The Middle Way

Zen Spot #34 - Mindfulness, meditation and a pending interruption August 10, 2018 00:00

A short cut

It was an early October Friday evening in Olde City section of Philadelphia. The streets were alive with gallery openings, street musicians, open-air discourse and playoff baseball being broadcast into the air, through the open doors of tap rooms on every corner.

The streets in Olde City are either extraordinarily well lit or weirdly dark. The latter are usually paved with pre-revolutionary cobblestones. I prefer the dark, after enough time in the light, and chose cobblestones to carry me back to my car.

As I found my way, I came upon the street light and alarm bell shown above. The scene was noticeable because, above the light, a blue glow cast against the bricks. It was coming from the top of the same light. I decided to photograph the oddness. When I got close, the alarm intrigued me more that the blue.

I considered the possibility that the alarm could go off at any time. I hadn’t done anything to trip the alarm and there was no reason to think it might happen. The possibility was existential, not real.

It was night, but I was safe. The light — and the alarm — hovered four feet above my head as I sat with with my back against the bricks, and closed my eyes, wondering if, as I tried to lose myself, the alarm would go off for the first time in one hundred years.

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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 #180 — Mindfulness, meditation and water’s power of erasure July 4, 2018 00:00

Pilings

Perhaps the image above is indiscernible. Water, hopefully, can be seen, with its surface being broken by two wood pilings. Taken with an old smartphone, the image’s color and aversion to detail muffle a muffled story. Pursuant to making lemonade from lemons, I’ve chosen to embrace the questions posed by the photo.

Almost still water

Pounded into the silt at the bottom of a pocket of near-standing water only fifty meters from the main currents of the Delaware River, the pilings are likely remnants of a dock that would allow a boat with a five foot draft to rest. Surrounding docks — those within two or three hundred meters — could, at one time, welcome large container ships.

The dock is gone. Among the questions begged is the role of water’s and man’s erasure.

Elements

Without taking time to review the image above carefully, the bolts protruding from the left post are easily missed and, if so, the element’s influence on this little corner of the environment are also missed. The river’s attempt to erase thousands of stories told by the boats and people who embarked could be misunderstood as an inability to erase — and erasure is a story to behold. Not to be missed, the slow-motion parable of a structure being eaten, after having been torn down, is one of elegance and mystery.

The bolts appear to have secured a wood walkway, before its planks were twisted out like rotten teeth with pliers. The image of a bloody jaw and gums notwithstanding, the bent galvanized bolts and washers betray a force of will directed to erase. Perhaps more mystery than elegance is evident but the image of the natural world performing a slow seductive dance, calling her progeny home, offers a movement to behold. Eventually, each piling will fall, its decay expedited. The bolts will be absorbed by silt and covered by mud, found perhaps in a thousand years.

Millions of stories erased by water.

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About Michael DeSoi  

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 #35 — Mindfulness, meditation, wandering and wondering  in the dark May 14, 2018 00:00

Different street, different night

It was an early Friday evening in November in the Olde City section of Philadelphia. The streets were alive with gallery openings, street musicians, open-air discourse and playoff baseball being broadcast into the night through the open doors of taprooms on every corner.

The streets in Olde City are either extraordinarily well lit or weirdly dark. The latter are usually paved with pre-revolutionary cobblestones. I prefer the dark, after enough time in the light, and chose cobblestones to carry me back to my car. As I walked down a specific shadowed side street, a woman walked quickly toward me on the opposite sidewalk, until reaching a doorway which she immediately opened, slammed and locked. I am a giant. In the dark, if one is a woman, I suppose I would have protected myself, too.

The door was set into an old wood garage door that, if opened, would reveal the interior of a bright cavernous carriage house, from which, in the early twentieth-century, horse-drawn carts would leave daily to carry ice or vegetables or home goods throughout Philadelphia. On this evening, light blast through the grid of hundreds of panes of glass that coupled together into the two stories of windows that hung above the doorway. A chiaroscuro between the light and the dark was created .

The amazing architectural skeleton I could see inside — the wheels and chains and girders and brick — intrigued me. Perhaps more importantly, it brought my ego and emotional innards to the surface. I felt outside. Truly outside. Like I could never — that no matter what I did, no matter how successful I became — experience the beauty inside. That was for other people.

It occurred to me, the next day, that the beauty I couldn’t experience was the beauty inside myself. Then, I realized that beauty, itself, is an illusion.

It doesn’t exist.

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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 #39 — Mindfulness, meditation and a dead factory in post-industrial Philadelphia February 24, 2018 00:05

The common problem of noise

Many of the Zen Spots I find are common places — underpasses, abandoned buildings, urban parks, etc. In particular, dozens are within a two mile stretch of the one mile stretch of the Calder family’s sculpture garden found along the length of the Benjamin Franklin parkway. 

This spot is no different, with the exception of the white noise. The building, around which a concrete moat of chain-linked detritus swims, buffers the sounds of the most live and neon parts of the city. The north side of the once vibrant factory —  at the upward fold where broken concrete ground meets twelve stories of brick — is almost always in shadow, even during the summer, when the sun is at its furthest point north.

