Week 11- Taft C.I.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
– Lao Tzu –

I woke up early Sunday morning. I began my morning routine. While I was going through it, I felt this strong inner calling to start a five day water fast, Monday.
I had been fasting Mondays ever week, no food for 24 hours but this was going to be something completely different.

Over the years I have experimented with fasting both for health/wellness as well as throughout my spiritual walk.

Every fast is completely different. Your current life experiences, emotional state together with every other factor that effects you both physically and emotionally will play a part in your fasting experience.

My current environment was going to create challenges and difficulties that I would normally not have to deal with on the outside.

From previous experiences, day one and two have you in a state of agitation and your patience fuse is very short. On the outside, you can manage by spending your time in solitude, prayer or meditation. You limit your human interactions to only those that are necessary. Avoiding all crowds and activities that can cause stress.
This allows you time to reconnect to your inner self and run the gauntlet of introspection.

NONE OF THAT IS POSSIBLE IN THIS ENVIRONMENT.

You have no privacy and chaos is the constant theme.

Monday – Day 1

Woke up at 4:45am. Excited about my first day of the fast and how this environment would expose those things that needed to be dealt with.
Day one ended pretty uneventfully. I have been fasting every Monday, so today was just another Monday!

Day 2 – Tuesday

Things got a little interesting on day two. After my morning routine, I consciously withdrew from my surrounds to focus on the present moment and how I was feeling.

While I was mindfully sitting in my cell, just meditating on my breathing, my thoughts were redirecting to my surroundings and I could feel myself becoming angry, agitated and I was loosing my feeling of peace.

My mind was replaying experiences and emotions from my past. This stirred up feelings of regret, frustration, resentment, remorse and many other negative emotions, which in turn created a sense of fear for the future.

I knew I had to get back to my state of mindfulness, get my mind focused back to the present moment.
Only in the present moment can I experience the joy that is in me.

I concentrated on my breathing, “in” and “out”, reciting those two words as I was breathing brought my thoughts under control.
Wow, I thought I had already dealt with all that emotional pain.
Obviously I still have work to do.

Day 3 – Wednesday

Woke up at 4:45am Wednesday morning, not hungry and the edginess had dissipated. I felt alert and energized. My mind was clear and focused. Tuesday was a challenging day both emotionally and physically. My body was craving food; my mind was on a rollercoaster ride. Anxiety, anger and frustration over my situation were a weapon that my mind was using to get me to surrender to the emotional comfort of eating. I was edgy and even caught myself lashing out at one of my friends over the news on Fox. Thankfully I caught myself and made a wise decision to go walk the track and spend some time alone.

This morning, I have clarity of mind. My body feels like a live wire. I can feel a slight vibration through my body and it feels like energy is radiating off me. I have this mild tingling sensation that covers my body.
I went about my day as normal. Sometimes feeling like I was walking on clouds. My body felt light and my energy was explosive.
Drank as much water as possible and spent the rest of the day consumed with reading as the compound was on lockdown due to hazardous air quality.

Day 4 – Thursday

Woke up at 4:45am.My mind was alert but my body was sluggish.

I was contemplating why I was not hungry. I remember experiencing sporadic feelings of overwhelming hunger when I last fasted 5 days water only. I concluded that a big part why I was not feeling hungry was because my mind was not exposed to food 24/7. No drive-thru’s, no Starbucks or the aroma of a good home cooked meal. My mind was not being fed with visual stimulation of delicious food. Our brains are so powerful, constantly processing information and visual images from our surroundings. The brain then produces feelings, emotions and desires, which are then transmitted throughout the body. Its vital that we take our thoughts captive and manage what we focus on or what we allow passively to enter our minds because this has an enormous effect on our bodies and our lives!

Developing a peaceful mind in a challenging environment like this was a goal I set the moment I walked through those metal gates.

This is still a work in progress with many ups and downs. Over the last 3 months, I have come to realize that a peaceful mind develops from:

– becoming more content with what you have rather than constantly chasing what you don’t have.
– Having a strong circle of friends.
– Engaging in pleasurable spiritual conversation
– spending time each day in solitary contemplated

Day 5 – Friday

Woke up at 2:30am with an overwhelming feeling to pray and just give thanks.

I began speaking to the Lord. My body was alive and my senses were heightened. I just said, Lord, I know that your word says that all things work for my good according to your purpose and that you will never leave nor forsake me.
I am at the end of my strength. If being in here is what its going to take to really know you, then so be it!

I said, please than Lord, watch over my family and keep them safe. Give me the strength to make it through this training.

