Jail library donation - thank you UCC!

Thanks to UCC Grand Junction for helping us in our book drive for the Jail Library: prisoners would enjoy your donations, too!  Especially paperback, non-fiction - and especially nature books, books about science and technology, business, and skill building.  And if you are interested, you can be a Jail Yo-G too: they can use more volunteers, and we're happy to train.

Heartache

He missed doing yoga with his children and spouse, and hearing them laugh in each pose.  But here, now, he could do the poses, and though he missed them - to the point of weeping he missed them - laugh a little.  And he understood: some families are separated by jail, or war, poverty or any number of disasters.  But other families drift apart, even while sharing the same house in relative prosperity. He understood what love he felt was shared by his children and spouse.  Exercise and stretching make us stronger, but such exertion hurts the next day when we rest; so too do the daily devotions of love strengthen us, and hurt with heartache all the worse when interrupted - even for a short time.  We are, whether in the same room, or far away, lonely and individual beings, yet connected by Brahmic love we share one heart.

Wide eyed

The young man was warned to keep his eyes open, and be aware of danger while he was in Jail. His wide-eyed fear had blinded him to the relative safety and friendship with which he was surrounded; his longing for home, familiar, and safety was agony itself.  Agonized and in distress, it is difficult to open our eyes, to accurately perceive the distinctions between absolute safety and fatal danger, to understand our strength and ability to withstand - and triumph.  Aware of our weakness, we reason (well, too) that we must strike out first, and hard, for we cannot bear to receive the second blow.

It is so difficult to open our eyes and see.  It is much easier to open our third eye, and see our self-inflicted blindness.  Upon hearing the Dharma, his friends understood their duty: prying open the young man's third eye, he sat among them bewildered and complaining like a newborn - for he thought he saw numerous enemies surrounding him, and felt terrible pain welling up inside his heart.  Searching his numerous wounds, his friends pulled out the shards still inside; mistaking this pain for another he had feared, he was terrified to feel!  But then he stopped short of striking back with vicious words and perhaps greater violence: he saw, for the first time, how senseless it is to strike a friend.

And at once trusted his friends to not strike him when he was so weak.  As his friends bound his wounds with salving words, he became at once aware of the fullness of his strength, and for the first time in his life sat quietly.  He could at last hear the Dharma.

That's it?

"That's it?" An hour is more than enough time to understand Yoga and Meditation. "Yes, it is that simple."

"That's it?" An hour is not enough time to practice Yoga and Meditation. "No, you can - and should - practice without your teacher."

"That's it." You are doing exactly what you should do, at the moment it is required. "Isn't there any more to teach me before you go?"

“I cannot stay. I must go.  We will all leave, sooner or later.  Now it is time for you to strive for your own liberation with diligence,” were the Buddha Gotama's final words.


The fighter sits down

As a child, he turned his back on his home, and had learned to survive by responding with aggression to the slightest insult or challenge, he pre-emptively was violent even to his friends so that he would not need to fear them. They abandoned him, and he soon faced enemies in every direction.

Spinning about, confronting his numerous enemies, he soon regretted his violence, his lack of allies and friends - and sought brotherhood. He joined gangs, their petty wars of hatred and found the comfort of organized violence: for in his private war, he at least now was not spinning about and could trust someone.  He had no enemy behind him now, only in front.

His powers grew, and he captained a potent force of fighters, impressing many to his senseless cause.  But they were frightening to him - not because he feared them (he was stronger and more cunning than them all), but because he saw his reflection in them.  He took solace in intoxicants, and the cold rationalizations a man makes when he imagines he is without any other choice.

A slave has no choice, and some men prefer to be slaves rather than make the difficult choices required them.  So he enslaved himself, binding himself to a life of hatred, impressing himself with war.  He was apprehended and imprisoned by law enforcement, for he had become a dangerous man.

In the numerous campaigns of this criminal war, his body had been broken many weapons. These ached him now more than ever, for he was getting too old to be a fighter.  He had walked over many enemies, yet he was still at war.  He lost faith in war, and other false gods.  Crippled, half-blind from a lifetime of violent hatred, exhausted, he sat in the still and quiet of meditation for a few minutes - and soon saw more clearly than he ever had.

Looking up, he saw a childhood friend, still avoiding him.  He at last perceived his greatest enemy - himself.  It was he, all along, who stole from him family and home, who stole from him friend and peace.  Like a true fighter, he turned inward and faced this enemy.  But he was soon overwhelmed, and broken again: the pain and grief he had caused now hurt him more than any knife he had felt.  He would require all the help he could, and so he sought peace with his former opponents.  Regret moved his apologies, and he was forgiven.  But the profound regret for the harm he had caused, first to himself, and then to others, was not relieved.  His tattoos, his scars, his pain persisted.  He became tormented by nightmares, and grew afraid to dream.

