The Middle Way

Zen Spot #246 -- Mindfulness, meditation and the transcendental song of a leaf May 25, 2020 00:46

Sprouting

Turning water

Rain clapping

August

Stems snapping

Falling

Small tornadoes

Raked

Mulch shoveled

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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 #13 -- Mindfulness, meditation and one pair of shoes May 8, 2020 00:00

Exhaustion

My feet won’t stop bleeding. Not a lot, but for months. With one small lesion on each foot, the first heals, only to reopen when the other heals. I’ve had neuropathy in both feet for twenty years, so I can’t feel pain or friction. In five years, I’ve had three new pairs of shoes, two in the last two years, neither of which fit properly, causing friction that wasn’t noticed until the lesions had opened.

For those who might suggest that I simply stay off my feet until they heal, the action has been taken and succeeded in the short term, causing problems with my knee and hip. It’s been one year with the lesions

The problem dates back to a diagnosis of Charcot foot in 2015, keeping me off my feet for nearly one year. A disease found in one of every seven people living with diabetes, it’s found in one of 25,000 living without the disease. I do not have diabetes. The lottery showed up at my door.

A picture of the shoes have been taken for this essay. I’m terrified of losing them — or having them fall apart. I’m terrified of replacing them with the same model because of the neuropathy.

Am I complaining? Probably. Mindfulness is a little hard to find this morning.

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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 #274 -- Mindfulness, meditation and every single train station April 7, 2020 01:52

Perhaps it’s the community

I love trains. I am looking at one right now: SEPTA regional rail train 283. Leaving the Glenside station at 1:53 pm, heading to downtown Philadelphia, dozens of riders just climbed aboard.

Writing while sitting in close proximity to the small stone station building gives me comfort. Wherever I go, I try to visit train stations. Loving the sounds and language in each is a sublime gift of community.

Today, sitting in my car, when the nearby automobile traffic stands still at the red light, it’s like I can hear the machine of nothingness hum with an unwavering baritone from ten miles away.

Time to draw a Dharma wheel.

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

Nuns

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

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

Torch

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

Horses

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

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

It is the horse that stands out.

17,000 years

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

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

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

What do you think?

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #358 - Mindfulness, meditation and more wrestling with forgiveness March 18, 2020 00:00

Our children are going to hell

My ex-wife and I were sitting in her car eating noodle salad. We’ve been divorced for six years but remained close friends, discussing our young adult children by telephone every so often. Our time spent eating the noodle salad proved the same.

We were both raised Roman Catholic but, for personal reasons, each moved away from the faith over the last decade of our relationship. I moved in my direction. She became a Fundamentalist Evangelical. With that choice came the divine directive to proselytize and, despite repeated requests to cease and desist, she never missed an opportunity to subtly steer any conversation toward a soapbox conversion.

That day, over the noodle salad, my life changed. Our lives changed. Beginning in the abstract, she spoke with conviction about the final destination of billions of people who refuse to convert to her belief structure.

I don’t normally engage, instead waiting for the sermon to end. Having worn me down, I asked about billions of destinations more specifically— about Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Sikhs and other religions. She explained that the same holds true. Then, I asked about our children.

I was stunned. A line was crossed. Say what you will about the rest of the world, my children are a logical and illogical exception. Despite each being a young adult, I took great offense. A forty year relationship fractured when I asked my children if their mother had told them about her belief. 

None had been told. Two weren’t surprised. The third had no idea and was devastated. My ex-wife said she would eventually forgive me for telling the truth. You read that last sentence correctly.

She still hasn’t forgiven me. It’s been one year.

Sometimes mindfulness can be found at the heart of a conflict — at the center of an emotional struggle, in a car eating noodle salad, at the end of a journey of 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.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 

 


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

The peak

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

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

Weird.

Acceptance

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

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

The Middle Way

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

Perceived value

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

Freedom

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

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

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

Thank goodness for mediocrity.

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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 #254 - Mindfulness, meditation, scraping boogers and the smell of an angel February 27, 2020 00:00

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, preparing the school for the upcoming September. 

At 7:00 am, give or take, Tommy would arrive 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.

Time

My first 8 hour gig, I watch the clock incessantly. For ten weeks, at $2.50/hr., I stretched the morning as long as possible in order to make the hours after lunch seem shorter. Music was the only redeeming part of the experience.

One man’s feast

My boss — the head custodian — grew up very poor, sometimes not having enough to eat as a child. While interviewing for the job (there were no other summer jobs available to me where I lived), before the students left for summer vacation, I watched him pull a piece of half eaten baloney from the trash, take it outside, wash the mayonnaise off with a garden hose, and toss it into his mouth. I gagged on his gratitude and haven’t eaten baloney in the ensuing forty years.

