Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Reading Railroad

"If the book comes from the heart, it will contrive to reach other hearts."

Books, books, and more books!. One of the favorite pastimes for prisoners is reading. We certainly have the "leisure" time for it. With novels we can escape this place for a while, and nonfiction can expand our minds.

Most everyone in here has a book going at any one time. those who don't are looking for one. Sure, there are some people who just don't read, but being locked away in a 5 x 9 cement box for years on end will make a reader out of just about anyone.

Our unit library is a pretty good one.(it was virtually nonexistent on my previous unit , Coffield.) However, the problem is actually being able to go to the library. Each section/wing of the prison is allowed access for only one hour every five days. It's easy to get stuck out, especially if you have to work during that time:; and they only let in so many inmates in at once. You can check out two books per week; and woe to the fool who lets his books get overdue: goodbye library privileges. The inmates kept in solitary and in segregation get their books delivered, requesting certain titles and subjects. I'm trying to get a job in the library so I can push my favorite spiritual and educational books on those guys ( on everyone, actually ).

But most books in here are privately owned and come from the free world, sent by friends and family members. Once read, they usually hit the Reading Railroad, the underground lending library.

Underground because, officially, the prison authorities have a problem with us sharing books. Personal property is never to be shared or given away. If an inmate is found with a book without his name and number printed in it denoting ownership,the book is confiscated, often just thrown away, regardless of its value. Lots of books are confiscated. So, If a person's on top of his game,when he receives a book he'll erase the name and number already there and add his own in pencil to keep the law from throwing a fit. I don't understand, why they sweat it , myself. Anything to make our lives more miserable than they already are, I guess. It's a real tragedy when a book gets confiscated for no reason.

The prison mailroom frequently deny the books and magazine sent to us. If it doesn't come directly from the bookstore or publisher, it's not allowed. Also if it has been singled out by some Texas Baptist somewhere and reported to prison headquarters, its red flagged and not allowed. This could be a bestseller or an award-winning piece of literature, but if it's been decided that one page contains "subversive" or "harmful" material, the title is placed on a statewide "Do Not Allow" list. Much of it makes no sense, of course. They'll ban a classic becauseof a rape scene, but allow every sort of gruesome serial killer crime novel. They will allow magazines with photos of women that leave nothing to the imagination, but ban a"National Geographic" because it contains a photo of a naked nursing and nande iswborn baby. I kid you not. They flip over the most trivial, innocent, stupid things. It's as if they enjoy denying us reading material every chance they get. It's thoughtless and heartless. But there's nothing can we really do about it. Welcome to Texas.

Every once in a while a forbidden book makes its way into the prison. Some are great books like "Fight Club" or " World Without End"; and some magazine might have an unnoticed article like "Inside the Mafia" or something. If discovered by the wrong guard, the inmate risks a major disciplinary case and the punishment that goes with it. Usually,we will replace the cover on such books. They'll ride the Reading Railroad very discreetly. Once I read a martial arts book that taught "one touch death strikes ". Ha! It looked more like a medical textbook than anything else, so it pasted the mailrooms inspection. We had fun with that ine for a long time. No doubt it's still lives on.
Often a popular book will have a whole list of prisoners who are next in line to read it penciled in on the inside cover. It's the honor system for the most part and its respected. Sometimes the book will travel all the way across the unit, from hand-to-hand, past crash gates and pat searches to get to the next person in line for it. Books are also shared spontaneously, of course, going to whoever needs one at the moment. There's always a designated place on each wing, a windowsill or ledge somewhere, where available books are placed , free to a good home. A good book may last 3 minutes, tops, before it's snatched up.

Books are a godsend in prison. They are cherished. So many people in here are real booklovers, and I find it amazing that the same people say they'd never read a word on the outside prior to getting locked up. It just wasn't something they did before. But now they've got the time and interest. And it's changed their lives.

I call the constant flow of books throughout the prison the Reading Railroad because 1)it just sounds cool, like the Monopoly board property; 2) it's kept under the radar like the underground railroad that helped free slaves back in the day; and 3) like the railroad, the Reading Railroad liberates people, freeing them from ignorance and the thoughts and ideas that held them down before. That is why my favorite books are those that educate and enlighten. And that is why I do what I can to load the Railroad full of such material.

Pretty much every book I receive from home or order from the bargain books catalog is donated to the cause. I read a lot of nonfiction primarily : history, science, spirituality, travel. Not everyone's favorite stuff, but I hear back from many inmates who tell me how much they enjoyed and learned from the books. As far as fiction goes, I'm a real snob – – way too picky. The books have to be an award winners with five star reviews before I'll give it a shot. But there are plenty of them out there, so I'm pretty much blessed with a wide variety of really great books to read at all times. Thank God. I don't know how I could cope without them. And thank Mom, of course, who requests a book list from me each year and does her darndest to send everyone. She knows that every book she sends will eventually be read and enjoyed by hundreds. more prisoners over the years. Anyone who sends books to prison inmates is doing a real service and blessing a lot of poor souls.

There are five books I keep is my own little lending library: the first five are the required reading
Conversations with God – – Walch
Backwards – – Danison
Journey of souls – – Newton
Same Soul, Many Bodies – – Weiss
Ramtha, The White Book – – Knight

There's littte here that makes me happier than someone telling me how much one of these books has meant to them. I wish everyone in prison – – in the world would read at least these five books . I believe doing so would put an end to so many problems we all face, especially crime; and people would live happier, more fulfilling lives. Guaranteed! The books are really that good.
Mohamed said that any philosopher who taught a metaphysics he had not himself realized was just a donkey carrying about a book load of books.

Nothing beats experience, as they say, but reading a book good book can come pretty close sometimes. And for those of us with no real way to experience a particular thing, reading about it is often our only option. Of course, I would love to travel to Morocco, but being in prison makes that a bit difficult at the moment. Then again, I really don't want to join an outlaw motor club, but I can read about what it's like. Not to mention the fact that it's impossible to experience for ourselves what life was like in Rome in 140 A.D. , but we can read about it all day. Plus, there are countless bits of information and ideas relayed through books that we would probably never have encountered otherwise. As book readers, we can experience and learn vicariously through others.

As far spirituality goes, I agree that ultimately there is nothing better than experiencing the Di asvine for oneself. But if we haven't yet had this experience ourselves there's no reason why we can't read about it from the many who have. There are numerous books out there that recount near-death experiences of the afterlife ( someone temporarily dies on the operating table, for example), where the authors experience themselves as eternal spiritual beings of light. Their stories are all similar, relating nearly identical experiences of being welcomed by other spiritual beings as themselves, receiving messages of why they must return to their bodies, etc. Plus, there are numerous books written by doctors and psychiatrists about patients they've treated over the years with transpersonal hypnotherapy, where the person accesses and experiences there superconscious, or Higher Self, and answers questions and relates information from that "higher" spiritual plane. Again, their accounts are all very similar. No matter their religion or culture, everyone speaking from the state describes nearly the exact same details of the "spirit world" and why we are here on earth in these physical bodies. The recorded and written transcripts of these sessions are amazing and make great reading material. So, short of dying and coming back or experiencing a transpersonal hypnotherapy session ourselves, we can learn a lot about the true spiritual nature of Reality from these books.

" There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio , than are dreamt of in your philosophy",and we can learn about them in books. Study titles on metaphysics and parapsychology and "New Age" spirituality. Sure, there's some misinformation, some bullshit, out there but that stuff shouldn't eclipse or discount what is really true. With so much written on any particular subject, it's important to pick and choose only the very best, I think. I'm a sucker for excellent reviews and tend to prejudge a book by the number of these it has. But the best recommendations come from the authors and researchers whom I have come to respect most. If they all recommend the same titles, then, of course, is t is hose are the ones I'm going to read. This is how my booklist on online was put together over the years. The best of the best, I promise. I encourage everyone to check them out. Some might change your life forever.