I walked across the moat, after climbing through a bolt-cut birth canal in the fence, and found a place to sit against the wall.

My imagination is almost not vivid enough to envision the factory alive. Almost--with the exception of a memory from perhaps my sixth or seventh year.

For forty years, my maternal grandfather drove a tractor-trailer carrying gasoline to regional service stations. The oil refinery from which he departed each day crawled with men, inside and out. The buildings were sparse and practical. The refinery itself was a peleton. Workers wore worker’s clothes. Tin lunch pails, and glass-lined thermoses filled to the brim with black coffee, waited in soldier’s formations. 

Back to the moat

Facing north, where a few commercial buildings fade into blocks of row houses, I closed my eyes and immediately noticed the distance of one siren. 

One siren. The faintest feather of sound. More prominent was the pain of the grit needing to be swept from my palm knuckles after placing all my weight onto one hand when lowering myself into place. A thousand annoying feathers of needles almost puncturing, but not really.

The entirety of the landscape before me was binary, either fractured by chain-link or opening into the expanse of winter sky. Anything alive and welcoming was disturbed by enough rust that one would only grab the fence to climb from a threat below and behind. Of course, the binary was a metaphor.

That said, the metaphor disappeared the moment I closed my eyes. The feather disappeared. The grit disappeared. The fence disappeared.

The binary — that most fundamental building block of logic — that yin and yang of the most illogical — faded into nothingness. 

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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 #30 — mindfulness, meditation and the most common metaphor February 23, 2018 00:05

Neither front door nor back door

In matters of philosophy, or spirituality, the doorway is a common metaphor. It can represent a choice, the unknown, an obstacle, an opportunity and more. The materials from which the door is made can multiply the metaphor. A steel door with a deadbolt tells a different story than a pine wood door that can be opened with the wave of a hand.

I hadn’t walked by the threshold shown above in over twenty-five years. At that time, I was probably chasing a toddler and, as such, the door might as well have been invisible. Parenting requires focus and, if possible, mindfulness. For me, the latter was impossible at the time. 

My most recent experience as a passerby was during the time my elderly mother was having her hip replaced in the hospital that is only several hundred yards away. I chose to take a walk to calm my anxiety while she was in the operating room. 

I walk very slowly due to a chronic foot problem. Had I been able to move faster, I might have moved quickly past the doorway shown above. It is in the rear of a building and cars can be parked in front of it. Mindfulness escaped me at the time despite the world around me revolving in slow motion.

I was concerned that I might lose my mother — that I would return to the hospital and be told by the doctor that complications were overwhelming. In situations like this, the rush of adrenaline mainlines a laser focus that is imprinted on one’s brain forever. My mind was prepared for the news and preparing itself for the rush. I was pre-focused.

The artful wood button above the door is a metaphor above a metaphor and easy to spot if one is strolling and aware — or mindful. The door, itself, is flimsy. I didn’t open it, in part because I didn’t want to see behind it, much like I didn’t want to have a metaphorical door opened by the doctor upon my return.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this essay that I realized the focus caused by my anxiety was a springboard for mindfulness. I was living almost completely in the moment, on the verge of a kind of suffering that can be addressed by mindfulness.

I’ll probably never return to this particular threshold, but I will almost assuredly return to this particular threshold.

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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?

 

 


Mindfulness, meditation and a pending interruption February 22, 2018 00:05

A short cut

It was an early October Friday evening in Olde City section of Philadelphia. The streets were alive with gallery openings, street musicians, open-air discourse and playoff baseball being broadcast into the night, through the open doors of tap rooms on every corner.

The streets in Olde City are either extraordinarily well lit or weirdly dark. The latter are usually paved with pre-revolutionary cobblestones. I prefer the dark, after enough time in the light, and chose cobblestones to carry me back to my car.

As I found my way, I came upon the light and alarm shown above. The scene was noticeable because, above the light, a blue glow cast against the bricks. It was coming from the top of the same light. I decided to photograph the oddness. When I got close, the alarm intrigued me more that the blue.

I considered the possibility that the alarm could go off at any time. I hadn’t done anything to trip the alarm and there was no reason to think it might happen. The possibility was existential, not real.

It was night, but I was safe. The light — and the alarm — hovered four feet above my head as I sat with with my back against the bricks, and closed my eyes, wondering if, as I tried to lose myself, the alarm would go off for the first time in one hundred years.

>

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 #36 — Mindfulness, meditation, autopilot and the internal gyroscope February 20, 2018 00:05

Auto-pilot and gyroscopes

It happens, from time to time, that a memory returns from an alcohol-fueled blackout. There’s no telling what will jar the memory loose. Sometimes, it’s like walking into a wall. At other times, the memory fades in slowly, over the course of a minute. Even after fifteen years of sobriety, it still happens once in a while.

At its worst, while still drinking, I would end up passed-out on a park bench, in a nice business suit. It happened in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Miami, Washington D.C and other cities. Perhaps my physical size was the only thing that kept me safe. Predators must have moved on to easier targets. The police ignored me as well.

It is a time I never want to revisit and, as of this writing, it has been 5414 days.

