The Middle Way

Zen Spot #181 -- Mindfulness, meditation and walking into the building of a grandmother's dress April 21, 2018 00:00

Walking into the building of the dress

Painted on the side of a bodega in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, when I first saw this mural I instantly searched for a doorway in the patterned redness of the flair below the grandmother's waist. An imaginary door. Not the front door of the store. A dream door. A threshold to a refuge for the child of my mind. Crossing into a village parable. Hugging shopkeepers, mothers, babushkas, friends and family. Christmas lights everywhere. A kitchen, parlor, bedrooms, windows and spiral staircase. The warmth of a past home, inside the dress.

Seven beige housecoats

My maternal grandmother lived with an apron cinched over one of seven beige housecoats, each worn for a particular day of the week. The style was common among sisters, cousins and neighbors. Omnipresent, her white aprons never seemed to get dirty while making meals; purity, care, patience, poverty and skill made manifest. A cotton waist cinch, not unlike a sneaker's shoestring, replaced the pearls she would never be able to afford. An entire world of working fashion, with entirely different values -- except for her one patterned red dress. 

Sweet hot tea

My brother and I rarely stayed at my grandparent's home overnight. Among the breakfast treats, when we did, was hot tea filled with as much milk and sugar as desired. Toast, jelly, eggs, bacon and lots of sweet, hot tea served by a bright white apron.

A jitterbugging patterned red dress

My grandparents went dancing every Saturday night. Four hours of joy and jitterbugging in a beloved, patterned red dress. Polaroid smiles, captured by my grandfather. Beer and chips. A reckless, cheap, beige polyester suit over a collared white shirt. One resented brown striped neck tie hanging like a beatnik scarf. A man who would do anything to ensure that red dress could dance, having driven a tanker truck for forty years.

Details of the mural

I didn't notice the blue infant in the basket until I thought I'd found the doorway, instead choosing to worship the grandmother in the mural. Examining the home in her right hand,  she imagines a kitchen, parlor, bedrooms, windows and a spiral staircase inside the warmth of a new home, waiting and wanting to make toast, jelly, eggs, bacon and hot tea, with lots of sugar and milk.

>

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.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #178 -- Mindfulness, meditation and standing in the corner of my mother's kitchen March 28, 2018 00:00

Illusion

The orange sphere in this mural is painted to appear three-dimensional. Placed strategically in the corner of the brick wall, when the viewer stands twelve inches to the left or right of where I was standing when I took this photo, the sphere flattens out. Perhaps the rest of the mural's shapes would appear more dimensional if they weren’t bound by the top of the wall or the start of the sidewalk. The effect of the sphere is especially stunning — almost levitating.

Drawn into the corner, wanting to touch a sphere that doesn’t exist, I found myself standing in the corner in the same way a mother might have disciplined a child in the past. Getting close enough to touch the paint with bent elbows, the aroma of a nearby restaurant's kitchen brought a memory of my mother's cooking.

I closed my eyes.

Flashback

When I was three years-old, I crayoned the entirety of my bedroom’s hardwood floor. Caught on my hands and knees while I was backing out the doorway, the effort earned a trip to the corner of my mother’s kitchen.

I closed my eyes.

>

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.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #37 --  Mindfulness, meditation and a private doorway of exploding roadkill February 25, 2018 00:05

The fane and the profane

Philadelphia has a vibrant street art culture , both legal and illegal. The fane occupy the same neighborhoods as the profane. An amazing mural painted on the side of three-story brownstone will stand shoulder to shoulder with underground art stickers plastered to the back of a stop sign. Both tell notable stories. Both crave posterity.

The doorway above adorns a home in Philadelphia's Queen Village neighborhood. Surrounded by the funky and proper, a two step stoop offers respite to its owners. In a city where, on warm summer evenings, the most welcome relief to be found are the conversations held while seated on the concrete steps in front of a friend’s home, this doorway's stoop is an Adirondack chair.

Walking by roadkill

As a child, my town bordered farm country. Hedgerows, cows, tractors and irrigation ditches. Where cornfields ended, sprawling forests exploded with all manner of wild things. Roadkill exploded. My imagination exploded. Walking by splattered skunk guts on my way to get a gallon of milk, I expected the dead animal to morph into a hell hound hell-bent on devouring me. 

Private doorway roadkill

I often lean against a wall to meditate and would liked to have done so sitting on this home's stoop. Finding a curb seven feet away, the opportunity to control my breath with my back to a beast offered a silly lesson in mindfulness.