When you think of those in prison, picture us reading – – rogue scholars trying to improve ourselves and better understand the world. That's the reality, not what you see on TV. Reading has changed our lives and made us better people.

Books, books, and more books! Consider donating your used books to the county jail or prison in your area. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers can also undoubtedly use them. As much as books might look cool sitting on your shelves, or as much as you might be "attached" to them, please remember that books are meant to be read. so, give them away – – don't sell them – – to people who will really enjoy them. Set up a free book "garage sale" with instructions to pass them along to others. Keep finished books in the car to leave in waiting rohim oms and other places for whoever might appreciate them. And maybe visit your local schools to give away some books that influenced you at that age. Just some ideas to spread the"word".

As always, thanks for listening and caring. Bye for now.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Website Update Website Update Website Update Website Update

"The end is nothing, the road is all." – – Willa Cather

Please check out the latest additions to the "Mystery School" at Mystic – – 15 hand-drawn pages by yours truly. Some really neat stuff, I think. Many, many hours go into the making of each picture and paragraph. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

The book list has also been updated with a couple of changes to the "required" reading section. I feel this is the most important part of the site. Please let me know if you read any of the books I recommend, and tell me what you think of them. I hope they change your life as they have mine.

More additions to the Mystery School are planned . Part 4 will be short and sweet and ready by Christmas, and an extensive Part 5 should be completed about nine months to a year later. This an ongoing project, of course. certainly have the time, and I hope you'll have the patience and interest to keep checking back every so often. The best is yet to come.

Thanks for visiting the site and for spreading the word about it. It means a lot to me.

Bye for now.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Millionth Prisoner

"Ones happiness lies in direct proportion to the character of one's thoughts."

I am Texas prisoner 145, 256. I was assigned that number just over 10 years ago. Those people just entering the system are in the 1, 750, 000 range.

Many old-timers tell me how much prison has changed over the years. I've heard all the stories of how bad – – a violent cutthroat – – things used to be in here. Bt apparently things begin to change shortly after I arrived, somewhere around the 1 million prisoner, I think.There's been a real change of consciousness throughout the prison system, and I've noticed it become even greater and more widespread during my own time inside. It's obvious to anyone who's been here a while. Even the guards, who tend to be the most mean-spirited people in this place, seem to be affected by it. As a whole, the prisons in Texas – – and I'm sure around the country – – have become more and more peaceful. They would be unrecognizable to what they were 15 to 20 years ago.

The fact is, prisons are no longer the violent hellholes they once were and as they are continually portrayed. Of course, there'll always be problem inmates and those who need to be kept away from society forever, but even they are relatively docile compared to the monsters of the public's imagination. It is the young gangsters who tend to cause the most trouble, but that's something they'll eventually grow out of in time and with proper mentoring. The vast majority of prisoners are just normal people who screwed up and want to do better, given the chance. Prisons today are more like monasteries ; they truly have become places where penitence and spiritual reflection are possible. A noticeable change in consciousness seems to be the reason for this. Can this be possible?

As human beings we all share collective consciousness. Countries, towns, and communities each have their own collective consciousness as well that is shaped and affected by the thoughts and emotions of the people who live there. All of the various ethnic groups and different types of people of the world also have their own collective consciousnesses that they share. I believe prisoners and prisoners are no exception.

Scientists refer to something they called the "100th monkey" phenomen. It comes from a famous study of monkeys spread throughout a chain of islands somewhere. These monkeys regularly ate a type of sweet potato dug from the ground. One day, on one island, in one community of monkeys, the scientists noticed a monkey rinsing it's potato in the ocean before eating it. Soon, other monkeys caught on and also began washing the dirt from their potatoes. Then something strange and unexpected happened: at the point where about 100 of the monkeys were doing this, suddenly all the monkeys in every community throughout all the islands begin washing their potatoes before eating them. It was as if they all shared a collective consciousness. Since this discovery, the same phenomenon has been observed and documented in many other instances with a variety of animals. Why should humans be different ?

Our collective consciousness is like a river of information each of our subconscious minds accesses without even trying; it just happens automatically. Our thoughts and emotions are directly affected by what we absorb from this invisible "River". Our brain filters this information as it does all the other data we receive from our senses, so only a small fraction is ever brought to our conscious awareness. Without noticing, we begin to share the same ideas and feelings as other people within whatever groups we belong to, especially as more and more people do likewise. Our collective consciousnesses are continually growing and and evolving.

In prison, living in such close contact with another, we can't help but rub off upon each other.We all share the same suffering , fears, hopes, and dreams of freedom. The 3,000 of us here on the Clements unit have essentially the same mindset as the 3,500 on the Coffield, the 1600 on Eastham , or the 2,000at the Walls.We all share a collective consciousness, and it is growing and evolving to be one of patience, tolerance, kindness and compassion. Once a certain threshold was reached – – maybe at the 1,000,000th prisoner mark – – every inmate in the system was able to feel the positive consciousness and energy that had come to dominate and replace the negativity that was here before. Even without a prison system focused on rehabilitation, left to her own devices, enough of us over time have raised their collective level of consciousness throughout the state and, no doubt, throughout the country.

Prison today is a place to raise one's consciousness as well as get one's act together. I want the public, who tend to be so afraid of ever letting us out, to know that the time spent prison can be extremely productive and that someone leaving here can be a great person,a top-notch citizen, better than ever before. I look forward to the day when society welcomes newly released prisoners with open arms – – when people say, "Oh, you spent five years in prison? Then you must be really have your heart and mind right." Perhaps that day will come when you all raise your own level of collective consciousness.

"A solitary fantasy can totally change one million realities." – – Maya Angelou

I'd like to see our prisons turned into schools. Instead of guards- mentors and role models. A handful of teachers on the unit could give classes on ethics and morality, spirituality, communication, life skills, and health, as well as the various trades offered now.But the real teachers could be the inmates themselves, the "seniors" schooling the "freshman" so to speak.

The minimum attendance/sentence would be three years; the maximum 10 for first offense, regardless of the crime. There'd be no such thing as parole. A second offense would mean another 5 to 20 years; and the third 10-50 more. Only the most extreme crimes would warrant a life sentence .( but 50 pretty much is a life sentence , as I know all too well.)

Every prisoner woould receive individual and group counseling, including hypnosis, which I believe is the most effective form of psychotherapy. Short – and long-term goals would be established and plans will be made for one's release/ graduation well in advance. Family and friends and other members of the community would be free to participate, however possible : through letters, audio and video messages, visits, telephone calls, pre-release support, etc. Mentoring programs would match older, wiser, and more experienced inmates with younger ones.

In addition to the core curriculum, many audio and video courses would be available. Inmates can study whatever educational and spiritual materials their hearts desire. Computers and computer training would be available with limited access to the Internet. Any spiritual/educational material could be downloaded or ordered online. Inmates would be allowed to send and receive e-mail as well as regular mail.

Also, nothing but healthy food would be served in chow halls: rice and beans fruit and vegetables, salads, eggs, oatmeal. Maybe a burger once in a while . Nothing but healthy foods would be sold the units commissaries. (There are way too many obese and diabetic prisoners today, and taxpayers just foot their medical expenses.) Exercise and meditation classes would be offered and taught by inmates.

