The Middle Way

Zen Spot #208 — Mindfulness, meditation and a week of nothing but reading, drawing and Bebop September 8, 2018 00:00

Disconnect with pleasure I

It took seventeen months, but I’d become completely saturated by the twenty-four hour news cycle. And, while the citizen demanding justice is alive and well, the rational man and voyeur within had died. So, for one week, I disconnected. For seven days, I wrote, read a book, drew and listened to jazz.

I’m listening right now.

Sugar I

I eat too many cookies and, somehow, I don’t gain weight. Too, too much sweet tea is processed by my pancreas. Given the fact that I am in my seventeenth year of recovery, I allow myself this indulgence. Having tried multiple times to quit, I don’t. 

Not can’t. Don’t.

Meaningless 

As a child of the 70s, I’d spent much of my time listening to 70’s pop music. That said, as all radio Pop becomes rote, the lyrics come to mean nothing and the message, whatever it is at the time, penetrates like an awful jingle. Brands prevail.

This observation might explain why I can never listen to Pop while I write.

Drawing

When I sprawl to draw, my mind goes wherever my internal rhythm takes it — mindless and mindful at the same time. I feel neither joy nor sadness but I do respond to music. Bebop enhances the personal creative experience. And, while I would likely end up in the same place, with the same finished drawing, the journey is more something.

Reading I

I consume news by reading — online. Videos take too long and are rarely as comprehensive as the written word. And, while I don’t believe the Right’s belief in fake news, I do believe news has become a brand — a brand designed to incite. Truth, in many ways, has been processed into refined white sugar.

Cookies.

Reading II

I re-read The Sun Also Rises. More than most novels, the prose fades in from nowhere and fades out similarly, with a story set in a time where time was passed differently — without news, and with art with a capital “A”. 

Disconnect with pleasure II

The first day without news was tough. Out of disgust, I’d been using Facebook sparingly since the 2016 election — so ignorance was easy. Television was easier. As an avid Twitter user — the preferred communication method of our president — quitting was hard. The experience, however, made me realize that news is everywhere and one must make a choice to ignore it or be consumed by it. But, after 24 hours — one news cycle — my pancreas began to thank me.

Bebop

I don’t know anything about jazz, except to say that I don’t have the words to describe how profoundly it has enhanced the experience of drawing. In particular, I listen to a channel called Calm Radio — Bebop at Radionomy.com.

Try it. 

Of course, food

Because I’m retired, control of my schedule and pace is easy. Little else, except cooking and errands, was done during my experiment. I was reminded of the priorities I once held dear and of which, somehow, I had slowly let go. My simple dream of a life of art, reading and meditation had been given away. Too, I realized how dramatically, despite my best efforts, my attempt to lead a mindful life was effected by a consistently high news-blood sugar level.

I’ll revisit the old world as necessary but, from now on, life will be art, reading, music, meditation and mindfulness.

Particularly Bebop.

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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 #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, in my opinion, is able to see and feel things that its culture doesn’t want it to see. In this context, science can prove that colors exist on a much wider spectrum than is visible to the human eye. Now, 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 with gold 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 even 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. I submit that, within the glow, the seeds of mindfulness can be found.

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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?