic, or when a child is having a tantrum or when a dog is barking incessantly at night.

I fail every time. 

Dogma

Perhaps more than anything else on this list, I disdain dogma. Rigidity is the bastion of those who judge one’s path. It is binary. Life is not binary. It is judgment — plain and simple. There is no one way to pursue The Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path and The Middle Way. Understanding history, ritual and readings is important but, in my experience, they represent 10% of the equation, not 90%. Never ignore them and never rely on them.

The end result is the only thing that counts. Are you moving toward inner peace — no matter how slowly.

Complexity

The more simple one’s life, the more one can more easily practice mindfulness. That said, simplifying one’s life is very hard, especially when one of life’s greatest gifts is involved — children. Children come before mindfulness and meditation most of the time. They shorten the time needed to practice but that doesn’t mean one is not progressing on the path if one can only practice infrequently.

Frequency, purity, silence and dogma are not the measure.

Continue walking.

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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 #42— Mindfulness, meditation and the impossible wood cut January 26, 2018 00:05

Woodcut burning

Like a mandala created from brightly colored sand, by Buddhist months, then ritually dismantled, I burned the wood panel used to create ten woodcut prints, like the one shown above. 

Shortly thereafter, I burned the prints.

Nothing is left. Or, perhaps, it is more accurate to disclose that only digital files are left. Nothing of the physical is left. 

The fire felt weird.

Pyre

I’ve never sold a piece of fine art. Not to be confused with art, I made my living, for a while, as an advertising art director. Commercial visual designs made me fat.

I am caught between a desire to sell my personal artwork, if there is a market, and keeping it all for my family to burn upon my death. Ashes being the only remnant of thousands and thousands of hours of improvised joy and voice. 

The pyre has been designed in my mind’s eye. It looks like a plywood sandwich press, about 30" x 40", with extra-long headless bolts, perhaps five feet long, drilled into the corners, with wingnuts clamping a stack of every drawing into a ham on rye — thanks to Bukowski. The bolts are long enough that they extend well beyond the flat of wood, more than one foot on either side, top and bottom. The contraption would look like a tremendously thick coffee table, with weird thin legs and spiraling minarets rising from each corner.

That the pyre is made of plywood is proof of a positive move on the path toward Enlightenment, because it is leaves few resources behind. The wood is not real, like life.

A spot

The Zen Spot is impossible to find right now. Sometimes, in my mind's eye it is the warning track in front of the Green Monster at Fenway. Perhaps it is Heyward field or the beach in Wildwood or under the Arc de Triomphe on the Sunday when Le Tour rides into Paris. All places where people can see something burn as art and spectacle.

My ego is alive and well.

I have some work to do.

Today, I will meditate in the quiet of my bedroom, with the window open, as the birds sing and the Pennsylvania Turnpike offers a muted mantra from a half-mile 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 #67 — Mindfulness, meditation and the scroll of Kerouac’s soul January 21, 2018 23:08

Kerouac was a Buddhist

I’ve never read On The Road. A right of passage for most writers and artists, perhaps my ignorance means I am neither. An argument could be made.

Spontaneous prose

When I saw the image above, I thought it was a gimmick. A Dada-ist afterthought trying to create something physical — and valuable — for the sake of it being physical and valuable. An artist’s imagination made commercial and fine at the same time. I am not pointing a finger.

Further research revealed that Kerouac actually taped typewriter paper together, top to bottom, into long sheets that could be fed through a typewriter without the interference of changing sheets. True stream of consciousness writing. In the moment. Not editing. Probably not stopping to consider choices. Just choosing. Or not choosing. Being nothing by creating something without creating a thing.

Perhaps every writer and artist who read On The Road while coming of age held the knowledge I chose to avoid.

The act of creation

There is no bad art or bad writing. There is no failure. Being true to one's inner artist, revealing something profound, or committing to do so, is all that matters. Absolute improvisation can never be imperfect. A voice speaking back to itself, even if no one else is listening, documents both nothingness and somethingness.  Paraphrasing Miles Davis, “Do not fear mistakes. There are none.”

Your creations

I submit that no person can walk the Buddhist path without performing an act of creation, if only because the act of destruction is so much easier. One cannot exist without the other. If improvised, and spontaneous, your work is as valuable as every Picasso, Hemingway, Mozart or kindergartner's.

Be mindful.

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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?

 

 


A Perfect Mindful Symbol May 24, 2016 20:18

Inspiration

Nature is not ornamental. Every tree - the sapling and the fallen - offers complete and perfect substance within the Dharma. Grass, dirt, water and rocks comprise an interdependent state that resides within a greater whole that is the air, clouds, sky, wind, sun and rain. Nothing is extraneous. Nothing is ordinary. Nothing needs more color or decoration.

Without explanation, I drew this wheel while dreaming of sitting on a special rock, hanging over a secluded path, winding along a remote stretch of woods near my home. I had recently begun reading an economics book that was a gift from my son. Inside the front cover, the author’s signature is a doodled tree, with bark that resembles the ornamental spokes on this wheel.

Curious and unexplainable inspiration, for which there are thousands of questions and few, if any, answers.

#perfectmindfulsymbol


Zen Spot #4 -- Mindfulness, meditation and weathering out of existence March 5, 2015 10:49

Forgotten or weathered out of existence?

While walking in a neighborhood close to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I found this image above pasted to a brick wall, on a small side street, in an abandoned lot. I've forgotten precisely where the image is and, unless I go back to search for it--which is unlikely--it may as well no longer exist. In fact, since the spot can only be identified by a paper poster, it's likely that the natural elements have destroyed the marker. It has been several years.

When I found the image, I only stayed long enough to take a picture with my flip phone. I knew instantly and instinctively that I wanted to forget its location. I knew I wanted a place to visit in my mind more than I wanted an alternative.

I am intrigued by the image. It is the offspring of a Soviet-era social poster, an Arabic or Eastern language (or visual gibberish) and a still image from The Wizard of Oz

Don't try to find it. Perhaps, instead, try to remember the first time you watched The Wizard of Oz. The Scarecrow might be a Buddha.

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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 #3 -- Mindfulness, meditation and art below the above-ground subway March 1, 2015 16:02

August in Philadelphia can be brutal

At noon, in direct sunlight, the skin can sear quickly. Squinting angrily to keep the sweat and glare out of one's eyes is required. 

While I was walking, at lunchtime, during my last several months working for a small public television station, I found the artwork above. Despite very fair skin, I was drawn to long walks after a small midday meal. The neighborhood through which I would wander is called Northern Liberties. On the eastern side of this neighborhood, the elevated portion of the subway cuts a loud rumbling shadow on the asphalt below. 

On a very particular street corner, a bar resides where live music is played nightly. The venue is the nearest thing that Philadelphia has ever had to CBGB. Its' exterior brick walls are painted with Scharfian characters. An adjacent empty lot, with a chain-link fence that covers most of the front of the property, faces the street underneath the elevated rails. The goofy face above is wood-screwed into a 4' x 8 plywood panel that's rivet-glued to the fence. 

The mural started with the pure intent that drives every artist. At some point after it was finished, graffiti and handbills were stapled and glued like weeds growing between cracks in the sidewalk. Life erupts.

Where life erupts, mindfulness can erupt as well.

>

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?