The Middle Way

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.

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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 #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?

 

 

 


Zen Spot #335 - Mindfulness, meditation, a drum circle and the yellow doves of Mount Airy November 16, 2019 00:00

Finding Mt. Airy

I live near the northwest-most border of the city of Philadelphia. One among dozens of neighborhoods, Mount Airy is a diverse community of artists, activists, writers, gardeners and thinkers. Neighbors care for each other. Tolerance and kindness are ubiquitous. Education is valued. Spirituality holds an important place in the heart of many of the citizens. I’ve traveled the world and found no peer.

Finding Ivy Hill

My studio overlooks the Ivy Hill Cemetery and, despite my living in a rowhome in a jam-packed neighborhood of 68 homes, the view from my rear window extends one quarter mile. All I see is grass and trees, with the exception of those days when slow processions bury loved ones.

Finding the yellow doves

A legend exists about three doves — remarkable bright yellow doves — that arrive following the departure of the last person to leave a burial. Within a few minutes of the casket being left alone for the first time, it’s said that the doves drop from the sky to accompany the soul on its quiet journey to the other side. Having witnessed dozens of burial rites from the window of my studio, I’ve only seen the doves once — during a distant drum circle that gathered about two hours after the casket had been lowered and covered.

I don’t know where the doves come from and don’t know where they go. My vantage point offers a unique opportunity to witness a phenomenon that everybody has heard about, but few neighbors have actually seen. I don’t know why there are three. The drummers seemed not to notice the doves.

Finding peace

I think of drum circles as lively happenings that conjure the primitive parts of our souls, calling one’s soul to dance whether one possesses rhythm or not.

Finding rhythm

Every soul possesses rhythm or not. The drummers, the passed and the doves. What to make of the doves being ignored by the drummers? What to make of my seeing the doves only when I saw the circle? What to make of the doves?

It was all a dream.

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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 November 14, 2019 00:00

No more. No less.

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

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

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

Except, maybe

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks.

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About DharmaMechanic

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

What are The Four Noble Truths?

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

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

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

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #220 - Mindfulness, meditation, nevermindishness and nothingness November 12, 2019 00:00

Owning a word

The only results delivered by Google, when the word nevermindishness is searched, is a link to the SilkDharma website. In this context, I contend that I own the word nevermindishness. I am, according to the planet’s most sophisticated algorithm, the only person in all of human history to write the word down. I invented it, I own it.

Walking through other people’s backyards

As an older child and teenager, I was a trespasser. Not understanding the concept of land ownership, I would navigate a straight line from point A to point B. Shrubs, bushes, fences, brambles and great expanses of lawn and pasture belonged to everybody. When owners yelled about my breach, I’d ignore them believing they‘d forgotten that The Great Spirit bestowed the earth upon all beings equally.

My response when confronted? “Nevermind.”

Silliness

Given my nontraditional practice of mindfulness, a case can be made that nothingness and nevermindishness exist in a natural paradigm of bent interdependence. As a teenager, I was on autopilot while trespassing. My mind was clear when not being confronted. In hindsight, I existed somewhere between awareness and nothingness. Yet to be bent to the will of possessioness — that state of being where it is possible to own a word or a plot of earth — I could be and not be at the same time.

Owning nothing and everything, I could be nothing and be not nothing at the same time.

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About DharmaMechanic

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

What are The Four Noble Truths?

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

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

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

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #229 - Mindfulness, meditation and three stories being told at once November 8, 2019 00:00

Stanislaw

A Polish-American illustrator who survived a Nazi death camp as a child, Stanislaw Zagorski worked for many of the most well-known record labels from 1960–2000. From 1982–1984, I was his student. What he taught, my mind understood but my hands didn’t. His work is distinct and esoteric while, at the same time, being completely accessible. Never one to simply paint a picture, his illustrations always offered a conceptual twist in an attempt to represent the product being sold or the story being told.

The illustration shown here failed miserably in its twist, but succeeded as a package. Had I not been fascinated by the cover, I would never have listened to the music. Zagorski introduced me to Kirk.

