Friday, November 19, 2010

10 Reasons I Am Grateful For 12 Years In Prison

Well, I finally completed my list for a short talk this Sunday at Unity San Francisco.

1. Keith. Keith Crawford was my cellmate or "cellie" at Pleasant Valley State Prison. And as a former meth addict he thought I must have been on that drug to commit my harebrained crime of trying to hijack a motorhome. We talked more after I told him I had never done drugs, and two years after my arrest I figured out why I had been acting so erratically--I was taking a nutritional product for five years, three times a day, loaded with potent ephedra, then thought to be healthy and legal. Keith jumped up and said, "Ephedra--that's what I used to make meth!" So, though unintentionally, I was doing drugs. At least I knew I wasn't crazy.

2. Karen. Karen Wilson was a beautiful friend, author and management consultant, who had insisted that I move into an apartment in her Orange County, CA home (on Pleasant Street) when I was released, and she would provide free room and board and even had some thoughts on helping me produce income, helping her teach some classes at UC-Irvine, and co-author a book she wanted to write. Tragically, she suddenly died around this time of year two years before my release. But for ten years, I had a place to go to and purpose, so I'm grateful tho sad I can never properly thank her.

3. Inner Work. When dealing with the dehumanizing, debilitating prison environment, the best weapon is the ability to ignore the physical plane and go inside yourself. I was lucky that over twenty years of presenting and attending workshops on consciousness all over the world ideally prepared me, so that I was rarely present in prison--quite often lying on a hammock in Tahiti or Bali instead.

4. Creativity. Though I didn't know at the time that it was about getting off ephedra, within a few days of my arrest, my mind seemed to clear up, and for the first time in several years, I began to write and create all sorts of future projects--a definite sanity saver.

5. Sense of Humor. An essential factor in overcoming any adversity, but especially in prison, where I was surrounded by violent, sadistic, drug addled men who thought of me as the lowest form of life--and that was just the corrections officers.

6. Writing and Reading. One of my great blessings during these twelve years was that I was able to continue, and even increase, two of my favorite activities from my former life. I read over 1000 books, and wrote up a storm. In the first few months, in the dismal county jail in Martinez, California, I actually wrote an entire mystery novel, my first, using scraps of paper and the only writing instrument available, a small wooden golf pencil I had to sharpen with my teeth. I went on to write hours of stand-up material, 15 legal pads of prison journals, several stories for Chicken Soup For The Prisoner's Soul and its two sequels (the original was my idea, which I passed on to my old friend Jack Canfield), and over 10,000 cartoon gags which I sent to several cartoonists, a number of which they drew up and sold to major publications.

7. Friends. Or as I described them in my 1974 book, FRIENDS, a "supportive interpersonal environment." This was vital to thriving in the prison setting. Some famous friends like Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Wayne Dyer, who kept me supplied with books and magazine subscriptions and words of encouragement. And some famously caring and supportive friends like Rupa and Susannah and Karen and Kalei and Rachel and Mary Ann and Gregg and Marla, Steve and Lenny, Judi, Julie, Tom, Will, Bonnie, and Andrew.

8. The Internet. Though I had no access to a computer, let alone the Internet, it did keep my name out there. Several friends let me know that many of my quotes were being circulated by MSN, Google, and Yahoo. Though I had no idea of the full extent of it until I got out there. And this got me off and running into my own online activities, including this blog, as several top Internet gurus and entrepreneurs knew of my existence and volunteered to help me get a foothold in this amazing medium.

9. Discipline and Patience. I'm not sure exactly how this happened, but during my incarceration I dramatically increased these two qualities. The big difference friends who have known me a long time have noticed since my release is my huge gains in discipline and patience and creative productivity.

10. Savoring. In prison, if you're lucky, you get to take big, big pleasure out of even the smallest treats. My favorite definition for "savoring" is: "To give one's self to the enjoyment of." I did that big time whenever anything good showed up. Like the time some Mexican inmates grew tomatoes in a secret garden. I was able to obtain these from them for several months--tomatoes and onions were almost unheard of in prison and at the top of my list of foods I felt deprived without. To this day, I savor every bite of a tomato (or onion) and usually have them at least once a day. And you'd better believe I've enjoyed the handful of homecooked meals I've had in the past two years. In fact, I savor everything with a new zest, even fast food--I loved my burger at In 'N Out last week. And this also includes every sensual delight in my life, from hugs to compliments to fun new websites to the feel of the sun on my face.
I hope your Thanksgiving will give you as much to be grateful for.

P.S. One of those people who searched me out as a result of my Internet presence during my incarceration helped me design my prosperity blog:

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