Freedom from prison, freedom from drugs, freedom from defilements and hindrances
We sometimes have a great interest in, and can even find a degree of enlightenment and insight when we see a movie that in some manner reflects our own life experiences.
For some it could be a war movie, while others might experience this in a movie about love, marriage, betrayal and divorce.
Recent movies on the events of September 11th, 2001 will awaken thoughts and feelings that will be shared by all Americans and many around the world.
One of the best movies that I have seen that affects me in the manner mentioned above is “The Shawshank Redemption”, a movie set in a prison in Maine during the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
In fact, the movie actually made me nostalgic for some of the experiences and friends that I had during a brief two and one half years that I spent in prison in Texas in the early seventies.
The movie accurately and compassionately depicts men sent to prison as being human beings who are capable of all of the emotions and feelings that all human beings have.
This does not mean that all of the men who are sent to prison should not be there or are good people and just misunderstood, but that we can all make mistakes out of greed, anger, or ignorance, sometimes only once in a way that hurts ourselves and others, and sometimes habitually with the same results.
It also shows us that men can show remorse, improve themselves and even though they do bad things they can have characteristics of loyalty and compassion.
One of the nicest days of my life was the day that I attained freedom from prison. It was a day that I looked forward to and felt a great deal of happiness to experience.
But the joy and happiness was short lived because then I had to embark on a real struggle, that being one to attain joy and happiness in living as a free man.
Freedom can be a real struggle because we are many times alone in our making the best of it, or beset with confusing and conflicting thoughts, feelings and impressions as we experience it.
So how did I deal with it?
I went back to a habit that I had before I went to prison and was partially responsible for me getting sent to prison, that being the use of drugs.
For the six years after my release from prison, even though I made progress in my life, work and relationships with other people, I habitually used drugs. These drugs were not of a heavy narcotic kind, but what we might call light or soft drugs and substances.
Even though they were widely available and accepted as being harmless in the environment that I lived in at the time, I could not see how they were hurting me or keeping me from achieving something greater in my life.
One night, alone and stoned, I awoke to the fact that my habitual use of drugs was something that I had not dealt with and stopped then and there. That was over 25 years ago.
The freedom from prison and the freedom from drugs was something that was attained in an instant.
This does not mean that the after affects of these experiences were things that could be instantly dealt with or set free from. Damage and long - term confusion can be done to the mind from being in prison or habitually using drugs.
In retrospect though, I realize that the time spent in prison was constructive, focused, balanced and productive, that there was something there to see that was worth seeing and learning from, whereas the years spent after that using drugs are for the most part a fog where it is hard to see clearly what was learned or gained from it.
For the last 15 years or so, I have been involved in the ongoing study and practice of Yoga and Buddhism. My initial interest was in Yoga and I gradually became more mindful about Buddhism, primarily because I lived in Thailand, a country that consists of a Buddhist culture and environment. In addition, my travels and trips to other countries in Asia, such as Sri Lanka, Laos, Mynamar, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and China constantly exposed me to Buddhist environments.
The thing about being exposed to these environments and the Buddhist culture, images and icons then went along with them was that I did not think that I was really better understanding what Buddhism was all about.
That understanding came when I became more mindful about and interested in such a thing through the mental focus and balance that I achieved through Yoga.
Then I realized that learning about Buddhism required an intellectual study and a self-study that could be repetitive, difficult and painful at times.
Now, for a number of years, I have been engaged in a process of attaining freedom from the defilements and hindrances. It is not like gaining freedom from prison or drugs. It is an ongoing quest and does not happen in an instant or moment.
The mind and consciousness is a powerful force, much more powerful then being in prison or being addicted to drugs. Changing, purifying and redirecting it takes constant mindfulness and effort.
This mindfulness and effort manifests itself in different ways, such as through meditation and posture practice, making changes in who we associate with, and our habits regarding sleep, diet and leisure activities.
It also requires something much more difficult, that being changing our attitudes to other people so that instead of being judgmental or condemning we need to be understanding and compassionate.
Instead of being impatient and prone to anger, we need to be kind and charitable.
And instead of thinking that we are always right or the center of the universe, we have to listen to what other people say and see that they can be right and wise in their perceptions, thoughts, words and actions.
The states of mind and consciousness that create confusion, delusion, and suffering are as strong as any prison and more addictive then any drug.
The work required in order to denourish and weaken them requires daily energy, effort and mindfulness. The results of such an activity are well - worth the effort.
©2006 John C. Kimbrough