Surprisingly, it never attacked.

>

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.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #7 - Mindfulness, meditation and the Erased de Kooning February 24, 2018 00:05

Erased de Kooning

Erased de Kooning Drawing is an artwork work created by Robert Rauschenberg. The final work appears to be an almost blank piece of paper. Created in 1953 by erasing a drawing he obtained from Willem de Kooning, the work is powerful and sublime, requiring an in-person viewing to fully experience its subtle brilliance. 

Grafitti in Philadelphia

Street art is proof that some voices refuse to be ignored. They will sing anywhere and at any time, like tree roots forcing their way through the joints of an underground pipe in search of water. Throughout Philadelphia, there is a group of unknown street artists who leave artwork behind on street signs, in train stations, on park benches and, in some cases, simply leaning against a curb.

Some of the work is good. Time was taken to create a piece of durable substance. Other works are spontaneous, fleeting and fragile. Rain would nearly destroy them and perhaps that’s the point. A third group is that of the accidental. All over the city, people leave behind beauty, weirdness and a wonderful little piece of themselves.

It’s hard to tell what the street art image above was, with the assumption that the image was painted over as part of an anti-graffiti program. Found pasted to an underpass just east of the corner of 5th and Callowhill Streets, it makes a confounding statement.

Ripping-off Banksy

The work's technique was clearly inspired by Banksy, the world famous and anonymous street artist. Usually I loathe direct rip-offs of any creative work, especially those that contain fear or tentativeness. I believe in stealing big. The fact that the artwork was created elsewhere and pasted to the wall, instead of painting it directly on the wall, makes me cringe.

The rolled beige paint used to camouflage the work is pure Dada. It’s benign, cheap and lazy. A bureaucrat initiated the program, a committee chose the color and a hourly laborer painted the wall with little care.

Not all art means something and, when it does, it doesn’t always mean something important. This artwork does mean something.

Number 7

I love the correlation between the emergent concept on which Erased Dekooning was created and the destructive techniques of the rolled beige. Because of its physical location, this Zen Spot can be loud at times but, for the most part, the noise is white.

Wait for August, find the spot and sit for a moment…or two.

>

 

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 600 he has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read more about an individual wheel or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #49 -- Mindfulness, meditation and the lives behind the brick behind the mural February 23, 2018 00:05

Discovering a mural during a walk

There is, often, a soloist who stands on a scaffolding of shoulders and wood and steel, but the gift is one of the collective, for the collective, requiring children, neighbors, homes, love, faith, collaboration, patience, dialogue and passion. Each mural speaks a universal language, and expresses a singular truth, that is as personal and diverse as every person who walks by.

Viewers rise with surprise. Turning corners. Looking up. Absorbing. For those who choose to stand closely, perhaps nose to brick, the full force and feeling of a building’s life becomes evident. One can know a machine shop or a family’s home resides behind the image. A school radiates, a hospital saves, a neighborhood transcends. The mural burns to the touch in direct August sunlight. Its color occupies the October darkness in altogether unexpected ways.

Those who, over the course of their lives, may only spend one hour in our city, looking up, with necks twisted, admiring giants, will leave with stories soon to be told  in Oslo, Sao Paolo, Dar es Salaam, Perth, Beijing and Chennai , about an inspiring neighborhood of neighborhoods where people work together with a common belief in the ability of art to transcend. Perhaps one traveler, upon returning home, will find a wall and a community that, fifty years from now, will look back at a city transformed.

Sometimes a Buddhist artist

There is no replacement for the joy of mashing a two-inch round brush, filled with half a pound of cerulean blue paint, into a wall, until the conscious and the unconscious collide in a rendering of the sky. 

While commerce sustains the economy that begets the mural’s creation, beliefs beget the decisions that will sustain the voice of the collective. I believe technology separates us more than art can connect us unless the voice behind the art demonstrates the unswerving belief that the medium, most certainly, is not the message.

This is my disclosure. I believe in the voice.

I believe in the connection of two people sitting together painting one picture. I believe in the ability of art to heal and transcend. I believe in symbols and handshakes and forgiveness and the choice to reach out when the prodigal son returns. I believe in lost sleep, found objects, fractured clay and art screaming to escape from a mosaic of sixty families, living in fifty row homes, on one block, spread across less than an acre of concrete. Alone together.

I believe in closing one’s eyes, legs folded, leaning against a mural painted on the outside of a home where a family might be sleeping, that the sounds of the home might lead me into silence.

