I recently received an email from a friend, Dayavan, who has been teaching meditation to some of the prisoners in Boulder County Jail, in Colorado, USA. I loved what he shared, and with his permission I am sharing it with you.
Is it possible to be thankful for being in Jail?
We were midway through teaching our third six week Bright Path Ishayas meditation class at Boulder county Jail when it occurred to me that I hadn’t really stopped talking in 3 months. Not literally. You see we have 90 minutes once a week for six weeks to teach a meditation class which is usually taught over a full weekend. There is a natural tendency to move quickly so you can cover all of the material, so we end up talking a lot.
It occurred to me yesterday in the middle of the class that I hadn’t really heard from the men in the jail what it was like for them to be there. I noticed that on multiple occasions over the six weeks, different men had commented sincerely on how thankful they were to be in the jail. I decided to ask them exactly what they were thankful for.
There were three men remaining in the class, and each of them shared what it was like for them, and why they were thankful. I won’t do it justice, but I will try to paraphrase what one of them shared with the group.
“Before I was in jail I was on a one way destructive path. Outside the jail, there are so many influences, both good and bad. You are constantly making decisions and choices based on the context of your surroundings.
“After a while, you get lost in the chaos, and you don’t even notice anymore that you are on a one way dead end path. Somewhere, in the back of your head, you know that it will have to end somewhere.
“And then one day, out of the blue, they come and pick you up and you find yourself in jail. But life on the outside keeps going on. Decisions and actions still need to be taken about jobs, homes, cars, family etc…
“But now you have little to no control over this because you are inside the walls of the jail.
Those people who you thought were your close friends don’t call or write or try to help you out. It makes you question all of the choices you were making, and what was actually real and important when you were outside.
“You can fight this and get angry, or you can use the time to get clear about who you are and what you want when you get out.
“On the inside, you see men who have a number. These are the ones who have already been to prison, gotten out, and are now in their fifties and sixties and headed back in. You have to decide if you want to be one of them or if you want to break the cycle and make a new choice.
“For the first 4 months I fought being in here and I was angry because no one came to help pay my bond to get me out. But then, around the 5th month, I started to experience something new. I realized I felt safe for the first time in a long time.
“The desire to do a lot of the self-destructive things I had been doing had faded away because they simply weren’t an option.
“I couldn’t get the drugs and the alcohol. I couldn’t party the way I was. I began to realize that I wanted something different, and I started to think about how I was going to make that happen once I got out.
“I believe God works in our lives in strange ways, always looking out for our safety and protecting us, moving us towards something greater. I realize that he put me in jail to keep me safe and to give me a chance to wake up. This is why I am thankful to be here.”
Davayan continues; About five years ago I chose to enter a retreat environment for close to 10 months to practice meditation and go inward. This is about the same amount of time the man I spoke with last night will have been in the jail at the end of his sentence.
For me, the retreat environment was a safe place for me to leave behind many of the influences of my life and discover what was inside. I, like the man in the jail, wanted to get clear about who I was and what was most important in my life.
Sometimes we choose our path, sometimes our path chooses us. Regardless, our desires were the same at the core. We needed, at all costs, to get clear about what was important for us, who we were, and where we wanted to do with our lives
At our core, I believe we all have this same basic desire. How and where we go about exploring it seems to evolve differently for each and every one of us. Meditation is just a vehicle to help expedite the process by improving our vision, while at the same time allowing us to fully experience life now.