Have you ever heard of the word MONK?
Monks were men who made the decision to totally get jumped into the lifestyle of God. They found that the drugs and violence of the medieval village had such a negative influence on them that the only way they could keep straight was to move out of their neighborhoods, where they were messing up. So they walked to the desert. They formed a brotherhood called community, beginning with their main head, Anthony. This guy was so firme that he went to live in a cave for awhile to really get into who he is and what God wants from him. Similar to what happens to us when we find ourselves locked up. This place of incarceration becomes our cave. We have to look inside, which is never easy, but always worthwhile. When Anthony left the cave he was ready for a different lifestyle. His self-examination, his deepening of his life with God and his desire to do something positive for this world led him to begin the first MONASTERY. A monastery is a collection of cells. This is where we get the word cell: where the monks who dedicated their lives to God would gather and pray in community and work for their daily bread. The first community of modern day incarcerated monks was started in Corcoran State Prison in 2009. On a level 4 yard, young men who formerly had been at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall met and decided that they also wanted to do something with their lives, like the monks who live in other kind of monasteries on the outs. They began to come together to pray and to write. And write some more. In the Middle Ages, almost the only ones who were educated were the monks. They wrote and kept alive the intellectual life of society. The very ones who were living so radically and far away from the corrupt lifestyle were the very ones who were so wise and could see the big picture by being in their cells and have time to honestly see what life is about. We have great books from long ago from monks who reflected on their lives and have written their wisdom from the cells. Today, we have those who are also living in cells in prisons and in juvenile halls, who have learned to look at their lives and write down their reflections and insights. We have collected the writings of modern day incarcerated monks and formed them into a modern day wisdom book. The writings are from monks from countless cells in State Prisons we have visited. They are just like the monks who had monastic communities in many desert locations.
We hope you will discover how these monks have so much to teach us, whether we are in cells or still battling lifestyles that leave us wondering what life is TRULY about. We do not always have to agree with them, but we can at least listen to what they have learned in their cells.
REFLECTIONS FROM THE INSIDE REGARDING COVID-19.
A reflection from a man who is currently in a California State Prison “Improving spirituality amidst COVID-19”
With this situation of the Covid 19 at the start it was like “oh, well” it is just another flu going around it is just like every season no biggie. It wasn’t just me who had this “oh well” attitude. As the week went by, I heard it on the news every it becameold news. The following week was when it became a serious matter. I have observed the statistics of the number of people being affected and dying. With the facts that the elderly or the ones with the highest risk of death due to the virus. My concern for my parents became amplified each time I listened to the news. Now I am trying to get on the phone everyday to speak with my parents, to stress to them about the precautionary measures to avoid this virus and how to follow the social distance and only allow family in their homes that take these precautions when visiting them. My parents kept saying to me that I shouldn’t worry about them, that they’re old and have lived their lives and they are on the way out. My parents also said to worry for the younger family members and for myself because of my age. It hit me that I am in the age range of vulnerability and need to shake off the “Oh, well” attitude of not caring for myself with this virus. Because the attitude I had was “Oh, well” if it hits me so be it. After giving it some thought I figured why would I want to cause any more grief to my parents if it happened that I contracted a virus and became one of the casualties COVID-19. All because I didn’t want to consider age, my vanity that my wearing a face mask is not cool, and making excuses that it’s difficult to breath or it’s too hot wearing the mask. After doing some thinking about the seriousness of this virus, I decided to wear a mask that my cellmate brought from work. Upon further thought I had to look out for my cellmate’s best interest and have consideration for others around me. This is all before CDCR implemented mandatory rules to wear a mask when stepping out of the cell. Now my spirits are back up and consideration for others is back in place. At the start of it, I only considered myself. It was only about me. I didn’t want to lose my parents over the virus and go through the grief and pain. Never did I consider others pain and grief if I contracted a virus and passed that on and caused grief to somebody’s loved ones. So it’s been an experience at this chaotic moment. I feel for those on the outside who have lost or will lose their employment, homes, and have challenges providing for their families. The negative effects are ready on the rise that also comes from stress for example, domestic violence, separation of families, divorce, and alcohol abuse. Let’s hope that this vaccine is found soon before more lives are ruined. I have everyone in prayer.
Wisdom from the Cells during Covid 19.
Essay on Improving Spirituality during this Pandemic.
First and foremost, I want to thank our volunteers for giving us their time and effort! You have put hope and knowledge in my life through every group you have provided here for us. Thank you for letting me see there’s hope. That means so much to me. My life has changed drastically because of COVID-19. This virus is to be taken seriously because, as I write this essay, more than 100,000 people have lost their lives. I don’t take it for granted anymore. Prisoners like myself are lucky to have a bed to lay on, or three meals a day to eat. There are people out there without any of this, and I feel fortunate at times. My prison sentence is for 15 years, and as every day goes by, I am the one-day closer to getting home. Prison life has changed, but mostly all one does is make up something to do for every hour by the hour. Well, I am speaking for myself. I have no real responsibilities other than keeping myself out of trouble, getting healed and doing my assigned work. At times, it takes a toll on me mentally because of my family, kids, and friends who cannot visit me. I am really close to my little sister, so she’s kind of frustrated that she can’t see her brother, or talk to me like she normally would. That frustrates me a lot, and at certain times I break down mentally and physically. So, I have to move forward because I’m still incarcerated, and stressing out is only holding me back to fulfilling my potential. I can only concentrate on myself at this point in my life, because I have no control of the outside, or even of circumstances here. COVID-19 has shut down our movement. Behind the prison walls we can’t do anything except participate in our daily recreational yard, make a phone call and take a shower. That is what our day consists of every day. Our privileges have been snatched from us, such as visiting with loved ones, or even getting a basketball game outside. There are no group classes, or any type of class, which are things I once took for granted. I’ve gotten used to the minimum in here, and I pray for us all every day, and I ask God to keep us safe and strong-minded. The reality for me is that COVID-19, sorry to say, has helped me drastically. I have stopped using needles and have gotten my mental health back to where it was supposed to be. I have read books from front to back. I have gotten close to God in every way. I’m working out now, and grooving in every possible way, and most importantly, I’m concentrating on myself and not worried about anyone else’s nonsense. So to me, other than taking away my visits, the shut-down has helped me a lot. I can do my time just like this. I was moving pretty fast before all this, and there is no telling where I would be if all this didn’t happen. Life is full of obstacles, but it’s up to me what I make of it. I am the only one who has control over me, no matter what the current circumstances are. I analyze things more now because of the time we have to ourselves. God is heavily in my life now. So, by any means necessary, I am going to do everything in my power to stay away from negativity and remain positive through it all. Now, the world itself has its own obstacles to beat. The world is in chaos right now because of cops killing innocent people. The struggle is way more difficult than ours at this present time. So, in my opinion, we are highly blessed and taken care of. I want to thank you all for your time and effort, and I pray every day that I get a chance to see you once again. I am very grateful for you all, and I hope you enjoyed my essay.