Terresterial radio

Tommy and I had the same taste in music, thankfully. At a time when all listeners were at the mercy of the DJ, never knowing what music was coming next, hope was a slow gravy poured over dried snot poured over a time clock that often seemed to go backwards. Dropping a dime into the school’s single pay-phone, hoping to plead with the DJ to play a favorite, was a luxury afforded only during the time Tommy was dropping lit cigarettes onto his chest. 

Our request was always Little Feat. While scraping, the wait to hear Lowell, Kenny, Richie, Sam, Paul and Bill was excruciating — and sometimes fruitless.

Baloney

It wasn’t until decades later, while strolling through the Italian Market, seeing dried meats hanging behind the counter at a delicatessan, that I remembered witnessing the baloney/hose incident. With the benefit of time, and life experience, and having fathered children, my perspective on my boss’ action changed. Somehow, never having experienced the kind of hunger that drove his choices, I was able to see the eyes of my children in his eyes.

Along the way, having scraped my own toddler’s boogers off of furniture, Lowell and Tommy having died too young, having gained weight from plenty of food, compassion actually reared its head from my psyche — sweat-soaked and stinking — waiting to hear from Kenny, Richie, Sam, Paul and Bill.

My errant expectation that compassion would smell like an angel was born from a lifetime of access to food. Expecting the angel to sound like Lowell George wasn’t too far from the truth.

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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 #248 - Mindfulness, meditation and the ipso facto ice cream truck February 23, 2020 00:00

Music like thunder

Every animals stops, if only for a millisecond, at the smallest rumble of thunder. Humans are no exception. It’s as if there is radar built into the base of our skulls. The difference between primal nature and the bass tone of anything ambient is unmistakable. The body electric can hear a pin drop next to a jet engine.

The tinkle of music dancing from the megaphone on top of the ice cream truck is no different. 

Ice cream joy

Desire leads to suffering. I desire ice cream. My children desire ice cream. 

Ipso, facto.

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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 #261 - Mindfulness, meditation and a didgeridoo full of goo February 19, 2020 00:00

Thirty-eight

I found the drawing above while cleaning out my mother’s home. Created in 1980, during my first graphic design class, it was used as part of a poster for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

At the time, I never considered the sound of the music being played. Now, I believe it is a single unending tunnel. Bent blubbering notes. Dark howls without fangs. Screaming bull-elephants miles away. A rancid piece of newer meat, sweating. The skull-ringing aftermath of sprinting into the side of a dumpster at full speed. A fastball slamming into the solar plexus, in ultra-slow motion. A Didgeridoo full of goo. The lowest octave of a sentient grunt.

The sustained guttural hum of counting to one, over and over and over again while sitting.

With a clear mind.

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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 #214 - Mindfulness, meditation and two lessons in interdependence February 11, 2020 00:00

A mistake, perhaps?

Memory is a funny thing. In previous blog posts, I’ve mentioned how well I remember conversations from 30 years ago, and how poorly I remember something I read 30 minutes ago. 

I recall the Dalai Lama having written about a cup with a handle in his book The Art of Happiness. I believe his assertion that the particular cup to which he referred could not, in fact, be the cup that it was/is without the handle. Too, without the air filling the cup, it could not be — that the sum total of the materials used to make the cup defined the cup — and that all the materials were interdependent on each other to form the cup.

To me, his description offered a breakthrough that blew mind with common sense. In particular, the contribution made by the invisible was fascinating. I wonder now, however, if he was referring to the nature of the cup, and not interdependence.

Recent reading

An article for which I had not searched recently spontaneously presented itself. In it, the Dalai Lama explained interdependence in the context of worldwide relations between nations, with an emphasis on the responsibility we all share to care for one another. His point that we are all of one mind and one being and that, anything that harms a single life harms all life, was both simple and staggering. Given my natural left-leaning political viewpoint, His Holiness voiced a fact that most of my peers believe completely. Most times, we act based on this belief with the knowledge that imperfection is perfectly possible.

It occurred to me, following the reading that, in the article he was referring to the collective of sentient beings, not inanimate objects — reminding me that my memory of the written word fails often. That said, when I was able to move beyond the question of memory, I was reminded of the power of interdependence.

Get understanding anywhere you can.

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

Watercolor

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

An artist must be completely in the moment to succeed. 

1978

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

Rendering

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

Icon

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

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

Details

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

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

Be assured — it will not be rendered in watercolor.

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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 #225 - Mindfulness, meditation and hanging a Dharma Wheel in your home January 20, 2020 00:00

No more. No less.

This Zen Spot post — my 225th — is the first that directly addresses the commerce of artwork. Since the beginning of my career, having sold everything from cars to medical device repair, it was always impressed upon me that business must be requested. That is to say, the person selling a good or service must ask the customer to make a purchase.

Before doing so, however, a discussion needs to take place between the buyer and seller that will determine if the product will meet the customer’s need. Perhaps in all of the capitalist world, it is this conversation, along with the request to purchase, that makes people uncomfortable. Most people don’t like to sell. Most people don’t like to be sold.

