The Middle Way

Zen Spot # 60 — Mindfulness, meditation and a fear of flying monkeys February 1, 2018 00:15

Ode to the prairie dog

There is a special place in the hell I don’t believe in, for flying monkeys. Sheer  sphincter-releasing, snakes in the house, tax audit, compound fracture, chicken running around with its head cut off, shark’s in shallow water, staring down from 100 stories without a guard rail , terror ensued when I watched the Wizard of Oz as a child. I’ve looked into the face of death several times throughout my life and death was a warm compassionate embrace by comparison.

To be clear, I’m not afraid of the winged CGI primates created over the last several years for summer movies. No — I’m talking about the original flying monkeys. The real Wizard of Oz. I saw them for the first time when I was seven. I thought they were real. Surprisingly, I couldn’t care less about Glinda’s sister.

It was the monkeys. With wings.


Between then and now, I’ve never experienced that kind of abject terror. I have, however, like most people, felt the breeze of an unexpected and instant 100 mph fastball graze the five o’clock shadow. A few have clocked my noggin. A few have been jammed into my mouth. The accompanying anger is different. And it’s mostly anger. Fear follows. My sphincter has been, at worst, a benevolent dictator.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

Among the things I’ve learned about Zen, with an emphasis on the larger Buddhist tradition, is that reality and imagination often diverge. Perfection and peace used to appear to be permanent once one mastered oneself. Solitude appeared to offer happiness. Wisdom appeared to be something I’ve long forgotten.

There was a person in the monkey suit.

Existence doesn’t

I don’t believe that existence doesn't exist. I’m here. My friends and family are here. My life is real. I drive a car, eat cake and walk my dog. Nothingness, however, does exist. 

I experience it every time I choose to sit and meditate. 

The difference between nothingness and nothing existing is something I can’t describe, but I can understand. That said, it doesn’t matter. That’s my Zen.

Read. Listen. Be. Still. You’ll find your Zen.

Don’t be afraid. Forget about your monkeys.


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

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?