The Middle Way

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 #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 that 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 the poet lying in Leaves of Grass 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, that 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 its 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 and, 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?

 

 


Zen Spot #241 -- Mindfulness, meditation and a three minute fistfight with your guardian angel October 18, 2019 23:59

Having moved to the next place

Today, I had a wonderful moment of existential clarity. Driving home, following a conversation with my elderly mother about estate planning, I thought about what I wanted my children to do at the conclusion of my funeral service. My desire? Ugly dancing.

Ugly dancing to a joyous song: “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire.

For 3:35, I want an undivided, uninhibited release from life. I want them to be completely in the moment. I want them to feel the joy I feel when I hear the song. 

Perhaps I'll be able to leave each of them a million dollars. Perhaps I will only be able to leave a memory. For 3:35, however, I will bestow upon each of them the ability to choose joy.

To the core of my being, I believe that, while dancing, they will be close to me in a way that is otherwise impossible. Should grandchildren, nephews, nieces, friends and family want to dance, more’s the better.

In a fistfight with their guardian angels

I want the three demons I spawned to stand together and dance their asses off  like each is in a fistfight with their guardian angel. I found out too late in life that dancing is an elixir of joy — especially ugly dancing. Be assured, a day will not pass, from now until then, without ugly dancing.

Mindful dancing.

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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 #252 - Mindfulness, meditation and a simple, silent votive candle October 16, 2019 12:59

Photo credit: George Becker. Portfolio available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/eye4dtail/?ref=pexels

It seems obvious

There is something about the lighting of a candle that seems to set prayers free. In particular, when hundreds of candles burn collectively, in a temple or church, they take on a metaphysical strength for which there is no comparison.

With the exception of the snap of a lit wick spitting a grain ember, most votive candles are silent. This observation seems obvious. It’s obvious, too, that a voice is still a voice, even when the voice chooses complete quiet.

It’s not obvious

A votive candle, if used with purpose, magnifies one’s internal voice. Coaxing forth a mantra that can never be taught, and never be shared, the voice is unmistakable and could, almost certainly, never have been heard if not for the silence of the candle.

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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 #217 - Mindfulness, meditation and my daily path of recovery January 1, 2019 00:02

Sixteen years

As of this morning, it has been 5,968 days since my last drink. During that time, there have been from significant ups and downs. And, while this essay is designed to elicit hope from those starting the road to recovery — and their family, friends, coworkers and acquaintances — it will not offer details from before making the choice to stop drinking. Instead, in addition to a few observations, I will offer a short list of the actions I take every day to live a stable life will be provided.

I wonder what I don’t know — one year and five years

I recently witnessed two people in recovery, with one and five years respectively, offer strong direction to a group of people new to the path. In both instances, I was startled by how little they had grown and how little they knew. To be sure, growth has limits of several dimensions, but it was clear that those offering the guidance had not taken responsibility for their choices.

My single take-away from each experience was my need to question how little I know right now. It’s not my job to judge other people, except to learn from their behavior. How little do I know?

Don’t look back except to decide to do the next right thing

The past is the past. People will either forgive you or they won’t. Those that haven’t may do so in the future. If you harbor guilt and shame, let it go as soon as possible. Holding on to either can eventually become compulsive. Erosion of the soul can follow. If you can’t let go, work with a therapist. 

If, in the present, you are faced with a hard decision — perhaps a decision that was solved by a substance in the past — look back for context and learning.

Discomfort recedes

As time passes, the compulsion to act in an unhealthy manner grows smaller until it is almost gone. For me, it has never gone away completely, and presents itself more strongly in times of stress. The regimen below minimizes stress.

 

The regimen

_____________________________

Step and repeat

My daily regimen is tight. Repetition is the key. Sometimes it gets boring, but it keeps me as healthy and focused as possible and, in the context of Einstein’s choice to wear the same outfit every day, frees my mind to be creative in areas outside my regimen.

1. Sleep

I listen to my body. Some people require six hours sleep. Others require ten hours. I do whatever is necessary to get the amount of sleep required to keep myself healthy, alert and able to make good decisions. If you can’t sleep, see a doctor.

2. Protein

I make myself eat a hard-boiled egg for every sweet I eat. Protein builds muscle. Study the role of protein in living a healthy life and having a healthy body. Many of those in recovery rely on carbohydrates to fill the void left behind by a substance or behavior (I count myself among this group). Carbs turn into sugar and sugar, ultimately, is a bad thing. 

3. Exercise

I exercise at least four times each week for one hour each time. If your physician allows, exercise to the limits permitted. In particular, extended periods of aerobic exercise — walking, running, biking, stair-climbing, cross-country skiing — can result in the body releasing endorphins into the brain, resulting in an amazing sense of well being.