Rahsaan

Imagine a jazz musician standing on stage with three or more wind instruments hanging from his neck — mostly saxophones. Further imagine that musician playing at least two of the instruments at one time, seemingly writing two different stories at the same time. Hemingway and Faulkner. Picasso and Warhol. Cunningham and Fonzie. At some point, it can sound like noise but, then again, so can a mantra.

His name was Rahsaan Roland Kirk. I’ve never heard or seen anything like him, with the possible exception of contemporary horn player Tom Harrell. Their respective genres are unknown to me, except to categorize them as jazz. 

Experimentation and improvisation

Kirk was nothing if not an innovator. Perhaps, like the painters Jean Dubuffet and Cy Twombly, he appeared to choose to discard everything but the idea of play, completely ostracizing technical mastery. That said, I know nothing of technical mastery. Perhaps I am a Philistine. 

Unlike Dubuffet, Twombly and every other avant-garde painter, while performing live, Kirk was creating stories in real time, without a net. Having seen videos of some of his concerts, I have no idea whether he succeeded or failed. Every artist knows both. I suspect my desire to even ask a binary question, instead of simply listening in the moment, with eyes closed and no expectations, is a self-imposed limit on my ability to focus.

Check out the mantras with closed eyes.

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About DharmaMechanic

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

What are The Four Noble Truths?

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

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

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

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #330 - Mindfulness, meditation and sitting in front of forever November 4, 2019 13:58

Rothko color fields

While many people worldwide may not know Marc Rothko’s name, most assuredly they know his color field paintings. So simple. So sublime. They hug the spirit within each viewer in the same way that a non-believer is hugged by karma.

The great and powerful Oz

This photo pulls back the curtain on a holy place — Rothko’s studio. And, while the work is stunning, for the sake of this essay, I am transfixed by the Adirondack chair. 

Picturing Rothko leaning back, smoking a cigarette, while contemplating the work in front of him, suggests a leisure that few artists feel while in the act. Perhaps the nature of Rothko’s work and process occupied a different kind of time where nothing exists inside the creative act except time or no time. Perhaps time is a precise color that one can’t pull from the air, it is either given or not given by time, so Rothko simply needed to wait in a comfortable chair.

Art must transcend

It’s been suggested by people smarter than me that a viewer can transport themselves into a Rothko. That, if a viewer steps closely enough to one of his paintings — to that point where one’s peripheral vision sees only the color of the artwork —that the viewer has stepped into forever.

One doesn’t need to be standing in front of one of Rothko's paintings to experience the forever described above, but I submit that Rothko is the only painter to offer an invitation through his art.

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About DharmaMechanic

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

What are The Four Noble Truths?

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

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

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

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 


Zen Spot #249 - Mindfulness, meditation and a poem written as a gift November 2, 2019 22:23

Cryptic clarity

I was wrong. Having arisen late one day, my wife having gone to run errands, I found a note on the kitchen table holding a single handwritten letter from the alphabet. A thunderbolt of nuance and connection.

An abbreviation of the word “you”, it was a poem written for me, about me, about love. I knew immediately what she meant. Her intuition, belief and magic stood in stark contrast to the essay I wrote below. Ah, to walk in another’s shoes.

 


 

From nothingness comes a poem

Where no void existed, a hole is filled. For the writer, the experience can range from torsion to celebration. The singular act of trying to put one’s finger on a particular word, inside a particular phrase, with a particular rhythm, to draw a map to particular part of the soul, is an act at which only the most gifted writers can succeed.

Temporary blueprint

While wrestling to express, words rarely find the whole of a poem without many starts, stops, detours and restarts. Along the way, where alphabetical characters fail to express a feeling in the moment, they can be replaced with scrawls, scribbles, symbols and erasure. What looks like failure is often the opposite.

The act of using a pencil is quite different than using a pen. Water is a different tool than a chisel. To use a keyboard is heresy.

A perfect gift of imperfection

I’ve never read a finished poem, transcribed in its final form on a fresh sheet of paper, the power of which equals that of the version built from scrawls, scribbles, symbols and erasure. To be sure, when a poet reads their work out loud, with their intended inflection, any scrawls, scribbles, symbols and erasure interrupt awfully. The written corrected word, like sheet music with notations and adjustments, holds a sublime purity.