There would be zero televisions in my prison – schools, except for those used for educational and spiritual programs. Radios with headphones would be sold in the commissaries as they are now. There would be no dominoes or playing cards.

Time in prison should be spent on rehabilitation and self-improvement , not entertainment and recreation. but of course there would be books. Books books and more books, with no restrictions on what is allowed. (though if I wanted to be a real dictator about it, I would outlaw every cookie-cutter crime novel, or least any book with a serial killer or prosecutor anywhere in it, which would eliminate the majority of trash being printed and consumed by the masses these days.) Each unit's library would be large and managed by inmates. Craft classes are essential. (See my previous blog on their rehabilitation potential.)

The prison schools' main goal would be to turn lead into gold and to eliminate inmate recidivism. Every person who enters the system should leave new and improved and much better off for the experience. I know for fact it's possible for people to look back on their time in prison as the most positive turning point in their lives; and if that can happen with the sorry state of affairs that our prisons are in now, just think of the possibilities.

"Vote"for me, and I will run our prisons more effectively,more humanely and more economically. There's actually no reason tax payers have to pay so much to incarcerate so many, only to have the majority (70% ) get locked right back up again. Our prison and parole system is a disaster and disgrace. Prisons nationwide are nothing but mismanaged warehouses. Rather than solve any criminal or social problems, they make them worse. Put me in charge, and I promise to turn every prison farm into a center for higher moral and spiritual learning. Give me one hour of primetime television, and I will recruit tens of thousands of caring, intelligent people to the cause. Our country's prison system can easily become the benchmark for rehabilitation worldwide and the solution to crime and punishment everywhere.

As always, thanks for listening and caring. Bye for now.

– – Eric

Sunday, July 17, 2011

" Free Eric " Campaign

A friend of mine died in here the other day. Heatstroke, they say, after exercising in the yard. He was in his 40s, in great shape. As a recovered alcoholic and addict, like myself, he dreamed of of of getting out and helping others recover as well. It's all he wanted to do.He Had a lot of spirit and was a good speaker; there's no doubt he could've helped many people out there. We talked a lot about the kind of people we were before coming to prison and the ways we have changed since – – the lessons we've learned. We had much in common. It's a shame he'll never realize his dreams of being free again, but I know he did help some fellow inmates while he was locked up. I hope he realizes this and is at peace; no regrets.

There are great many people in prison today who want nothing more than to help others avoid the same fate, the same mistakes. They have a lot to offer. Because they personally experienced such things as alcoholism, addiction, depression, abuse, gang membership, and crime, they are the ones best suited to counsel those struggling with these issues. However, most won't get the chance. They been shut in a cage for the rest of their lives. Although they have changed profoundly and have more than suffered enough for their crimes, they are kept locked away from the world and the people they can best help. Although they may have hurt no one but themselves, they are deemed a threat to society. Their recovery and accomplishments and change in character while in prison go unnoticed and unappreciated. Their life experiences are apparently worthless.

I believe prisoners and parolees have an obligation to repay society by doing some kind of community service work. And many want to do just that. Like my friend who recently passed away, many inmates feel obligated to share their experiences in order to help others – – before they also come to prison. Those prisoners who have truly turned their lives around are the best people to counsel troubled youth, addicts, and anyone else in danger of going to prison someday. I'm certain that both current and former inmates can be utilized to drastically reduce the large number of people being sent to prison these days.

Instead, all prisoners are being written off off, often lumped together in the same category ("dangerous" he) without ever being re-examined on an individual basis after some time. If the focus of our prisons was on rehabilitation, as it should be, we would more easily be able to identify those inmates ready and able to contribute back to society. Finding enough who are willing isn't the problem; you'd be amazed, I think, to see just how many people in prison want to make amends for their past behavior, given the opportunity. A substantial number of current inmates and parolees are eager to be put to work in an effort to help others avoid coming to prison themselves. And there are plenty of existing community service organizations who would be happy for their assistance.

Unfortunately, prisons are run like warehouses, and the prison systems are reluctant to relinquish their "property". The most deserving inmates are continually being denied parole for no good reasons. And way too many people today are being sentenced him him him him excessively, guaranteeing the future of crowded prisons and job security for the prison industry, not to mention the courts and countless lawyers involved. A huge number of genuinely good, decent people who have more than atoned for their sins are being imprisoned unjustly, abandoned and forgotten, left to rot away – – out of sight, out of mind.

But no one seems to care. Perhaps those of you reading this blog do, but not many more. Even so what can be done about it? We can pressure the parole board to parole all those prisoners who qualify and who are deserving of it. However the parole system is already overworked and understaffed and underfunded, usually spending only 2 min. to review someone's file (often containing errors and misinformation). Besides, they'll tell you that society is not prepared to absorb the many thousands more parolees and job seekers (and they may be right). We can pressure state representatives to legislate funding and policy for probation and parole rather than prisons, and to establish fair and reasonable sentencing guidelines. . We can pressure local prosecutors, judges, and district attorneys to seek only punishments that fit the crime, but don't break the tax payers backs, and that don't needlessly destroy people's lives. Unfortunately, politicians generally only do what's "safe" and ultimately in their best interests

So what actually is to be done about the many thousands of good decent people being imprisoned for far too long in this country? I think it will require a major shift in public awareness. It will require a whole new perception of crime and punishment, i.e. being Smart rather than Tough on crime. It would require the cooperation of and an entirely new approach by the media, the news outlets, where, instead of playing to the public's fears and caring only for ratings and "entertainment" value, they educate and inform and work for the betterment of society. In short, it will require a miracle.

Hopefully, as more and more people care about the lives of fellow Americans suffering in prison unjustly and about the unwise and unsustainable rate of incarceration in this country, a solution will be found. Please, make your views known and your voice heard. Contact your local and state representatives and your state's parole board. Contact news organizations about reporting on this country's " prison problem": needless arrests, excessive sentencing, and the broken parole system. Most of all, be persistent. The Powers That Be want only to avoid problems and put off any kind of drastic action; they're content with the status quo so long as they remain in power. To effect any kind of real change, we must remind them every day of what their job is – service and who they work for – the people.

As difficult as it is to change the system, it can be done. It's been done before. Or perhaps your efforts will help free one person. Both are tremendous accomplishments, of course. If you know someone in prison worthy of parole or reduce sentence, start there.

"To suffer and learn the lesson, one pays a high price, but
a fool can't learn any other way."

Last month marked my 10th year behind bars. A milestone of sorts. As it stands now, it'll be another 15 years until I can be considered for parole – – half of my 50 year sentence. However, I'm hoping to obtain a commutation that is a reduction of sentence. The likelihood of that happening is very rare, but miracles do happen. With enough support, I think it may be possible.

So I'd like to take this opportunity, at my 10 year "anniversary", to ask for your help. If you believe that my sentence is excessive, please follow the below link and tell them so. Your letters and phone calls will make all the difference.

If you don't yet have an opinion, please read "My (too long) Story" posted previously. Hopefully, you'll agree that, although I certainly needed to be put away for a while, I was sentenced unjustly and for too long.

I'm no saint, but I'm clearly a changed man. I no longer even remotely resemble the sorry, screwed up, insane alcoholic I once was 10 years ago. I worked hard to better myself. Redemption is real. The person who deserved to be punished doesn't exist anymore. In his place is someone who wants nothing more than to make the best of the life he has remaining, being of service to others somehow.

I will never commit another crime; it's simply not possible. I'm ashamed and disgusted with myself for ever having done such a thing. Although I now understand that alcoholism and drug addiction destroy a person's senses of reason and morality, there can be no excuse for committing a robbery, I know. It took me years to finally forgive myself. Now I can only hope and pray for the forgiveness of others. With your help I may be given a second chance at life. Please send a letter requesting a commutation of sentence to the people listed on the link page. Change it as you wish. Be sure to add your name and contact information at the end.