Washington Square, PHL

Walking from corner to corner, at about 9 pm on a recent Friday night, on my way to an art gallery, my memory opened up. This rarely happens in Philadelphia. My auto-pilot and internal gyroscope could always help me find my way through my home town.

This time was different. 

I don’t shuffle, but my foot speed is noticeably slower than in the life I have since forgotten. That night, I was taking my time, too. It was a beautiful evening. As I passed a particular park bench, my memory faded into a time having crawled across the sidewalk puzzle of rectangular flagstone, until I could pull myself onto the bench. To the best of my estimation, the year was 1998. I had probably been at Dirty Franks, a bar about twelve blocks away, which falls in line with my modus operandi of walkabouts while living in oblivion. No recollection of the stroll has returned.

The bench

As the flashback fully returned, I stood looking down at the bench for a full minute. Shaking my head, I closed my eyes and swayed back and forth on unsteady feet. Shame accompanies these experiences no matter how much time has passed.

I chose to sit. Sobriety, and clarity, provide the option to choose. I further chose to take a breath, with my hands on my knees, in the dark, and make peace with the memory. The quiet was full of distant sirens, plates being cleared by waiters in a nearby restaurant and the sound of rubber tires turning on asphalt.

I imagined a space ship having departed some 5000 days before, disappearing into the blackness, only to return, unannounced, just minutes before. A guy about my size got out, sat down next to me and disappeared into nothingness.

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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 #108 — Mindfulness, meditation and the rats next to my head February 20, 2018 00:05

The internal monologue

Were there rats and maggots in the walls of the bedroom where I felt so safe as a child? Were they inches from my head, as I dozed, just on the other side of the plaster wall, chewing on the slats? Was my oblivion a blessing? Was I not fully connected to the world and, therefore, closer to truth?

Paschall Avenue

That row home has rats now. The date of their arrival is in question. In summer, well into the evening, when it was too hot to be inside, neighbors would sit on their front stoops, in lawn chairs and on concrete stairs, sharing and laughing. The rats of the mind have overrun the minds of the owners and the owners moved away.

Tyler

The stoop in front of the door in the image above was always busy. Sitting was impossible. Inside was an art school. A fine, busy art school. A warm wonderful place. The rats of the mind have overrun the minds of the owners and the owners have moved away.

Breathing

I closed my eyes and sat with my back against the plywood blocking the door, believing I was safe, committed to the path, but clearly much further from the truth than when the rats were inches from my head.

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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 #95 — Mindfulness, meditation and cinder blocks in the doorway of a crack house February 18, 2018 00:05

Crooked violent tombstones in parallel

I’m used to driving past a cemetery — Mount Moriah Cemetery  in Southwest Philadelphia--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 iron impaling 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.

Thieves, addicts and the homeless

I visit the cemetery now and again. It makes me feels closer to my ancestors, none of whom are buried, but each of whom lived within a stone’s throw, watching the decay.

The sepulchre above, at one time, had a strong metal door frame, hardened glass and a bulletproof lock. Enough desperation was felt, at some point, for a human being to crowbar it open. Inside, addicts got high and passed out. Whores and kids had sex. Homeless men slept. Next to the dead.

Were I buried there, the saint and voyeur within me would welcome the crimes. That people slept next to my body to keep warm, and stay alive, would give me solace.

Of all the places I visit and sit, this is perhaps the most quiet and the most dangerous. Kids rove and rob. My maternal grandfather may, in fact, have been one of those kids, a long time ago. I am a giant, though. I’ve walked by the packs of wolves and they don’t bother me.

Unquiet in the quiet

It was late afternoon and, while I am a giant, as I sat down and pressed my back against the cinder blocks, I didn’t close my eyes. The thought of the safety this home had offered, being taken from the desperate people who sought refuge there, triggered memories of a time when I was safe and many others weren’t. 

Just like right now. 

Mindfulness and compassion.

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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 #114 — Mindfulness, meditation and the birdhouse with a sunny door February 17, 2018 00:05

Philadelphia is full of murals

One can’t turn a corner without coming upon a giant — they reach out with a message of history, hope, culture or empathy. From the richest to the poorest, it seems that every neighborhood is blessed.

Giant scaffolds, giant brushes and giant gestures

No matter how detailed the image, painting a mural, in parts, requires broad gestures of bold color. Rendering a flower might extend the artist’s arms as far as they can possibly go while standing on tippy-toes. From the landing of a scaffold, raised five stories in the air, looking down can wither a painter in a way that standing in front of a canvas, at home, never would.

Life can’t reside in a mural

Rarely can truth be found in a painting. Parables and icons come with a viewpoint that is often incomplete or polished. Landscapes and city-scapes represent an ideal devoid of blood. 

In the mural shown above, the artist affixed a birdhouse — a real and precious home — to the rendering of a tree. Time was taken to build or buy, then paint, a place for a living thing to be warm. 

A doorway to the sun

The bird for whom the house will become home will always enter through a circular door painted to look like the sun. Parables await. In a city of neighborhoods, on a tree that doesn’t exist, a real bird hops through a symbolic sun to enter the warmth of its actual home.

