by Tommy “Dread” M, a prisoner
When I heard my mom died, it was the hardest thing. At first, I couldn’t even exercise. In the first few days, I kept thinking, “I wish I had a girl to hold on to.” I needed consolation. Also, I kept thinking, “I wish I could just jog. Just go for a long run—running gives me such peaceful feelings.” But I couldn’t do that since I was in lock-up. Another thing I wished for was a dog. Some- times they are better than people. But of course, there are no girls or dogs in here, and I can’t go running. But also, since receiving the news that my mom died, I haven’t missed a single morning of meditation. I distinctly remember that morning—I woke up knowing I HAD to meditate. I knew I had to get a grip on myself immediately. My sitting became a lot more personal that day. A few days after receiving that horrible news, someone sent me the book “Breathe, You Are Alive!” by Thich Nhat Hahn. TNH breaks the sutra down really well and gives instruction that has helped me in my practice. I need that.
Believe me when I tell you I’ve evolved over the last six years since you met me. I’ve been having such good results from the Buddhist route of not “venting” when angry. I now try to bring awareness to my feelings, their ebb and flow. I also exercise and do a little yoga, but I don’t try to “let it out” anymore by punching things like I used to. If anything, when I used to do that, I think now that I was conditioning myself to deal with anger by being violent, and before you know it—just hitting a pillow or a punching bag just wouldn’t cut it, and I’d need to hit a person.
More than ever now, I am trying to apply the meditative route, and more than ever, I’m seeing progress. I’m still hurting a lot inside, and I still get very angry, but now I truly see the futility of letting those feelings dominate me and manifest in my thoughts, views, actions, and day-to-day decisions.
There is something I’ve been trying to accomplish for a while, and you know how sometimes in life, you finally turn a corner? Well, I can wholeheartedly say that I’ve turned that corner and now realize that although I might have pain and anger, and although I know I’ll probably go through a lot of rough times in my life (like everyone)—I’ve finally decided that I will not become a bitter, angry, miserable person. I’m just not going to do it.
It is becoming clearer that it comes down to the day-to-day decisions and that I can realistically look at each situation (and here’s the hard part…) and DEAL WITH IT inside. I realize now that it’s my attitude that counts.
I realize it’s a lot more complex than my “Dr. Phil-ish” way of explaining it—but it is the truth. I won’t let feelings of anger and bitterness dominate my life. Period.
cartoon by Jesse Lefkowitz