Featured Story, Prison Stories

A Piece of the Mystical Puzzle

Incarceration is a very filtered perception of everyday “life”. Space & time, are both highly concentrated. The same magnification applied for emotions. Opportunity for service to self vs. service to others, were of no shortage. Atleast this goes for my recollection, within my manageable time behind the walls of a “correctional facility”.

Entering the gates of a maximum security prison, was directed towards a service to self mission I had been preparing for mentally and physically. Unavoidable are emotional roller coasters within yourself. The unbeknown outcome in the long run, can not be anticipated.

The narrow mindness of a service to self mission had its first cracks becoming aware of the pain and sorrow put on your loved ones. Blaming themselves for not being able to save you from your current fate. Although “free” on the outside, just as locked up mentally as I was physically. Unable to liberate them, no matter how comfortable I told them I was. Seeing a loved on the other side of the visiting table hurts. No matter how tough I thought I was, heading back to my cell, my heart ached. Time invested for them to come see me for one hour, was a display of unconditional love, which family and friends had given. I was called to the visiting unit one day, seeing my girlfriend appear by herself. This was unusual, she had no car, and no driver license. Her being a very shy and insecure being, how in the world is she here? She stated that, she travelled all this way, since early in the morning by public transportation. It was impossible to hold back my tears. Doing this as remote as possible for other inmates to spot.

Being in a fortunate situation, to have emotional and financial support from the outside, I had access to luxury items through prison commissary. Having extra food in my cell, was equivalant to the joy mobsters had in the prison scene of the movie “goodfellas”. All prisons experienced, had served one meal per day. Just enough to keep you alive. Having extra personal clothes was a piece of freedom.

Housing Unit B
(Housing Unit B)

Recognizing a polish inmate, around my age, who merely had the clothes he got arrested with, and the food served, caught my attention. The prison in Amsterdam was a crossing ground of all nationalities. English was very common to conversate, apart from the native spoken dutch. As I was handed out my daily food serving, I carried this over to the polish mate. Seeing his eyes glow, a warm hearted smile, followed by a “thank you”. It struck me in my cell, that giving, was actually very warm and comfortable. There was truly something “lovely” about it. Something deeply connecting. I was used to the contrary, taking from people, hurting people, installing fear in people, to enrich my ego. I had met my girlfriend in 2012, I had admired her selfless deeds towards other beings. Be it animals or human interactions. She was aware of people in need, which my selfish mindset was overlooking. 5 years later, incarcerated, I had a glimpse of understanding. A knock on his door with food and tabacco to serve, was a regular routine for the remaining time shared in the housing unit.

One day on housing Unit B, I had come across a Indian inmate in his mid 40s. His appearance was that, of not belonging in a prison enviornment. He was on a business trip, passing through schipole international airport in Amsterdam. There had been an arrest warrent issued for a conflicting business transaction. His managing was that of a Mango farm in India. Details were unknown on my behalf. He had expressed a certain calmess. I had come to conversate with him, and came to notice we shared a daily routine of meditation in our cells. What meditation truly was, I had no discovery of at that point. It was merely a certain amount of time which gave me rest of whatever stress factor was present. As we sat at the recreation table I had slid him a telephone card, allowing him to contact his family on the outside, who had no idea of his where abouts. I had sensed a great deal of relief and unexplainable gratitude in his eyes. He had promised to return the favor, I insured him, there was no need. A week later I had a knock on my cell door, accompanied by a guard for his release. He wished me all the best, that I get released soon, and thanked me. A warming farewell.

By this time I had noticed a “boomerang” as I may call it. Serving without expectation, will have the universe return the favor in unexpected ways. There was no question about the truth of this experience. It may all of been “luck” one may say. But as mentioned previously, life and its actions had been magnified behind the wall.

All inmates are granted a religious service considering they are not on disciplinary restrictions. Options were christian, islamic, and buddhist services. I had noticed the paradox of the opportunity at hand. A lot of inmates had taken this weekly melting point of all housing units, as opportunity for drug trading. I had received a visit of a buddhist working in different prisons. We had gone to his “tempel” inside the prison. A small room, where we drank some tea, conversated about life, followed by a meditation session. No ther inmates were interested. The underlying feeling of being caged, had been evaporated during this experience. He had brought me many books. I had read all I could get my hands on. After some time, although keeping a daily routine of meditation, I layed them aside. All had been pointing at the same “Essence” which was “no-thing”. Not being able to grasp what was hidden in plain sight, had me losing interest. I had favored criminal biographies, something the service to self ego could get a hold of.

Transfering back to Unit A, about 3 months into my incarceration, I met a young inmate across from my cell. Cleaning the showers one day, I had come across a piece of hash wrapped in blue plastic. Later that day, he mentioned his loss. Without wording, I opened my hand infront of him. In slight disbelief he took what was handed to him. Tabacco and telephone cards were a prison currency, which was highly yearned after. Ordering these items through commissary was something I had integrated to serve others in need. This particular inmate had a very dense wall build around him emotionally. He was violent with a very short temper. It was astounashing to see that “love” (not in a romantic sense, love as in, serving others with no expectation. For the simplicity of collective joy) can penetrate the most dense walls. Unfortunately several days later, the riot squad had stormed his prison cell after he had tossed boiling water at a prison guard. I had never seen him again.

I had crossed paths with a new income from lithuania. He was in great despair on the uncertainty regarding his case. Given the daily hour on the yard, I had shared with him the observations I had made, which Eckhart Tolle’s Book had granted me. Worrys are thoughts, concerning the future. Accepting the present moment, observing, but not giving thoughts any emphasis was the basis of our conversation. The next day, he shared that the conversation had helped him create some distance from his thoughts. It was a great feeling for the both of us, connecting on a human level despite our situation. He was blessed to be released shortly after.

