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Houses of Healing Course for California Prisoners in Solitary

02/12/16 COMMENTS 0

The Houses of Healing Self-study Course for prisoners in solitary/ segregation/ SHU.  The Lionheart Foundation started receiving registrations for the course on 5/29/16 from prisoners in the three CDCR prisons where the HOH Self-Study Course is being offered as part of the Innovative Grants Program in California. To date, 436 prisoners are participating in the Self-study course.  213 in Pelican Bay State Prison.  156 in CSP-Corcoran.  67 in California Correctional Institution. Lionheart continues to receive applications from prisoners.  Lionheart’s initial proposal indicated that we would take a maximum of 150 registrations (per prison) over the grant period – with a maximum of 50 (per prison) at any one time. Registrations have far surpassed this but Lionheart has accepted all registrations so as not to turn away anyone in solitary who might be motivated to use their time constructively. Hundreds of hours of volunteer time at the Lionheart office have contributed to making the delivery of this grant possible.

We have now received more than 80 evaluations from participants who have completed the course.  Feedback has been outstanding. A full report will be issued in late Spring, 2017.  

To learn more about Houses of Healing and Lionheart’s Prison Project:  http://lionheart.org/prison/project/

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The Power Within (Part II)

06/05/14 COMMENTS 0

Editor’s Note: Lionheart welcomes guest bloggers to write about topics aligned with our mission. If you would like to be considered for an upcoming guest blog, please contact us at: questions@lionheart.org The following post is posted from Theinnervoice84′s Blog.
Many thanks for this insightful post. http://theinnervoice84.wordpress.com/

Prisons are full of victims. No, I don’t mean crime survivors, nor individuals who’ve suffered at the hands of injustice (although a great many of us do fit these categories). I mean that the overwhelming majority of currently incarcerated people think, thus behave, as if we’re innocent bystanders in a world that keeps shitting on us. Over the course of my bit I’ve struggled to shed a similar mentality.

I used to say the only thing that pisses me off is stupidity. I viewed frustration and anger largely as the result of others’ idiocy because I wasn’t yet able to see myself in their behavior. Not surprisingly, I was crazy vindictive. But receiving 17 years in prison kind of makes a person re-evaluate, well…..everything.

Soon after I came in I began to wake up. I started paying more attention to ideas and people who for whatever reason (ego, fear, pressure to conform to my subculture) I’d always dismissed. For ages people just like me have cut themselves free from the puppet strings of emotion and ignorance to achieve a better existence, especially on this side of the wall. (Unlike in society, where people are much more able to cover up their insecurities and lack of fortitude with wealth and status, in prison, due to the constant pain and humiliation of the circumstances, the difference between those who have and those who haven’t realized self-empowerment is stark, like comparing children to mature adults.) I chose to heed the wisdom of those success stories and in time I became determined to no longer allow myself to get upset. “There is in this world no such force as the force of a man determined to rise.” W.E.B. Dubois.

The most important lesson behind this determination is that we have only two options when facing hardship/disappointment: do something about it or get the hell over it. We can also blame others, become violent, or even deny reality – and usually we do. But these are reactions; we don’t really choose them. They’re like coming to a fork in the road and putting the car in park or turning into a ditch. They don’t move us forward, which is what life’s about. Especially for us who are incarcerated or have been released recently, everyday is about progress, about distancing ourselves from the attitudes and weaknesses that got us in trouble.

Most currently and formerly incarcerated people have had very few if any of the types of positive support and legitimate successes necessary to build a healthy self-confidence. As a result, we fail to recognize ourselves in the countless individuals throughout history who’ve transcended every degree of misfortune, every kind of disadvantage (with the obvious exception of debilitating mental disabilities). We tend to see obstacles as if looking through magnifying glasses yet see our immense human capacity to overcome them as if peeking through closed eyelids. We think and feel powerless when the truth is we are much closer to invincible. “If we all did things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” Thomas Edison.

Of course, there are many situations in life that we absolutely can’t do something about. Fortunately, however, there is virtually nothing that we can’t get the hell over.

We all have our own struggles to overcome and some of our demons and memories are immensely powerful. Yet, there comes a point in most of our lives when suffering is a choice. We’re aware of remedies, we even use and benefit from some of them, but then we stop, as if institutionalized in our own personal prisons. Essentially, through our actions we declare that peace of mind and self-control aren’t worth the effort.

I assure you they are. I know the darkness of making myself miserable and the glory of the other side. Where I am now is priceless.