Mindful and grateful

I didn’t notice the birdhouse when I took the photograph. It wasn’t until afterward, while cropping the image for placement in this blog, that I realized art was imitating life, telling a story more powerful than any giant, requiring a giant for the story to be told at all.

I am a bird. I am a giant. I am not a bird. I am not a giant.

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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 #113— Mindfulness, meditation, a falafel platter, spicy fries and mint tea February 16, 2018 00:00

Sometimes

Sometimes it is best to eat alone. Sometimes it is best to not share. Sometimes the quiet, the solitude and the air mingle to transcend.

Swiss Alps

I’ve written of a moment etched, while pumping gas at a roadside station while travelling between Frieberg im Breisgau and Bologna. The moment was benign — just standing next to a rental car, in blinding sunlight, with mountains towering on both sides of the highway.

The station was a jumble of disorganization both inside and out. Clean Swiss design invaded by a human being. Outside: used tires and half-repaired cars. Inside: a mini-mart hit by a 1.5 earthquake.

While leaning against the car, stretching, the universe came to equal zero. No reason why. I didn’t see God. I wasn’t near death. The surrounding world was neither peaceful nor active. Potato chips and tea were nearby.

Everything stopped forever and never — like electrons and protons froze. I will probably never return.

Philadelphia

There is a backroom that can’t be seen from the front door. The grill can be viewed easily, from the street, through the storefront’s plate glass window. Side to side, the restaurant’s facade is no more than 20 feet. Given the quality of a very specific dish, the entirety of the surroundings and threshold are unremarkable.

Only five tables fit in the back room and, when they’re full, the experience can be warm and tight. Bench seats that allow the sum total of tables and chairs to fit, are built into the opposing bare brick walls. Look up to see a plexi-glass ceiling that lets whatever light falls from the sky onto the table tops. When it rains, water gathers in spots to which droplets run from wherever they splash down.

A single perfect meal

Over the course of thirty-seven years, I’ve only ordered one meal. By my count, I’ve eaten the meal almost 150 times. 

And, while I don’t reach the clarity and stillness I felt in the Alpine pass when I visit, the experience always confirms the existence of the path that leads to clarity and stillness. 

Whereas the absolute zero experienced at the gas station was instantaneous, the reliability of a slow motion path leading to the gas station, from the back room of a Middle Eastern restaurant, is proof enough for 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 #123 — Mindfulness, meditation and imagining the family February 15, 2018 00:05

The image

The photograph above is, by far, the most popular image that I post on Twitter. The home, I believe, looks hopeful and warm and interesting. One’s imagination is stirred. A story is evoked.

The story

A one hundred six year-old woman has lived in the home since 1920. With eight children, twenty-one grandchildren, six great grandchildren and two great, great grandchildren, her genes have dispersed to western Europe, Morrocco, Japan and eleven states. 

Built in 1906, in one of the first neighborhoods on the west side of the Schuykill River, the home has three bedrooms and one bath. Essentially two shotgun shacks, one sitting atop the other, coal was shoveled through a street-level window in the front of the structure, to heat the home, until 1952.

Her name is Dorothea. For sixty years, she cleaned offices in Center City Philadelphia. Otherwise, she stayed at home, cooking for her family and, when she had time, painted pictures of her neighborhood.

I’ve never spoken with her.

Truth

Dorothea doesn’t exist. Never did. I fabricated her soul because that’s who I want to live in the home. Could be an artist lives there — or an electrician, a vandal, a trash truck driver, a nurse or a secret billionaire.

Show me a home and I’ll tell you a story that always ends with a question and about an existence that doesn't exist.

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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 #109 — Mindfulness, meditation, deconstruction, demolition and the next life February 14, 2018 00:05

Drifts of bricks

There is something about the destruction of a church. For the most part, rubble of the like shown above is retained for pictures of Western Europe during World War II--the cause being bombs dropped on women and children. Piles of bricks and stone blocks, drifting like snow against whatever walls or pews are left standing, occupied many of the most beautiful cities and towns. Death of a particular and violent sort was everywhere. 

A kind of train station

All life comes to an end. The lives of churches are no exception. That they serve as a departure point, and therefore a Zen spot, for thousands of parishioners, during funeral services, gives them a unique trajectory — and a lifespan of four or five or six generations. In Europe, centuries. A case can be made, then, that the collective mind of a parish, with human beings arriving and departing all the time, is the purest example of time without time.

The reason

There is the question of the ending of the life of the church above. Cancer, of course, could offer an explanation. Live long enough and almost every body succumbs. And, of course, people can become the cancer itself. Organisms succumb. Age, apathy, a loss of faith, a redirection and a building left in disrepair comprise a list of other possibilities.

The Alamo and Roanoke

At some point, one man was left standing before the building was overrun. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been there in the first place, along with everyone around him and the people who came before him for a generation or more. Creation by destruction is just another example of how train stations, ports and religions get built. 

A tumor of the collective mind?

>

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 #115 — Mindfulness, meditation and that place where the rapids begin February 14, 2018 00:05

Math and fluids

Engineers love me. Throughout university, they were my friends. Still are. A much-beloved giant black sheep, unlike my friends, I never sat in front of a college professor trying to learn fluid dynamics. Reminders of this fact abound from my friends. Truth be told, I had no idea what fluid dynamics were. Formulas of mathematical Greek, powered by factors and viscosity, were thrown at me, like mud, in only the way friends can splatter with love.