I had a very respectful relationship with the guards. It is a common notion that there is a guards vs inmate tension in prison. We are all humans, and no matter what uniform, what position in the system, there is always the opportunity to connect on a deeper level. I had witnessed a interaction between a guard and inmate on housing unit A. The inmate had provoked the guard in a very disrespectful manner. When the time was right I had pointed out to the guard, that I took my hat off for the calm composure he had kept. He had told me it wasnt easy, but he respects all inmates. He had underlined his respect for the fact that, if somebody hurt his family tonight, he would no longer be a guard tomorrow, but on the other side of the cell door he had just closed. He was in the process of writing a book, about what he felt were the flaws of the correctional system.

After 8 months, and countless encounters with inmates, I was in court for sentencing. I was sentenced to 21 months. Facing a maximum of 12 years for my charge, I was blessed. A few days later, I was scheduled to transfer prisons.

view from my cell for the first 8 months
(view from my cell for the first 8 months)

I had mixed feelings leaving the prison. As strange as it may seem, leaving, I felt homesick. On the way to PI (Penal Institution) Zutphen, looking out my small cell window I had glanced into cars on the highway. It struck me that the faces I was seeing early in the morning, were not those of happy individuals seeming to enjoy their existance. Although in luxury vehicles, with coffee mugs and fine clothing, talking on their expensive smartphones. It was clear that happiness and peace were deeply rooted. They did not rely on the circumstances which appear on the surface of life. From my perspective, I was in a more peaceful and relaxed state of being despite being in a small prison van cell.

prison transport van
(prison transport van)

After 4 weeks I was transfered to PI Roermond, close to the border of Germany. The Unit I had been placed in was D, considered as the “jungle”. From small time convicts to killers and big time drug dealers. This was my new realm of experience for the following 7 months.

PI Roermond
(PI Roermond)

The most memorable interaction was with a inmate 2 cells next to mine named Benny. Benny had been a middle aged man, whos face had began to get eaten away by cancer. He had not seen the outside world for the last 15 years, with no release date in sight. Visits and phone calls were non existant in his experience. He was truly institutionalized. Conversating with him, looking in his stone cold eyes, I sensed unease. There were times the conversations were very dull, and foggy. Other times he was speaking from his clear mind and heart. He had shared his story over several months. His reflection and judgement of his past and was that of nonsense and wasted time. It was clear that happiness and peace had been lost. He repeatedly asked me , not to come back! To stay a free man, leave the criminal behavior behind, and be in service to others. Especially towards youngings who have the tendancy towards criminal behavior. He had put emphasis on this matter frequently. One day at work he had verbalized “the only thing I truly want, if I ever get to see the outside world again, is to sit under a tree”. It had become evident yet again that no material gains, no ego status, no criminal heist will give you lasting peace. Here was a man that had a deep longing for something, as basic as existance itself.

Benny had mentioned a wish he had whilst we were in the work unit. To listen to his favorite musical artist. A German artist by the name of Udo Lindenberg. I had kept this in mind. I had asked my girlfriend to send me a CD. A few weeks later I had knocked on Bennys cell, delivering the suprise. He had the expression of a child receiving a christmas gift. He was in utter disbelief whilst tears ran down his cheeks. Struggling with tears, he utterd this was the first gift he had received in over 15 years. Witnessing thick layers of pain and suffering collapsing into the heart itself. Giving this man brief moments of light, had struck me.

Sadly enough, a few weeks later, benny had been taken out of his cell in the middle of the night. The next day his cell was empty, I never saw him again.

It was roughly one year into my incarceration, I had deep questioning about the sense of life? What was this all about? Why am I even alive? All that I had been involved in, had felt like a great ton of bricks laying heavy on me. It had gotten me nowhere. Eckhart Tolle had once said “You are far more likely to recognize your self in a prison cell, than in a private jet”. As we enter this realm, we have no desire to be anybody, nor to gain anything, we are in perfect peace. Pure unfiltered conciousness. Through conditioning we are given a name, a identity, we get rewarded for “good” behavior (expectations), which we long for to feel loved. We seem to loose this perfect peace, and start to desire to become somebody, to gain something, to regain that unconditional love that has been lost through conditioning. Of course all this had not been clear to me at that point of questioning. I had once again clinged to that what I knew, my ego, instead of digging deeper.

I had been released after visiting 3 prisons through out 16 months. I was granted the last months off my sentence, by agreeing to be deported and not being allowed to re enter the country. The day before my release, I had given away my last belongings. The blessings I had received through out my time, are countless. I did not get released a changed man. Service to others experiences were a piece of the mystical puzzle starting to fall in place. But it would take some time. My service to self ego had been boosted a great deal parralel to the experiences shared. It was a tug of war inside myself. I had been living a criminal lifestyle for the last 13 years which build up layers of dense selfish conditioning. I had a dead end road of unhappiness which lay ahead of me in the outside world. Which had resulted in the deep desire of liberation in the spiritual sense. Psychedlics such as DMT and mushrooms, were a very meaningful piece of the mystical puzzle to come. Underlined by self inquiry through non duality teachings, had granted the dis-covery of that which was hidden in plain sight all along. The dis-covery of self, is not a lasting exotic nirvana state described in many literature pieces. As Rupert Spira said “it is only half the way. Realization is the dis-covery which is used to dissolve the layers of conditioning build up through out your life. It is a life long task”. We believe to be somebody, experiencing this mystery, in fact we are the mystery, experiencing itself.

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