My spiritual practice has created opportunities for me to teach meditation in the prison system of the United States – in places where inmates can’t escape the dreadful reality of day-to day living. There’s nowhere for them to run and hide. Something must be done every day to transform a nightmarish world into a life of value.
This has brought up numerous other thoughts: almost every human being is locked in one kind of prison or another. Whether it’s a mental prison, emotional prison, economic prison, racial or religious prison, or an ego prison that traps people in a belief system that their position in life is more important than other people’s positions. We have opinions about what’s right and wrong in the world; we sit in judgment of other individuals; we crawl around in their underwear until we find some infraction that reduces them to an inferior position. I’ve often thought that the moment I judge someone else, someone will judge me. I don’t want to “throw the first stone.” It makes me chuckle when I think about all the nonsense I’ve done in my own life, probably enough to fill the pages of many tabloid newspapers. At the same time, all that nonsense has taught me something important about myself and has forced me to change.
I’ve often told people that my life is a bi-product of thousands of mistakes; I’ve told them that it’s all right to take a chance and make a mistake. Rightness or perfection creates a well-formed prison cell in a human being’s mind from which a twisted image of the world peaks out – a prison of their own making where other people are afraid to enter. We insulate ourselves and blind ourselves to life’s myriad teachings; we design and build an invisible cell to house our insanity…and we resist change.
Death provides a door from this prison, but, in truth, death isn’t the answer. “Less is more” is an answer. If we transform tension into spiritual energy, if we build an inner life that can demolish mental and emotional walls and step out of the darkness into light; if we can open our hearts and learn to love unconditionally; if we recognize that everything and everyone around us is our teacher; and most importantly, if we listen to life and let it guide us, we will free ourselves from the invisible, self-made prison that creates deep unhappiness. It’s like Joshua in Jericho. All our personal walls will come tumbling down. We can embrace the world without fear and open to what it has to teach us.