Journal Entry 10.31.2015 – Part Two, “Out of the Dark, comes the Light”
A “new” friend on FB commented on how she didn’t understand why such a positive person like me would be working in such a dark place like the prison. For many years, I didn’t quite understand how I found myself there either, but understandings are arriving at the door of my awareness every day now. Remember, “darkness” represents ignorance or lack of understanding, whereas, “light” represents information, knowledge or wisdom. I have learned much…
As a society we are both intrigued and frightened by the “dark”. We have forgotten our roots to Nature. Western society has trivialized the ancient “pagan” ceremonies and tweaked the our collective memories so much that we truly believe that witches wear black and have green faces, warts and fly on brooms. Wiped from our collective consciousness is that the current representations of “witches” are completely false. In the not so distant past, these witches were healers, priestesses and shamans, who worked with the elements of the Earth and Spirit Planes. The indigenous peoples, including in Europe, used natural cures, herbs and plant foods to heal their ailments. They lived and worked in close harmony with the natural world. They could easily commune and participate with the “Spirits”, as well, and honored those who had gone before through thoughtful ceremony and rituals. They learned from their ancestors who guided them through their intuitive connection with all life. This thoughtful existence is so very different than today’s Halloween parties, mischief and over-indulgence in candy, food and alcohol.
So, how does this relate to my working at a prison? There is also a part of ourselves that we have rejected. First of all, I got a job at a prison because it was I could get at the time that offered both decent pay and benefits for a new graduate. However, I soon realized that I actually went into the prison to observe the manifestation of the dark underbelly of our society, the socially ostracized, rejected ones who due to lack of environmental or familial support, mental illness or extreme poverty, fell into conflict with the Law. It seems that I have always been placed within industries or working environments that were in the midst of deep change or challenges… (hint: I’m a “systems buster” simply by being there).
Our so-called “War on Drugs” is largely responsible for the degradation of the inner cities and many rural families. For decades, there has been an ongoing outright attack on the Middle Class, dedicated to destroying the gains made by unions and collective bargaining. Most people today struggle to simply make ends meet. It is little wonder that many inner city and rural young people either turn to using drugs or selling them to make some money… since money is highly overrated and important in our society.
I am not condoning the use of physical violence or drugs. I do see a conflict with our educational system that seems intent in the dumbing down children, with an unbalanced focus on testing for testings sake, rather than passing on wisdom and life skills for children to carry with them through life.
I have spoken with Vets whose lives have been ruined because they volunteered to go to war, following a cause that they thought was right or simply out of financial need, as it was so hard to find work in their hometowns. They have come back to America, wounded to the utmost of their soul, unable to function without flinching and acting out violently, or terribly wounded in body, with missing limbs, post-traumatic stress syndrome and other symptoms resulting from being forced to do things that did not resonate with their inner conscience.
I have seen how people who work in this kind of environment also suffer. They either become hardened or detached, projecting their self-hatred at the imprisoned, rejecting that inner darkness that eats away at their interior. Their body structure either grows heavy and fat or stiff and armoured. Many of these prison employees also pass within a few years of their retirement, so great is the stress on their hearts and body systems, due to the suppressed emotions and fears.
It hasn’t always been easy for me to exist within such an environment, but oddly enough, I often find working cooperatively with my co-workers is a greater challenge than encountering the offenders. There is a lot of bitterness, acting out and generally immature attitudes in such a place, perhaps due to the lack of consequences when a person is out of line. It varies, but is sometimes beyond my present understanding.
I’ve learned how to concentrate on my work in a noisy environment. I have learned to be calm while speaking to someone who is in prison for murder or rape. I have learned to listen. I have learned about the importance of maintaining proper boundaries and being able to firmly, but politely, to say “no” and mean it. I have learned the importance of being transparent, frank AND gentle with co-workers. It is not about being “right”; it is about working together for the good of the whole.
With the amount of light that I carry, I have served as a trigger for some. Others have seen me as a pillar of strength; someone that they can come and speak to… this is co-workers, not offenders. I do listen to offenders in the short encounters that I have with them, but cannot them offer them support or sympathy outside the perimeters of my job duties as I am not a counselor or chaplain. I have, however, learned to see them with my inner eye, as humans who are experiencing life in their own way. I do not seek to judge them, as they have already have received judgment and sentence. I am or have been there to serve the offenders, as my customers, as well as the numerous providers, attorneys and agencies who come to us seeking records for various reasons.
