“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.
—-Booker T. Washington.
I have been on Texas death row for twenty years and three months, having been sentenced to death 1999. As I have navigated my way through the perils that I’ve encountered along my journey I have a great deal and have become more serious about the process of becoming the man I was destined to be. Meaning that as I go within myself and analyze my strengths and weaknesses and work on these issues accordingly I find that I am more and more committed to becoming a complete and enlightened soul engaging in this incredible human experience. To put it bluntly, living on Texas death row for the past two decades has been difficult. There have been times that I wondered if I would wake it. And it was during these times of great difficulty that I’ve learned the most important lessons in life.
I was raised in the Christian church and as a small boy was taught to believe in God to pray and worship as well. I cannot recall a time during my childhood that me and my family did not attend church. As I have lived my life under a death sentence I have come to rely on what I was taught as a child. For me, having faith and belief in a Higher Power/God/Universe is critical to succeed in my efforts to withstand the insanity that is living in this 21st century state’s death camp. Everyone’s personal situation is different. From someone living in a metro area like Dallas, TX or New York city. There are differences in the life you would live there and the obstacles you might have to overcome. The same can be said for someone who is living on death row in solitary confinement, life here is like living on Mars compared to that. The fact of the matter is that I have very little control over what happens in my life. I am given meals at a specific time of the day and if I want to eat I have to be awake ready to get the food trays I’m given. I am allowed to shower once a day and if I want to shower I have to be ready to go to shower when the guards decide it’s that time. I am told when I will have my turn at recreation – when I’m allowed out of this 6o square feet cage that I’m confined to 24/7. Again, if I want to get out of this cage I must be ready when they tell me it’s time to go. In short, I have no control over these aspects of my life. Not to mention the universe of unknown and lack of control that is my legal appeal situation. In reality my appeal is the biggest issue in my life. Everything hinges on that. If things go my way I will at some point transition out of this reality into the next when I am free and living part 2 of my life. If it does not go my way I have another decade or two of solitary confinement incarceration while we continue the litigation in my appeal throughout the different courts.
I cannot change that in any way. I have no control over what happens in that part of my life. What I can is my part while confined in this cell, then leave the rest up to the Universe, believing and having faith that when it’s time, things will break my way. In the meantime I am going nowhere fast and you could say I’m stuck here. I can’t just one day decide okay, I’ve had enough of this, it’s time to leave and go somewhere else. That is not my reality in any way. I can’t change the situation so I have to change my mind and the way I perceive my reality and find the tools to cope with the difficulties this death row experience presents me. And I do this through physical exercise, meditation, visualization and prayer, what I call t spiritual practice.
I had a very interesting conversation with a friend who’s also on Texas death row, outside on the recreation yard. It was morning time, the sun was shining and we both did exercises while we conversed. when the topic turned to religion he shared a great truth. He told me that for the
most part people in the west do not understand religions like Buddhism. Because in the west we are blessed with wealth and the ability to make changes in our lives. When we don’t like our current job, we get another. when we don’t like our partner anymore we find another. When we tire of where we live, we move. So much of our lives are based on material wealth and we can change things at will.
In places like India the vast majority of the population are very poor. They are unable to change their job if they are not happy. Unable to change partners if the grow tired of the current one they have. They are unable to move to a different place when they grow bored with the current one. They have no material wealth and can change nothing about their lives in that regard. So they have to change their minds. The have to find ways to cope with their lot in life. And they do it through spiritual practice,through religions like Buddhism. The do it with meditation and mindfulness and with being grateful for the smallest blessings in life like food to eat, clean water to drink and a roof over their heads and good health. In a real life way I can comprehend that. For those are the things I focus on to keep balanced and focused thereby maintain a changed mind while I work at keeping it in that mode that sees every blessing great or small with gratitude. while also understanding that living in the present not in the past or the future is where I must be! That the ultimate goal is to stay focused, aware and loving as much as I possibly can while I continue this amazing journey called life. Recently I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety and needless emotional trauma because the situation on Texas death row is not improving. It seems to be getting worse. And I’ve been working on coping with this situation. Because sometimes I have to accept that life is what it is, and I have no control over most of my life and what comes to me. That I will get the things coming to me when I get them [like jpays and mail etc.] and in the meantime I have other things I can do. I can write other letters, work on my book projects, read, exercise, create artwork, and in the process use these days that I am blessed with in a positive manner as I continue preparing myself for complete success now and when I’m free. Coming upon this absolute truth has really helped me cope with the situation I am in. And as I collect the coping tools I need to have in my toolbox, I have realized that I am learning amazing lessons that are making me more and more fireproof and I love that thought. Because someone we have to go on a long journey around the world literally and figuratively to find our way home!
I’m on my way home now.
LOVE HOPE PEACE & LAUGHTER!