Crushing a brick

A friend’s professor, upon some inquisition, described a research project trying to determine the failure point of a red brick. Specifically, a variety of red brick, the kinds of which are used to build a home, were placed in a press and an increasing amount of pressure was applied until the brick crumbled.

The concept fascinated me. Rest dust was the result of the project. Red dust.

At the conclusion of the research project, the question posed by the researcher was answered based on the parameters, and the next research project was begun--moving on to metaphorically create more red dust, time after time after time, ad infinitum.  

To me, the failure of the brick was much more than the math of the failure. Suggesting discourse, when questioned about my larger/smaller curiosity, the engineers offered blank stares. To them, red dust was simply red dust. No more, no less--higher math.

The failure of the brick, to me, was an example of the crossing-over point from the blind mind to the clear mind. That precise nano-second when the brick crumbles was, as best I can describe, the building of a bridge.

A question about water

An influencing factor — a dynamic — is required for a fluid to move from its rest. Wind, erosion, heat, a broken vessel and a thousand other influences can disturb the rest. 

Water, when found in a natural setting, rests until it does not rest. Sitting on the bank of the stream shown above, it was easy to see a glass top section of water that appeared completely still, no more than fifty yards away. 

At some point between where I sat and that point of still water, a nano-second passed — a precise point in space/time — where the water transformed from stillness. 

Something failed and influenced the water's state in a most beautiful, sublime and natural way.

Oh, to fail.

>

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 #128 — Mindfulness, meditation and the color of language February 13, 2018 00:05

Words are words

Frank Zappa, the late musician and savant, when confronted by pundits about his usage of the English language in his songs, with an emphasis on the words and ideas covered by those lyrics, offered the defense that words are just words. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Now, on most topics, I agree with Frank. And, in a world where almost everything exists on a continuum of shades of grey, I lean strongly in the direction of his opinion on language, in the context of the First Amendment. Our paths diverge at the point where a portion of humanity and dogma merge onto his autobahn — especially for those choosing to drive cars slowly, in the fast lane, because they are unable to take the vehicle beyond first gear.

Words are not words

A book was written, with words, a long time ago, that too few people have read and fewer of whom truly understand. I count myself among both groups.

The book has been read to me hundreds of times and I can mimic the sounds of the words by rote without ever considering the meaning. They are crickets on a summer night, or a waterfall, or wind chimes, or Kenny G. playing in the background at a dinner party. Of those who have read with diligence, I’ve met few who can read between the lines. 

This book could be any book. It is any book.

Order is critical

In a black and white world, Frank Zappa would be Right, if the order of words was as benign as his contention of the power of individual words portends. When ordered purposefully, individual words become more powerful — sometimes geometrically. And people do stupid stuff because of the order.

Order is not critical

In the world of language, order is a law of nature. Individual words are given power, as are phrases and paragraphs and books, based on billions of words written previous to their singularity or crafted order. Consider the influence of Hamlet on Huckleberry Finn, and Huckleberry Finn on Factotum. 

An argument can be made that these books exist as much based on the order of words spoken as the simple sum-total of all words ever spoken and written. 

Chanting and singing

Harmony and melody can invalidate language, especially when rote memory wrestles literacy to the ground. Songs sung from anywhere in front of an altar are particularly suspect — which would explain Zappa’s beliefs. No matter how purposeful and thoughtful the story told by a song, the story most often serves the music. 

Consider singing a song supported by a simple repetitive melody, in a language you can’t understand. Discover how little the words can come to mean to you. Further consider the possibility that those words could lead a native speaker to violence while driving in the fast lane, in first gear, on any autobahn.

Right speech.

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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 #124 — Mindfulness, meditation and the mother of all mothers February 13, 2018 00:05

A vintage storefront

Just south of Bainbridge Street, on 5th, is a vintage women’s tailor. Not sure of the name, but I’ll check.

Passing by, the mannequin in the window made me shiver. It was my mother. The face, the clothes, the hair. Excepting pearls, which were missing, the model mimicked every processed photograph I’d ever seen of my mother from the time before I was born. Had I been able to flip a switch, to see in black and white, the experience would have been complete — Chevy’s with wings, Eisenhower before the dime, the legend of waiting until marriage.

Before I was born

I think more, now, about the time, in the future, when I will no longer be here. While growing up, I took for granted, without any thought at all, that a time existed before I arrived. My family began a million sentences with those words — "before you were born." 

As I’ve gotten older, and as I’ve written in this series, I have a fascination with the time after my arrival but before I became conscious. 

Where was I? What was my mind doing? Am I still in that state, with a greater consciousness in front of me? Or oblivion? Or enlightenment? Or nothing, but not nothingness?

Living is a period of faithless struggle, not suffering, Suffering, being, waiting, trying to demonstrate compassion with every action.

Sometimes.

Time.

Not time.

What?