I have learned to release my own self-judgment and to value what I do have in life. Every afternoon, I can leave the prison and go home to a quiet house, loving cats and comfortable surroundings. I do not live in a small concrete room, shared with another prisoner, with minimal furnishings and belongings.
Perhaps it is all about turning the darkness into light, shining the light into dark corners. The offenders know when you are being honest and helpful. Living close to the edge, they have strong intuitive powers, more so than most regular citizens. And they will attempt to entrap, draw upon your sympathies or weaknesses if they can get by with it… so self-awareness and following protocol is very important to keep safe and sane. The offenders know and share who they can trust and who isn’t trustworthy.
I can go into a review session – I show the offenders their medical records – and sit calmly, asking questions and answering questions politely and firmly. I have had little trouble with most offenders and I have been doing this work now for eight years. The few that have been difficult are also that way to everyone who approaches them for whatever reason. The offenders feel more comfortable with someone who exhibits good boundaries and common sense and who, overall, listens compassionately.
Working in a prison allows you to do some advance psychological studies, on yourself and by observing the actions of others.
I have seen many positive changes come through efforts to improve the sustainability of our prisons. Some of the offenders are being offered the opportunity to learn valuable job skills by working with gardening, raising animals, training dogs, recycling, repairing bicycles, and making toys for children. Anything that helps an offender to gain a sense of personal achievement is a worthy endeavor. Many of the men who are incarcerated felt alienated in school and left early without the necessary skills to succeed in typical jobs. For our society to survive and thrive, deep changes will be necessary, to rethink or rather to re-feel how to approach “education”. What is being done now, at least in America, is totally failing our young people.
I’ve also observed first-hand the limitations of modern Western medicine. True, the ability for practitioners and providers to do anything they want is limited within the prison system by available funding, strict protocols and time. Resources are made scarcer by the sheer lack of manpower, as well. There is a shortage of both nurses and physicians. There is not enough time to get everything accomplished that needs to be done or enough people to complete the tasks. There also exist some rather archaic attitudes and beliefs held strongly by the practitioners that have been proven to be false by scientific studies and, in some cases, even life-threatening for their patients. However, these providers are doing the best that they can, given the limitations of the system in which they function.
And then there is the attitude of entitlement that I’ve observed in offenders who expect to be healed for every little or big ailment from which they suffer. Even if an injury is self-inflicted, the providers are expected to heal them. There is a very unbalanced approach or belief held by these individuals that they can be healed completely by western medicine. They have forgotten… we have forgotten that the true Healer lives within. Healing begins when an individual stops projecting and blaming others for their own self-inflicted suffering. A simple change of perspective or attitude can work wonders for your health and sense of well-being and can only start within your own Heart.
Some people feel that they are entitled to anything that they want; still others don’t believe that they deserve anything. This is a sign of profound imbalance within our culture. We are a society of have and have-nots, living in an culture that celebrates overspending and lack of taste, while others go without basic needs like housing and food to eat. It’s time to move beyond duality, but again, it is a matter of personal choice.
As I have hinted in a few recent posts, my stint at the prison is soon to end. I’ve decided to “retire” next Spring, with the Equinox and begin a new life. Exactly what that entails is yet to take form, but I do know that I will be concentrating on what I deem more important things, like energy work, gardening, painting and writing, as well as building community in my new environment.
I have found the prison a valuable training ground for me. I’ve observed all kinds of people… except perhaps the more refined, intellectual types found around colleges and such. I’ve come away with a stronger sense of who I am, what I am capable of doing and how valued I am by others. I’ve learned a great deal about life and how our inner life affects our outer life. I can now let go the need to “hide” the real Me and just be as I am.
I’ve never been one for fluff or sentiment, but I shall enjoy wearing dresses and looking pretty for a change once I turn in my “release” papers.
I AM that I AM that I AM, a lover of liberty, wisdom, Nature, beauty, grace and the strength I feel when I connect with the inner Being of another.
In Love and Joy,