Zen Spot #37 — Mindfulness, meditation and the hieroglyphics of which culture February 25, 2018 00:05

Never minimize the silly

For some reason, my recent travels through daily life have spontaneously confronted me with several unique thresholds — literally. Doors — behind which lie homes and beings — have faded into my periphery before stopping me in my tracks. 

Perhaps the manner with which I discover the doors is relevant; the fading and the stopping. Perhaps not. Perhaps there is a life rhythm that will soon remove all doors from my way. Perhaps I am paying more attention to life or simply passing more doorways than usual; although that seems like a silly idea. 

The Dharma is a funny thing.

All art is hieroglyphic

Philadelphia has a vibrant street art culture — both legal and illegal. The formal occupy the same neighborhoods as the profane. The three-story exterior wall of a brownstone will bear an amazing mural standing twenty-five feet away from a stop sign plastered with underground art stickers, pasted to its shiny back side, trying to penetrate the psyche of passersby. Little exists in between the two. The art is either formal, with a price-tag attached, or its completely free, in every sense.

To be sure, both kinds tell a unique story. Both hope to be remembered. Both crave posterity.

The painting shown above decorates the doorway of a home near 5th and Bainbridge Streets in Philadelphia. Surrounded by both the funky and proper, the threshold sits above a one-step stoop. In a city where, on warm summer evenings, the most welcome relief to be found, with the possible exception of a corner seat in a corner tap-room, is firmly affixed to the concrete steps in front of a friend’s home, the stoop shown above is smaller than a tap stool.

We were well into fall when I found this doorway. Two nights removed from Halloween. 


As a child, I lived in a suburb that bordered very closely on farm country. Where cornfields ended, sprawling wooded areas exploded skyward, filled with all manner of wild things. As people sprawled, pavement was laid and animals were killed by cars. Rarely could I walk on the side of the road, because we had no sidewalks, without finding a dead possum, dear, fox or rabbit.

My imagination was vivid. Still is. And roadkill, with guts flying and rancid, seemed to have been planted, like a flower, by Dante Alighieri. Too, even back then, I seemed to believe in an afterlife.

As I walked by a carcass, then turned my back, I expected the animal to stand up, violently twister itself like a dog shaking water out of its fur after a swim, and start chasing me. A rabbit could easily morph into a hound from hell.

Walk toward the fire

My nephew recently visited. He is a young Republican who, for a summer internship, with plenty of choices, decided to spend three months teaching a course at UC Berkeley — a numbered circle of hell for those with conservative beliefs. When asked why he chose this campus, when he could have gone to Miami, Austin or Phoenix, he replied, “Uncle Michael, sometimes you just have to run toward the fire.”

Doorway as roadkill

I often lean backwards onto nearby walls to meditate when I find Zen spots. In this case, I couldn't lean back toward the door because the stoop was private property and, even if that was not the case, it could have flown open as I was leaning against it.

That said, I crossed my legs, exhaled, with my back to the doorway, and sat on the curb only several feet away. In this case, there was sidewalk between me and the roadkill — seven feet wide but, because I couldn’t run if it started to chase me, I was unsettled.

The perfect opportunity to run toward the fire.

Prevailing wisdom holds that meditation is best practiced in quiet, and I agree. However, the opportunity to breath while a beast from the Third Circle could come to life and attack, no matter how silly the belief, is an opportunity to practice mindfulness.

I closed my eyes for minutes, found peace and, surprisingly, it never attacked.


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?