By Bill Suesz©
For a great part of my life I didn't
like myself. It really hurt to be honest with myself, but through
a lot of practice and effort, I'm no longer that same person. Hopefully
not liking myself is a feeling I will never have again. It led to
a lot of negative feelings and choices in which I used to hurt others
and myself. I used to rationalize and justify my criminal behavior.
Being in prison reinforced my poor outlook on myself. It clouded
my perception. I didn't want to be negative or angry, but with a
negative self-view, it was hard to be positive.
It was a real slap in the face to discover
that others liked and respected me more than I did myself. Purification
practice and the taking and giving practice have helped me and were
the foundation for changing that aspect of myself. I also did a
lot of meditation to look inside and see what others were seeing
that I didn't see, didn't want to see or couldn't see -- both positive
and negative qualities.
A lot of beginning to like myself had to do
with looking inside and seeing who I really was and accepting myself.
Slowly I started to see that the negative attributes aren't inherently
negative, so to say. They just are. We place positive or negative
judgments on things we either like or dislike. Once I accepted my
thoughts and attitudes as part of myself, I didn't see myself as
a bad person. Though I still have a lot of work to do on my anger
and pride, I have gained more understanding of myself and along
with that, more patience and compassion for others. Part of it has
to do with seeing that some of the people around me actually have
more suffering than I do.
Previously I blamed external circumstances
-- such as the deaths of my father, grandparents, and son -- for
my problems, but it was my inability to deal with those circumstances
productively or in a healthy manner that caused the real problem.
Coming to prison has been a positive experience though I don't want
to stay here longer than I have to. Meditation has helped me the
most to change.
I eased into meditation. I've always seemed
to have two really different sides: one of compassion and love and
another of anger, cynicism, pride, ignorance, lying, and possessiveness.
What person I was depended on whom I was around. The purification
practice was a good start for me. Once I started to look inside,
I saw the depth of my negativity. With each in-breath I visualize
taking the positive attributes of Tara into myself and as I breathe
out I focus on one of the negative attributes I want to free myself
from and think that I exhale it. Anger and pride are the most prevalent.
Having a deity such as Tara or a spiritual mentor to focus on really
helps, especially when purifying my mind.
After some time of reflecting on myself,
I start to focus on others, specifically doing the taking and giving
meditation. Visualizing taking others' negativity and troubles and
then breathing out positive qualities and events to all sentient
beings has really helped strengthen my loving and compassionate
side. It has also built up my patience and tolerance towards others
as in prison I don't meet many people I want to be around for a
prolonged amount of time. Now I'm feeling better about myself and
thus better about others.