While I was sitting there in the dark silence of the morning, observing every sound and how my body was feeling, the following words flashed across my minds eye:

YOU HAVE TO LOOSE YOUR LIFE TO TRULY GAIN IT!!!

 

” Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is everything around you that you call “Life” was made up by people that are no smarter than YOU.
And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you will never be the same again.”

 

Week 10 – Taft C.I.

“A day in the live of…”

I awake to my alarm at 4:45am. Still have asleep, I rush to the bathroom before the 5am count.

“Count clear”, the CO shouts. Everyone is accounted for. I bounce up, make my bed, go brush my teeth with the rest of the herd of early risers. Head back to my cell, grab my water bottle, my bag and then go wait at the door for the 6am morning movement to be called.

The atmosphere in the mornings is quiet and peaceful. There are a handful of people heading to the yard to workout, couple people going to work and then you have the odd new guy who is still adjusting, aimlessly roaming around. More than likely, contemplating were it all went so wrong that he landed up here.

Everyone is anxiously waiting for the CO to call-” Yard movement”.
It reminds me of horses in a starting gate. The CO shouts – ” Yard “. The doors fly open and everyone rushes out.

All the units are let out at the same time for the morning, “Yard call”, so the race is on to get to the REC and claim your spot on one of the cardio machines.

My preferred morning workout consists of 45 minutes on the cardio machines coupled together with 45 minutes of Push-ups, burps and abs.

Then its time to walk the track for 20 minutes, meditation on everything that I am thankful for. That list has grown exponentially.

My preference is to skip breakfast except on Fridays and weekends. Mornings are so peaceful, I just don’t see the value in substituting my morning serenity for the chaos of the Chow Hall.

I prefer to head back before the compound is locked down, grab a shower, eat some oatmeal with peanut butter and enjoy my morning coffee.

My job is weekends only, Friday through Sunday, which gives me a lot of time to dedicate to my self-studies.

My mornings are spent studying Spanish as well as a variety of books on specific skill sets that I want to learn or to further fine-tune my existing skills.

It is my desire not to allow this time to be wasted. Therefore I ensure that my days are structured around productive activities.

Everyone chooses to do their time differently. Some people try desperately to sleep their time away, some people are workout fanatics, they are constantly working out when in the yard, in their cells basically where ever the opportunity allows them too.
Other people choose to live in the library, consuming themselves in books.
Then there are those people that spend every minute working on their legal case. Researching tirelessly, studying recent cases that is similar to theirs and their outcomes. Writing motions and petitioning for a reduction in their sentence.
Other people find solitude in the chapel.

During the day there is controlled movements. You are only allowed to move every hour when they call “Rack Move.”
When they announce that “Rack Move” is over, the compound is locked down again.

Lunch is a formal affair. Everyone has to dress up for lunch, T-shirt and khaki pants or full khaki’s if that’s your style.

As we head down to lunch, we like to play a game, guess what’s for lunch.
My Lebanese friend always jokes that today they serving lamb chops with rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes. That always gets my imagination cranked up. I start visualizing a 12oz Rib-eye with garlic mash potatoes.

I am suddenly catapulted back to reality as the first scoop of food is slapped onto my tray.
With lunch behind me, its time for a stroll around the compound before heading off to music class in the chapel.

Class is done, time to head back to the housing units for count and then dinner.

Back in the unit, I catch up with my mates, maybe a quick game of chess. I don’t play spades but that and dominos are the preferred games of choice.
Other people are catching up on some TV time or just relaxing before dinner.

The atmosphere in the units in the evenings is totally different. The place has come alive. Its like a hive of activity.

It reminds me of one of those markets you find when traveling. It has its own heart beat and filled with energy.
Everyone is hustling around, showering, doing laundry, cooking food, playing cards or some other activity.

The CO calls, “CHOW”. The gates open and away they go. Everyone rushes out the doors heading for the Chow Hall.

I am not a fan of the CHOW HALL experience, so I try avoid going as much as possible.
Normally towards the end of the month when I have blown through my store-spending limit, my options are limited so the Chow Hall becomes a necessity.

Thankfully, tonight is not one of those nights. A group of us in the unit have gotten together, pooled our resources, given them to Richard ,who is the master chef.
Armed with a microwave and some plastic utensils, he whips together one of my favorite meals. Shredded carnitas, with jalapenos, green peppers, roasted tomatoes, onions and cucumbers over a bed of brown rice with garlic and his secret spice blend.
Delicious!!!!!

Most of the guys head to the TV room after dinner, Richard and I head to the chapel for bible study.
Before you know it,9pm is here and its count time and lights out!

Another day down and one day closer to FREEDOM!!!!