>

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.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #105 -- Mindfulness, meditation and the Skate Hog February 21, 2018 00:05

Voices

Street art is proof that some voices will not be ignored. They will sing anywhere, and at any time, like tree roots forcing their way through the joints of an underground pipe in search of water. Throughout Philadelphia, there is a group of unknown artists who leave artwork behind on street signs, in train stations, on park benches and, in some cases, simply leaning on a curb.

Much of the work is good. Time was taken to create a piece of durable substance. Other works are spontaneous, fleeting and fragile -- rain would nearly destroy them. A third group is that of the accidental. All over the city, people leave behind beauty, weirdness and, ultimately, a wonderful little piece of themselves.

Bolted

I found the artwork above bolted to a street sign just east of the corner of 5th and Callowhill, in that unnamed section of Center City between Olde City and Northern Liberties. Perhaps this piece of anonymous art is appropriate to its anonymous neighborhood. The primary image — the long-haired warthog — was spray-painted through a template onto a piece of weathered wood. The red-orange icon below the hog is, at once, incongruent and completely perfect; skater culture meets the artist’s inner Oedipus.

The piece is more palpably odd than most street art I find. It occupies a small asphalt and concrete desert, next to a five lane super highway, with traffic lights at the end of every block. In comparison to other parts of Center City, people rarely walk down this street. They fly by in cars. I found the Hog on a weekday in August, around noon, when the sun was blistering. Having since driven by in the dead of winter, at 3 a.m., I'm sure the artwork is still hanging, alive and well. When sitting at a traffic light at night, once you know it's watching, it’s more creepy than the twenty-five closed circuit cameras mounted on buildings in the same block.

On a searing August afternoon next year, take a walk, take a socket wrench and take a pair of sunglasses. When finished, find a comfortable place on the sidewalk, facing south, and take a long cleansing breath.

Forget the hog. Forget yourself.

>

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #104 -- Mindfulness, meditation and Tibet via North Philadelphia February 18, 2018 00:05

There’s no such thing as East Philadelphia

On the east side of Broad Street, in North Philadelphia, a spirit glides through the neighborhoods leaving hand-crafted directions to the home of the Dalai Lama. I discovered the street sign shown above, with the word “Tibet” improvised from metallic decals, near the corner of 5th and Spring Garden. Another smaller sign, handwritten in white paint on a rusty piece of iron, was tied to a bush in a small, shady, abandoned lot used as a summer respite by locals.

My gut tells me the signs are half art, half reminder and half hopeful introduction.

The neighborhood is poor, but changing quickly, surrounded to the south and east by gentrified blocks. Perhaps the artwork is designed to offer inspiration to neighbors faced with the need to move because their homes are no longer affordable.

The large sign actually faces east. The inset faces west. I believe this represents a choice on behalf of the ghost to let people know that it really doesn’t matter which direction they choose, so long as they choose to embrace compassion and mindfulness.

My inner cynic, the one that struggles with compassion and mindfulness, wonders if I’m seeing ingenious guerrilla marketing for a hip-hop music label or a hipster bar. I live with a semi-permanent side-eye. Enlightenment appears to be several light-years away. The cynic, however, can’t hinder the romantic, the searcher, the voyeur — the imperfect Buddhist.

I’m curious if the word “Tibet” has been scrawled inside that pair of old sneakers hanging from the telephone wire. Or, has it been scribbled in wet cement on a block I never walk down? Is there graffiti? Has it been carved in a tree? Was it written on sheet music that’s been crumpled and thrown in municipal trash cans all over the city?

>

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #106 -- Mindfulness, meditation and Cyclops at night February 18, 2018 00:05

A cool October evening

Night had fallen about 90 minutes earlier and just a sliver of moon helped the tail lights and headlights crossing the nearby Benjamin Franklin Bridge. A street lamp, hanging 30 feet in the air and 100 feet away, was the only ambient light available when I photographed the street art shown above with my flip phone.

The original image is black and white. Painted on a large piece of plywood that was bolted to the doorway of an abandoned brick building, I wasn’t expecting the phone to capture anything but darkness and, looking back, I have no idea why I tried to take the picture. The delete button was almost a knee-jerk.

I never questioned the magenta hue, it just appeared and I loved it. Who knew such powerful color was walking around in the darkness?