Art, however, is different. There are no features and benefits. The single determining factor, unless art is being bought as an investment, is the buyer’s visceral response. That’s it. No more. No less.

Except, maybe

Strong, unmistakable symbolism is perhaps the one exception to a collector’s visceral response. To be more clear, symbolism combined with a naturally potent visceral response adds to the possibility that a buyer will make a purchase.

Beyond the visceral, the issue of an artwork’s size can play a role in a purchase — as can the decor of the room in which the piece will hang. As a young artist, to think that decor would determine a purchase was infuriating. Now, it just is what it is. In this context, the Dharma Wheel is tremendously versatile.

Personally, I love its symmetry, versatility and meaning. It can be both a highly personal spiritual icon and a universally accessible image enjoyable for its simplicity, shape, color, materials, finish and presence. It offers endless visceral possibilities that can connect with any viewer. One need not be a Buddhist to appreciate the Dharma Wheel. It helps, however, to have an open searching heart.

The artwork available at SilkDharma.com can be hung in kitchens, living rooms, foyers and bedrooms, and can fit nicely with many different kinds of decor. 

In the future, if my health improves, I will be building larger Dharma Wheels from wood, metal and found objects. Some with be 14" in diameter, others will be eight feet across. I hope you’ll consider purchasing a framed image from my website and, when the time comes, consider a larger piece — perhaps envisioning the place in your home where it will reside. Until then, I hope you will continue to follow the Zen Spot series and other social posts describing the creative processes for building the bigger wheels.

Thanks.

 

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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 #243 - Mindfulness, meditation and the yin of a doppleganger January 14, 2020 00:00

Parent

My children are grown. They will, however, always be my children. Mine. Between 1986 and 1996, I spawned three hellions, each of whom is finding their way in the world.

Mine.

An idea about time and love

About twenty years ago, I was introduced to the idea that this current lifetime exists purely for the growth of our souls. Further, as the idea suggests, before birth we enter agreements with past and future ancestors to create as many daunting challenges as are necessary for our souls to grow. Too, those ancestors who love us most deeply construct the greatest hurdles.

Throwing darts

My daughter is in one of the photos above. Taken about eight years ago, it projects the kind of joy I wish for her for the entirety of her life. Funny, quirky, kind, creative and driven, she inherited the best parts of both her mother and me.

Her journey has been one of particular fascination for me. Growing up with one brother and a long list of male cousins and friends, few girls entered my life until I went to college. Thus, watching her grow into a fine young woman has been a privilege, a delight and a challenge. Our souls have grown together.

Image

We are taught that how a person looks has little to do with their soul. As such, the existence of a doppleganger is almost irrelevant to a discussion of growth unless, perhaps, the person holds a particular physical beauty. 

Two close friends of mine — both women — are very physically attractive by western standards. And, each admits that their beauty has offered opportunity that they believe would otherwise not have enjoyed over the course of their lives. It’s worth mentioning that each has reached mid-life and find the privilege that their beauty has afforded them fading.

Conundrum

If one believes in the idea of beauty bestowed in order to facilitate fewer challenges, what does that say about their soul’s journey and the ancestors charged with growth? Is beauty an indicator of a milestone on a soul’s journey? Is fading beauty a hurdle to growth?

Dopple

One of the images above is of a young European woman. A friend sent the images across social media because of the stark resemblance to my daughter. the young lady and I corresponded twice through Facebook. She was fascinated by the resemblance. My daughter, however, saw no resemblance at all. The mind’s eye is a funny thing.

Who knows

It is easy for me to create stories. Most never leave my head. Always searching for some cosmic, philosophical or spiritual understanding of existence, I constantly look for that single algorithm that explains the universe — like Einstein tried to bridge the gap between quantum mechanics and what ever the other thing was.

Among the algorithms considered is the role of beauty as a challenge and, in this particular case, the journeys of twins who have never met.

On to the next algorithm. 

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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.

 

 


Zen Spot #245 - Mindfulness, meditation, rhetoric, hyperbole and the dog with the human head January 13, 2020 00:00

The ninth mile

On Flat Road, in Malvern Pennsylvania, at the far end of a half-mile long cornfield, nestled between the last ear and the local granite quarry, is the Union Hall graveyard. Surrounded by a four-foot stone wall, with one three-foot wide entryway, this small cemetery is the final resting place of several congregants of the first Amish meetinghouse settled in the United States, some of whom may have been laid to rest before the colonies declared their independence. With the exception of the wall that runs along Flat Road, the cemetery is immediately engulfed by thick northeastern underbrush and briars. At night, especially in the dead of winter, it’s a creepy place.

