The Middle Way
Zen Spot #148 -- Mindfulness, meditation and the night Max wore his wolf suit February 1, 2018 00:05
I entered kindergarten at the age of four — a full year before my peers. When the teacher would ask the class to hold their hands above their head and signal how old we were by holding up five fingers, I would quizzically hold up four. In hindsight, my early entrance into public education was less a statement of my brilliance than of my mother’s desire to get me out of the house. The following twelve years were full of mediocre grades despite being able to read before entering kindergarten.
Lazy and flaky, I guess. Ego unabashed. Even at four.
In the rear of the classroom, along the entirety of the back wall, was a closet with a hook for each child’s coat, and a cubby for lunchboxes. A long set of two accordion doors, each of which met in the middle of the front of the closet, could be closed to hide our coats, cubbies and books, at the discretion of the teacher. Above the hooks, out of our reach, were two shelves that ran the length of the closet. On those shelves, picture books were displayed so that, while seated, if we turned around, the golden treasure of story time could be seen and craved.
It can’t be overstated, though, that we needed to be physically seated, or standing in the middle of the classroom, in order to see the the display. The books were invisible while we were hanging our coats because, while doing so, we'd be looking straight up at the bottom of the shelf that held the treasure.
Mrs. Vanden Hegel knew something about managing the herd, especially with the accordion doors. Putting them to their full use by closing the doors brought the desired quiet of twenty active children into full effect.
To be sure, my mind wasn’t fully formed at the age of four. That said, a fully formed mind becomes narrowed, semi-logical, and able to discard whatever thoughts its culture deems discardable, even if other cultures fully embrace the same. One man’s trash, as they say.
The unformed mind is able to see and feel things that its culture doesn’t want it to see. Science can prove that colors exist on a much wider spectrum than is visible to the human eye. I’m not suggesting that, as children, we were able to see those colors or that our culture has trained the ability out of our minds but, as a kindergartener, on the shelves I described, I saw a book glow while it sat on the closet shelf.
It became my favorite book — ever.
Where The Wild Things Are
This essay assumes that you’ve read the book and fully understand the fear and excitement that the “Wild Rumpus” can engender in a four year-old. That a bedroom could transform into a forest, and Wild Things could be coaxed forth to dance and gnash, drew me in like a fly ball to an outfielder’s mitt.
Studies of memory suggest that a specific memory is the memory of the last time the memory was accessed by the computer of the mind. That, in fact, the gold glow I witnessed was created by a creative mind run amok, and repeatedly reinforced every time the book was lent to me by the library of my mind.
At some point, the truth doesn’t matter. I can never prove it happened and the most ardent scientist can’t prove it didn’t. The book, itself, remains magical — something I look forward to sharing with grandchildren, if the time comes.
Know this : Something glows for every child in the same way that Where The Wild Things Are glowed for me. Within the glow, the seeds of mindfulness are found.
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.