Thank you!


Monday, June 6, 2011

Hang in There

"The closest bonds we will ever know are bonds of grief. The deepest community one of sorrow."

– – Cormac McCarthy

With so many tragedies occurring in this country and around the world – – tornadoes, fires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, war – – I haven't felt the prison life was worth discussing lately. But being sent to prison is also tragedy – – for everyone involved. Often, the prisoner loses everything he once owned, just as if a fire or flood had taken it all away. At the same time, he usually loses many or all of the people in his life. For family and friends, it can be like the person has died. Most often it is the breadwinner of the family who was now gone, and with them went the money for rent, food, clothing, school, and any dreams for the future. Being sent to prison – – whether justly or unjustly – – can be as devastating as any natural disaster.

And the prison problem is as much a national disaster as a personal one. The United States, with 2.3 million people behind bars, has the highest incarceration rate by far of any other country in the world. Include these people's families at least 10 million people are affected, most of them children. The $70 billion spent by state and federal governments on prisons each year is more than what is spent on all our natural disasters combined.

But, as they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining. For some people, their tragedy ends up being the best thing that ever happened to them. They may have lost everything materially, only to gain the world spiritually. We can talk all day about what really matters in life – – other people, love, kindness, compassion, the little things we normally take for granted – – but until we actually experience real loss, real suffering, these truths are merely platitudes. Tragedy etches them on to your soul forever.

Surviving a tragedy puts life in a whole new perspective. Struggling to overcome and helping others do the same gives a person purpose and meaning. People who are once depressed or apathetic, may now feel more alive than ever before. Some of the best feelings we can experience are helping someone else in need in of receiving help from someone, and tragedies offer plenty of opportunities to experience both. It is a paradox of sorts that even after losing your suffering so much, one can still feel so much gratitude – – for the kindness of strangers, for drink of water, for just being alive.

It's during such tragedies, it seems, when the best in people comes out, or at least has the opportunity to express itself. We are all good people who want to do what's right, even the most seemingly selfish and mean spirited among us. Given the right opportunity, everyone has something to offer and delights in doing so. With tragedies such as natural disasters affecting so many people at once, there are always many examples of courage, selflessness and heroism. More than we know go unnoticed. The "smaller", more personal tragedy of prison also offers many opportunities to be of help somehow, often taking just as much courage and selflessness.

Most people in prison – – especially the new ones – – are suffering greatly. Even the smallest act of kindness is appreciated. For the most part, inmates do their best to look out for one another. Someone is hungry and needs a Ramen noodle soup, he'll get it; if someone needs toothpaste or a pair shower sandals, folks will chip in to buy them for him; if someone needs help with legal work, someone will step up to help him out. I seen tremendous acts of generosity and hear most often from those who have the least to give. Oftentimes what's needed is simply someone to listen, someone to understand and relate. A smile and a " hello" go along way no matter where you are.

Just as experiencing a natural disaster may bring the community together, sharing the pain and suffering, and working together to overcome it all, we in prison also share a common bond. The prison experience has brought us together, for better or for worse. In prison you must meet a lot of people over the years, and for some, it may be the first time they've ever had so many friends. Regardless of our differences, we have to get through this together.

Speaking of which, tragedies can be unparalleled opportunities to expand one's horizons and grow personally. For example, in no other situation would I be able to force to deal with so many different types of people who I normally wouldn't have anything to do with, in such a close space, and have to get along. And you have to interact; there is no such thing as a moment of privacy in here. Him him In doing so, I've been forced to look at myself – – my prejudices, intolerances, pre-conceptions, attitudes, ideals, – – and how we relate to others in the world in general. I've gained a great deal of humility over the past 10 years. And I discovered a strength of character and integrity I never knew I had. As difficult as life in prison has been, I'm a much better person because of it.

Like a survivor of some natural disaster, I'm grateful for simply being alive. I'm grateful for the smallest kindness. I now truly understand and appreciate what really matters in life. I take nothing for granted. I wish to make up for the mistakes in my past to make to make the most of my future. My time in prison is actually been a blessing. The real tragedy would be not receiving a second chance at life.

"Pray hard, as if everything depended on God. Work hard as if everything depended on you."

I know there are so many thousands of people hurting right now, having experienced a tragedy of some kind. I feel for them; I can relate. But how could I help, even if I wasn't in prison? Sometimes the best thing we can do is share what we have learned from our experience. In that case, I can advise them with 100% confidence that what they are going through right now will only make them stronger and better in the end. If they hold on; if they persevere. They've got to keep on keeping on, if not for themselves than for the people who are counting on them or who may need their help someday.

We are all on Earth to learn and grow through experience. And we don't learn and grow much by doing the 9-to-5, coming home and watching TV thing. No one has ever attained enlightenment during an easy and comfortable life. Tragedy stir things up and force us to take stock of our lives and get our priorities straight. Losing everything (or just a lot) may be the most painful thing you've ever experienced, but it may have been necessary to put your focus back on what's really important in life: not material things but other people, love, compassion. I know how much it hurts, how difficult it is to cope with loss; but it really will make you a better person as you struggle to get through it all. And you will make it through, eventually, though it may take the rest of your life – – which is okay, since it's the reason we're here after all. Plus, you're likely to be happier than you ever were before, having experienced what you have.

Also, tragedy offers an opportunity to search deep within ourselves and discover what we are truly made of, which is a Divine Spirit. These are the moments when our Higher Selves – – God – – can empower us to achieve anything we put our minds to. Have faith that you do have the strength and ability to carry on and overcome. Meditate and pray. Quiet your troubled mind and listen to the voice within to find the answers and guidance. It's always there. Sometimes it takes turmoil and tragedy to make us aware of our true, Divine Nature; and that makes any suffering worth it in the end.

Well, so much for advice from a convict. I wish I could do more than offer these words of wisdom. Please read the books listed on my website, I believe they can really help everyone.

Thanks for listening and caring. Bye for now.

– – Eric

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Volunteers Wanted

"Hands that help are holier than hands that pray"