Legend holds that a creature patrols the graveyard. It is a bastard, described best as a dog with a human head. Imagine the body of a rust colored pit-bull, proudly carrying eight pounds of rugby ball-shaped evil on its shoulders, with one pound of face having been beaten into the head with a flail and mace. Those who witness the beast are known to die in the following 24 hours.

I’ve never see the monster but I’d be lying if I said I don’t get a little nervous every time I drive by. I was introduced to the legend during the ninth mile of a ten mile run, as a high school freshman, as I ran by the cemetery for the first time. It was September 1976 and my shaman was the senior captain of the cross country team.

I was thirteen. Rhetoric and hyperbole hadn’t been born yet.

Old School, New School

Our cross-country coach was old school. He trained kamikazes; placing such a ruthless priority on mental toughness, self reliance and a commitment to the team that, if you were afraid to walk onto the school’s football field and punch an offensive lineman square in the face, you didn’t deserve a place on his team. The disparity between a 5' 10" distance runner and 6' 3" football player was a pock-marked wall for the weak to hide behind.

Rhetoric and hyperbole hadn’t been born yet.

Seasons bleed, cultures scream

Cross country season bleeds almost seamlessly into winter track. Distance runners bleed less seamlessly — transitioning from the bucolic to the deafening and claustrophobic.

In the 1970s, in southeastern Pennsylvania, high school indoor track meets were held on Saturdays, in regional college field houses. Thirty tribes, each with forty athletes, jam their culture, pride, fear, talent and volume into a shoe box.

Hollinger Field House

West Chester University owns a particularly weird field house. Like most college field houses, it is designed to serve many masters — basketball, tennis, track & field. The architecture is odd. It is almost an aircraft hangar. The confines are extremely tight with the building’s outside walls towering within eighteen inches of the outside lane of the three lane track. The edge of a basketball court, which is the building’s centerpeice, is inches inside the track’s first lane. The track, itself, is unusual — 146 yards, 12 laps to the mile. From the center of the court to the apex of the roof, it is probably sixty feet — an open mouth waiting for a jet engine.

That jet engine is a high school winter track meet.

Getting jumped in

My shaman prepared me for another legend — a twelve-feet high, fifteen-feet wide and 40 yards long Thunderdome.

Every runner gets jumped in like a Crip — beaten and eaten whole and fighting for survival in the belly of a beast. Punches are thrown, elbows fly, teeth get knocked out. If I owned a pair of brass knuckles, the shaman recommended that I bring them. A switchblade would be good, a two foot length of chain would be better. A flail and mace best.

I was terrified. The fate of those swallowed by the beast was left to my imagination.

The Beast

The most curious aspect of the Hollinger Field House track is a tunnel that consumes an entire turn of the track — approximately 40 yards. The tunnel runs underneath the grandstand. The sixty-foot ceiling drops down to fifteen. With, the exception of the fifty meter dash, every track race enters the tunnel at least once. During your race, when you enter the tunnel, the jet engine convulses into silence. When you leave the tunnel, the engine sucks you back into its fan blades.

As a miler, I was scheduled to run through the tunnel twelve times. And, while I had plenty of opportunity to stand in discreet alcoves inside the tunnel during other races, and watch other runner’s get jumped in, the choice never entered my mind. I waited.

Within thirty seconds of reacting to the starter’s gun, after being chewed up and spit out, I found out that my shaman was an asshole.

Rhetoric and hyperbole had been born.

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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 250 - Mindfulness, meditation and the paradox of parallel existence January 10, 2020 00:00

Parallel

A couple of month’s ago I visited an athletic coach from my freshman year of high school — 1976. He has had a profound influence on my life. So much so, that I often still rely on his lessons. Among the most important were mental toughness, grit and belief in the ability to overcome adversity through hard work. For the first several months of my tutelage, I possessed none of these qualities--and I knew it. There was shame associated with this understanding.

One day, I got tired of the feeling and decided--actively decided--to change my life and attitude. My life transformed. He demanded and I complied. The next four years were an incredible experience built on hard work, fraternity and achievement. That said, I was not blessed with the gift of athleticism and, as such, was not a dream to coach. Not a dream — for a coach who wanted to dream. I was just a guy who loved his sport. The experience set a standard for the rest of my life.

During the visit, I made very clear how much his coaching had affected me and thanked him for his contributions. We talked about the people and events from those days. In particular, we discussed the most gifted of his athletes; those who a coach dreams about. It was clear they held the fondest memories. I was a nice addendum. We occupied much of the same space, at the same time, for long periods. My experience was profound, his was nice.

Two people. Same time. Different existence.

Several weeks ago, I ran into a colleague from fifteen years ago. My counterpart explained that my influence on his life had been profound. He intimated that the lessons learned during our discussions extended beyond the discussions themselves. Our discourse were never pedestrian--or nice--but I had no understanding that it could affect another human being as positively as my colleague explained.