The famous Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl endured one of the most oppressive, soul-crushing experiences the world has known. Yet his life’s work was preaching the power of self through numerous examples from what he saw and lived through during the concentration camps. I’ll leave you with his words. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Cut off the puppet strings. Keep boxing temptation.

Tip: I’ve benefitted mostly from various spiritual and philosophical teachings, as well as a strong belief in myself based on prior achievements and good family influences. However, it would be naïve and arrogant to act as though what worked for me is the solution to everyone’s issues – I don’t have a personality disorder nor have I ever experienced genuine depression. Some of us surely have a more difficult time with self control, thus peace of mind. Nevertheless, when we’ve finally had enough with suffering we find ways to improve. As I said above, there are always others who’ve overcome or are overcoming the same internal and external circumstances we’re facing and the Internet makes it easier than ever to find them and learn from their struggles. I do want to recommend something I’ve tried and seen help others, even those with mental health issues: biofeedback software by Wild Divine (www.wilddivine.com). It monitors the user’s heart rate and sweat level while going through various meditations, short talks and breathing exercises, such as slowly opening doors or a developing bridge that only responds as the user lowers his/her heart rate and calms down. This gives the user visual evidence of the power they have to control themselves. It might be a bit expensive, but maybe there’s a free trial period you can take advantage of.

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The Power Within (Part 1)

28/04/14 COMMENTS 0

Editor’s Note: Lionheart welcomes guest bloggers to write about topics aligned with our mission. If you would like to be considered for an upcoming guest blog, please contact us at: questions@lionheart.org The following post is posted from Theinnervoice84′s Blog. Part II to follow.
Many thanks for this insightful post. http://theinnervoice84.wordpress.com/

About two months ago a buddy of mine got out early after completing a relatively difficult six month substance abuse treatment program. He’d been to prison a few times before but he was finally serious about overcoming his alcohol addiction and insecurities, moving past his painful upbringing and making good on the potential so many people have seen in him. He couldn’t miss another day of his ten-year old son’s life, or keep dealing with the irresponsibility and manipulative games of his son’s mother. He couldn’t waste anymore time on incarceration. Whenever we spoke on the phone things seemed to be coming together more and more for him.

Today he’s sitting in county jail hoping to get under seven years for a new charge.

Reading that first letter he sent me after this latest arrest was heartbreaking. He clearly needed all my support as his self-respect was in shambles and those who’d been in his corner suddenly seemed to be in hiding. Every sentence made more vivid the picture of a man utterly lost in shame and confusion. “Am I destined to die drunk and alone, only out of prison if lucky?”, he asked. “What am I missing?….I don’t even feel human, no human would just throw away his son’s love, right?”

Generally I have a decent idea about how to respond (or not to respond) in these types of situations. But this time I felt totally useless. Outside of battling with an overwhelming sweet tooth, particularly 4-5 years ago, I have little idea what it’s like to have such a weakness for something that I’d repeatedly sacrifice my freedom, family, and self-esteem (basically, my life) for it. His demon is foreign to me – even if it does have less to do with alcohol and possibly more to do with things like a fear of trying and failing.

Those of us who return to prison, especially if more than once, surely go through a similar evaluation of who we are and what if any worth our lives have. Is it our fate to be a disappointment, a cautionary tale, at best? Will we ever be more than addicts, thieves, drug dealers, etc.? Do we even deserve anything more than society’s contempt?

I’ve never been incarcerated before this and after all the self-exploration I’ve done, all the missed opportunities I’ve mourned and all the pain I’ve seen my loved ones endure because of my crime, I’d be devastated if I returned to prison. As I try to see my friend through his internal hell I’m reminded of just how important, how essential it is that I leave no stone unturned in my preparation for release. Despite how confident I am in my development and maturity, I can’t guarantee I won’t find myself back behind bars after I’m released – even innocent people get locked up. But the least I can do is be nakedly honest with myself and confront every single potential pitfall in my character and thought process so as to reduce, as much as possible, the odds of me coming back.

Engulfed in self-pity, my friend wrote that he understood if I didn’t want to keep “such a loser” as him in my life. But I’m a die-hard believer in redemption; no matter what mistakes we make or sins we commit, the path to dignity and triumph is always open to us. We define our fates. Besides, after giving up 17 years of my life for a childish allegiance to an irrelevant street code, I would be an absolute hypocrite if I gave up on someone else for their poor decisions. I just hope his experience and expressions of guilt can help us understand the importance of anticipating and strengthening ourselves for the tests and difficulties sure to come.

Keep boxing temptation.

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