>

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.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #110 -- Mindfulness, meditation and my feet hanging off the sides of a surfboard February 17, 2018 00:05

Knowing there’s a language

The way graffiti artists shape the language with their choice of words has always fascinated me. Often, the words are cryptic, with characters rendered so abstractly as to reflect the words of a tribe whose language I will never understand. Without doubt, something of substance is being conveyed, if only the chosen identity of another human being. 

A language within my language, without my language, is cradled in the collective mind, with a velvet rope holding back the great unwashed — of which I am one.

Inventing a language

Words come from somewhere, and each had to be invented. At some point in time, a dog went from having no identifying sound to having a group of people agree that a certain set of sounds would identify their furry, four-legged friend. One day, the sun rose and a human being made a choice as to how to refer to a dog. Before that day, the dog was not a dog.

The same can be said for the words rendered by graffiti artists. The Dead Sea Scrolls have nothing on the language spray-painted on the wall in the photo above. The writer plainly understood the word when it was written.

Inventing the poet

Choice and care are the hallmark of a poet. Consideration for both the meaning and the elocution of a word is valued. It is easy, however, for a poet to erase a word on paper  or throw the paper away altogether. 

Paint on a cinder block is less forgiving.

Waiting for the wave

It is impossible for me to look at the spray-painted word and not try to read it. The value I place on language and ideas compels me. My core reaches out, expecting meaning to divulge itself like a forty-foot wave instantly and expectantly rising from the glassy ocean behind me.

But the wave never arrives.

Feet hanging off 

Sitting up on my surfboard, two hundred yards from the beach, in ten feet of water, waiting for sharks and jelly fish to attack, it dawns on me that I will never be able to read the word and the sharks will never come. If a book exists written in the language on the wall and it holds the secrets of the universe, the secrets will never be available to me.

Not today.

Letting go of the language

The freedom of knowing that I will never understand is surprisingly warm. The pressure of the intellect to bulldoze, when abandoned, is replaced with the bosomy giggle of a teenager on ego-pilot, with the benefit of 55 years of living to ground the adolescent electricity. 

Walking away while remaining precisely in place. Bi-location of the pedestrian wise man. 

Being

Not chasing. Not seeking. Not studying. Not adjusting. Not squinting. Not rationalizing. Not reading. 

And eventually not wanting. Just being, next to the blue.

>

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

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 cityscapes 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.

>

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-

Zen Spot #137 -- Mindfulness, meditation and the leaning tower of whimsy February 15, 2018 00:05

A child’s observation

A mother, with two children, strolled by as I stood next to the piling shown above. An infant snoozed quietly in a stroller. A four year-old girl, with curly blond hair, in a blue dress, was holding her mother’s hand. With bouncing locks, and a sly smile, she walked up to the piling and said, “I thought it was going to be a lot bigger.”

Cause and effect

A truck must have backed into the piling. Made of thick steel conduit, and filled with cement, the pipe is bent in the opposite direction of the one-way street on which it sits. Ipso facto, the accident must have happened in slow motion as a truck was beeping and backing up.

Capriccioso and f=ma

There is something odd and wonderful about the power required to bend the pipe. A canvas was crafted from a mistake. The beeping noise of a larger box truck backing up, combined with the screeching of a hardened steel bumper warping an obdurate boom was as random and predictable as a jazz improvisation. The echo of a human yawping from the driver’s blind spot, pleading to reverse the reverse, was the last stitch placed by the loom.

There is something profound about an artist finding the canvas and finding inspiration — perhaps in slow motion. Humor. Creation. Vision. Math. Simplicity. Complexity. 

Obdurate.

Without doubt, when finished painting the tower, the artist leaned back, smiled, closed her eyes and took a breath. 

I did the same and, after opening my eyes, I chose to smile at every passerby and every smile was returned.

Lunchtime.

>

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.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #123 -- Mindfulness, meditation and Sunday dinner at the Digiulios February 15, 2018 00:05

My wife and I were invited to an Italian family dinner several years ago. A large Italian family. Twenty-six adults and children packed into a three bedroom row home.

Six courses. I’ve forgotten the order and the items but the experience was loud and sublime. Love, food, football, food, laughs, food, wine, food, prayers, food. We were guests of their oldest son — the second oldest of six kids — and made to feel like family.

The people were even more amazing than the food. I’m thinking of using each one as a character in a short story.

Grandmother, Marie: Born in Naples. Came to America in 1940 fleeing Fascism. Believes that red sauce should be a sacrament while simultaneously believing that the belief puts her final destination at risk. She told the story twice and winked at me three times.