4. Limit the sugar, if you can

I love cookies. Like many people in recovery, my early reliance on sugary treats to replace the sugar in alcohol has not fully receded — and I have chosen not to eliminate its presence in my diet. Instead, I limit when I can eat sugar. Specifically, I do not allow treats inside my home. During my daily activities, I allow myself to eat what I want but my home is bereft of cookies, cake, pies and candy.

5. Water

Hydration is important. Drink plenty of water. Nuf said.

6. Media

This part of my daily regimen is new and has been driven by the amount of wasted emotion I’ve devoted to the polarizing aspects of the 24 hour news cycle. In response to the increasing anxiety and confusion I experience from the current state of reporting, I limit my exposure to television and the more divisive social media interactions. To be sure, it’s important to stay informed about the surrounding world but, instead of watching a video report, I read good current events reporting. Also, I read books.

7. Family / community

Get involved. Isolation is a notable contributing factor to relapse--and I am an animal prone to solitude.

If you have a family, make art, play games, be silly, learn, teach and be together. In the event that your children are older, stay in touch and, as appropriate, help them raise their children. I am going to be an incredible grandfather.

Make some of your private time public time — volunteer, attend the service of your chosen spiritual path, join an interest group, take a class — build strong healthy relationships with diverse people. I try do all of the above.

8. Avoid excess

The Middle Way is a Buddhist philosophy that suggests that too much of anything is unhealthy — including activities that appear to be healthy, inclusive of each of the items on this list. Everything in moderation and, where necessary, according to a doctor’s recommendation.

9. Meditation

I take fifteen minutes every day to clear my mind and try to become nothing.

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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 #219 - Mindfulness, meditation and the coolest suit in history December 3, 2018 00:00

Hand grenades

My maternal grandfather was a great guy. In contrast to his paternal counterpart, who had twenty-five grandchildren, my brother and I were his alone. He treated us like princes, leaving behind two-dozen stories of his simple and creative indulgences bestowed on the duo he loved profoundly. Said tales will never be told — except to say that fire, ice, giant fish, bikes, baseballs, fan belts, lead pipes and pilfered stickers made the twisted list of tools used to create shared experiences that would otherwise require hand grenades.

Decades

For seventy years, he slept with a cedar chest at the foot of his bed. Holding and protecting his finest clothes, of which he had few due to the limited earning potential of a man with an eighth-grade education, the aroma of cedar was a contrast to the memorable dent made by his Viceroy cigarettes. The opportunity to open the chest following his death was both welcomed and feared. The story told by a man’s few possessions, the most valuable of which were collected and protected inside the cedar, could go in any direction.

He was buried in charcoal threads with a red tie. His remaining suit, when unfolded and held up by the shoulders, brought a smile.

Eulogy

He was five foot seven. I am six foot four. Perhaps I could have worn his suit when I was in seventh grade. Perhaps not. Not having the option allowed my imagination to run wild. I knew intuitively, however, that he would want he to make a hand grenade. 

Metaphorically. Happily. Creatively.

Blueprints for a hand grenade

It’s been thirty-one years since his death and I haven’t built the device. I’m not ready to part with the garment, but I will. Eventually. Along the way, during construction, I will take pictures and notes.

Step 1: Find a tailor’s mannequin worthy of the project
Step 2: Hang the suit on the mannequin and paint it with brilliant, thick, red acrylic pain that hardens into a stiff facade
Step 3: Glue five giant boxes of crayons all over the suit
Step 4: Nail-punch dozens of spoons into the mannequin
Step 5: Wrap the entire suite with hundreds of Christmas lights
Step 6: Build a 10” x 10" x 3" cedar box, with a hinged top, and cut an inset for the box to sit in inside the suit and tailor’s mannequin
Step 7: Paint a fluorescent yellow moon on the front of the box
Step 8: Gently place the box into the inset 
Step 9: Place a handwritten note, from me to my grandfather, inside the box
Step 10: Lock the box forever
Step 11: Build a massive pair of wooden wings, paint them white and affix them to the back of the sculpture
Step 12: Forget about gravity and set the entire contraption on top of the single fork of a single bicycle tire
Step 13: Write a children’s book about how the sculpture was made, dedicated to a very cool guy named William Alfred Kay — the man who made two little dents in the universe
Step 14: Throw away the key

Some place on the planet is waiting for the suit to arrive — clearly a Zen Spot on stand by. 

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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 #213 - Mindfulness, meditation and watching the sky dance November 26, 2018 00:00

Drive north

I’ve never seen the Aurora Borealis. Most assuredly, however, the experience of laying on the ground, looking up at the sky, while the interference of electric urban light is nowhere to be found, while the sky dances, is on the bucket list. Despite cold air or hardened ground, my eyes will be affixed upward.

