Zen Spot #266 - Mindfulness, meditation and the back of a stop sign November 20, 2018 00:00

Live from New York

Stuart Smalley, the benign, lovable, tied-sweater chum played by Al Franken during his stint on Saturday Night Live, more than thirty years ago, introduced me to the world of affirmations — the habit of self encouragement and visualization. Smalley, during his skits, became famous for looking into the mirror every morning and saying: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and gosh darnit, people like me.” Franken’s particular comedic timing made for two minutes of uncomfortable laughter for those in the audience who experience a chronic crisis of confidence.

I am one of them. 


The phenomenon of distress and sadness felt by social media users who compare their personal status to the over-the-top joy and success enjoyed by online friends can be profound. The misery or mediocrity spun into gold by those friends is nothing short of magical. On the other side of the see-saw, my own children have cultivated a perception of bliss that borders on pathological lying. Born of comparison, the slightest twinge of inferiority in one’s psyche can become a beanstalk launched from a handful of parabolic seeds traded for a cow. Too, a perception of a permanent state of joy can be born of the intense engagement, speedy thumbs and beaten mice most closely associated with social media use.

I am one of them.

It ain’t over 

Among a list of affirmations with which I’ve become familiar is the following: “In the end, everything is going to be alright. If it ain’t alright, it’ ain’t the end.” Corny, but helpful, it brings comfort to people in times of struggle.

I am one of them.


When I leave my home, I always bring one handwritten love note to a human being. Any human being. Genderless. Genuine. Unknown. Thoughtful. Empathetic. Compassionate. Real. I usually leave it in a book at the library or tape it to the back of a stop sign. Perhaps people read them.

I am one of them.

Stop sign

In August, I began to parallel park, on a small street down which I’d never driven, near 10th and Spring Garden in Philadelphia. Unusual, because there are few streets with which I am not familiar in Center City, I twisted the steering wheel and fit my car perfectly between two junks, underneath an abandoned train bridge. Getting out, looking over at the two-story concrete foundation of the bridge, I was confronted. The poster shown above was paper-plastered.

An affirmation. A love note. A library book. The back of a stop sign. A wonderful place to sit, breath and let go.


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?