Grandfather, Paolo: Eighty-six years old. Manhattan window washer. Once dropped a head cheese and Limburger sandwich from the forty-seventh floor of a residential building on Park Avenue. The front desk radioed to let him know a pedestrian dropped it off with a note asking him to stop eating head cheese.

Mother, Chiara: Unafraid to discuss the shape of her uterus in front of company — and the size of her children’s heads — she effectively induced a collective guilt trip among her adult children with the intent of getting each to pick up the phone to call more. She has named her uterus after a saint.

Father, Marco : Unafraid to dry-heave when his wife talks about the shape of her uterus in front of company. Has named her uterus after the most famous Italian New York Yankee. Offers everyone he meets a Tic-Tac to make them feel self conscious.

Oldest daughter, Aurora: Has taught third grade for twenty-two years. Giant smile. Giant breasts. Pulled a sweaty deck of cards out of her bra and asked me if I wanted to play Texas Holdem. She thought it was funny as hell.

Third oldest, Paul: Union movie grip. Stole a bowling ball from the set of The Big Lebowski. Bowled a 290 with it. Believes it’s cursed now.

Fourth oldest, Tim: Insists he saw Bigfoot while on a hunting trip in Idaho. Likes to tell his grandfather that head cheese and Limburger sandwiches smell worse than Sasquatch.

Fifth oldest, Marie: Quiet. Buried a piece of gum in Tim’s pasta while he wasn’t looking.

Baby, Anthony: Looks like Joey from Friends. Builds and installs custom sex swings as a side business. Proud that his swings can hold over 1000 pounds. Full time high school physics teacher. Kind of makes sense.

Mindfulness surrounded by love and food.

>

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

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 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, I leaned against the painted brick, underneath the screaming mask, just to the right of the garage door and gave thanks.

>

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #148 -- Mindfulness, meditation and the night Max wore his wolf suit February 1, 2018 00:05

Accordion doors 

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.

Max

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.

>

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.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #10 -- Mindfulness, meditation and an angel being reborn every morning December 5, 2017 22:50

That idea

I recently read an author who asserts that we are each reborn every time we awaken ; that this life ends when we close our eyes and the next life begins when the morning arrives. Direct and simple, the idea makes complete sense to me because it eliminates dogma, and does so with respect.

That spot

Every day, I drive by a building that has been undergoing an extended restoration. Designed to house a turn-of-the-century factory, the building’s five stories occupy an entire city block. Surprisingly, I can’t remember the last time a I saw a construction crew on site. 

The perimeter is lined with temporary chain-link fence upheld by three-inch stainless steel conduit that's been impaled into crumbling cinder blocks. Where a pristine sidewalk would normally reside, an overgrowth of bloom and weeds spawns from between the slabs. Vines crawl and spew. Pavement destroyed by time and the elements has been piled into rubble. Dirt and shale sit in broken mounds. 

The mural above is painted on the back wall of an alcove on the first floor of the south side of the building. Sitting about six feet off the ground, and thirty feet away from the chain-link fence, the alcove invites visitors. A traffic light stands close enough to cast multiple nighttime colors on the back wall.

That image

Yesterday, I drove by and the mural appeared in the distance. Visible from three hundred yards away, the details weren’t obvious, but it was clear the building was noticeably and powerfully  different  than it was just 24 hours earlier.

The previous night, a ghost climbed the fence, scaled the alcove and took time to paint a safe, nurturing angel. Oddly, there was no evidence of a human having been present. No trampled weeds or footprints were left in the dirt. It appeared that the artist floated over the fence and onto the alcove without ever touching the ground.

In the life that was yesterday.

>

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.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #11 -- Mindfulness, meditation and a street art zoetrope June 27, 2016 18:01

Nude descending a staircase

An urban park, the kind that embraces a full city block, holding a massive green baseball field, sits across the street from this small mural. The female figure in the photo stands about two and a half feet tall.

Among my first thoughts, after having stumbled on this artwork, was a question as to the gender of the artist. I don’t know why. 

The rendering is gentle and lithe, as does the subject. It borders on the erotic with an emphasis on the bare female bottom that could just as easily have been covered by a cloth skirt. Did a female paint this figure based on an appreciation for the gift of the figure's shape or to express an ideal the artist's body can’t achieve? Was she crafting a myth or illustrating a children’s story by blending Duchamp’s Futurism with a crude whimsy?

If painted by a man, why? Why the grace? Why the hair? Why the features? Why strand her in the dark as the sun goes down every afternoon? Why paint her in the dark as he almost certainly had to do?