Research revealed that, in the most northern part of Scotland, the Northern Lights can be seen at the right time of year. Expecting to kiss the ground of my ancestors shortly following disembarking the airliner that ferried me across the Atlantic, I hope I can experience the dancing sky during my visit. It surprised me to find out that Scotland’s geography crossed a parallel high enough to offer the possibility. Further research revealed the respective parallel is shared with the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador — at a point so far north that Google maps does not have the ability to provide driving directions from Philadelphia.

Apparently, I can’t get driving directions to the Aurora Borealis in North America. Silly. Funny. Silly.

Listening

Perhaps I’ll need a sub-zero sleeping bag to have the experience described above. Perhaps the experience is impossible due to cold, wind or grizzly bears —  with the more informed readers familiar to the the outdoor life above the parallels laughing uncontrollably at my ignorance. Be assured, I am laughing with you, not knowing if you have found humor.

Too, I wonder if the Lights are silent. I wonder how quickly they move. Do they speak? Are they as common and unremarkable to those people who live with the Lights outside their front door as The U.S. Constitution has become to me — the awesome power of each reaching unspeakable heights.

I suspect mindfulness is possible. Meditation, not so much.

We’ll see, someday.

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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 #212 - Mindfulness, meditation and struggling with compassion October 30, 2018 00:00

People and animals

I struggle with compassion. Where some people naturally feel concern for the misfortunes of other sentient beings, I sometimes cannot. 

Check that. I have tremendous empathy for children and animals. My witnessing suffering inflicted on either, by anybody, is unbearable. Where intervention is possible, I intervene.

Choice

Now, when confronted with situations where empathy is a natural, kind and appropriate response to the suffering of others, I’ve learned to choose to act with compassion. It took decades for me to realize that compassion was not my natural reaction in a situations where it is appropriate. A visceral difference was always obvious, I just didn’t know what was happening — or should have been happening. 

How does one look for that which one does not know exists?

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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 #211 — Mindfulness, meditation and being tangled up in blue October 24, 2018 00:00

Blood On The Tracks

Perhaps more than any other song, the lyrics to Tangled Up In Blue, speak to my soul. Specifically, a good portion of the stories told by the song dovetail nicely with chapters from my life story. I emphasize the word “stories” because I hear more than one told. I have no idea if Dylan intended the story of a single life, in multiple chapters, or multiple stories about many lives — and I don’t care, in part, because both ideas work.

While none of the stories are exactly mine, their fiction intertwines like fingers intertwined in two hands praying--regardless of spiritual tradition. I am sure I'm not alone.

Lyrics

Early one mornin’ the sun was shinin’
I was layin’ in bed
Wondrin’ if she’d changed at all
If her hair was still red
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like 
Mama’s homemade dress
Papa’s bank book wasn’t big enough
And I was standin’ on the side of the road
Rain fallin’ on my shoes 
Heading out for the east coast
Lord knows I’ve paid some dues
Gettin’ through
Tangled up in blue

She was married when we first met
Soon to be divorced
I helped her out of a jam I guess
But I used a little too much force
We drove that car as far as we could
Abandoned it out west
Split up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best
She turned around to look at me
As I was walkin’ away
I heard her say over my shoulder
We’ll meet again some day
On the avenue
Tangled up in blue

I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the axe just fell
So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I happened to be employed
Workin’ for a while on a fishin’ boat
Right outside of Delacroix
But all the while I was alone
The past was close behind
I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind
And I just grew
Tangled up in blue

She was workin’ in a topless place
And I stopped in for a beer
I just kept lookin’ at the side of her face
In the spotlight so clear
And later on as the crowd thinned out
I’s just about to do the same
She was standing there in back of my chair
Said to me “Don’t I know your name?”
I muttered somethin’ under my breath
She studied the lines on my face
I must admit I felt a little uneasy
When she bent down to tie the laces
Of my shoe
Tangled up in blue

She lit a burner on the stove
And offered me a pipe
I thought you’d never say hello, she said
You look like the silent type
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century
And everyone of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal
Pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul
From me to you
Tangled up in blue

I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs
There was music in the cafes at night
And revolution in the air
Then he started into dealing with slaves
And something inside of him died
She had to sell everything she owned
And froze up inside
And when finally the bottom fell out
I became withdrawn
The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin’ on
Like a bird that flew
Tangled up in blue

So now I’m goin’ back again
I got to get to her somehow
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives
But me, I’m still on the road
Headin’ for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point
Of view
Tangled up in blue

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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?