Whisper into nothing

One need not be a writer or artist to create a profound object on a single sheet of the most common lined-composition paper. Along the way, read your work quietly to yourself. Try to articulate the sounds of the scrawls, scribbles, symbols and erasure.

Fill a composition book.

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About DharmaMechanic

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

What are The Four Noble Truths?

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

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

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

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #242 - Mindfulness, meditation and the music in a dream painting October 31, 2019 13:36

Clapping, drums, nothingness

With the exception of a few modern painters, I find it hard to see beyond the composition of an artwork. Perhaps it’s because I have spoken to too many artists — and listened to explanations of what their paintings mean. Great stories are rarely told. Commentary is common. Technique stands out. Questions abound about icons, models and subject matter exist, but the ability for my internal monologue to tell an immediate story is rare. The Sleeping Gypsy is no such painting.

In the moment, immediately, I understand the story — start to finish. Despite a nocturnal predator perusing a possible lunch while its prey is vulnerable, the story ends quite pleasantly, with friendship and understanding. Too, the story is accompanied by music. I know it’s there, but I can’t hear it. Possessing deafness in a world where I listen carefully is unsettling.

I’ve never felt music accompany a painting. Not the Mona Lisa, not Starry Night, not any masters artwork. Stories rarely accompany great works as well.

The phenomenon doesn’t appear to be a paradox but neither does it feel like a personal limit. The sound of one hand clapping?

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About DharmaMechanic

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

 What are The Four Noble Truths?

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

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

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

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 

 


Zen Spot #244 - Mindfulness, meditation and disappointing a sister October 28, 2019 09:09

Schmaltzy

We enjoyed listening to Anita Baker. Perhaps another dozen bitter-syrupy 80’s recording artists were counted among the stable that we fearlessly and unapologetically enjoyed in front of both of our spouses. Her husband used the word “schmaltzy” to describe our taste. 

It felt like a pejorative coming from a man who has nothing bad to say about anybody. Brilliant writers can sometimes twist words in a funny way and I often deserve to be put in my place, lovingly. Perhaps it was my unapologetic penchant for going to 11 with Van Halen.

Strength and faith

She deserves unwavering love from everybody. A kind soul to the depth of heaven's brilliant white abyss, her inner monologue authors schmaltz  —  among authoring works along the continuum of human emotion  —  and that’s why he loves her. A rare comfort pervades my world knowing these friends exist too far away.

She sees the monster inside me and, at the same time, doesn’t. Schrodinger’s cat. I care so little about what other people think of me. Her opinion matters.

The gift of a compass

It doesn’t appear that she’s ever made a bad choice. Guided by a chosen and nurtured gyroscope that keeps her on course, she suffers a little more than the rest of us, with dignity and compassion and kindness. 

A sibling throws you a lifeline

To drown, having chosen to throw one’s compass away, piece by piece, must be hard to watch. Not all choice, but mostly, the sibling's guidance system never worked. Perhaps it’s not the gyroscope but, instead, the spacesuit leaking air through a pin hole. It took years to learn that neither fact matters. We’re all dying anyway.

I was drowning, she was on the boat. Tossing the life ring was not even a choice. 

Never know the disappointment

I threw the ring back in her face not long after I got on board. An 85 mph fastball once left the tips of my fingers. Her nose was broken. More than the blood, the disappointment must have been staggering. Accountable for all, I am. Reasons have no place. 

All. Metaphorically. The throw and the broken nose. I would never hit a woman or a child. A bruise on a man heals. A soul turned black and blue may never fully become white again.

Hers did.

Never ask

We will never speak of the act, because I know, intuitively, that words, as important as they are to her , and me, are useless against a soul bruise. Instead, love, impossible schmaltz and time  — astonishingly little time — have turned the part of her soul that I get to see, beige. An almost imperceptible beige. Beige, nonetheless, but everybody’s compass is at least a little broken.

Still loved

Both of us throwing a prayer into the sky, at exactly the same time, from two places on the planet, as far apart as two people can possibly be, one in the dark of night, one in the beige of day, ignoring the space/time continuum, the prayers joined by those of everyone else praying, our prayers would find each other and listen to schmaltzy music.

Perhaps it is the schmaltz that allows me to be her brother.

