Each month, along with the Freedom Inside Newsletter that goes out to over 580 prisoners and prison officials in the US, we send an inquiry worksheet. This month we have created a special newsletter for prisoners to share some of the extraordinary reports and inquiry answers we have received from men and women behind bars this year. There are so many beautiful responses to the inquiry worksheets, more than we could possibly include. Below are just a few, and you can download the full newsletter to see more.
Many participants of Freedom Inside report spiritual, emotional, and psychological growth that they feel would never have occurred without the experience of incarceration. As you reflect upon your own time in prison, what have you realized?
When I got arrested, I was 18 years old. I thought I knew all about who I was and what my life would become. I knew nothing. When I came to prison, I had this feeling of superiority. I thought I was better, I’m not a criminal, I just made a mistake. That was in 2014. Now, in 2021, after seven years locked up, I’ve come to see that most of the people in here also just made a mistake. People mess up both in here and out there. Through the people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had, it has helped me to understand that we all want... something. To be “better,” to be “accepted,” to be “free.” Some want all of that and more. I now understand that everything is relative and the only thing you can be is you. But being you is not all, because no one is only themselves. Not really. We are all connected. We are all one. When you realize that, the hatred fades, the ideal of “better” fades, the wish to be “accepted” fades. Now I know that when you top searching for things, that’s when you’re free. I’m not saying don’t try to improve yourself; but understand that where you are right now is right where you need to be. We are all somewhere, just trust that you are that Place. You are the better you have been trying to be, you are the acceptance you have been trying to find, you are that freedom. —AD
When I was arrested, I had been living in a personal hell for years. My life was controlled by fear; I was depressed, anxious, abandoned, addicted, alone, and hopeless. Divine intervention is the only way I can describe the events that led to my arrest. I accidentally set fire to my apartment building, and that was the beginning of the end to my suffering. The irony and metaphors are not lost on me; the fire marking my awareness of the hell I was creating in my life. But this was just the beginning. I had to walk though that fire to truly end my suffering.
Sitting with myself, being quiet and still, I was able to acknowledge the fear in my life and how it controlled my every move. Being born with a cleft lip, I had a fear of being “less than” unworthy. Being abandoned by my father at a young age, and then by my mother due to her alcohol use, I developed a fear of being unsafe and unloved. These fears were creating anxiety, depression, isolation, and addiction. Once I realized all my suffering was caused by fears that developed from pain in the past, I set out to heal that pain. Spiritual books started jumping into my hands. I let go of resentments and blame, I forgave myself and others, and I found faith.
With faith and awareness of my true self, I know I am always loved, always safe, always worthy, and always being guided. Instead of being controlled by fear and selfishly seeking ways to run from my pain, I now live my life with love at the center, selflessly giving and expanding my understanding and awareness. I walked through my hell, my old self died in the fire, and I found heaven where my true self has always been. I am so grateful for the pain and the peace. How blessed I am, how grateful I am, to be where I am. Sending love, —CA
Well, I can honestly say that I was absolutely lost out in them streets before I got locked up. I knew thought that I needed guidance, a guru, but I just did not know where to look. I’ve been locked up for 15 years now, and though I’ve been studying yoga/philosophy/Buddhism, I had so many criminal programs in me. Like I would crave spiritual awakening and later I would crave money, women, the streets, capers, alcohol, and such—for the first ten years. It took ten years of all the stress, madness, in and out of jail, violence, having no money, no one here for me, no visits, no letters, phone calls, packages, NOTHING, to get me to where I can honestly feel like I don’t ever want to commit another crime again! Doing any kind of wrong against people, I never get away with it, because karmically, it’s all gonna come back on me, so I’m just hurting myself. Also, I don’t want to do anyone any harm, I want to be of service to people, to all living things. I “want” to do good. That is growth for me.
Now, I am at the level of stilling my mind, or at least attempting to. Attempting to STOP. I haven’t experienced the actual “STOP” that seems so mystical in Gangaji’s explanation of it, but intuitively I know that if I stick around long enough, I’ll get my turn.
Thank you so much for your service and helping me in my quest to “Stop.” It means so much to me. Namaste, —JH
We are conditioned to associate intimacy with sexuality, yet intimacy can be experienced with anything in creation. List here any other instances or situations—people, places, pets—for which you felt an intimate, nonsexual connection:
I have experienced intimacy with rivers, mountains, forests, and the sea. With wild animals who crossed my path and stopped briefly to acknowledge me. I have experienced bonding with a dog in a shelter sometimes instantly. I don’t know where to find the muse, but when it finds me it’s like a reverie infused with reverence for humanity, for life, for love of all, great and small. When the muse finds me, it’s a passionate thing; it makes me write or draw or paint or sing. It makes me wonder if inspiration is the greatest love of all. Intimacy is everywhere. Sexual intimacy is incredible but really quite rare. One of my teachers told me finding someone you can be completely honest with is a precious form of intimacy. It seems noteworthy that the word intimate can be defined as being very close or making something known indirectly; perhaps both at the same time. —GS
When I’m totally present honest, vulnerable, and transparent, I feel an intimate connection with that moment or situation, no matter where I’m at or what’s going on around me. It’s much deeper than any sexual experience; it’s the intimacy that I am that enhances all other experiences. The feeling of intimacy does not come from outside of myself. It’s the total connection to Self, “My true Self,” in this moment, that creates the opportunity to experience intimacy. My longing has always been for love, true love, and I was going about it the wrong way. I was looking outside of myself for something to give me a sense of love and completeness, never finding any lasting results. I discovered the true Source of that completeness when I embraced Self. It was there that I became the love I sought. As my perspective changed, I went from lacking to having love in abundance. —WF
The grass/clovers on the yard. I walk barefoot on the grass and just tune in to the earth. Just totally being there with it. I’m learning to become intimate with my own mind, by just being there with it, no judgment, nor identification, nor harboring any pessimistic thoughts. I really dig this intimacy. When I can, I sit in the sun and just be there with it. To me, it’s intimacy with the sun. I find nothing outside myself. It’s all in me. When I go deep and peel the layers back like an onion, I find nothing there but just “thereness.” —JH
Our gratitude goes out to all the prisoners who are participating in this invitation. You are the living example of Freedom Inside; the proof of what is possible when there is a true desire for real and lasting freedom and the honest willingness for direct self-inquiry.
May the power of your earnest hearts ring in the new year!
With love and gratitude,
Gangaji, Foundation Staff, & Volunteers
To make a donation in support of the work of the Gangaji Foundation, click here.
“This is your resting place, your watering hole. Find what supports you, what includes you, and drink it in. Be nourished. Be enlivened. And when you feel thirsty again, drink some more.” —Gangaji
The Gangaji Foundation serves the truth of universal consciousness and the potential for the recognition of peace inherent in the core of all being. Download For the Love of Peace
"I have found writing these letters to a prisoner to be a most intimate and deepening act of love towards myself, as well as a way of appreciating and acknowledging our shared human beingness." Learn more about our Prison Program.
You might be surprised by how many prisoners, website visitors, podcast listeners, and more have participated in this global community in 2021. See the Maps.
"I can't imaging a better way to serve. It is such a privilege. I feel that I am standing behind Gangaji, putting my resources into her use of her words." Get Started
"I felt that Gangaji’s awakening was my awakening...There was no separation between her and me.” Meet the Board and Staff