The universe constantly and obediently answers to our conceptions; whether we travel fast or slow, the track is laid for us. ~Henry David Thoreau
I am my vision, how I choose to see myself and others.
Namaste’ Fellow Travelers,
While on my train trip, I read, The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton about a black man who was falsely sentenced to death row in the state of Alabama. He spent thirty years proclaiming his innocence to a deaf prison system. The book chronicles how he spent his time in a five-foot by seven-foot cell. As I sat in my train cabin of similar size, I could not begin to imagine how horrific that experience must have been. I was free to leave at any time with all the creature comforts I want. He left his cell only fifteen minutes a day to walk within the confinement of a cage.
Bitter and devastated by a system that would so wrongly convict him, he spent the first three years with his Bible under his bunk collecting dust, and refusing to speak to anyone except his mama and one true friend who never missed an opportunity to visit him. Then he slowly shifted how he saw his existence and gradually began reaching out to the other prisons, carrying on stilted conversations with faceless inmates by introducing himself and calling out questions.
With time he became friends with the man in the next cell, and then learned he was there because he had lynched a black teenager. As his fellow prisoners were taken to their executions, he started a practice of banging on the cell bars to acknowledge their existence and their passing. Seeking and gaining the warden’s permission, he started a book club in which they acquired two copies of a book and shared it by passing it from cell to cell to read. After it had made the rounds, they met in the library to discuss it, but they were required to keep six feet distance between them.
Ray developed a technique for leaving the prison cell via his imagination, taking himself on marvelous adventures and accomplishing wonderful feats, including marrying Halley Barry and then leaving her for Sandra Bullock. These fantasies lasted for hours, and when he returned to his body, he had no knowledge of what had transpired in his absence.
Throughout his incarceration, he went through a series of lawyers who failed to adequately represent him, starting with the first one who repeatedly stated that the $1,000 the state gave him was enough to buy him a breakfast. Once Ray was falsely convicted, the appeals process became a growing challenge to even get a court date, much less truly get the legal system to listen to him.
As I read this book, I marveled at Ray’s ability to adapt and shift in how he saw things. He went from refusing to interact to being the voice for his fellow prisoners. Ray clung to the Truth that no one could take away his ability to think. During his thirty years of confinement, he shifted his victim existence to one of a creator, and with a relentless will to prove his innocence, he found the means to do that.
Sadly, time was the thing that he could not reclaim once he finally received an opportunity to prove his innocence. Understandably, he regrets the thirty years he lost in prison when he could have had a family and pursued a career. Yet, I see the incredible gift he has given the world through his sharing of this story as well as the ongoing work he does to help others on death row, particularly those who were also falsely imprisoned. While his adult years were not spent doing what he would have chosen to do, he made those years productive and he owned them and set an example to others by refusing to succumb to a system that would have eventually murdered him had he not stood up for himself.
While the vast majority of the population is not in a physical prison, we are in a more insidious and corrosive state – a prison of our own construction which keeps us confined by our fears, regrets, guilt, anger, blame and bitterness. These thoughts can imprison you as long as you keep them alive through your focus on them; thus keeping you locked in a prison to which you hold the key. The price of your freedom is the willingness to let this story go, to no longer keep it alive by focusing on it, to refuse to allow it to claim one more minute of your life.
For me the key to stepping out of this self-constructed prison is taking ownership of my story, which is often as simple as acknowledging I saw myself as a victim, but I am not because I can always step away from the relationship, the job, or whatever else is not loving and supporting me. I am always free to chose my thoughts – like Ray did in prison. He was confined by the system that held him, but he was free in his mind.
Journal Question: When and how do you tend to focus your time on things that are not yours to change? When and how do you do the opposite – employee your time and actions on things that are yours to change? What positive and negative affects do both have on how you utilize your most precious gift of time?
Affirmation: Create a summary statement that reflects the keys to your journaling. Example: My thoughts keep me free. Or I am as free as I give myself permission to be.
Letter from the Divine: Review your journal entry and your affirmation then write a letter from your soul to you reflecting on both. Address the letter with a term of endearment because that is how your soul sees you. Then allow the love that your soul has for you to pour out onto the page.
Buen Camino, Pat
The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love. ~Meister Eckhart