March 6, 2015

Am I Becoming a Buddhist in Federal Prison?

Those of you who know me well know that one of my key life philosophies is to live life in the moment. Whether what’s happening is good, bad or neutral, I try to experience it to the fullest extent possible. In practical terms, some examples are:

– when I’m at a performance or watching a movie, I am not running through my “to do” list for later that day or the next

– when I am having a conversation with someone, I actively listen vs. formulating what I am going to say next

– I don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. Regarding the past, I learn from it and move on. Regarding the future, I plan as appropriate but don’t obsess about the possible outcomes or what could go wrong.

It is actually pretty tough to stay in the moment. The mind likes to chatter and run off on ridiculous tangents. So I have not always been successful at staying in the moment but I found that practicing over time made it easier. It also created a positive feedback loop in that (surprise!) people appreciate being listened to and thoughtful responses that are based on what they said.

I have to tell you though that being the target of an FBI investigation and indicted by the Department of Justice put a severe crimp in my ability to stay in the moment. It seemed like all my mind wanted to do was run through worst case scenarios. Tito’s martinis helped as well as anti-anxiety medication but I knew this was not a great solution.

Fortunately one of my best friends recommended I sign up for a course in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (thanks Vicki!). UC Irvine had a course coming up so I enrolled. Essentially MBSR teaches meditation techniques that stress being present through focusing on breathing as well as how to incorporate this throughout your day. Taking that course is one of the best things I could have done in terms of thriving during the most difficult time of my life as well as giving me a foundation for success in prison. It not only gave me the tools to stay present but also to pause rather than react.

So what does this have to do with Buddhism? Well I checked in to the Taft prison camp, two people have sent me books having to do with applying Buddhism in your life. And I am hardly an expert but meditation/being present appears to be a core principle of Buddhism (yeah I know I should have taken that World Religions course in college). So I guess I have been a Buddhist all along! Seriously though, what I have read so far is consistent with how I want to lead my life. So far, I don’t see it as a religion as much as a way to live life to the fullest. I’m looking forward to exploring it more.

Thanks for joining me on my journey!


PS Thank you to the following people who were kind enough to send me books! Leslie Stevens, Vanessa Quan, Georgette Pascale, Marcie and Hal Heitzmann, Manoush Masarrat and….. Lue Baty. You guys rock!!!

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