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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 #233 - Mindfulness, meditation and compassion for all sentient beings October 27, 2019 00:30

Elephant?

The image above was found at a free stock photo website. I was immediately struck by its power. A pachyderm I suspect, but the eye could belong to a whale, rhinoceros or a large reptile. That said, it is a window into the soul of a sentient being, making identification of the species unimportant.

For anyone who has taken the time to look into the eyes of a being incapable of speech, but clearly capable of responding to its surroundings, the experience can range from eerie to frightening to incredibly compassionate. 

The more complex the mind of the animal, the easier it is to make a compassionate connection. The less complex the mind of the animal, the more we can see into a part of our own nature.

Today, I am going to look within to try to find my great white shark. I am going to look within to find my elephant.

>

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 #237 - Mindfulness, meditation and the downward facing dog October 25, 2019 21:37

Entrepreneur

Twenty-four years ago I founded a graphic design studio. We specialized in toy packaging. A sensible choice, since the three partners met at Tyco Toys. 

Our portfolio earned us entrance into most companies with products designed to appeal to children. In hindsight, creating graphics whose sole purpose were to induce a frenzied tantrum until a parent or grandparent bought whatever product a child was screaming about was a dubious moral venture at best. In the moment, the opportunity to play while designing a package seemed wonderful  -- and most graphic artists can’t see beyond their computer screen to the end game of their creation anyway. I couldn’t.

Entrepreneurial

I performed business development for our company. As such, sales support was needed to capture the interest of prospective clients. Ideation fell to me. 

I set out to conceive a product idea so silly that a manufacturer could never possibly market it to the public. The purpose of the exercise was to create a fun and provocative brochure that would feature my company’s ability to handle the product’s branding, packaging, promotion, merchandising and website. Within three hours, I had my idea  -- a hot dog tied in a knot. 

Silly. Stupid. Suspect. Erotic. Fun.

Knotdog

The name wasn’t a stretch. Hot dog, Knotdog. Within three days, my staff had a back story worthy of any soap opera  featuring twisted characters, sub-plots, pets, inventions, espionage, infidelity, car chases, fight scenes and a resolution James Joyce would’ve loved. Shortly thereafter, designs for a logo, product packaging, promotional ideas and a merchandising display showed up on my desk. Embracing silliness is as American as apple pie, and so my staff did.

“May I have ten-thousand marbles, please.”

Formerly a student of mine, an employee was fascinated with animation and 3D rendering software. Armed with his vision for the Knotdog, he did whatever he had to do, using premillennial software, to depict my invention. The rendering process took 16 hours, as did any revision. Dozens of hours passed in pursuit of perfect pork striations held in place by a micro-thin casing. Too, applying digital mustard became a problem, the proportions of which were enough to consider never splurting the delicacy on a wiener ever again. Suffice it to say that the debate surrounding the integrity of brown mustard vs. yellow mustard became reminiscent of the feud between the Alphas and the Omegas.

Turds and Tommy Hilfiger

Having received a copy of the printed brochure, my best client -- a Harvard lawyer turned X-man  -- called to tell me that the Knotdog look like a giant turd. Well known for his uncanny ability to bring grown men to tears with his lack of tact, I responded with a tried and true epithet for which I knew forgiveness would be granted. Perhaps he had a point, though.

Conversely, Tommy Hilfiger’s creative director called (with whom we had no relationship) to invite us to give a presentation. We did. Pursuant to working with the Hilfiger brand, our lack of fashion experience was a hurdle that could not be overcome, but the love they lavished was for anything but a turd -- and they referred us to three new clients..

Two decades later, I am reminded that we see what we want to see in everything we encounter. What we bring with us determines our future. As the Buddha said, “What we think, we become.”

Briefly, while writing this essay, I considered a story built on the idea of the yin and yang of a mandala, where the yin is a turd and the yang is not a turd. I choose silliness as my future.

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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 #127 — Mindfulness, meditation and following the directions October 24, 2019 00:30

A very brief story of directions

Chalk directions were scrawled on the asphalt of a tiny street, on a Friday night, by an artist hoping to generate foot traffic to a temporary gallery where he was showing his art. 

Simple directions

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

Complex directions

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

>

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?