>

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 #81 — Mindfulness, meditation and an esoteric peephole February 12, 2018 00:00

Garbage pails

South Jersey used to be filled with pig farms. Demand for apple cores, potato skins, carrot tops and other rotting vegetables was so high in the 1960s that my grandmother, and her neighbors, would hang pails full of the rot from their second story kitchens, into the alley behind their houses, so the pig farmers could collect free food for their livestock.

Pig door

By looking at the barn door above, there’s no way to know if pigs or horses or chickens thrive on the other side. That swirling nose-bending aroma of rot hanging from second-story kitchens is no where to be found. 

I believe about Dada what I believe about Zen

Dada is an early twentieth century European literary and art movement that, simplistically, embraced chance, absurdity and the ordinary, as the building blocks for a movement that was antithetical to even itself. A movement that is not a movement, that has to be a movement, retreating from being a movement.

Zen

I get it but I can’t explain it. My inability to explain it proves that I get it. Were I to offer an explanation to a friend based on logic or research, I could create a list, or point to academic opinion, but that would not get to the core of the their need to change their viewpoint and accept the difference between what they’ve been taught and what they feel.

Dada

I get it but I can’t explain it. My inability to explain it proves that I get it. Were I to offer an explanation to a friend based on logic or research, I could create a list, or point to academic opinion, but that would not get to the core of the their need to change their viewpoint and accept the difference between what they’ve been taught and what they feel.

A voyeur named Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp was, arguably, the most famous Dadaist despite rarely committing his identity to the movement.

His opinion that artist’s tend to create the same thing over and over again is incisive. With the exception of only a few artists, he’s on point. The whys and hows can be debated but, if one stands back and takes a critical eye, his vision was uncanny. He saw artists. He saw himself. He created within his viewpoint.

The creative act, for him, was not a language within which an artist could become fluent — including himself. The creative mind could cultivate a language but, once cultivated, only a few pieces could be conceived before having to learn a new language.

Cheek to cheek 

Getting too close to painting in a gallery or museum will quickly result in a viewer being warned to step back behind a real or imaginary line. Imagine mashing your face into a Picasso. 

Every hole is a peep hole

We are all voyeurs. Submit evidence to the contrary. To me, it’s only a matter of degree, self awareness and motive. Voyeur is a charged word. It can make people’s knees buckle, if only because they are physically contorting their bodies to look within — like tilting one's head when trying to more fully understand something.

Looking inward means nothing without looking around though. Interdependence. The clear, pure mind requires soap and the mind isn’t a soap factory. That said, peep holes are charged holes. A level of guilt is associated. Filth sometimes. Shame. 

Something to voy

The first time I saw the Pig Door, I didn’t know what was on the other side. In an odd place, finding the door is like finding Ferrari in a cave. I knew the door didn't protect a freight elevator or a grain elevator. 

Two peep holes are bored into the wood — in the center, about five inches apart and approximately five feet off the ground. Peep holes in a barn door. And they’re not well marked. One needs to come upon another voyeur to know that there’s something to voy.

The vagina and the landscape

Smash your face against the peep hole. There’s a vagina inside. Well, not just a vagina. A naked lady, laying in a field, with mountains and brambles surrounding. Holding a gas lantern. But the vagina’s there. Loud and proud. 

No head.

Neither a vagina worthy of Larry Flynt nor Georgia O’Keefe, it is disconcerting — if only because it is at the back of one of the best collections of Dadaist art in America. This barn door is in an art museum, not a pig farm. Unless you’re a pig.

Quiet on both sides of the doorway

The door is at the back of the last gallery in the north wing of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in  the Louise and Walter Arensberg gallery. All the way in the back. Take a scooter.

Do not lean against the wall

During my last visit, the voyeur within had just lovingly mashed my eyeballs against the peep hole for the fifth time. I leaned in, like most people. Ten finger tips pressed against the wood to keep me steady — and make sure that I kept all my teeth if a pig came barreling through from the other side. 

Face mashed. Finger tips. Leaning.

When I finished, the gallery was quiet. I was alone. It was late. I sat on the ground, to the left of the door and leaned back intending to be mindful — and was reminded, by a security guard, that patrons shouldn't lean against the walls.

I should have leaned against the door and listened to the pigs.

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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 #121 — Mindfulness, meditation and the sanctity of a temple, a church, a synagogue or an artist’s studio February 12, 2018 00:00

Inside

Artist’s studios are usually and necessarily spartan and chaotic, at the same time. White walls, grey floors, and plenty of storage. Tools organized and disorganized. Smells and aromas. Tables on wheels, work benches and places to splatter stuff. Light, sometimes natural and sometimes not, but bright, that the nuances of mixed colors may ascertained.

Splatter and light

Holy places, as it were, are often the opposite of spartan and chaotic. Ornament adorns, with an accompanying iconography of visual language, that assigns parabolic meaning to single letters in an alphabet. Where, in English, a three-lettered word like “cat” refers to a single four-legged animal, in the language of myriad dogmas, the word “cat” can be assigned a meaning so complex that armies can be launched if its meaning is maligned.

Usually, the complexity of meaning refers to either darkness or light, in the most absolute sense of each word.

This studio, temple, church or synagogue

Just north of University City, in Philadelphia, the building in the photo above sits on perhaps a three acre plot. And, while University City — home to the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University — most assuredly sits in West Philadelphia, this brilliant building does not sit in University City. 