Concurrently, my oldest son has described, in one way or another, that my parenting had a similarly positive effect. Given the fact that my younger children still believe I am quite obtuse, my son’s perspective is welcomed--and important--because my children are the people I want to teach.

Another paradox that becomes less a paradox as life goes on. Perhaps one day I’ll understand.

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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 #259 - Mindfulness, meditation and diminishing physical strength December 31, 2019 00:00

Do as I say

Until the age of 18, physical weakness profoundly influenced almost every decision I made. Having gotten my ass kicked every time an altercation was invited because my lack of physical strength was well documented among my classmates, I reminded the my counter combatant that I was going to grow much larger and would never forget their aggression. 

I did and I didn’t. To this day, the fury resides within.While having learned how to forgive —and being armed with the practice of mindfulness — a pilot light burns, along with a near-eidetic memory.

Arms pinned

Among my first memories, after having been allowed to play with the other children in my neighborhood, is Keith Mazzarelli pinning me to the ground, with his knees on my arms while he pummeled my face. I was six. 

Nothing I tried provided release. Completely at his mercy, I didn’t wait for him to finish. I bucked, squirmed and tried to roll, but nothing worked. He laughed. Other kids watched and, eventually each took their turn at some point in the future.

My memory is long.

The right arm

I loved playing baseball as a child and, over the course of my my youth developed an 85 mph fastball. And, while my body was weak, the mechanics required to focus the entirety of my energy into the release of a ball was gifted by the gods.

Despite not being able to bench press 100 lbs, in an environment where peers could outperform me by three times that amount, I could have killed anybody unlucky enough to take an snowball to the head. That knowledge comforted me. A warm comfort. The kind of comfort one might feel while pinning a younger child’s arms to the ground, straddling their chest, and punching them in the face until simply losing interest. I took every chance available to clock anybody who had ever punched me, never considering the fact that they would beat me mercilessly because I plunked them.

Baseball coaches ignored my talent. 

Both arms

The day I bench-pressed two-hundred pounds, when I was nineteen, felt like a release from prison. The day I benched three hundred pounds, a couple of months later, delivered equality — an equality I was determined to never relinquish. The resulting muscle came an intimidating physical power. Having grown from six feet tall and one-hundred sixty-six pounds to 6'4"/235 gave me the gift of being left alone.

The physical presence

With size comes respect, no matter how weak the character of the giant. In the right environment, the respect gets transposed with fear. Creating fear was okay with me, despite believing that no amount of physical power could keep me from ending up being pinned to the ground. I did not discourage fear for thirty-five years. I never acted. I never hit anyone  or pinned anyone to the ground, but everybody treated me like I could. 

The quality of quiet associated with meditation followed my physical size in the form of a palpable unpredictability. I was fine with the quiet.

The fastball gone

Ten years ago, during the first softball game that spring, I was playing center field. Not having thrown a ball since the previous September, the expectation that I could kill someone with a fastball remained intact until I charged a ground ball, twisted my body to prepare for the throw and violently swung my shoulder over my head, as usual. My arm almost ripped. 

In the six months between throws, I had aged enough that the fastball dropped into the 50s. Still large, my shoulder muscles could no longer complement the still reliable body mechanics. Mostly reliable.

The physical present — testosterone waning

Muscle and testosterone go hand in hand. Along with the gift of a fastball, I was gifted with the double-edged sword that is testosterone. The natural steroid drives compulsive decisions. Stupidly. Humorously. Dastardly. It provided the strength I relentlessly pursued and that which gave me hope and warmth. Sex, too. Good sex. Bad sex. Fractured.

Now in my 50s, the friend who offered a weird shelter is slowly drifting away  and I couldn’t be happier. My shoulders are smaller. I throw like a man who has never thrown a baseball. My hair is graying. My mind is more clear than ever. 

Time to blow out the pilot light. Time to move forward with vulnerability. I will miss my friend occasionally but I am mostly glad he will be gone.

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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 #247- Mindfulness, meditation and the forever struggling vegan December 29, 2019 00:00

Local news 

In an interview with a local woman who had reached 102 years old, she was asked the secret to longevity. She said, “Eat for health, not for taste.” I’m not precisely sure what she meant, but it made me feel like more raw vegetables are the key to a long life.

Silly seven

A scene from the movie Seven Years In Tibet shows the construction of a building being halted because the workers found an earthworm while digging the foundation. Considering the possibility that the worm might be the reincarnation of a loved one, it was treated with reverence. The foreman, a Westerner, beseeched the young Dalai Lama to ignore the worms and allow construction to plow forward. The joy with which His Holiness challenged the architect to find a creative way around the worms — and to respect all life — bled into the architect’s soul.

 How we do, what we do, is as important as what we do.

Breakfast

Every morning, I make oatmeal — one cup, with a little brown sugar. It’s easy, fast and good. Measure, add water, pop in the microwave, add the sugar, boom. Thankfully, it’s vegan. More than easy, however, it’s easy. Two minutes exactly.

