Brother to Brother,
I recently got off 90 days property control. I was supposed to exit this dungeon early June. I view these little excursions as my sabbatical to realign myself, place myself under critical examination, deepen my insight and commitment to our struggle.
Due to the precarious nature of prison, I’ve tried to instruct those within my orbit that one must never get attached to the few privileges and amenities they afford us, and always be prepared to give them up without contracting a muscle. We didn’t get a chance to touch base on the topic of anger in a meaningful way and I thought I’d share my insights on this very powerful emotion, and how I’ve learned to manage it.
When we talk about becoming complete human beings we must deal with the various components of our makeup such as the spiritual, intellectual, psychological and physical. The spiritual component is the domain where we recognise our unity and oneness with humanity. It is also where we derive our centre to create morals and ethics that govern our life.
The psychological component is connected to the spiritual (so is everything else) because everything happens within, before it is outwardly expressed. So if we don’t deal with our internal world we become susceptible to impulsive and erratic behaviour and emotional outbursts because we are emotionally immature. We overcome emotional immaturity by self examination which brings about inner growth.
The emotions are nothing but energies. But what gives them power is our thoughts. Energy follows thought. If a person is angry, in rage, in love, or feels envious there is a thought behind it that gives it power. The emotions don’t have the ability to reason or rationalise. The emotions just react. That’s why the emotions must never lead and must be under arrest to the intellect.
Think about someone you love or was/is close to you, and who behaved in a way that has angered or upset you but you were able to forgive that person. How did you achieve it? You shifted your consciousness. And by doing so you were able to let go of the anger. I am in no way suggesting that one should never feel anger. What I am saying is do not allow yourself to be held hostage by it, live and give it the power to govern your life. You don’t need to live in anger. Make a commitment to yourself that you won’t.
I can surmise that there are a litany of things you are justifiably angry about. I know people have lied, cheated, broken promises to you. Many of them have betrayed themselves and flushed their dignity down the toilet. I know the cesspool of filth and cowardice people have allowed themselves to surrender to. The state of affairs has descended into a dispirited swamp we do not know. So how do we deal with this insanity without throwing up our hands and walking away?
Michelle Obama gave a wonderful and amazing speech at the Democratic Convention. But there was one phrase she made which I think encapsulates who we are. She said, “When they go low we go high”. No matter what’s going on around us, we must continue to rise high and higher. We are able to do this when we strive for wisdom and address our issues with wisdom. Wisdom comes as a result of our intellectual growth, internal development, awareness, experience and insightfulness about the true nature of things.
We both are acutely aware of the type of environments we were raised in. Each phase of our experiences shaped our consciousness. Because we were living it we accepted and embraced this abnormality as normal because that was the limit of our knowledge base, and experiences. We were conditioned to resolve our conflicts and problems through violence, force and brutality. Even today, I notice when individuals get frustrated they easily revert to behaviour and old habits that do not raise to the level where that type of action is warranted. We have to retrain our mind by deconstructing these behavioural patterns we depended upon and accustomed ourselves to.
I try to deal with individuals with wisdom. Is it testy at times? Yes! When I see certain behaviours and character flaws I don’t agree with I weigh it against positive traits the person possesses and try to encourage that aspect in them while pointing out what they need to work on. I understand that some people need room to make mistakes. Some people get it and correct their actions and some people never get it and just need to be reincarnated again because there just isn’t enough time in one lifetime to rid themselves of the internal rot dwelling within them.
What is important is you have to find your centre. I’m speaking of the place within yourself where harmony, peace and tranquillity reside. That no matter what is going on in the external environment and world there is a space of inner calm that you can tap into which allows you to be unaffected emotionally, psychologically and spiritually by things beyond your control. You have to create a ritual to not only reinforce who you are, and what you are, but also to expunge those toxins, which at times are imperceptible or can go unnoticed, yet the subconscious absorbs everything and acts it out in our conscious behaviour. This is why the ritual has to be regularly practiced and performed.
For 30 years I’ve practiced meditation and spend quiet time each day with myself in order to check in on myself and take stock of my inner world. It is this ritual that enables me to deal with the daily pell mell and soul crushing conditions of this place. Lugging around negative emotions doesn’t benefit me one iota. In fact, it takes away energy I can utilise in other areas. In order for me to be at my best and do my best, I must be free as much as I can, from anything weighing me down.
When I began this journey to pursue self-knowledge, and get to know myself so that I can know others, I learned that human beings, especially those we love and are close to, can both amaze and disappoint at times. Because people are complex, meaning they can be messy. Despite the broken promises and let downs I’ve seen enough good and have experienced enough blessings on this journey to not become anywhere close to being jaded. I know that all that any of us can do is the best we can with what we have to work with. There is a reason for hope and optimism.
Poetry, writing & Lessons in Life from San Quentin death row