I got the cell to myself for a weekend. My current cellie is it Kairos, a four-day Christian retreat, held in the prison's gymnasium. Kairos is Greek for "the right moment." It's a nationwide program ( It's a good thing. I went through it myself six years ago at my previous unit. The waiting list is many years long. Many inmates may initially sign up only for the food which is home cooked and brought in by the truckloads by ministry volunteers. Everyone who attends comes away with so much more-- refreshed, inspired and often changed. It's a powerful experience regardless of one's faith. The food is incredible – – all the stuff we've only been able to dream about for years since our arrest: fruit, homemade cookies and pies, real hamburgers, real chicken, catfish, pizza and even a ribeye steak cooked to perfection. Prisoners are encouraged to go back for seconds and thirds because the volunteers know that this may be last time any of us will ever see such delicacies. But the real treat is all the free world folks who participate over the weekend, and volunteer themselves. After so many years of being mistreated by prison guards and staff as the scum of the earth, here are group of sincere, caring people who did their best to reach out and show their unconditional love for you. Iheir eyes you are one of God's children you are forgiven. It's palpable, you can feel how much they really do care about you, about you as an individual, and it touches your soul. It breaks down the most hardened heart; by the end of the retreat, everyone has cried at least once, even the biggest and baddest among us. There's a lot of sharing of stories. Inmates are asked to stand and talk about how God has come into their lives or how they have been changed since being incarcerated. Best, though, are the Kairos volunteers who come to give their own testimonies .Some are recovered drug addicts and alcoholics who describe a road to hell many of us are familiar with and how they were saved by the people and the power of love they discovered in the church. Some are former prison inmates who can relate to what we're going through and offer advice. I'll never forget the volunteer who told us about the murder of his wife and the rage it filled him with for so long. He intentionally got himself locked up in the County jail to find and kill the man arrested for the crime. Later, on an intentional drug charge, he went to prison bent on the same mission. Word of his plan got out he was incarcerated far from his wife's killer. Once he was released, he eventually sought solice in the church where he was counseled to contemplate forgiveness, something he never thought he could do. But he eventually did. Later he even visited the man in prison to tell him so. His message to us was that we need to forgive everyone and everything we believe has done us wrong in order for us to get over it and move on. That we cannot progress spiritually until we have real forgiveness in our hearts. His talk had a profound effect on everyone. Being able to endure such a trial and transformation and then be able to talk about it is a real service to mankind. The most touching moment during the retreat, I'd say, was on the third day when everyone returns from a church service to find a large paper sack with their name on it at their assigned seat. The sack is filled with dozens of cards and letters written to them personally by Kairos volunteers and children in Bible school, telling them that they are loved, that God loves them and that everything will be okay. From the kids we are also colorful crayon pictures with their names and ages. We were given about an hour to go through them all. For those inmates with their own children in the free world, it was an especially poignant moment, but everyone shed buckets of tears. The letters are always kept to be read over and over again. Remember: for the past many years, we spent each and every day being degraded ,humiliated and hated and verbally (sometimes physically) abused. To be reminded of the goodness of people like this and to think that someone may actually care about us is almost too much to handle. By the time we've went to Kairos, we had become institutionalized: we basically had forgotten what the free world was like and that such kind and loving people exist. It was a shock to the system. Such an emotional experience that most of us could not even talk about it afterwards. We were left in a daze, changed for a time, if not forever. There is a lot of positive, constructive stuff that goes on in Kairos, of course. Being an evangelical Christian organization, the focus is on the Bible and accepting Jesus as your Savior. At some point, each inmate is counseled privately and encouraged to be baptized as a Christian. This was the only thing I had a hard time with, myself, but was happy to see the fire and brimstone condemnation kept to a minimum. During my own counseling session we had a mini debate about the validity and significance of the crucifixion, which I think unfortunately eclipses Christ teachings. Needless to say, it didn't go over so well and I felt bad for the guy: he really wanted to convert me and save a soul. I hope he realizes how much the Kairos retreat did help me at the time, regardless.

"There is a dark night to which the soul passes in order to attain the divine light." --St. John of the Cross

On a morning in August of 2005, four years after my arrest, I received notice that my writ of habeas corpus, my most important appeal, had been denied. Any chance for a resentencing hearing and a fair sentence had been riding on this appeal. A federal appeal was the next step, but the arguments would be the same. I no longer had any hope and certainly no faith. I felt that there was no way I could endure another 21+ of this man-made hell before I finally qualified for parole. So I decided to end my life. Death was infinitely better than the alternative. I laid on my bunk with a razor blade in one hand and feeling for the pulse in my neck with the other. I tried to make peace with what I was doing. I said my goodbyes to Mom and the world at large. After some time, I was finally ready and I visualized making a deep cut to get it over with in one smooth motion. Just before I sent the signal to my hand, the cell door opened and an inmate stood there excitedly: "Hurry up, man, they're doing Kairos! They didn't pass out lay-ins last night. Were on the list, were going! I'm getting everybody over here. Let's go!" He ran off and I laid there for a long moment. I had put myself into a trancelike state and was a little out of it. I still had a firm grip on the razor blade. I thought," Who cares, who needs it. I had forgotten ever signing up for it years before. I was upset that I had been interrupted .I would have to start the lengthy process all over again. But then I recalled all ths stories about the amazing food to be had Kairos and I figured this would actually be a fine way to go: my last meal, as it were. So I hesitatingly, reluctantly. Left for the first day of Kairos.Did Kairos save my life? Was it Divine intervention? Hard to say. All I know is that if that cell door had rolled one second later, I would be history – – and that guy who came to get me would've been faced with a very troublesome scene. Thank God for the both of us. Over the next few days, something changed in me. Seeing all those wonderful people from the free world and how selfless they seemed was an inspiration. As I said before, in prison it's easy to forget the goodness in the world, and these "Saints" were a reminder. If they could go out of their way to help others, so could I. If they could overcome obstacles and tragedy in their lives, I could to. By the end of the weekend, I decided that committing suicide was a pretty selfish act and that as difficult as life in prison might be, rather than live for myself, I could live for other people – – maybe my fellow inmates. Following the Kairos retreat, although I didn't become baptized, I did begin studying everything I could to do with theology and spirituality. I felt there might be something to all this religious hocus-pocus. I wanted to learn not just about Christianity but about all the world's religions. And thanks to my mother's love and generosity, I could study a great deal over the years. One good book's bibliography would invariably lead to many others. Any book I requested no matter how obscure, she would send me. And I'm forever grateful, as she knows. These days, I'm into "Ramtha" material which I consider my "graduate" work. Super highly recommended; really neat stuff. ( I've learned so much since then. I feel that all my big theological questions have been answered. I've gained tremendous insight into the true nature of reality ie. The meaning of life. I know without a doubt that we are all spiritual beings having a physical adventure here on earth. I'm no longer afraid of death but moreI'm no longer for life, no matter what or may be. I wish everyone could know what I no one have the pieces self-assurance that comes with it. I feel that the best way can help others to stay share my favorite books and what I've learned. So to do what I can from this prison cell, there is mistake meant Please visit and please spread the word. And be sure to read the books! "Teach people to teach people." There are a variety of prison ministries that do what they can, usually offering Bible studies and religious publication; but Karros is the only one that says has such an obvious impact. They seem to be the only people who actually come into the prisons here in Texas, and that may be the case nationwide. Their volunteers make an effort to visit at least once a month, meeting with inmates who have previously gone through the retreat. If evangelical Christianity isn't your thing, then you're out of luck, but there are a large number of prisoners they do help and it's great just to see some friendly free world folks wandering around once in a while. I wish there were other religious organizations – – other face – – who visited us in prison, and there probably are in the northern, more enlightened states. Anyone who comes here to share their light and love is greatly appreciated, and they can be guaranteed a large receptive audience. Prisoners are starving for such contact, and most of us have a real interest in learning about spirituality and how can help us become better people. Learning anything for that matter. Unfortunately, the sad fact is that prisoners are Aren't high up on anybody's priority list. After all, were exiled and dams; people are afraid of us. Not to mention the walking into prison voluntarily is not something many sane people ever consider doing. Those who do are performing a real service not only for inlet mates but their effect but for their community and society in general Due to state budget cuts, Texas is losing all of its prison chaplains, which is understandable, I suppose. Any religious service/programs will have to be conducted by free world volunteers. Most of prison systems educational programs are also suing history. However, people in prison need teachers, especially spiritual teachers. Any volunteers? Thanks, as always for listening and caring. Bye for now – – Eric

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


"Passion motivates more than money."

Right now there's one thing that keeps me going in here more than anything else, and that's the unit's craft shop. I am fortunate to be there. Out of the 3000 or so inmates, only 48 are granted this privilege. The waiting list is long and it takes at least a year to rise to the top (most get scratched for disciplinary cases). Getting my name on that list was the very first thing that I did when I was transferred to this unit two years ago (on my last unit, Coffield, the craft shop, like the library, existed in name only). Craft shop hours are 11:30 to 5:30 Tuesday through Friday and 7:30 to 2:30 on Saturday, when it's open. Some inmates have jobs that prevent them from attending very often, but most of us spend every hour we can there "piddling" away, as they call it. It's definitely the best thing going in prison, and it makes all the difference in my life these days. Thank God.

