Texas Death Row News – September 7th 2019.

“It doesn’t matter how long we may have been stuck in a sense of our

limitations. If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn’t matter if the room has been dark for a day, or a week, or ten thousand years — we turn on the light and it is illumined. Once we contact our capacity for love and happiness the light has been turned on.”

-—Sharon Salzberg.

For the past few months I have been dealing with more than my fair share of loss, pain, and trauma in my life. I see, feel, and know this to be absolute fact. And for the first time in what seems like forever I can say that I feel great! This thrilling experience called life continues to test me with all kinds of challenging little obstacles – some totally unexpected, and others are unfortunately of my own making. And when I have these kinds of human experiences happen to me I must be honest with myself to get to the core of the issue and deal with it. This must be my foundation  I begin from, every time I go within myself and do the work life requires me to do.

Each time I find myself flat on my back, having gotten there because something unexpected has slammed into me and put me there I find that one, I will never give up; and two, it will be a learning experience that will help me grow. And learning and growing is one of the reasons why we’ve all be put on this earth for. We are never too old to learn because the school of Life will always continue to teach us and the day we find that we’ve stopped learning, we are dead. Because I’m in solitary confinement on Texas death row – in isolation locked in a 9ft. x 12ft. cage 22 hours a day, I have a lot of time to think. And when I sit and reflect upon my life I often find myself learning something I did not know when I actually experienced the situation I’m thinking about.

This morning I found myself considering what life is like when you find yourself incarcerated, lived your life on Texas death row. It’s at times almost easy to be a positive, focused, goal orientated person when everything is going your way. You have a good legal team working on your appeal with life saving issues that give you hope of not being executed. And friends and family that give you the love and support you require to make it through this death row experience. When you find yourself on a roll it’s just about pain free to go from one great day to the next, one success to another and in your mind it’s only a matter of time until the BIG things in your life start to break your way and you’ll be out of this neo-concentration camp. Other times it’s extremely difficult to be a good person with a positive outlook on life. You’ve lost your death penalty appeal, lost a loved one, lost a best friend, lost lost lost lost! You don‘t understand why God has allowed so much to happen to you, or those you love, or why there is so much suffering in the world – yours included. It can get so bad that you cannot find the strength or motivation to get out of bed. Believe me when I say this, I was there not too long ago, lost in the darkness, stumbling around trying to make sense of what was occurring. when it’s like that, things can get so difficult it can cause you to experience a mental breakdown or push a lost soul to take their own life. When you are in this kind of situation you are fighting for your sanity, for your very life and in many ways you find out what kind of material you are made of.

And when it’s like this you find yourself at a cross roads – you either go within yourself and find the strength needed to learn the lessons required to rectify the situation, coming back stronger than ever, or you get stuck. When you get stuck you become cynical, negative, seeing all that is wrong in your life, squirting your pain all over everyone you interact with, making them miserable with you. I know, I see it everyday here on Texas death row. Every time I find myself in this kind of situation it’s critical for me to circle the wagons [Like the white settlers did when the native Americans used to attack them when they’d come to take land and go back to what I know. For me it’s my spiritual practice which give me the required control over my mind/ego and my thoughts and emotions putting control of my life in the Awareness/Presence True Self that I really am. And then, from there find the light switch within me and turn the light back on. Because I have found that our life is like a book and each year we experience in life is a chapter in this book, some of them are filled with joy, happiness and celebration, while other chapters are terrible, filled with suffering, grief, heartache and pain and we can’t see the end of those chapters quick enough.

The past two years/chapters of my book have been just about the worst that I’ve experienced in two decades. It was so bad that when all the losses hit me like a ten thousand pound weight I was not sure I would survive. But I did. I learned to sit with my pain and attend to it — feeling its burn and realizing that as it came so it will go and it might knock me down again and again but it will at some point lessen. I’ll find my feet again and get back to doing the best I can with what I’ve got. And in this manner I found the light switch again within myself and illuminated the room. I did not know this was possible until I learned the coping skills to deal with the situation. I have no therapist to talk to, or friend I trust or who is available to ask and count on for help in figuring out what was happening to me. I was alone, in this torture chamber and it was either understand what’s happening to me and deal with it or perish. I turned the light on and lit up the room I saw what was happening to me and made the required changes. And now I stand before you a little worse for wear, with a few more scars but I’m here. I’m stronger than ever and the real ME is back. My true self is in control and here to stay. Having gone through this situation I come to realize that I can survive anything that life throws my way. It might hurt and make me feeling like I’m dying, it might give me more scars and change me in unexpected ways but I’ll survive. And I’m grateful to learn this all over again because as I approach the next chapter in the book that is my life, I am ready to see what God has in store for me. I’m not sure what it might be, but that’s all right with me because I’m committed to the ride and those who are committed along with me will also celebrate or cry with me when we get to where we’re going. I expect much celebration – plan on it after having survived the struggle as the sun and warmth await us right over there on the other side. I live anticipating great things to happen in my life, and I trust the Creator to see this come to pass. Having taken back the reins of my life I have empowered myself by learning ways to manage my thoughts and emotions and let them come and go in a healthy manner. Learning resilience in my life and how to intentionally and mindfully bounce back from these traumas I’ve experienced has given me my full

strength back. By intentionally cultivating positive habits such as kindness, gratitude, delight, and awe to replace the negative anger, pride, attachment, I shift my perception and focus totally on the positive. when I am able to do this I put myself back on track controlling my life as it is intended to be and not allowing intentional distractions or unhealthy coping mechanisms to control me.

By learning to sit and attend to my pain I process it and do not pass it on to those who are close to me and who I love the most. I thereby find ways to make it through the fog, the darkness, find the light switch and flipping it on letting the sun, love, joy and happiness in which makes life so wonderful. Doing this work on myself has helped me find my groove again and I’m so happy and grateful for this blessing as I move once again from one great day to the next!