This image is quiet, gesturing in a manner as though preparing to dance, waiting for that first bar of music. Its quiet is visceral as well, as if the figure knows the artist never intended for the music to begin. 

The image brought me an interesting perspective on the physical movement we each take just before  and after  we sit to meditate. There is that process of slowing down, then preparing our minds to become still, and then   the stillness. The process, in my mind’s eye, takes on a stop-action quality until a single frame freezes into a mindful position.

Then, with a final breath, life begins again. The mind awakens, moves forward and the day provides.

>

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.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #4 -- Mindfulness, meditation and weathering out of existence March 5, 2015 10:49

Forgotten or weathered out of existence?

While walking in a neighborhood close to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I found the image above pasted to a brick wall, on a small street, in an abandoned lot. Having forgotten its precise location, it may no longer exist. The elements aren't kind to paper. It's been several years.

The image is intriguing. The offspring of a Soviet-era social poster, an Arabic or Eastern language and a still image from The Wizard of Oz, the poster's design tells several stories. I wish I knew the artist. I wish I knew the language.

Knowing instantly and instinctively that I wanted to forget, I stayed long enough to take a picture with my flip phone. Having a place to visit with my mind's eye was more important than the alternative.

>

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 600 he has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read more about an individual wheel or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #3 -- Mindfulness, meditation and life erupting March 1, 2015 16:02

August in Philadelphia can be brutal

At noon, in direct sunlight, the skin can sear quickly. Squinting, to keep the sweat and glare out of one's eyes, is required. 

Years ago, despite fair skin, I was drawn to long lunchtime walks through Northern Liberties. City blocks full of family rowhomes seem to go on for miles in every direction. Art, taprooms, boutiques and grit are ubiquitous. A round, crunchy dialect pervades. Every five minutes, the elevated subway cuts a rumbling shadow across molten asphalt.

At Front and Mascher, a corner bar plays live music nightly. The venue dives. Next door, a building's shell was boarded over. Chain linked. Chewed to oblivion.

Begging to be made an example, a jigsawed wooden face was screwed into a plywood panel covering one window of the shell. Battered, its cheeks were painted with leftover gloss enamel from the walls of a municipal men's room. Black felt hair and eyebrows. Chiclet smile. Word blurb eyes. Dead lips. 

Begun with the pure intent that drives every artist at the outset of an effort, I loved the face. It was likely pristine for the first four minutes it was hung. After five, graffiti and handbills were stapled and glued like weeds growing between cracks in the sidewalk.

Life erupts. Where life erupts, mindfulness can erupt as well.

>

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 600 he has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read more about an individual wheel or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-

Zen Spot #151 -- Mindfulness, meditation and the Skate Hog January 25, 2015 14:56

Roots bursting water pipes

Street art is proof that some voices won’t be ignored. They’ll sing anywhere, at any time, like tree roots forcing their way through the joints of an underground pipe in search of water. Throughout Philadelphia, there is a group of unknown artists who leave artwork behind on street signs, in train stations, on park benches and, in some cases, simply leaning on a curb.

Some of the work is good. Time was taken to create a piece of durable substance. Other works are spontaneous, fleeting and fragile. Rain would nearly destroy some — and perhaps that’s the point. A third group is that of the accidental. All over the city, people leave behind beauty, weirdness and, ultimately, a wonderful little piece of themselves.

I found the artwork above bolted to a street sign just east of the corner of 5th and Callowhill, in that unnamed section of Center City between Olde City and Northern Liberties. Perhaps this piece of anonymous art is appropriate to its anonymous neighborhood. The primary image — the long-haired warthog — was spray-painted through a template onto a piece of weathered wood. The red-orange icon below the hog is, at once, incongruent and completely perfect; skater culture meets the artist’s inner Oedipus.

The piece is more palpably odd than most street art I find. It occupies a small asphalt and concrete desert, next to a five lane super highway with traffic lights at the end of every block. In comparison to other parts of Center City, people rarely walk down this street. They fly by in cars. I found it on a weekday in August, around noon, when the sun was blistering. I’ve since driven by in the dead of winter, at 3 a.m., and the artwork is still hanging, alive and well. When you’re sitting at a traffic light at night, and you know the warthog is watching, it’s more creepy than the twenty-five closed circuit cameras mounted on buildings in the same block.

Take a walk, take a socket wrench.

>

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.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Invented by DharmaMechanic
-
-
-