I came upon this dwelling while taking a shortcut, trying to avoid traffic. Thinking that I knew where much of the best public art could be found within William Penn’s grand experiment, I was blown away. It captures the mind. 

Having a bag of baby carrots and a bottle of lemonade with me, after taking the pictures, I leaned against the painted brick, underneath the screaming mask, just to the right of the garage door, and gave 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 #126 — Mindfulness, meditation and the purple electric inside February 11, 2018 00:05

The color of a paradox

There is the question of the color of the nature of the mind. In the case of metaphysics, I’m confident that the color of the nature of the mind falls outside the visible spectrum of light. It naturally follows that the color would be logical but inconceivable.

Depictions, however, necessarily require words or pigment. And, while desire is something that we aspire to remove in pursuit of the reduction of suffering, few people would balk at the opportunity to choose the color of their mind. I desire purple despite my favorite color being red. Purple is my choice, when answering an absurd question grounded in a state of desire that will, by its very nature, prolong suffering.

The owner of the home above, whose interior projected a radiating purple light onto translucent window blinds, chose precisely the color I chose — on a Friday night, in November, in Philadelphia, on a street that I desire.

The road is long and, one way or another, the lights in the windows along the street will fade. Perhaps, at one point, we will see beyond the spectrum.

>

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 #9 — Mindfulness, meditation and a rusted iron obelisk on fifteen dead acres February 11, 2018 00:05

A safe place

At the right time of day, with the sun shining, one can sit at this obelisk's base, find the lotus position, close one’s eyes, lean back, and embrace the quiet. It offers a natural and perfect seat. Often, a breeze encircles the courtyard at the center of which the sculpture resides.

It is an altar of sorts. 

I walked by every day for four years and never touched it. The day I took this picture, I did the same and don’t know why. It appears to be cast from solid metal,  perhaps a combination of steel and iron. If so, the behemoth must weigh several tons. And, if one were to strike it with the expectation that a dark bell will respond, there will, instead, be a sharp pain. If one were to comfort it with a hand, the rust would redden as much of one's palm as touches the face of the sculpture.

The opportunity offered to sit perfectly is unambiguous. Quietly screaming for meditation, I missed the opportunity.

An estate

It sits at the center of dead monastery. Where art and discourse once thrived, boarded doorways, broken windows, graffiti and dreadful silence now eat into its spirit. Bolts, plywood and industrial locks create walls out of doorways. 

At the corner of Beech and Penrose Avenues, three blocks north of Cheltenham Avenue, in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, lies the remains of the original Tyler School of Art. Set on the once private family estate of the members of the William Elkins Lukens fortune, the school graduated its first class in 1934. Surrounded by a five-foot stone wall, the campus is a quiet, bucolic respite that protects young artists from the surrounding world in much the same way the walls of a monastery protect young monks.

I graduated in 1986.

In 2009, the school moved to Temple University’s main campus, about ten miles away. In its wake, it left the husk of a previous life onto which I still hold. I rarely return because I don’t want new memories. The beauty of the old memories is far more appealing. Their volume and intensity are enough to overwhelm and displace a brief visit, thankfully. A past life is still visible in my mind’s eye, while I am moving to the next.

The husk is fading as I write this sentence--as it should be.

>

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 #143— Mindfulness, meditation and the intersection of Broad and Vine February 10, 2018 00:05

The intersection

Traveling west on Vine Street, I ran a red light at the corner of Broad at about 9 p.m. on a Thursday night. Halfway through the intersection, I knew I was in trouble. The terror of such a mistake, in the moment, before an impact, is hard to describe. Time slows down and speeds up simultaneously. The impact is expected — only there wasn’t an impact.

I sailed to the other side of Broad unscathed. Cars going north and south narrowly missed me. Pursuant to my description of my choice’s effect on time, the vehicles never slammed on their brakes or honked their horns. It all happened too quickly — everybody was safe without any input or time to react. 

Before I made it to the other side, I knew I had a problem with alcohol. In fact, I’d suspected for about six months. My suspicions were confirmed as I crossed the double line on Broad Street. 

I’d had two drinks, so I wasn’t blind. One’s accountability, however, is the same whether one drink or one fifth is involved. Drinking and driving had never been a problem in the past — it just wasn’t my thing. Doesn’t matter.

The needle had been threaded.

Grace, karma, luck, coincidence, nothing or ferried by an angel

For the previous seven years, and perhaps more, I’d done little to earn a favor from the universe — taking more than giving. And, while I understand that the idea of karma is much more than cause and effect, I believe in cause and effect as a fundamental part of life, especially since the negative effect caused by a negative action can bring considerable suffering. Simplistic, I know, but it works for me.

Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t kill somebody or myself. We were saved by inches and physics. What were the karma profiles of everybody involved? Those driving north and south? The pedestrians?

I threaded the needle. Grace, karma, luck, coincidence, nothing or ferried by an angel?

When the eye of a needle is a threshold

I committed to change. It took me another year to stop drinking but I never got behind the wheel of a car again. With the help of an acquaintance I stopped altogether and, as of the essay, it’s been 5873 days.

