I have a friend who is in prison. We knew one another a little before he entered prison. Our spiritual friendship grew over the last several years as I visited with him in jail and then prison. The following is part of a letter I sent to him after my most recent visit.
As usual, and to my delight, our visit was one of great generosity of heart and time, humble awareness and friendship. I also come away with sadness, disappointment and anger.
Sadness, that you are confined along with so many others. Though you are not completely devoid of knowing what is going on in the “outside world” you can not wholly participate in it. Yet, I also believe your confinement does not curb your sense of wonder and mystery of the universe and life and that something of the “Divine’ is ‘out there’ and ‘in here’. It does not seem to darken your drive for curiosity and intellect and does not severely inhibit your growing heart.
Disappointment in the ‘system’ that has confined you and labeled you and others. There ought to be a vast number of opportunities available to you and others. Each of you, regardless of crime (whether committed or not) will one day be back out into the wider world. So, we need to encourage opportunity for growth of the spirit and education. Make available programs to guide and encourage folks, to support folks and ‘train’ and educate folks to become or to continue to be worthwhile citizens in our nation and communities. There ought to be opportunity here to guide one’s soul into a deeper affirmation of life.
Anger at the ‘system’ for not providing and tending to the population that is confined (re: the above). I think we are missing a great opportunity here as many may be ready to embrace something that is calling to them? We all have the talents of God within us for we are formed in the image of the Holy.
Generosity of heart because of the interest you have in developing your character to enrich your life and the lives of others. You give of yourself to learn.
Humble for me because I witness in you and others I see, including the officers, persons who are not free in the sense that I am free to physically roam the ‘world’. I often get a sense that the officers are also confined behind fences, the incessant noise of heavy doors banging, regulations (whether followed or not!) which are intended to confine and demean other human beings. Humble because each of these persons – inmates and officers – are formed by the creation out of love and given a purpose to be free in mind and spirit.
Is there color to entertain the eyes, with which to please and nurture curiosity and the soul in the world of confinement? Do you find kindnesses in your world? I fear we are losing kindness in our lives, in our communities. This saddens my greatly.
Friendship because I call you my friend. Friendship is company on the journey, sharing the excitement of adventure, sharing joys and concerns, the struggles and the triumphs, the darkness and the Light.
Below is the writing we read in which you said you needed some time to ponder, as there are many layers to understand and/or to digest in the mind and the heart. So, I also need to ponder and to experience how I, with the presence of the Spirit which is Holy may witness my heart, my being to grow and be transformed.
“Though the human body is born complete in one moment, the birth of the human heart is an ongoing process. It is being birthed in every experience of your life. Everything that happens to you has the potential to deepen you. It brings to birth within you new territories of the heart. …
Against the infinity of the cosmos and the silent depths of nature, the human face shines out as the icon of intimacy. It is here, in this icon of human presence, that divinity in creation comes nearest to itself. The human face is the icon of creation. Each person also has an inner, which is always sensed but never seen. the heart is the inner of your life. The human journey strives to make this inner face beautiful. It is that love gathers within you. Love is absolutely vital for a human life. For love alone can awaken what is divine within you. In love, you grow and come home to your self. When you learn to love and to let your self be loved, you come home to the hearth of your spirit. You are warm and sheltered. You are completely at one in the house of you own longing and belonging. In that growth and homecoming is the unlooked-for bonus in the act of loving another. Love begins with paying attention to others, with an act of gracious self forgetting. This is the condition in which we grow. “
“Close your eyes and relax into your body. Imagine a light all around you, the light of your soul. Then with your breath, draw that light into your body and bring it with your breath through every area of your body.”
From Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Dononhue.
Anam Cara is Gaelic for ‘soul friend’.
Regarding prayer and meditation I have found this message from Thich Nhat Hanh to be enlightening – “Like the cosmic background hum that has filled the entire universe since its beginning, prayer is a continual presence on earth, a constant global hum. And like the background hum of the universe, prayer reminds of our origins. For what is prayer but communication with the Absolute, from whence we arose, with whom we are connected, and to whom we shall return?” (The Energy of Prayer: How to Deepen Your Spiritual Practice)
These awakenings of the ‘spirit’ or heart are not just relative to those who suffer in confinement. We are all in one way or another at times confined, trapped in our ways, our culture and our religious dogmas and doctrines. Our imaginations, curiosities are obscured from us by our loyalties to ‘old ways’. These ways may give us a sense of ‘safety and normalcy’, but in the end these ways may not allow us to gain a ‘oneness’ and awe-ness’ of life. To sense the nearness and be friendly with the mystery and beauty of life. We fear a disruption in our routines. We fear a sense of adventure. We need to welcome the mystery, absorb what we can of it and call on The Holy One to guide us.
I wish and pray with the “Holy” who is in constant ‘prayer’ with us that you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.