Monday, May 11, 2009


     People who have known me a long time and people who just meet me and hear my story, about having been released a few months ago from Folsom State Prison after a 12 year sentence, both ask the same basic question. "How did you do it?" Meaning, how did I survive, how did I keep my sanity, how did I come out strong and creative and happy? 

Well this is, as always, one basic simple answer: I built up a very powerful inner life to deal with the debilitating, dehumanizing, destructive physical reality all around me. 

And while I had stumbled off my chosen path in life for a few years, largely due to the
emotional/mental damage being done by a nutritional product that was legal and thought safe at the time, I found myself back to my old mental state and creative capacity once I was in prison and unable to get any kind of nutritional products, good or bad. That may have saved my life, as I also developed a heart condition, atrial fibrillation, after five years on that unhealthy health product (it contained huge amounts of ephedra, the primary building block of methamphetamine--and I only realized it was the culprit two years into my sentence when I compared notes and symptoms with my meth-addict cellmate.) 

So it all comes down to perspective. One way to look at it was to bemoan my fate, "Oh
woe is me, how could my life have gone so wrong as to end up broke and in prison?"
Another way was to see this as a temporary aberration, as was my dumb crime of trying to hijack a motorhome, and prepare for the return to normalcy and a productive, creative, loving, healthy life.  Viktor Frankl, in his masterpiece, MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING, about his concentration camp imprisonment by the Nazis, said that what destroyed hope most among the prisoners was not knowing when they would get out, of if they ever would get out. Not having a release date, something to look forward to.
Well, while my release date was 12 years away, it was there and I could focus how to work my way toward making it a good time to be free and alive. 

I don't really think my harebrained scheme to steal a motorhome and live in it was a cry for help--I don't think I was self-aware enough at the time for that. It was just the good fortune I had enjoyed most of my life finally catching up with me. Before the so-called health product killed me as ephedra did a number of people before it was banned, before my brain cells were
totally scrambled on a permanent rather than temporary basis, and before I graduated to more self-destructive acts.  Yes, I spent 12 years in prison, but the alternative might have been a lot worse. I don't know that for a fact, but think about this for a moment--isn't my imagining it
was a fact a lot healthier, more life-affirming way of looking at the situation?

Though sometimes it is hard to see, we always have choices when it comes to how we view what is happening in our lives. The whole underlying theme of human psychology is realizing that
what matters is not what happens to us, but how we choose to view it, to react to it, to remember it.

I was so blessed to have so much training and practice in doing inner work, in meditating,
using affirmations, journaling, reading positive books, being able to focus my imagination like a laser beam. And choosing to see the humor in it all. The staff members and corrections officers really were like the old silent film Keystone Cops. Limited in intelligence and education and any kind of mental challenge in their work, their brains atrophied, and there were daily laughable demonstrations of this. Sure some were sadists and most treated inmates like animals and part of a hated group of "others," as has often been done in totalitarian countries.
We weren't individuals, we were collective scumbags. The few officers who didn't buy into this
view soon left the Department of Corrections, some even committed suicide.

I've never believed that you had to experience great pain and suffering and adversity in order to be successful and have a happy life. But there's no doubt that prison is a masterful teacher of what is really important and profound in life. And its greatest lesson is that human beings have the internal capacity to triumph over evil in all its subtle and not-so-subtle forms. Whether it's
an abiding faith in a higher power, or the picture of an exotic breed of pet chicken that one of my cellmates at San Quentin kept on the wall, something outside ourselves can always keep us going,  And where it keeps us going is inside, to that deep reservoir we all have of vast wisdom and eternal optimism that distinguishes us from every other species.

To find out more about Jerry's healthy dark chocolate venture, in which you can work with him to achieve substantial residual income, get in touch at, or check out the short video at his website,

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