An eternity at times.

Preparation is everything

Meat tastes good. Or not. Vegans with whom I am in contact tell me that, once meat is removed from one’s diet, a return tastes not so good. Sugar, I’m told, offers the same experience. Hard to believe. I love both.

That said, I recently realized that a large portion of the vegan experience is, well, the experience. Choosing food carefully. Preparing food thoughtfully. Consuming food mindfully. Success, I’m told, is found by devoting time.

Washing raw stuffs. Paying attention to color. Chopping vegetables. Measuring ingredients. Arranging portions. Slowly enjoying. Devotion. 

I am not devoted to oatmeal.

Boomerang green

That I cannot look into the eyes of an animal about to be slaughtered hinders devotion — as does the personal weakness that I have only overcome in fits and spurts. Not being perfect, the flight of the meat boomerang will hopefully get longer and longer, until such time that it never returns. Weakness overcome. Compassion more fully embraced. Health inspired. Animals alive.

Time taken.

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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 #251 - Mindfulness, meditation and how she hears a songbird at dawn December 4, 2019 00:00

Where I see red, you see blue

When I tried to explain my idea to a friend, that there’s no way to prove that two people see the same colors in the same way, she looked at me like I was crazy — or perhaps obtuse. Trained as an engineer, deviating from a linear view of the world prevented an assessment. Pragmatic to the core, she thought any discussion was a waste of time. 

Having just taken a philosophy class, the idea fascinated me. I live in my head.

Rising late, mostly

I rose early last Thursday — early enough that I could hear the call of morning birds. A bolt struck spontaneously. 

What if she hears a completely different song?

One voice. All voices.

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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 #272 - Mindfulness, meditation and a final apology to the child long gone December 3, 2019 00:00

Comes a time

My mind’s eye is a powerful piece of technology. My mind is a a leaking spacesuit. I’m sure every spacesuit leaks. Yours, mine, that guy I just saw chasing a chicken across the rainbow crosswalk not far from the Bezos’ Balls. I’m in Seattle.

On a seven day trip to see my son, two days past I crossed a line I should probably have crossed five years ago. The line? My children must be let go to live their lives as they see fit. 

Perhaps every parent understands this necessity. Perhaps not. My concern is that my children are not prepared — expressly because of my failures as a parent, but I must let them go nonetheless. 

The pain is excruciating. I’ve earned it. The pain must be let go of as well. Simply writing that last sentence is a punch in my face with my own fist. To understand that self flagellation is an expression of ego, and an appropriate result of cause and effect, and the sum total of dogmatic crap, and the doorway to the next part of my life is, at once, confronting an astonishingly complex matrix and a astonishingly simple choice. The shape of the pinhole in the leaky spacesuit counts.

The monster

In particular, I’ve gifted them with a monster of the mind. It writes well. It is writing this essay. It’s an asshole that I’ve learned to live with, but the swath of wreckage it has left in its wake is staggering. The fucker showed up on my doorstep when I was nineteen and never left. I know its weak spots and have and have to wrestled it into submission periodically. The monster’s children are an awful gift to my children. 

That said, the monster doesn’t account for some phenomenon. And I’ve shown my children how to deal with it. I’ve had success in learning to manage its fury — and they’ve witnessed the success. They’ve chosen to ignore the growth in a manner that benefits them, and now I must let them go out into the jungle.

I’m sending you out with anger — mine and yours.

Each

Child #1
You are my spitting image. A pothead savant, I am not. You are. Your compassion is almost limitless, except for me. That said, your lies are so profound and subtle — at least those you tell me — that I’m not sure guilt can bridge the gap across the span of the liar’s bell curve. Ninety-six percent of the population resides in the middle of the curve. Perhaps you don’t lie to ninety-six percent of the population, which would make you more honest than almost anybody I know. You are my paradox cilice. 
Among the most revolting is the lie about the respect you say I’ve earned. Perhaps you can see into my soul. Perhaps I can see into yours. If you respected me, you would either to tell me to go fuck myself or simply say hello once in awhile.
You learned to shave on your own. I lost you long before your need to learn to shave — to your lying. Your contempt for education will be overcome, or not. If not, the rattlesnake will bite you at the moment you are most vulnerable. Maybe I will be able to help. 
I hope I will be able to help. Life requires shaving lessons until the day we die. 
Child #2
The child I would most want on my side in a fistfight, your brothers, each of them quite tough, are pansies in comparison. Your fury knows only the limits of the lining of your soul’s stomach. The knowledge of having passed my disease on to you is almost as bad as having to watch the disease eat you— but I’ve shown you how to chain the monster to a radiator. I’ve walked the walk. You choose the rage for which I am responsible over the stability I have tried to teach. 
While I expect this essay to tap into a place of rage for each of my children, the combination of manipulative faux confusion and understated bile that will be blasted toward my ghost, after I leave the room, is fueled by a profound contempt — for me, for you, for your mother and god knows who else. Perhaps I’ve shone a light on the sculpture that is you. Perhaps I half-carved the sculpture. We each have sculptures that have been half-carved for us. In a metaphorical twist, you can un-carve my contributions, and actually add back the marble that was chipped away, by embracing enough love for yourself to get help. 
Learn. Or, in the event that I am wrong, go forth and enjoy your life in the way your mother and I want for you. Be assured, the monster always finds a way to pick the lock that chains it to the radiator. Spend your life running or beat the shit out of the monster every once in a while.
You can.
Child #3
Your spacesuit leaks a bit — only a bit, but more than you reveal. Get the hole fixed and you’ll be fine. You understand the ugliness of life and you understand its beauty. Yin and Yang. 
Respect the monster. It can’t be reasoned with and, one way or another, you’ll eventually have to chain it to the radiator — for you or someone you love. No beauty or lesson will be found. Just scars. Be careful.