There are five categories of craft shop "trades": leather work, wood work, metalwork, jewelry making, and "art", the catchall group of which there are only five of us. The other artists do some pretty impressive portrait work. I do quote contemporary art, painting on wood, canvas, and fabric. I've been an artist forever. I love mixing mediums and experimenting with different techniques to get unusual effects. For a while, I was doing pieces for all the various religious symbols of the world, and that's still going, but I'm taking a break from painting to make a large chess set out of clay. The board is finished and looks awesome, but the pieces are giving me trouble. Still, it gets quote "ooohs and aaah" s from everyone who walks by, which makes me feel good. I've always wanted to make my own chess set for some reason and was once carving one in the free world (the pieces kept disappearing over the years). The theme for this one is "East versus West", Christian monks versus Hindo yogis. Instead of Queens, the most powerful pieces are Christ and Krishna. And instead of Kings to capture, there's a cross and a caduceus (the medical staff with wings and twining snakes that initially represented the spine, it's energy channels, and enlightenment). Pretty cool, huh? We'll see how it goes. I'll paint the pieces when they're ready. Down the road, I'd like to geto into silk painting and make some large wall hangings.

I wouldn't be able to do any of this without the financial support for my mother. I'm so blessed and so thankful to have her out there for me. Everything I make goes to her to save or to as gifts. Most everyone in the craft shop sells what they make to support their craft. Prison staff seem to be the biggest customers. The guards get all the leather utility stuff – gun holsters, billy club holders, teargas canister holders, handcuff holders, etc. – Costs is at least half of what they pay outside the prison. The jewelry makers make nametags, rings, and things for the staff, and the metalworkers make fancy badges. The woodworkers do a lot of neat, small projects and mostly make clocks and plaques. The prices for everything usually just cover the cost for materials and enough to keep them in supplies. No one's getting rich, that's for sure. Anything not sold to unit staff gets picked up from visitors or sent home to be sold somehow, maybe on eBay.

But not all the prison artists are in the craft shop; they're talented artists all over the farm. However, the only art supplies allowed in cells are drawing boards, colored pencil, and worthless watercolors sold in the commissary along with the usual pens and pencils. Many inmates make greeting cards to sell. Those who put in the time and do good wor and k come up with something new and different, like pop-up cards, can stay busy all the time. A basic card goes for $.50 (two Ramen noodle soups). A special one can fetch up to a dollar (a bag of coffee). Another "hustle" for artists is portrait work done in pencil or pen. Some of these guys are amazing, taking a small photo and blowing it up into a perfect likeness of a loved one in any setting you want. A really good 8 x 10 portrait can go for $10 or more.

There are some extremely talented people in prison. The best artists are Hispanic. They have their own distinctive style unique to that culture; it's hard to describe, but you definitely recognize it when you see it. Much of it is "barrio art", art reflecting life on the streets and Mexican gang culture. There are a lot of Aztec themes reflecting their heritage. And the women! They can draw some beautiful women. There are way fewer white artists around and fewer who are black. In a prison system that at least 70s percent, we only have two in the craft shop. It's more a matter of culture than economics, I believe. In 10 years, I've never seen a black inmate make greeting card or anything outside the craft shop. The Mexicans definitely have a monopoly.

However believe it or not, making and selling cards or other artwork to other inmates is illegal within the System. It's considered "trafficking and trading". True story. Officially, were not even permitted to give or loan each other soups or other commissary items the same reason. The Law know it's going on and generally look the other way, but it's just another example of the asinine rules we have to live with here. But creating artwork from your cell and selling it in the free world is not tolerated. Inmate artists who wish to support themselves this way are out of luck and in big trouble if the administration finds out about it. Supposedly, it's possible to obtain special note permission to sell artwork from your cell, but I've never met anyone who's had success getting it. Oh, well.

"Give me a man who sings at his work." – – Thomas Carlyle

The ones who are in most demand on any unit are the tattoo artists. Someone who knows what he's doing is always busy and always has plenty ofd food in his locke. But it's not for the meek, because tattooing is illegal throughout the system. Plus it takes a bit of mechanical know how to put a tattoo gun together: the copper wire comes from cannibalized fan motors, the magnets from radio headphones, empty pen tubes are everywhere, screws and other bits of metal can be got from a buddy or a friend of a friend who works in maintenance, and good needles can come from a wire brush; but being able to create a working machine from it all takes some skill. You can hotwire to a radio or attach an electrical cord to plug it in (preferred). Genuine India ink can be obtained from guards or made in the cell by burning baby oil with a wick underneath the bunk or toilet and collecting the black soot that builds up. Inferior homemade ink turns blue/gray and fades quickly over time, but if done right it works like the real thing. The best artists don't settle for anything but the best.

Priso and tattoos go hand-in-hand, it seems. Getting a jailhouse tattoo is a rite of passage of sorts. I have my share. Of cours, you have to be careful not to get hepatitis or any other infectious disease. You have to make absolutely sure that the needles and ink are solely your own. The artist has to be reputable and of good character – not an option sometimes, and that's where people get themselves in trouble. Staph infection is another common problem . So, all in all, getting a tattoo in jail or prison isn't such a great idea. But if you're extremely careful, it can be as safe is in the free world.

A lot of guys go in for gang related tats. Some are pretty extreme, especially when they're on the face. Plenty of inmates have teardrops at the corner of one eye, one for each time they've been locked up. There "full sleeves", designs covering the entire, "half sleeves" covering only the upper arm; "back pieces" usually one elaborate design covering the whole back; " chest plates" covering the chest, and of course, ones for everywhere else. "Nametags" are last names or street names in big fancy script over the back and shoulders or the stomach. Naked women tats are popular. Ditto for skulls and religious icons. As you'd expect, some artwork is pretty gaudy and some is spectacular.

Beforee I was incarcerated I had a dragon on the shoulder – the first when I was 18 at the Sturgis bike rally; back when I rode a Harley look-alike. Each of the four tattoos I've gotten in here has special meaning for me. I drew them all myself. On one ankle is the Vedic "Om" symbol of the universal vibration/sound of the Divine Source of All That Is. On the other ankle is a secret society symbol representing for me the quest for the Truth with a capital "T ". On the back of my head, seen only when my head is shaved, is a tribal looking lotus blossom symbolizing spiritual awakening/enlightenment. Then, covering my chest, is an ancient Zoroastrian symbol of a circle/star with wings representing the soul's upward progress through good thoughts, words, and deeds. That's it. I'm done.

"A positive attitude will not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."

Being able to do artwork in prison, especially in the craft shop, is wonderful,With so much time on our hands, it's a great way to keep busy. And it's important. Art therapy is proven effective in helping people and in rehabilitating inmates. I believe that being creative is our natural drive as spiritual beings and what we're all meant to do on Earth. It gives us purpose and meaning in life. It allows us to express ourselves. It's enjoyable, it's meditative, it's soothing and at the same time exciting. For me, creating artwork is essential. Being in the craft shop now helps make this prison experience bearable.

