Feb. 5, 2013

unmindful prisoner

by Allan Lummus


Unmindful Prisoner

I chose a name for the blog that could stay with me after I leave prison. The mindful prisoner is literal now, but could be no less accurate after I leave prison. In fact for most of my pre-prison life, my unmindfulness left me constrained in ways that simulate the walls of my cell. For one, addiction is accurately experienced as incarceration. Chained to habits of mind that will not let me go. But habits of mind extended beyond my most debilitating sexual addiction. The boundaries of the self was a battlefield which pushed me to awol status in my own life.

As Jon Kabit Zinn (wherever you go there you are) reminds us our name is Homo Sapines - those who sense or taste or know. Or to say it different one who is aware and aware of their own awareness. My awareness was what I was exactly seeking to avoid. My mind's activity was a constant state of diversion. I think I knew subconsciously that to open up to my body was to risk undoing everything. Everything I spent all my time doing - holding the imagined self together by avoiding looking at what was really there.

I remember one time in Knoxville, a friend had one of those biofeedback readers. My body clicked like a clump of radioactive rock. My normal state was wound tight in a protective ball of tension. The question what was I holding so tightly and what was I protecting it from? It was a mystery to myself then. But I am starting to get a sense now. Over the past few months one idea has been swirling in my head as I have read several writers in psychology, recovery and Buddhist fields is the role of the self/ego in causing suffering. Particularly, how I cling to pleasure and run from pain seems to define humans' base reactions to life and in defining the self.

Mark Epstein is one psychoanalyst and Buddhist who has been very influential in my understanding of how my defenses are articulated in ways to prop up a particular idea of who I am - a separate, isolated, permanent ego. His "Thoughts Without a Thinker," "Coming to Pieces without Falling Apart," and "Open to Desire" are all important statements on the changing understanding of the mind and our awareness of how we see the world.

Einstein had a great quote (quoted from Kabit Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living) that gets at our tendency to imprison ourselves with our view of ourselves as separate selves.

"A human being is part of the whole, called by us "universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our person desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security."

By choosing to view how we are connected and interconnected in the world, we free ourselves from our mental prisons. That is a prison which I locked myself in long before the Bastrop, and a prison I have the power to dismantle wherever I live. The challenge is to live optimally psychologically, physically, spiritually and socially, I embrace every moment and don't wait 'till my end of sentence date. Because if I wait, I only delay the date of living fully now. The bars are only a physical barrier to freedom. Time will eventually release me from them. But the delusions of consciousness Einstein talks about have to be dissolved by clarity of mind, which is totally within my capacity to allow.

Allan Lummus #23038076
Mindful Prisoner
P.O. Box 1010 Bastrop, TX 78602


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