Truth

My words may appear harsh, with only anger at their core. Accompanying the anger is unconditional love. As your father, it’s not my job to always tell you what you want to hear; it’s my job to mostly tell you what you don’t want to hear and then encourage you with boundless love.

I’ve written my truth.

A final apology

I am truly sorry for any choices and behavior that hurt each of you. The list is long. To be sure, many of the things for which I seek forgiveness you’ve forgotten. 

It’s been ten years. Many of the things for which I need to be forgiven, I’ve forgotten. Further discussion and analysis takes valuable time that should be focused on creating happiness in the rest of our lives — together hopefully, apart if necessary.

I love you unconditionally. Through my anger. I hope you can return the same.

I forgive myself.

A hopeful hello

I want you in my life. I hope you call to say hello. 

Dad

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Postscript:

Anger expressed appropriately is healthy. Anger expressed publicly needs to be tempered. My anger, as expressed here, un-carves the sculpture with my truth. Perhaps it is the monster’s truth. Among the greatest mistakes of my life have been the words I have written. Fury will likely follow. If it doesn’t, a greater truth will be rendered — the truth I seek, the truth I never want to see. The fury will die eventually. Apathy is eternal.

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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 #231 - Mindfulness, meditation, The Ten Commandments and The Eightfold Path December 2, 2019 00:00

Simplicity, again

I am not an evangelist. When asked about my religion, I will respond by saying that I believe in the Buddhist philosophy. I rarely ask people about their spiritual beliefs. Dogma is worthless and, for those believers who have pursued analysis of their faith, the answer would often be too personal. Philosophy, on the other hand, is always a discussion worth having.

In particular, the common precepts of different religions and philosophies can be intriguing, especially when the topic is boiled down to the essence of right and wrong. Inevitably, when a Christian is involved, the Ten Commandments are invoked as the guiding principles. Inevitably, I ask about their understanding of The Noble Eightfold Path — without connecting the topic to the Buddhist philosophy.

I suggest that, instead of a list of commands about what not to do during this lifetime, perhaps a shorter list of what can be done to help oneself and the surrounding world is a more positive and actionable strategy. To me, the difference is simple, the outcome is the same and the practice is a little easier.

Without trying to add confusion, I must add a quote from the most famous Buddhist philosopher since the Buddha himself: Yoda. 

“Do, or do not. There is no try.”

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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 236--Mindfulness, meditation and a poet lying with violence November 30, 2019 00:00

I sing the body electric

Five words, the meaning of which I have no desire to understand as the poet intended. I have no idea what he was trying to say and I don’t care. Since first reading those words, and ignoring the remainder of the poems, I haven’t read anything with such power.

Anything.

Crooked violent tombstones in parallel

I’m used to driving past a cemetery — Mount Moriah Cemetery — in Southwest Philadelphia, near my family’s home. It hasn’t been cared for in decades. Half-dug holes populate the three-hundred-plus acres as if awaiting a body whose family was discovered indigent. Thorns strangle everything. Gangs and dealers regularly drop bodies at the edge of the mushy ten-foot cliff that falls off into Cobbs Creek. Neighbors ignore the bodies from the safe side of trolley tracks that run along an impaling rusted iron fence line that seems to go for a mile.

Graffiti and blood are paint. Tombstones have been smashed with cars and skulls. Grave sites erupt as if the dead are pushing up from underneath like a filthy caricature of massive grassy blackheads. The gaping Romanesque brownstone gate at the cemetery's entrance swallows visitors with a fetid mouth that is chipped like the whores’ teeth that crawl along Kingsessing Avenue.

Nobody but soldiers care about the dead and buried.

Parallel

While Walt Whitman’s mausoleum, in Camden New Jersey, resides about five miles from this shit hole in Southwest, he lies in Mount Moriah in my mind’s eye. I can navigate the path to his mausoleum easily in a dream or nightmare.