Unfortunately, some people don't want prisoners to be happy. They'd like to see things like the craft shop shut down. If they had their way, we'd all be chained to the walls and beaten with sticks. What they forget or fail to consider is that the vast majority of prisoners are released back into society. Would you rather have an angry, traumatized, depressed cretin on the streets or someone who's been changed, who became a better person, is happy and positive about life? Every little thing that you can do to help improve a person should be utilized in prison. The intellectual focus on incarceration should not be on punishment so much as rehabilitation. There's enough suffering in prison as it is. Allowing and encouraging prisoners to develop their latent talents and creativity – to write, to draw, to paint, to play musical instruments – helps them heal and grow and get their hearts and minds right. Everyone going into prison should come out new and improved and art can play a big part in that.

With the upcoming budget cuts here in Texas, were losing almost every education and reintegration program. Whether we also lose the craft shop remains to be seen.

Thanks as always for listening and caring. Please visit my website and send me an e-mail. Bye for now.

– Eric

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Little Help-and Jethro

"We are all teachers, and what we teach we learn, and so we teach it over and over again until we learn." – – From "A Course in Miracles"

There are always new people coming to prison, people of all different types and backgrounds. Some have been locked up many times before or have spent their entire lives on the street, in the "hood", and are already wise to the dog – eat – dog ways of prison. These are generally gang members and they tend to take care of (as much as take advantage of) one another. But many new to prison have never been in trouble with the law before and are essentially just regular, albeit troubled, people and totally na├»ve when it comes to the jungle of life inside. These folks are easy targets for the predatory gangster culture, especially if they have any financial support from home. It's up to those of us who have been in here for a while to school these news guys and help them out of trouble as much as possible.

And there's a lot to learn. Prison is a whole different world with its own set of customs and rules. What follows is my advice to anyone just entering prison for the first time.

Rule 1: don't talk; listen. People who are scared and anxious tend to talk a lot to cover up their fear and insecurities, and they don't realize that they're just putting their nervousness and ignorance on display. As much as you might want to persuade others how unafraid – – how tough, how smart – – you are; as much as you want to discuss your court case and how badly you were screwed over; as much as you want to share your troubles and bitch and moan; as much as you can't wait to tell someone your life story; keep it to yourself. Nobody wants to hear it. You're new. Nobody cares about what you have to say – – they care about how you act. Which brings us to…

Rule 2 and, perhaps, the most important one of all: keep your cool. No matter how crazy others may behave and how chaotic your surroundings may become, remain calm. Try your best not to let things bother you; and believe me, it's all going to bother you at first. Do your best not to react with violence when provoked; and you will be provoked. Some guys will want to "check your papers" to see what you're made of. Depending on how you handle this, you may have to fight every day for months, or you'll be left in peace. Be brave and show no fear. Fear and weakness are what they want to see. Remember that words can't hurt you. But if your hit or pushed, you have to fight back. There's no running away in here, and if you don't fight back – –if you don't show some backbone, some character – –you'll be labeled a coward and a punk and your time in prison will only be that much harder. But fighting should always be a last resort, of course. Keeping your cool at all times will also keep the peace

Rule 3: be friendly, but not too damn friendly. The vast majority of us coming to prison are actually good, decent people despite our crimes, which were usually a result of us losing our minds for a time. So, to be a nice person is just second nature. But there are also many in here who take kindness for weakness and who will try to take advantage of you. It may start with "borrowing" your commissary items, but soon they'll be hitting you up on a regular basis, taking as much as they can get. And new guys are often too intimidated to just say no. As much as it may go against your natural inclination to be kind and generous, you need to be aware that not everyone is as honest and trustworthy as yourself and that is important to set boundaries and limits to how much you can give. Basically, don't be a chump.

Rule 4: don't let prison or your crime define who you are. You may have made a colossal mistake, or series of them. But you're not a bad person. Don't let the constant belittling and humiliation by the guards and others within the System bring you down or make you as unforgiving and hateful as they are. Don't get so caught up in the prison lifestyle that you became come so institutionalized that you can't function – – or don't want to function – – in the free world someday. Try not to let depression get the better of you (easier said than done). Your life is not over. Though you may not be happy, you can still learn and grow a lot in prison, and that is the whole point of our earthly existence, after all. Definitely feel remorse for your crimes but don't dwell on it to the point where you don't allow yourself to learn from your mistakes and move on. You may have been an idiot for a moment or an asshole for quite a while, but that is not who you really are and you know it. You can still become the person you want be; you can still become proud of the person you are now, regardless of who you were then.
Which brings us to another Piece of Advice…

Rule 5: make the most of your time in here. Think of it as an opportunity to get your heart and mind right. At first you're going to be spending a lot of time reflecting on your life, remembering every good thing your now missing and every mistake you've ever made, no matter how small. Use this process to learn how you could've made better choices and decisions, but try not to beat yourself up too badly over it all (again, easier said than done). Think about how you're going to live your life differently once you're freed someday. Educate yourself. Regardless of whether there are any educational or vocational programs offered at your unit ( or not due to the state's budget crisis), there are plenty of other ways to expand your mind. Visit the library as much as possible if you have one. Get your hands on some of the many books newspapers, and magazines floating around your living area. If you're blessed with support from family and friends, request that they send books on things like history, science, philosophy, and anything else you'd like to learn about. Study spirituality: believe it or not, there really is a Divine Reality, and we really are all spiritual beings having a physical experience on Earth; and the verifiable proof of this can be found in many excellent books (see my book HERE). Learn to meditate. Get in shape: start an exercise routine, do yoga, try fasting.

For those of us who essentially have life sentences and who may very well end up dying in here, and who may feel they have no reason or incentive to better themselves as they'll probably never again be part of society, all I can say is "do it for yourself." For example, I may no longer be able to live life as it's meant to be lived, but I can prepare for my eventual death by getting my heart and mind right for God, so to speak. The daily challenges thrown at us by prison life are perfect for practicing forgiveness and loving kindness. The abundance of "free" time we enjoy is perfect for spending in contemplation and meditation. Where countless people in the free world are caught up in the struggles for survival or the materialism of the rat race, we in prison can devote our lives to learning and growing spiritually; and in that we are the fortunate ones.

Those are the main points I try to get across. Plus, of course, there's plenty of advice on just dealing with the daily life of prison. "Etiquette" is always a big deal where you have so many people crammed into such a small place. And there are all sorts of pointers for getting along with the other person in a 6 x 9' cell like (flush, flush, flush!). Not to mention the little convict tricks like lighting a smoke using pencil leds and an electric outlet, or how to build a tattoo gun out of a radio, or how to make a gourmet meal with Ramen noodles. Like I said, it's a different world and a whole insane new way of life for many people just entering the System.

"We are all on earth to help others. What the others are here for

I have no idea"

My good buddy Jethro is a big, strapping guy and not someone you'd like to get in a tussle with. He is serving a 20 year sentence for beating a man to death. But he's also one of the nicest people you'd ever care to meet. Despite his predicament, he's always quick with a smile and a friendly comment for everyone; and he makes a practice of defending those inmates unable to defend themselves.

For instance, the other day, it was brought to his attention that a feeble, 75-year-old man new to prison was being taken advantage of by a few bad characters. This poor guy was regularly intimidated into giving away the contents of his locker whenever he went to the commissary. Though I doubt that those thugs would've actually beat him up, I would not put it past them, and the threat was enough. So, at some considerable risk to himself, Jethro stepped in and confronted them. Of course, being a big guy and an experienced fighter make this easier to do, but anyone who's been in here long enough knows full well that in a three on one fight the biggest and baddest can get their ass kicked pretty severely.

