The Middle Way

Zen Spot #16 — Mindfulness, meditation and life below the ghosts of locomotives February 8, 2018 00:05

A belly full of tourists, cops, commuters and fish mongers

The Reading Terminal Market is an amazingly diverse marketplace full of produce vendors, sandwich makers, salad shooters, jewelry purveyors, fish mongers and more. It bustles with abandon. Neon signs rub shoulders with the simplest Mennonite lunch stand. Craft beer is sold next to handmade crafts. People yell and smell and tell stories.

At the center of the market, in the parted sea between purveyors, sits perhaps one-hundred aluminum tables, organized to create a small, comfortable, useful community. At lunchtime, the village is welcoming,  loud and fun. Unknown neighbors share time and space, elbow to elbow, nourishing the spirit.

The Market is one of the few destinations in any city where visitors and locals truly intermingle. Alive and well, it resides about fifty feet below what once was the final stop on the Reading Railroad. Dozens of locomotives, weighing dozens of tons, for dozens of years, would arrive and depart directly above thousands of daily lunchgoers.

I love The Market. It is mine. It is yours. It is ours. No matter from where on the planet you hail, you are an owner when you walk through the doors.

Singing bowls and aluminum bells

The chairs and tables are easily rearranged to configure as needed; patrons bang them together and shuffle them so randomly and loudly that one can almost hear a rhythm and a melody at the same time--an audio fractal, perhaps. Find the deafening roar of a single voice comprised of thousands of voices. Too, experience the kind of quiet that eventually allows one to hear a pin drop, as the afternoon progresses.

Visit at noon. Visit at 5 pm. Choose the quiet within which you are most comfortably mindful.

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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 #61 — Mindfulness, meditation and a chipped, spinning flywheel of anxiety February 6, 2018 00:05

I don’t know what a flywheel is

My knowledge doesn’t matter. A flywheel is, in this circumstance, whatever I say it is. I imagine a thin gear, missing teeth, spinning so fast inside me that it is quiet, acting like a gyroscope, keeping me on a crappy rollercoaster track. In particular, the ride crashes through any interaction with people, especially crowds. When I’m alone, it still happens, with an emphasis on the prospect of preparing to deal with people. It is best to be alone.

Sometimes, it feels like a very low level of electricity shaking me and shocking me--but not enough to kill me. I want to cry. I want to live. I want to run. I want to sit in a chair and wait for the night to come. I want to sit in my car instead of entering whatever circumstance I am about to enter. I want to trust.

I can’t. I can put my head between my knees so that blood rushes to my eye balls. Sweat can soak my clothes. My lower back can ache so much that I hobble. I can lash out like a wounded dog, if I can lift my head. 

Finding my path

Meditation works. Time must pass. Medication can help. Avoiding anything mind altering, except as prescribed. Compassion, beginning with other human beings, helps. Compassion for oneself has great power. Learning one’s limits has the surprising effect of extending one’s limits. Trusting those around you and eliminating anybody you can’t trust from your circle is surprisingly effective

Anxiety is a destination. Until you get off the train, and walk away, it’s just a matter of time until the locomotive stops and you’re forehead is pressed against the glass, looking at happy and dead people standing outside on the train platform. That said, the only choice is a first step, perhaps to the next seat on the train, until after multiple stops, you are as close to the door of the train car as you can be. Then, you choose to walk through the door and down the stairs. Between seats and stops, meditate, be mindful, be kind, read, engage professionals and be brave.

The Art of Happiness

I found the Buddhist path, in part, because it was the only thing that made sense when I was staring into the void. It helped to read. Books written by the Dalai Lama were of great help. His logic is sound, especially in the face of frequent paradoxes. 

Read The Art of Happiness. It is a great destination.

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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 #76— Mindfulness, meditation and a tunnel beneath the train tracks February 5, 2018 00:05

The station

It will remain unnamed except to tell you that it is one of over 150 local train stops in the Philadelphia area. Each station provides a safe way to get from one side of the tracks to the other — from inbound to outbound and likewise--mostly tunnels that pass underneath the tracks.

Of the 150 stations, approximately 15 receive passengers for trips beyond the region, to New York City, Washington DC and Chicago. The rest are commuter stations that transport riders into Center City. Commuter trains are smaller and have no locomotives.

Longer range trains are behemoths that, in some cases, reach over 100 mph.

Descending into quiet and whistles

The tunnels have hard walls--ceramic or brick. Concrete stairs. No matter the season, because there is less wind or, in some cases, complete stillness, there seems to be a reversal of weather. In the summer, the tunnels feel cooler. In the winter, warmer. Surprisingly silent inside, despite the way sound bounces off tile, each tunnel is an austere eight second refuge sometimes producing a whistle on the windiest of days.

Underneath the violence and unquiet

You can hear a locomotive when it is thirty seconds away. The apocalypse barreling. Fifteen seconds out, you can feel the ground start to shake. As it passes, the fight or flight response tickles one’s animal interior.

Eight seconds of earthquake

Sitting in the tunnel when a train passes over is, with eyes closed, perhaps, the antithesis of a path to mindfulness. Or, perhaps, it is a precise metaphor. One can feel the experience taking effect. Inside the experience one’s mind is completely focused and, as the train disappears into the distance, one’s mind slowly returns to it’s full and upright position.

The Middle Way

I took the photo above on a beautiful, searing August day. The tunnel was a respite. I was outbound. My mother was waiting for a visit. Time was abundant.

Sitting on the cool concrete floor, halfway between the entrance points, I closed my eyes, breathed and waited for the apocalypse. It arrived and never arrived at precisely the same moment. It faded in and faded out. In between, the clarity was amazing.

Interdependence.

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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 #15 — Mindfulness, meditation and waiting for the R5 February 2, 2018 00:05

Platform 3

I love train stations. In particular, Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. It is a temple whose altar holds a thirty-nine foot bronze statue of the Archangel Michael carrying the limp body of a fallen soldier into the arms of God. 

The station serves regional commuters who ride the rails into Center City every day to work. Simultaneously, business people, tourists and worldwide travelers can catch a train that will take them anywhere in America — or to an any number of airports from which they can depart to Auckland, Dar el Salaam, Paris, Shanghai or Rio de Janerio. From this place, it awes me that people can begin an adventure or return to the warmth of home.

As you might expect, thousands of people move through it’s cavernous main hall, past brilliant sunshine that blasts through five-story cathedral windows, whitewashing the marble floors, sometimes blinding passersby. Despite the activity, the bustle is muted excepting the public address system updating and directing travelers.

The worldwide trains arrive and depart from beneath the main terminal. Regional rail carries people to their destinations from above and slightly to the north, departing on platforms that open to the east and west. The east holds a spectacular view of the skyline across the Schuykill River. The west, when trains head in that direction, mostly carry people home.

Above the platform is a curved glass roof held sturdy by thick, swerving steel beams with thousands of giant rivets. The curves are unthinkable and brilliant. How to bend girders like rubber into cupped hands that fold open to widely welcome blue through skylights?

People rarely speak to each other while standing on the platform. It’s always quiet, at any time of day, save the occassional distant hiss and squeal of steel wheels chalkboarding against rails. In the summer, humidity absorbs sound. At night, with few people on the platform, it becomes a warehouse palace worthy of a Paris Metro station. In winter, it is a desert — a tunnel-whistle that one can feel more than hear.

Spaced along the platform are wood benches that are both hard and comfortable.

Sit. Breathe. Listen. Breathe. Close your eyes. Become nothing.

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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?