When the eye of a needle is a tunnel

Things got harder for a long time. The metaphor of the light at the end of the tunnel being a train ended up being true. It took time to learn, though, that I’d been in the tunnel long before the needle was threaded. 

Never coming out on the other side of the tunnel

Metaphors are sometimes inappropriate or ineffective. This is one of those times.

Coming out on the other side of the tunnel

It was grace, karma, luck, coincidence, nothing and being ferried by an angel — because they’re all the same thing. Every time I cross that intersection I’m grateful.

With gratitude comes compassion. With compassion, anything is possible.

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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 #65 — Mindfulness, meditation, fiery fangs and graffiti February 10, 2018 00:05

A never-ending canvas

In north Philadelphia, near 5th and Cecil B. Moore, is a cinder block wall that partially surrounds a courtyard of some sort. The owners allow people to create street art on the walls. Artists continually paint over the previous work, after a respectful time — perhaps a month or so. The quality of the work ranges, but all of it is careful and personal. Those who paint are thoughtful.

I visit the canvas occasionally.

In space, no one can hear you scream

The mural above has since been painted over. It was born and it died. In between, hundreds of people stopped to visit and marvel, including myself. Among the most notable movie experiences of my lifetime is the scene, in Alien, where the monster breaks out of the chest cavity of one of the characters. The fight scenes are vicious and mercy is never shown. The volume is staggering in a theater.

Mindfulness near the fangs

I was by myself when I took the picture above. Otherwise, you would see me sitting, with my eyes closed, breathing, with no fear of being eaten.

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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 #74 — Mindfulness, meditation and a wandering, anonymous street artist February 10, 2018 00:05

Glued 

My love of street art is well documented. From small Sharpie drawings on postal stickers cemented to the back of traffic signs, to large paintings on the outside walls of corner bars, the need for visual artists to express themselves fascinates me. Each tells a personal story.

90 miles of love

Whatever story the artist is telling in the photo above, it turns like the page of an esoteric children’s book. Something about a king and her court perhaps. There is a specificity. No matter, it is personal, for now.

I found it in Philadelphia, in October.

There was no telling, in the moment, that the artwork above was a single page until, while walking on the east side of Eighth Avenue, near Jane Street, in New York City, that I passed another drawing by the same artist, plastered to a similar mail box. It fit the shape of the box the same way — trimmed, with the rounded top. Black and white, but different. Flimsy paper that two or three good rains can destroy. 

I’m not sure if the image had changed or if it was the next page from the same story.

The artist traveled 90 miles. Was she from Brooklyn and visiting Philadelphia? Vice versa? Is the story told, one page at a time, in cities all over the country? All over the world?

I found the New York image in March.

A confession?

Must one travel to turn all the pages to find out what happens? Is the message so personal — and awful — that its truth must be shared, with the express intent of never having one person know the whole story, with its creator still having screamed it quietly to the whole world. 

Guilty. 

You.

The southern sky

In Philadelphia, I leaned back against the green metal, faced the southern sky and folded my legs. An awful page from a personal story opened in my mind’s eye. Never a children’s book.

Sometimes it’s enough to simply absorb the sun on one’s face.

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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 #135 -- Mindfulness, meditation and the unexpected flower bed February 8, 2018 00:05

I am not a flower guy

As a child, I was allergic to a lot of the foods kids love — apples, bananas, strawberries, potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, lemons, limes, grapes. In addition, my seasonal allergies were so bad that I would literally cry spontaneously in March with the full knowledge that April showers bring May flowers. The required nasal decongestants were so strong that I was either sleeping due to their sedative effects or sneezing until my nose was bloodied because I chose not to take the medication.

For decades, I loathed flowers. Their beauty was indistinguishable from profound discomfort.

Truly. 

I’m a concrete guy

Many of my allergies have improved in the ensuing 45 years. Apples and strawberries can still be a problem, as can cats. Springtime, too, is still a little problematic but no more for me than the average hay fever sufferer. Still, though, when I see a bed of flowers or a field of newly mowed grass, I become Pavlov’s dog.

Sidewalks and asphalt and cobblestones are all my preferred surroundings, even to this day — and I’m comfortable with this comfort. My friends and family want me to stretch my limits. 

Maybe.

Pavlov

Facing down a flower, as if it were a live hand grenade, is too strong an analogy to describe my pathology — but you get my point. 

To experience the sublime beauty of simply standing in close proximity to dozens of flowers would be to stare down a lifetime of discomfort. That said, said staring match recently happened when I was walking along a sidewalk — a concrete sidewalk — through my home city, with my head down, having cruised passed this magnificent newly constructed cathedral, and needing to stop at a red light before crossing the street. 

While standing, waiting, I spun around for some inexplicable reason, and was confronted by a bunch of pansies, nestled in a chest-high raised marble bed, firmly planted in peat, within two feet of my face. Panic ensued, but I stopped and took a breath.

Then, I folded my legs and sat on the sidewalk, with my back against the side of the marble bed and closed my eyes until the panic went away. Minutes later, I stood and waved my hand across the petals having touched my first flower in 45 years.

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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?