Being a fighter, he hated the fear.  So he fought back - and made himself dream.  But his enemy was cunning and now the fighter found himself overwhelmed, and became consumed by the promise of the future, hoping for a day when he would be free of regret. It was tormenting to him - he could not wait to leave jail.  He was anxious to make a new life, a new start, turn his back to his home and friends - again.  He would leave them all behind, and lay down his life to start a new one.  He desires the solace of hermitage.  He desires healing from his addiction, so he might own his own business, and become a captain of industry.  Like Brahma before the fire, he desires a wife, that he may perform the sacrifices required to raise a child, and better the world.

Brave Brahman!  Envy of Indra!  Though weary from fighting, with success more uncertain than ever before, he is eager for this last and most important battle.  Because he is a fighter, and that is his nature. But gradually, his eagerness consumed him, and at last he was exhausted.  He began to despair, and give up hope.  His imprisonment was so long!  He sat down, and in the still and quiet of meditation apprehended this new danger.  Feeling the ground beneath him bearing witness and friendship, he lifted himself up.  Enduring the difficult Asanas taught him the patience required to sit in jail - a little longer.

No longer tormented, he saw clearly that the pain of regret were merely growing pains.  He had not been smart enough to see other choices.  Then he grew smart enough, but lacked the courage to make those difficult choices.  Now he was brave enough, and required only the physical strength to endure the pain.  He trusts himself more: he does the best he can, with the strength of mind, heart and body that he has.  And he can get even stronger!  So he now sits, back straight, looking forward - and is not afraid to dream.

Crime is caused by failure in duty

A criminal can walk from their home to yours – quite as easily as disease spreads from person to person, neighborhood to neighborhood. Like a thief, disease passes through the walls of a house and through a neighborhood, hurting everyone. Even addiction and other psychological disease: when mental illness results directly (or indirectly) in violence, that violence spreads as easily as bacteria.

Criminologists concur, the solution to crime is difficult and complex – but this shouldn’t become a reason to neglect our duty. Every citizen relies on the security and safety provided police and health services, which arrests the spread of disease and criminality, defends victims…And prevents victims. The difficulty of solving criminality should not become a cause for our own acts of injustice, for depriving our fellow citizens of the safety we ourselves demand.

When did we become so accustomed to criminality so as to tolerate its persistent presence, so callous as to turn our back on those harmed by our underfunding police and health services and tolerate it in “those” neighborhoods so long as it isn’t in “ours?

We should uproot criminality: if you provide for the higher education of those who cannot afford it so they may purchase the costs of living, they’ll be home at night teach their children the duties of citizenship. If you ask businesses perform their duty by paying fair wages, rather than relying on the subsidies of public welfare to provide for their workers, they’d remember other duties neglected. If you volunteer, you relieve the burdens of your public servants.

The inability of Mesa County to adequately fund police and health services is our fault. We are “the government,” this is our problem. Provide for the public safety, for our safety. Support tax increases, encourage civil and business leaders toward responsibility…and volunteer for service!

Pathfinder

Wandering and lost
Before, he had been homeless
In Jail he learned what home is
He has found a path

At Home in Hell

There is benefit to practice without mats, for it allows each Yogi to become covered by the dust on the hard ground.

Yama became the Master of Hell not when he overpowered hell, but when hell ceased to have any power over him. Understanding he was in hell, he understood that it was his home. Understanding it was his home, he understood his Dharma, his duty, to his new home. He was filled with compassion for himself and all those other beings in distress there. His mastery was manifested by his freedom from the power of hell.  In manifesting this mastery, he manifested godhead.

Even outside of the system of Justice, we cannot always choose where we live. Or even how we live. Some are born into material poverty, or borne of poverty in heart, mind and body. We also cannot choose our Dharma, our duty - and work we would prefer to avoid often falls to us as a necessity. Yet like Yama, we may choose whether our house shall master us or we master our house, and we may come to understand and accept our duty.

We all try to keep a clean house, but inevitably there is dust that enters in.  We can love our home, and every speck of dust in it, and still try to keep it clean.  We can permit ourselves to become covered by dust, knowing that we can wash later.  We cannot be afraid of our duty.

The Buddha addressed all the monks. “Monks, you have no mother, you have no father, who might take care of you. If you don't take care of one another, who then take care of you?" -Vinaya Pitaka, Mahavagga 8.26.1-8

What has the greatest power over inmates is also the means to their success after their release.  Like an Ashram, jail and prison can become a place for striving - and success - through Yoga.

Karma Yoga (which is, ultimately, a selfless service) is very important when the identity of the self is stressed and frustrated by a deprivation of freedom.  Whether that deprivation of freedom is undertaken voluntarily through Ashram practices, or involuntarily as punishment by the legal system of Justice.

Hatha Yoga's methods of self-care result in self-control.  One cannot be afraid of the dirt when it is known that the filth can be washed away.  The snake sheds its skin, as eventually we all do.  When one regret's the achievements of life, it helps to understand the impermanence of all achievement: for this permits us to understand better what our true work is.