Letter from a Prisoner
The following letter is from a man in prison in the United States who has been corresponding with senior monks from Shasta Abbey for over fifteen years. We include it here, with his permission, because it shows the depth of training that can be done, in very difficult conditions, if one has faith and is determined to train oneself no matter what the surrounding circumstances.
Dear Reverend _________,
Greetings, from the far beyond. So here I am meditating and reflecting on my own mortality while allowing my immune system to do what it’s supposed to do to overcome the virus. When all of a sudden, a declared nationwide Bureau of Prisons emergency put us in further isolation and distress, on account of intra-prison violence elsewhere. Then, in the midst of it, our water system here at Terre Haute had to be shut down for repairs; consequently, I found myself forced to do my “business” in a plastic bag — chuckling all the way to it. Feeling like the Buddha Shakyamuni might have felt every time he did his own “business” in the “bushes.”
To top it all off, our food supply had to be reduced due to a number of factors, namely supply chain difficulties among others. In the midst of it all, and while the world was falling apart around me and everybody losing it, I found myself laughing at it all. Resting in the knowledge that all of it was just as insubstantial and ephemeral as the self I so doggedly have claimed adherence to for most of my life. In fact, I am now so certain of how this peace, this gift from the unborn, lies not in understanding what’s happening (why, how, who, etc), but instead, in loosening my grip in the story of it, and attempting to preserve this outcome over that one, and so forth. Allowing anything and everything to appear in its own way. Appreciating it all for what it seems to be without getting taken in by anything, laughing, even, in the midst of its pain, as samsara pushes me to the edge of a precipice…
May you all be healthy, may you all be happy, and safe, always.