After first trying to reason with them failed, he tried shaming them: "Look at you tough guys picking on a little old man!" And when that didn't work, he told them "Look, I have no choice. I can't stand by and just watch you treat this poor guy like this. If you won't leave him alone, I'm going to have to beat the hell out of all of you. And then you'll really be ashamed of yourself. What do you say? I'm ready to do this right now. Are you?" He knew, and they knew, that he most likely would be on the losing end of that battle, but his courage and strength of character impressed them enough to not only back off but to give the old man much of his commissary items back.

This isn't the only time Jethro has come to the rescue of another inmate in such a situation. He is a regular champion for the weak and defenseless in prison. But it's not something he brags about or that many people know about. What's more admirable to me is that he never just throws his weight around, although he could, but instead always does his best to first talk the problem through. Only once has it ever come to blows: he didn't do so well but it did the trick.

Despite his horrible crime (committed while out of his mind on drugs and alcohol), I'm happy to call him my friend.

Thanks again, as always, for listening and caring. Bye for now.

– – Eric

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Life-Changing Read

"The best mind altering drug is the truth." – Lily Tomlin

I believe that the book"Journey of Souls" by Michael Newton should be read by everyone in prison. It was this book more than any other that first opened my eyes to the spiritual reality that exists for us all. And I believe that anyone else who reads it and takes its message to heart is not likely to commit any further crime. Nor are they likely to continue abusing drugs and alcohol (once the physical addiction is treated, of course). In fact, I feel that everyone in the world should read this book, translated into their own language. With this knowledge applied, especially by the politicians, rulers and community leaders of each country, we could see an end of violence and war and to greed and disparity that exists between the richest and poorest of us. In short, the information within "Journey of Souls" and other books like it holds the answer to all of life's problems.

The authors of these books are psychiatrists and doctors who, for careers often spanning 20 years or more, have regressed several thousand of their clients into the past to remember and reexperience events that may help them now. By reliving a past traumatic event, for instance, a person can usually get over phobias or other issues relating to it. Regression is something every psychiatrist learns in school and its veracity and effectiveness have been proven over the years. Regression is done with the client in a trance state induced through deep hypnosis in order to better access memories within the subconscious mind. Everything a person experiences in life is recorded in the subconscious, so even the most minor details can be recalled. When a person is regressed to the age of seven, they will be seven again and will relate what they are seeing, feeling, and experiencing as if they were that age again. It's universally acknowledged that people can be regressed as far back as their birth and described even this event accurately.

What is not so universally accepted, but for which there is more than ample evidence, is the fact that people can be regressed even further – into past lives. This came as a shock to many of the therapists and researchers who make past life regression the focus of their work today. Like most people raised under certain religions, they had no concept or belief in the cycle of birth and death or reincarnation. But the reality of it was demonstrated to them over and over again throughout the years. And today many of these outstanding professionals are sharing what they've learned by writing books on the subject, including in them verbatim transcripts of past life regression sessions (see my book HERE.) There are practitioners all over the world who specialize in this work.

However, it isn't the study of past lives so much as the life between lives that gives us the most insight into the true nature of our existence as spiritual beings. This is usually done done by taking someone to the scene of their death in their most recent past life, then following them into "heaven" or the " spirit" world. Regardless of a person's religion or beliefs, everyone – without exception – reports essentially the same experiences. Without going into all the details here, I'll summarize what occurs: we leave our physical bodies as conscious and aware as when we were alive and then, unless we have errands or issues to deal with first or unhealthy attachments that keep us here, we are drawn into another dimension of spiritual reality; there we are soon met by a " guide" and other fellow spirits who shower us with love and who we recognize as having known before; we are also reunited with a personal spirit "family" we have shared many lies with us on Earth, learning and growing together; we visit a great library and attend classes where we restudy all of our previous lives and prepare for the next; we meet with a council of elders who help us evaluate our progress and with their guidance we choose our next life on earth which is intended to further our spiritual evolution; and then we are sent back into her new physical body within our mothers womb. Again, regardless of a person's religious beliefs or lack thereof, they all report the same basic steps.

The most important aspect, I believe, of people's reports from the spirit world is what they all say is the meaning of our lives here on earth: that essentially, Life the school and Love is the lesson. We are apparently all here to learn and grow through experience and by interacting with one another. Lessons are repeated until learned. The ultimate goal for each of us is to eventually make Love the basis of our every thought, word and deed. Love and Divine Light are what we are made of and who we really are as eternal, spiritual beings, and our mission is to let that light shine on Earth against the dark forces of evil such as selfishness, greed, anger, hatred, etc. Evil, however, is really just ignorance ,error or insanity more than anything else. Each and every one of us is pure and good at the core. Religious dogma that says we are " born in sin" simply means that we come to earth ignorant of our spiritual nature. Another important message that comes through is that no matter how badly we've screwed up in life, we can always make amends and become the person we're intended to be.

"Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind." – Albert Einstein

Unfortunately, some people automatically dismiss all this as nonsense without really looking into it. They may adamantly refuse to believe in the divine realm because it isn't mentioned in their science textbooks. Or they may say that because it isn't written in a holy book it just can't be true. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, but look at what these beliefs have done and are doing to the world: we have Christians and Muslims constantly at war with each other and themselves; atheists and agnostics living for this one life alone, focused on power, material gain,"survival of the fittest"; and people of many different faiths polluting the environment without concern for the consequences to further generations. Secular humanists might say that as long as you're a good person you don't need spirituality, but that is just ignoring the reality of the situation. The facts cannot be denied.

I hate to say it, that but I think many people are just too lazy or apathetic to study up on the matter. It's either that or they're too afraid of being proven wrong for all these years – that their hard held beliefs are really only myths, fables and unproven theories. Some people get defensive or angry angry when questioned about their beliefs, because in fact they don't really know the truth and their egos are threatened. Fortunately, it is possible for anyone to know for certain by personally experiencing themselves as spiritual beings through deep hypnosis and other methods. Once this occurs, there can be no doubt whatsoever. And it's as easy as kicking back in a comfortable chair and letting a professional guide you through the process. (Visit Spiritual to find practitioners near you as well as the Munro for their unique approach.)

"It is far better to become your truth and to speak it."

I'll admit that I'm a book pusher here in prison and probably as annoying as a Hare Krishna in the airport or a Jehovah's Witness at your front door. I keep a whole library of spiritual books on hand to share and give away. I prefer to recommend books over preaching, but I'm guilty of getting up on my soapbox from time to time and expounding upon karma, suffering and the wonders of the spirit world. If I could be allowed to hold my own mystical "church" services, I do it in a heartbeat. I see so many of my fellow prisoners seeking the answer to life's mysteries and not finding them in conventional church teachings or the available Christian and Muslim literature. So, when I can, I pass out copies of "Journey of Souls".

Imagine if every prison inmate in the country became enlightened as to their true nature as divine, spiritual beings. I witnessed the toughest of the tough and the baddest of the bad undergo complete change of heart and attitude adjustment towards life because of what they've learned in "Journey of the Souls". I have a had the opportunity to help a few of my cell mates personally experience the divine realm through guided meditation, or hypnosis and they enthusiastically tell me how the experience changed their life for the better. I am 110% convinced that past life therapy and spiritual regression is the cure for addiction, depression and deviant behavior which all go hand-in-hand. Helping someone to understand who they really are in their purpose and meaning in life makes all the difference in the world. Instead of simply locking criminals way for years on end, we need to make an effort to permanently change their hearts and minds, and spiritual education – – is the key.

Check out "Journey of Souls" by Michael Newton for yourself, then maybe donate few copies to your library as well as to some prisons and rehabilitation centers in your area. This book and your efforts have the power to make a real difference in someone's life.

Thanks, as always, for listening and caring. Bye for now.

– Eric