It’s been years since I have visited Whitman’s actual resting place. Long enough that Mount Moriah has taken its place in my psyche. While the Harleigh Cemetery may, in fact, care for Whitman with a delicacy that I don’t remember, the city of Camden does not cradle its most famous son.

I remember the violence and poverty on the way to visit Walt more than the visit itself. Landscaping and level tombstones, if they even exist, are worthless.

The body electric among bullets, hookers and toddlers

Camden New Jersey is profoundly violent. For years, it was ranked among the most violent cities in America and has only fallen from the top-ten list because the city’s police force was absorbed by the state and the surrounding county. Jurisdiction was extended far enough past the city limits that crime statistics skewed the screwed. Dollar cost averaging reduced the crime rate.

That said, Camden is, perhaps, more violent now than ever. Following the financial meltdown in 2008, the desperation that drives crime was exacerbated to the extent that crack whores were bearing crack babies simply because they couldn’t afford clothes-hanger abortions any more than they could afford to lose one night working. Bullets fly like flies around rancid meat. If thieves could sell the meconium from a newborn’s diaper, they’d steal it, leave the child for dead and try to purvey the filth to whomever would eat it.

Leaves of grass

My mind’s eye is literate. Not so much that I fully understand Whitman, but enough to understand he hovers like a god or alien. That said, I can’t conceive of the Camden in which he lived and wrote. I can’t bridge the gap between then and now.

Across the river, in Philadelphia, pre-Revolutionary cobblestones, trinity homes and well-preserved brownstones allow one to easily visualize a sanitized version of Jefferson writing of Human Events by candle light. It’s easy to ignore the fact that open sewers, slavery and disease consumed the city in 1776.

Camden is worse.

Today, Benjamin Franklin’s grave, in Center City Philadelphia, is dignified, understated and preserved carefully. Whitman’s gags. That two giants — Whitman and Franklin — can, at once, lie so closely to one another, and so far apart, is astounding.

The statesman lies in leaves of grass. The poet lies with violence.

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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 #230 -- Mindfulness, meditation, Walter and The Dude November 28, 2019 00:00

The Big Lebowski

It’s my favorite movie — by far. If you haven’t seen it, moving on to another essay is probably best. This essay requires an understanding of the hilariously different personalities of two best friends. Walter is a high-strung rage-o-holic. The Dude is a jobless hippy slacker.

Along with close friends of assorted backgrounds, they belong to an ersatz community of absurdity. Walter and The Dude spend the bulk of their time together engaged in the elegant, repetitive, mindful pursuit of repeatedly throwing a fourteen-pound ball down a spectacularly waxed wooden lane housed in an epic working-class cathedral.

Perfection

Bowling is perhaps the only activity where perfection can be achieved. Roll twelve consecutive strikes and you’ve reached the pinnacle. That said, people spend their lives trying to get to twelve. The achievement requires practice. Performing the same task thousands of times while trying to be completely present is an exercise in both agony and joy.

I am Walter

The boundless fury of a young man — my boundless fury — has been replaced by an evolution both natural and disciplined. An appraisal of my progress is not mine to make, but I’ve certainly learned to listen, work hard and demonstrate compassion. I was a rage-o-holic.

I am The Dude

When I shave the sides of my beard, with only my goatee remaining, my looks are consistently compared to those of The Dude. I don’t see it  --  and I’ve looked. Same thing happens when I shave the beard completely. Apparently I look like Jeff Bridges with and without a beard. Too, I’m told that I sound like The Dude. Am I a jobless hippy slacker?

Yin and yang

Perhaps far too many of my recent essays focus on the topic of interdependence. It appears, however, that interdependence is pursuing me as energetically as I am pursuing an understanding of it. Everywhere I turn the universe presents me with another spontaneous example. Hopefully, I haven’t entered that circular thought process where every problem I see looks like a nail because my only tool is a hammer. I’m not sure, so I write what I write.

Walter and The Dude are interdependent. They are two sides of the same coin — a coin with as many sides as there are members of their community. My love for their characters is based on an expanding view of myself where I can look back in order to learn while, at the same time, looking forward to the enlightened hippy slacker I one day hope to become.

Find your coin. Find your Walter. Find your Dude. Find your compassion.

Watch the movie. Get to know me.

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

Scribbling is immediate and perfect

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

>

About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #295 -  Mindfulness, meditation and happy little reminders November 18, 2019 00:00

Simplicity, hope and comfort

While this essay is number 295, I’ve already written 306. This one has been rewritten and restarted fifteen times. 

Having walked away from the series for one month, when I returned I was struck by patterns I observed. Not one to get schmaltzy, with the exception of my choice in music, I noticed that the series was decidedly lacking in heartfelt, homey goodness. 

Have a great day!

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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?