The Middle Way

Zen Spot #127 — Mindfulness, meditation and following the directions February 18, 2018 00:05

A very brief story of directions

Chalk directions were scrawled on the asphalt of a tiny street, on a Friday night, by an artist hoping to generate foot traffic to a temporary gallery where he was showing his art. 

Simple directions

  1. Right understanding
  2. Right thought
  3. Right speech
  4. Right action
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

Complex directions

  1. Right understanding
  2. Right thought
  3. Right speech
  4. Right action
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

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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 #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 for the language on the wall and it holds the secrets of the universe, the secret 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.

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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 #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 #93 — Mindfulness, meditation and the Boogie Woogie baby monk February 10, 2018 00:05

Orange, guttural warble

Buddhist monks reach into the abyss while chanting together. The return of an echo that was never fog-horned into a canyon happens. Better heard with eyes closed, the depth can seem infinite. Wondering if the boundless warble has resided within the monks since they were children is reasonable. 

Pre-monk funk

Toddlers dance. Every toddler. They can’t help themselves. Sometimes to music. At other times, to an internal blitz. At some point though, the blitz fades. Study begins. Dancing becomes either a decision or a natural outcome of study. That is to say, dancing leaves with the learned language of the monk.

A finish line is reached.

I’m not a monk and I can’t see the finish line

The wish to dance resides inside me. Ugly dancing is possible, of course. Everybody can ugly dance. Rhythm is desired, while trying to walk a path where desire leads away from enlightenment.

A paradox.

Without desire, dancing is a neutral act because, well, all physical movement is a dance. Rhythm can be found in silence, if only from one’s heartbeat. Dancing to one’s heartbeat, whether ugly or not, is unknowable by passersby. 

Dance to your heartbeat.

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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 #59 — Mindfulness, meditation and South Philly sidewalk art January 20, 2018 20:18

What speaks to me

I marvel at any artist who commands their own personal language. Especially the esoteric and feral. The beautiful confusion of a visual language that waves you over for a visit, while holding a second palm out to tell you to stop, brings out the compulsive autodidact. It can be something as simple as how the artist chooses to draw an eye or the shape of a head, hand or spirit guide that consumes me.

Children’s expression

Some schools of thought hold that all art comes from the child within. I don’t quite agree, with the exception of an almost universal desire for recognition when an artwork is completed. Paint on a sidewalk and you’ve made a very clear choice about exposure and permanence. 

High slow traffic

The artwork above has a bench nearby. Dozens of begrudging cars, circling, looking to pounce on a parking space, creep all day. Abundant foot traffic saunters--hipsters, babushkas, new moms, luncheoneers, criminals, gym Jims, artists and more.

Even with eyes closed and no sirens, there is always the rustle of a human being somewhere within earshot of the bench. 24/7. But often, the rustle is the whiter part of white noise and the words of passersby are garbled mumbles. Not music. Not quiet. Not a singing bowl. Not a crowded family beach in August.

Sit on the art.

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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 #3 -- Mindfulness, meditation and art below the above-ground subway March 1, 2015 16:02

August in Philadelphia can be brutal

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

While I was walking, at lunchtime, during my last several months working for a small public television station, I found the artwork above. Despite very fair skin, I was drawn to long walks after a small midday meal. The neighborhood through which I would wander is called Northern Liberties. On the eastern side of this neighborhood, the elevated portion of the subway cuts a loud rumbling shadow on the asphalt below. 

On a very particular street corner, a bar resides where live music is played nightly. The venue is the nearest thing that Philadelphia has ever had to CBGB. Its' exterior brick walls are painted with Scharfian characters. An adjacent empty lot, with a chain-link fence that covers most of the front of the property, faces the street underneath the elevated rails. The goofy face above is wood-screwed into a 4' x 8 plywood panel that's rivet-glued to the fence. 

The mural started with the pure intent that drives every artist. At some point after it was finished, 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.

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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?