The Prison Diaries
The Prison Diaries are Alik's reflections on his experiences teaching Kundalini Yoga to prisoners at the Maximum Security prison in Soledad, CA where he has been teaching regularly for over three years.
Tuesday evening, May, 3rd, 2016. At 6:00, Soledad maximum security prison, in front of 25 inmates who are serving sentences of life and life without parole:
After Class Q&A
William: When I breath into my heart and think of gratitude…
Alik: Don’t think, try and feel grateful…
William: I don’t know how to feel that…
Alik: You come to me at the end of every class and say ‘thank you for coming to Soledad,’ right?
Alik: Thank you is the precursor to gratitude. Take that feeling and expand it. Feel warmth in your chest… Your heart will come alive…
William: I feel anger in my chest. Read more.
It has taken me three months to absorb my last year at the maximum security prison in Soledad. Yesterday there was a murder committed at D yard, the highest security level yard in the compound.
Periodically I have long talks with Garcia, one of the guards in the front desk. He is the guard that issues my pass every visit. From the very beginning he scrutinized me with disdain mixed with indifference. Lately we have warmed up to each other. “Why do you do that?” he asked me. “Don’t you realize it is pointless?" Read more.
This maximum security facility has been on a lock down for three weeks. That means the inmates are not allowed to leave their cells at any time. Twenty four hours in the cell is hell on earth. Nowhere to go, no reprieve for the running mind, no outlet for tensions that are building up. It’s all cooped inside. I call the administrative lady daily for new developments. They are still looking for the weapons, she says. Read more.
Yesterday I drove to the maximum security prison to have lunch with the warden. I was invited two weeks ago and finally, after much resistance and rationalizing, I decided to go. I did not regret the hour and half driving. The room was packed with people who were involved in the inmates' self-help program. There were pastors from the Church of God, priests from The Mormon church, men in suits from the Jehovah Witnesses and a Buddhist group. These dedicated people had been doing their sacred work for over ten years. I was the rookie. Read more.
In 1971 I was a young man just out of film school, totally devastated by life’s mystery, whose sole purpose was to go through a day and stay alive.
An elderly man, the head of mind control in NYC, refused to let me study with him. ‘You don’t belong here’ he said ‘you belong with Rudi’. ‘Who is Rudi?’ I asked. He is a fat Jew who will knock you down with his energy’, he replied. It took me two weeks of constant inner struggle to finally traverse the short distance between my apartment and Rudi’s store. Read more.
After Rudi’s Samadhi, I felt totally lost. The situation in New York was in disarray, disconnected and chaotic. A few of Rudi’s teachers came to town fighting for the crown. One of these teachers, who had been a friend of mine, kept on asking me to come and live in his Ashram. I felt reluctant, yet he kept persisting. He promised to let me run the Ashram’s bakery and be made a teacher. Neither of these offers tempted me. I needed THE REST OF THE PUZZLE that Rudi had unveiled for me. Read more.
Two months ago, one of my students arranged a meeting between me and the counselor of the maximum security prison in the area. I came to the meeting with a sense of excitement of the unknown. As the meeting prolonged, the counselor talked about the inmates, their years in prison. “Some of them,” she said, “are locked in their cell for twenty three hours per day.” As I heard her speak, my feelings swayed from their initial excitement to “I better get out of it.” I experienced a sharp pain in my heart and I wanted to run away from it. Read more.
“Breathe my fellow brothers. Breathe in and all will change for you.“
That was how my class started on Tuesday evenings.
“I was a miserable child. Insecure, unhappy, always picked on by my teachers. I had a choice of either carrying a baseball bat with me, iron knuckles, or leave to the end of the world. I left. I went to the end of the world looking for the third way. Not breaking the law. Not being crushed by society. But learning how to internalize the bullshit of the universe and spit out the poison.” Read more.
Yesterday’s class was most inspiring. I go to the end of the world, to a different reality, not knowing what will take place.
At the end of the class Benito raised his hand. “You talked about forgiveness,” he said. “Can I tell you something?”
Benito is one of the inmates that does not miss a class. Strong, self contained energy, waiting to open up and exhale.
“I have been here sixteen years,” said Benito. “I don’t know when I am getting out. I have done some bad things in my life. Since the age of four I am in foster homes. Always fighting, always hurting people. These sixteen years, terrible things were done to me. I learned how I hurt people. I got hurt the same way.” Read more.
I find the prison experience to be a microcosm of our life on earth. The human experience is identical: we are born, we live our life and we die. Somewhere, in between, we make our choices. We struggle and fight. Eventually, we either choose to, or are forced by circumstances, to surrender. Read more.