The Middle Way

Zen Spot #97 -- Mindfulness, meditation and the Zen Blue hat February 21, 2018 00:05

Zen Blue

It’s not a color. Or, is it? I’d never heard of it, until I made it up yesterday. I needed a simple description for the color of a hat I’d seen in a dream the night before.

The dream

I’d visited a used bookstore in Portland, looking for a Zen Spot in the back corner, near the holy books. A blog entry I’d read before landing in Oregon, written by two lovers who embrace used bookstores in the same way traveling lovers occupy lavatories in jumbo jets, described the maze between the front door and the desired shelf of well-worn titles. A particular sentence in their blog described a bent metal flange, hanging from the hundred year-old ornamental iron ceiling, that would mark the spot above where they sat together and whispered passages from Leaves of Grass to each other.

Zen Spot

A Zen Spot is a common yet special place that holds the body electric long after the body has moved into the next life — in this life or the next. One can stand, or sit, and meditate among that spot’s sum total of noise and people and ideas, and hear nothingness resonate the mantras of every patron who had stood there and read a passage from any book.

Walt Whitman — Zen Master

The lovers’ blog mentioned nothing of Zen, but it didn’t have to. Whitman, to me, is a Zen master, and those whose minds he engages sit before him in contemplation of a path to mindfulness.

In my mind’s eye, just before entering the store, the stacks appeared so close together as to barely allow two people to pass without rubbing against one another. To sit together on the floor and read, a couple would need to scrunch up into a ball and block traffic. Some patrons might feel inconvenienced. Others might choose to sit and listen and, if they did, would be welcomed into the body electric.

I followed the maze, found the ceiling flange and closed my eyes. Pages turned ambient above sirens in the distance. Patrons coughed conversations resembling the sound of a television show that can be heard through the walls of a row home just before one falls asleep.

Noon struck

Having found the quiet, I unfolded myself in the corner with the expectation of sitting peacefully for a little while. As a big person, I am keenly aware of every cubic inch I occupy. To my left, on the second shelf, about eighteen inches above the floor, crammed behind a row of books, each without a name, I found a blue hat.

The Zen Blue hat

I took the hat to the bookstore owner and asked her to leave it in the Lost and Found. She lit up and declined. Instantaneously remembering a purposeful man having worn the hat into the store a very long time ago and never having returned to retrieve it, she told me to keep it.

I agreed to leave wearing it, but not before returning to the stacks to look up and see the flange. Leaving the hat on a small marble-topped table — upside-down — I returned to find a copy of Leaves of Grass laying in the hat with a note that said “free”. I asked the owner if she’d seen who left the book behind. She declined and told me to take the hat  and the book.

Now, I’m looking for a real Zen Blue Hat.


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

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